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Snow Day

It’s been a brutal winter. I haven’t been out taking photos for the past few weeks because I’ve been too afraid of falling, breaking my camera, and seriously injuring (or killing) myself.

So what’s a girl to do when it’s too slippery to go out and take photos? She sets up a photography studio in her bathroom, of course!

Powder_Puff

My Photo Taking Process

I set this Powder Puff ornament on the edge of my bathtub, hoping the off-white surround would provide a winter like atmosphere.

The lighting isn’t great around the tub, so I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to play around with the manual settings on my camera.

The first things I tried to do was to use the camera’s aperture priority setting. With this setting, I select the aperture and the camera automatically does the rest. I set the aperture to f/5.6 hoping to blur the background. It didn’t work very well. My images came out much too dark.

Next, I tried taking an HDR photo. My camera will automatically shoot and merge 3 or 4 images for me. I don’t have to merge multiple images in an editor to make an HDR image (unless I want to). The light level was better in my HDR photos, but the images weren’t as clear as I had hoped they would be.

The third thing did was play around with the shutter speed and ISO. A slow shutter speed and low ISO worked well for me. My best images from this session were captured at ISO 125, 135mm, -1.3EV, f/36, 6.0. Or so it seemed…

Oops. I Have A Problem

When I uploaded my photos to my iMac I discovered a problem. SPOTS! At first I thought it was dirt on the monitor. It wasn’t. I then checked the camera lens. I couldn’t see anything obvious. Could it be sensor dust? I haven’t taken off the lens since I got the camera in October. Can you get sensor dust without ever having taken the lens off?

My Edits

The photo I chose for this post is one of my spotty shots. I decided to really have fun with it in PicMonkey since it was messed up anyway.

  • I used the clone tool to conceal the annoying spots.
  • My image was too yellow, so I cooled it down and desaturated it slightly.
  • I added the frost effect, and erased it from areas I didn’t want to see it.
  • I cropped the image slightly, to get rid of some of the harsh outer edges of the frost effect.
  • I added fake snow from the winterland theme, and erased the snow over my subject.

EDIT: Next day update

When I woke up the morning after publishing this post, there was a comment waiting for me from Rhys Jones . You can see his comment below, but to sum it up, he tipped me off to the fact that f/36 was likely what was making the spots appear. I tried what he suggested—I opened the lens as far as it would go (f/5.6) and I set the ISO to 6400 (in the aperture priority setting). That image was really dark and grainy, but I didn’t give up. I then switched from aperture priority to the fully manual setting. I kept the camera at f/5.6 and played around with the ISO and shutter speed. My two best images were shot at f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/40 sec and at f/5.6, ISO 640, 1/25 sec. In fact, I can’t see any difference between those two shots at all. Here’s my new and improved (and unedited) image. No spots! Well, there are a few spots, but they are are spots that are on the ornament itself. There’s one on the little girl’s cheek and a couple on the base.  

 f/5.6, ISO 640, 1/25 (no edits)

ISO 640, 135mm, O EV,  f/5.6, 1/25 (no edits)

If I were to edit this photo, I think the only thing I would do to it would be to make the colour a little cooler. I didn’t adjust the white balance in the camera before taking this photo. 


I haven’t submitted anything to Lucile’s Photo 101 Rehab in a while, so I’m going to submit this post over there. Perhaps someone from the clinic can give me some insight into what might be causing the spots. I think it’s only showing up on my long exposures, but I’m not sure because my other photos were dark. I’m going to give the lens a good cleaning and snap some more photos tomorrow. I’ll report back on this another day.

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19 thoughts on “Snow Day

    • I looked at the lens again tonight under a light. I can’t see any spots on it. There are dirty spots on the iMac screen, but I could distinguish between those spots and the ones in my photos. It really does look like sensor dust, but I have never taken off that lens since I got the camera. How on earth would it have gotten there. I did wipe down the lens again. I’m going to take more shots tomorrow to see if it’s still capturing spots. I’m puzzled.

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  1. It’s always good to experiment – It’s the best way to learn. I notice the aperture was f/36. At that extreme, any tiny spots of dust in the air or on your lens will show up. This does create a problem when taking photos of small objects particularly if you want good depth of field. To blur the background you need to open the lens, try f/3.5, f/2, f/1.4 (if your lens will go that far). If you want a grainy effect, push the ISO up to the limits of your camera, maybe ISO 6400.
    Using a tripod makes a big difference with indoor photography.

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    • Thanks for your suggestions. I was eager to see what this would do, so I set up the shot again this morning. My lens only goes to 5.6 so, in aperture priority mode, I set it to f/ 5.6 and pushed the ISO to 6400. I let the auto settings take care of the rest. It was very dark and grainy. However, all was not lost. I switched to full manual, and got some really good spotless shots at f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/40 sec and at f/5.6, ISO 640, 1/25 sec. In fact, those two photos are so close in quality, I can’t detect any difference. I will post an update to this post later. I’m going to be out for the rest of the day. Thanks so much for your advice. Changing the f stop got rid of the spots.

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      • Unless you want grain it’s always best to use the lowest ISO setting possible, taking into account desired aperture and reasonable shutter speed. Below about 1/50th you run the risk of camera shake. The rule of thumb is that the shutter speed should never be slower than the reciprocal of the floral length of the lens. For example no slower than 1/50th when at 50mm; 1/200th when at 200mm. The longer the lens the greater the impact of camera shake. Or use a tripod 🙂

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      • I had the lens at 135mm (because that’s where I had it yesterday in my other shots). I did have it on a tripod and I enabled the touch screen shutter to prevent camera shake from me pressing the regular shutter button. I will post the new pics later tonight or tomorrow. I’m hitting the road right now. 🙂

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      • I updated my post with the new photo and a description of what I did to correct the problem. I mentioned you in my edit. You should have received a notification. Thanks again for your help. 🙂

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  2. Great photo.

    Yes you can get dust on the sensor without removing the lens. I’ve had it happen twice now. Last time I had a professional clean it. Now that I’ve moved country, I don’t know where to go to get the job done for me so I may need to brace myself, read the necessary instructions several times and then have a go cleaning it myself. I’ve been putting that off for about four months so far though.

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  3. Love this! Great initiative resorting to the bathroom. I am plagued by sensor dust. I try to get rid of it by editing or, with my Nikon there is the option of taking a sort of reference picture which remembers where the dust is….although the imperfect analogue me tends to forget how to use it…

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