There are a lot of items in the menu that you can change, but some are used and changed more frequently than others. The My Menu function allows you to place five of your most used menu items in one place so that you can quickly get to them, make your changes, and get on with shooting.
Customizing the My Menu setting
Press the Menu button and select the tab with the star using the Right or Left button.
Select My Menu settings and press the Function/Set button.
With the Select items option highlighted, press Function/Set (A).
Scroll through the available menu items, and when you highlight one that you want to add, press the Function/Set button (B). A checkmark appears next to the item. (Press the Function/Set button again to remove an item from the list.)
Continue adding the items that you want in the list until you have selected your favorites (up to five of them).
Press the Menu button to return to the previous screen.
You can sort your menu items as you see fit by selecting the Sort menu item and pressing Function/Set. Highlight a command, press Function/Set, and then use the Up and Down buttons to reposition it in the list.
To view your menu by default when you press the Menu button, choose the Set default view item and change its setting to Yes.
Your camera provides two functions that can automatically make your pictures look a little better: Shadow Correction and Dynamic Range (DR) Correction. With Shadow Correct, the camera evaluates the tones in your image and then lightens any areas that it believes are too dark or lacking contrast after you take the shot (Figures 10.10 and 10.11). Dynamic Range Correction works in the other direction, attempting to prevent highlights from blowing out to white. The Correct modes work only when shooting JPEG images (not RAW or RAW+JPEG).
The two controls are accessed from the same menu, even though they perform opposite actions.
Setting up Shadow Correction and Dynamic Range Correction
Press the Function/Set button.
Use the Up or Down button to highlight the DR Correction menu item (just above the white balance setting).
To enable DR Correction, press the Right or Left button to choose Auto (only if the camera is in Auto mode), 200%, or 400%. The higher the setting, the more correction is applied.
To enable Shadow Correction, press the Display button and then press the Right or Left button to choose the Auto setting.
Press the Function/Set button to return to the shooting mode.
So, what if you’re doing everything right in terms of metering and mode selection, yet your images still sometimes come out too light or too dark? A technique called “bracketing” will help you find the best exposure value for your scene by taking three exposures: one normal shot, one overexposed, and one underexposed. Having these differing exposure values will most often present you with one frame that just looks better than the others. I use the Bracketing function all the time.
With Bracketing enabled, you can choose how much variation is applied to the exposure compensation, from one-third of a stop all the way to two stops per bracketed exposure. Bracketing helps you zero in on that perfect exposure, and you can just delete the ones that didn’t make the grade (Figures 10.5–10.7).
Setting auto-exposure bracketing
Press the Function/Set button and select the Bracketing icon (third from the top) (A).
Use the Control dial to choose the Auto-Exposure Bracketing (AEB) mode.
Press the Display button to access the AEB settings.
Turn the Control dial to choose how many stops from zero the exposure compensation should be (B).
Press the Function/Set button to return to the shooting mode.
When you’re ready to capture the shot, press the shutter button once; the camera takes all three exposures.
The camera takes the normal image first, then the underexposed image, and finally the overexposed image. When I am out shooting, I typically shoot with my camera set to an exposure compensation of –1/3 stop to protect my highlights.
In addition to exposure bracketing, the G12 includes a bracketing mode for focusing. Choose Focus-BKT mode from the Bracketing menu item described above. Pressing the Display button lets you set the focus depth of the bracketed shots: large, medium, and small. Switch to Manual Focus in your shooting mode and press the shutter button. The camera takes three shots with varying focus depths.
You’ve probably noticed there are two flash synchronization modes in the G12: first curtain and second curtain.
When your camera fires, two curtains (yes, similar in theory to curtains you’d find in front of a window) open and close to make up the shutter. The first curtain moves out of the way, exposing the camera sensor to the light. At the end of the exposure, the second curtain moves in front of the sensor, ending that picture cycle. In flash photography, timing is extremely important because the flash fires in milliseconds, and the shutter is usually opening in tenths or hundredths of a second. To make sure these two functions happen in order, the camera usually fires the flash just as the first curtain moves out of the way (see the sidebar earlier in the chapter about flash sync).
In 2nd Curtain Sync mode, the flash will not fire until just before the second shutter curtain ends the exposure. So, why have this mode at all? Well, there might be times when you want to have a longer exposure to balance out the light from the background to go with the subject needing the flash. Imagine taking a photograph of a friend standing in Times Square at night with all the traffic moving about and the bright lights of the streets overhead. If the flash fires at the beginning of the exposure, and then the objects around the subject move, those objects will often blur the subject a bit. If the camera is set to 2nd Curtain Sync, though, all of the movement is recorded by the existing light first, and then the subject is “frozen” by the flash at the end by the exposure.
There is no right or wrong to it. It’s just a decision on what type of effect it is that you would like to create. Many times, 2nd Curtain Sync is used for artistic purposes or to record movement in the scene without it overlapping the flash-exposed subject. To make sure that the main subject is always getting the final pop of the flash, I leave my camera set to 2nd Camera Sync.
Shooting 2nd Curtain Sync can also be a great creative tool when shooting moving objects. Because the flash fires at the end of the exposure, the result is your subject lit and in focus, but with a trailing blur of motion.
Setting your flash sync mode
Press the Menu button, select Flash Control, and press the Function/Set button.
Scroll down to select the Shutter Sync option, and then select either the 1stcurtain or 2nd-curtain option for the type of flash sync that you desire.
Press the Menu button twice to return to the shooting mode.
We’ve all seen the result of using on-camera flashes when shooting people: the dreaded red-eye! This demonic effect is the result of the light from the flash entering the pupil and then reflecting back as an eerie red glow. The closer the flash is to the lens, the greater the chance that you get red-eye. This is especially true when it is dark and the subject’s eyes are dilated. There are two ways to combat this problem. The first is to get the flash away from the lens. That’s not really an option if you’re using the built-in flash.
Turn to the Red-Eye Lamp. This is a simple feature that shines a light from the camera at the subject, causing their pupils to shrink, thus eliminating or reducing the effects of red-eye. The feature is set to Off by default and needs to be turned on in the shooting menu.
Turning on the Red-Eye Lamp
Press the Menu button and then use the Control dial to highlight the Flash Control item. Press the Function/Set button.
You can also press the Flash button, and then press Menu to bring up the Built-in Flash Settings screen.
Scroll down to Red-Eye Lamp and use an arrow button to turn the feature On.
Press the Menu button twice to return to shooting mode.
Turn on the lights!
When shooting indoors, another way to reduce red-eye, or just shorten the length of time that the reduction lamp needs to be shining into your subject’s eyes, is to turn on a lot of lights. The brighter the ambient light levels, the smaller the subject’s pupils will be. This shortens the time necessary for the red-eye reduction lamp to shine. It will also allow you to take more candid pictures, because your subjects won’t be required to stare at the redeye lamp while waiting for their pupils to reduce.
Your camera also includes a Red-Eye Correction feature (found in the same Built-in Flash Settings screen), but I’m wary of it. The camera adjusts the image after it’s shot, and so other red areas of the photo could also be “corrected.”
Truth be told, I rarely shoot with red-eye reduction turned on because of the time it takes before being able to take a picture. If I am after candid shots and have to use the flash, I will take my chances on red-eye and try to fix the problem in my imageprocessing software.
There will be times when you have to turn to your camera’s built-in flash to get the shot. The flash on the G12 is not extremely powerful, but with the camera’s advanced metering system it does a pretty good job of lighting up the night…or just filling in the shadows.
The controls for the built-in flash are accessible in two ways. I’ll cover the how first, and then shortly move on to the why.
Acc ess ing the Flash Control, the Fast and Easy Way
Press the Flash button.
Use the Control dial to select a flash setting. Depending on the current shooting mode, in addition to On and Off, you may see an icon for Auto or Slow Synchro.
Press the Function/Set button to apply the setting.
Acc ess ing More Flash Controls
Press the Flash button, and then press the Menu button to access the Built-in Flash Settings screen.
This menu is also accessible by first pressing the Menu button and then choosing Flash Control.
Use the Control dial to select a flash setting.
Press the Menu button to return to the shooting mode.
Auto vs. Manual Power Output
In most cases, the On setting is the same as saying the flash is set to Auto: The camera determines how much power to give the flash to control its brightness. However, as with so many features, you’re not locked into the automatic option. If you’re shooting in Manual (M) mode, you can choose three intensities for the flash. That option is also available when shooting in other modes.
Setting Auto or Manual Flash Mode
Press the Flash button, or navigate to the Built-in Flash Settings screen using the menus as described earlier.
Highlight the Flash Mode option. (Note that it doesn’t appear in the largely automatic Program mode.)
Press the Left or Right button to switch between Auto and Manual.
When Manual is enabled, the Flash Exp. Comp (exposure compensation) menu item becomes the Flash Output item; highlight it and use the Left or Right button to choose between Minimum, Medium, and Maximum.
Press Menu to return to the shooting mode.
You can easily change the Flash Output setting later without navigating all the menus by pressing the Flash button and using the Front dial. Or, press the Function/Set button, highlight the Flash Output icon (fourth from the top), and use the Left or Right button to adjust the level.
The standard flash synchronization speed for your camera is between 1/60 and 1/2000 of a second. When you are working with the built-in flash using the Automatic modes, the camera typically uses a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The exception to this is when you use the Night Snapshot mode, which fires the flash with a slower shutter speed so that some of the ambient light has time to record in the image.
The real key to using the flash to get great pictures is to control the shutter speed. The goal is to balance the light from the flash with the existing light so that everything in the picture has an even illumination. Let’s take a look at the shutter speeds for the Creative modes.
Program (P): The shutter speed stays at 1/60 of a second, unless you’re shooting into a bright environment (or the meter is evaluating a bright area) that would normally require an aperture higher than f/8.
Shutter Priority (Tv): You can adjust the shutter speed to as fast as 1/2000 of a second all the way down to 15 seconds. (Actually, you can set the shutter speed to the camera’s maximum 1/4000 setting, but the shot uses a maximum speed of 1/2000.) The aperture adjusts accordingly, but typically at long exposures the lens will be set to its smallest aperture.
Aperture Priority (Av): The whole point of this setting is to allow you to use the aperture of your choice while still getting good flash exposures. With the flash turned on, the shutter speed adjusts from 1/2000 all the way down to 15 seconds, depending on the available light. As the aperture gets smaller, the shutter speeds get longer.
Manual (M): Manual mode works the same as Tv mode, with a range of 1/2000 down to 15 seconds. The difference, of course, is that you must manually set the f-stop.
Generally speaking, I like to have my Mode dial set to the Shutter Priority (Tv) mode when shooting pictures with flash. This enables me to balance the existing light with the flash, which sometimes requires longer shutter speeds.
If you have special metering needs, such as a background that is very light or dark, you might consider using the Flash Exposure (FE) Lock to meter off your subject and then recompose your image.
Using the FE Lock feature
Point the camera at the area you want to base the flash exposure on. This is normally your subject.
Press the * AE/FE Lock button (near the top right on the back of the camera) to obtain the exposure setting. The flash fires a small burst to evaluate the exposure, and you will see the AE/FE Lock symbol (*) along with the recommended exposure settings.
Recompose the scene as you like, and press the shutter button to take the shot.
The FE Lock cancels after each exposure, so you have to repeat these steps each time you need to lock the flash exposure. (If you’re shooting several shots in that situation, make a note of the settings and switch to the Manual shooting mode.)
Using this metering mode might also require that you tweak the flash output by using the Flash Exposure Compensation feature. This is because the camera will be metering the entire scene to set the exposure, so you might want to add or subtract flash power to balance out the scene.
As a photographer, it’s your job to lead the viewer through your image. You accomplish this by utilizing the principles of composition, which is the arrangement of elements in the scene that draws the viewer’s eye through the image and holds their attention. As the director, you need to understand how people see, and then use that information to focus their attention on the most important elements in your image.
There is a general order at which we look at elements in a photograph. The first is brightness. The eye wants to travel to the brightest object within a scene. So if you have a bright sky, it’s probably the first place the eye will travel to. The second order of attention is sharpness. Sharp, detailed elements will get more attention than soft, blurry areas. Finally, the eye will move to vivid colors while leaving the dull, flat colors for last. It is important to know these essentials in order to grab—and keep— the viewer’s attention and then direct them through the frame.
In Figure 7.13, the eye is drawn to the bright white cloud in the middle of the frame. From there, it is pulled by the vibrant sky down to the reflection in the water, and finally along the sharp grasses of the river bank. The elements within the image all help to keep the eye moving but never leave the frame.
Rule of thirds
There are, in fact, quite a few philosophies concerning composition. The easiest one to begin with is known as the “rule of thirds.” Using this principle, you simply divide your LCD into thirds by imagining two horizontal and two vertical lines that divide the frame equally.
If you prefer something more concrete, press the Display button to make a grid overlay the screen. (You can turn the grid off permanently by going to the camera’s main menu, selecting Custom Display, and pressing the Function/Set button in the boxes to the right of Grid Lines to make sure neither includes a checkmark.)
The key to using this method of composition is to position your main subject at or near one of the intersecting points.
By placing your subject near these intersecting lines, you are giving the viewer space to move within the frame. The one thing you don’t want to do is place your subject smack-dab in the middle of the frame. This is sometimes referred to as “bull’s eye” composition, and it requires the right subject matter for it to work. It’s not always wrong, but it will usually be less appealing and may not hold the viewer’s focus.
Speaking of the middle of the frame, the other general rule of thirds deals with horizon lines. Generally speaking, you should position the horizon one-third of the way up or down in the frame (Figure 7.14). Splitting the frame in half by placing your horizon in the middle of the picture is akin to placing the subject in the middle of the frame; it doesn’t lend a sense of importance to either the sky or the ground.
Because a photograph is a flat, two-dimensional space, you need to create a sense of depth by using the elements in the scene to create a three-dimensional feel. This is accomplished by including different and distinct spaces for the eye to travel: a foreground, middle ground, and background. By using these three spaces, you draw the viewer in and render depth to your image.
Jeff Lynch’s photo of sunset at Palo Duro Canyon, shown in Figure 7.15, contains a lot of motion for a still landscape. The outcropping in the foreground at left draws your eye, but then the shadow casts your view to the opposite ridge in the middle ground, and the rest of the canyon extends toward the center of the frame.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying for the landscape shooter as capturing a silky waterfall shot. Creating the smooth-flowing effect is as simple as adjusting your shutter speed to allow the water to be in motion while the shutter is open. The key is to have your camera on a stable platform (such as a tripod) and use a shutter speed that’s long enough to work—at least 1/15 of a second or longer (Figure 7.11).
Setting up for a waterfall shot
Attach the camera to your tripod, then compose and focus your shot.
Make sure the ISO is set to 80.
Using Av mode, set your aperture to f/8, the smallest opening.
Press the shutter button halfway so the camera takes a meter reading.
Check to see if the shutter speed is 1/15 or slower.
Take a photo and then check the image on the LCD.
If the water is blinking on the LCD, indicating a loss of detail in the highlights, then use the Exposure Compensation dial to bring details back into the waterfall.
There is a possibility that you will not be able to have a shutter speed that is long enough to capture a smooth, silky effect, especially if you are shooting in bright daylight conditions. To overcome this obstacle, try enabling the Neutral Density filter. This feature darkens the scene by three stops (1/8 the light intensity), which allows you to use slower shutter speeds during bright conditions. Think of it as sunglasses for your camera lens (Figure 7.12).
Enabling the Neutral Density Filter
Press the Function/Set button to bring up the Function menu.
Press the Down button and highlight the ND Filter icon.
Turn the Control dial or press the Right or Left button to select ND Filter On.
This probably seems like a no-brainer. If it’s sunny, select Day Light. If it’s overcast, choose the Cloudy setting. Those choices wouldn’t be wrong for those circumstances, but why limit yourself? Sometimes you can change the mood of the photo by selecting a white balance that doesn’t quite fit the light for the scene that you are shooting. Figure 7.4 is an example of a correct white balance. It was late afternoon and the sun was starting to move low in the sky, giving everything that warm afternoon glow. But what if I wanted to make the scene look like it was shot earlier in the day? Simple; I just changed the white balance to Tungsten, a much cooler setting (Figure 7.5).
You can select the most appropriate white balance for your shooting conditions by scrolling through the options in the Function menu; the LCD updates to preview each look as you select it. Even better, you can choose a custom setting that will let you dial in exactly the right look for your image.
Changing white balance settings
Press the Function/Set button to activate the Function menu. The White Balance control is at the top of the list and automatically highlighted.
Use the Control dial to select the white balance setting.
Optionally make finer adjustments using the Front dial.
Press the Function/Set button to lock in your change and resume shooting.
Throughout the previous chapters we have concentrated on using the camera to create great images. We will continue that trend in this chapter, but there is one additional piece of equipment that is crucial in the world of landscape shooting: the tripod. A tripod is critical for a couple of reasons. The first relates to the time of day that you will be working. For reasons that will be explained later, the best light for most landscape work happens at sunrise and just before sunset. While this is the best time to shoot, it’s also kind of dark. That means you’ll be working with slow shutter speeds. Slow shutter speeds mean camera shake. Camera shake equals bad photos.
The second reason is also related to the amount of light that you’re gathering with your camera. When taking landscape photos, you will usually want to be working with very small apertures, as they give you lots of depth of field (DOF). This also means that, once again, you will be working with slower-than-normal shutter speeds.
Slow shutter = camera shake = bad photos.
Do you see the pattern here? The one tool in your arsenal to truly defeat the camera shake issue and ensure tack-sharp photos is a good tripod (Figure 7.1).
So what should you look for in a tripod? Well, first make sure it’s sturdy. Sure, the G12 is a lightweight camera, but a $10 cheapie tripod is likely to wobble, buckle, or bounce at the slightest provocation (such as wind). Next, check the height of the tripod. Your day will end much better if you haven’t bent over for hours framing shots. Finally, think about getting a tripod that utilizes a quick-release head. This usually employs a plate that screws into the bottom of the camera and then quickly snaps into place on the tripod. This will be especially handy if you are going to move between shooting by hand and using the tripod.
Most tripods have a center column that allows the user to extend the height of the camera above the point where the tripod legs join together. This might seem like a great idea, but the reality is that the further you raise that column, the less stable your tripod becomes. Think of a tall building that sways near the top. To get the most solid base for your camera, always try to use it with the center column at its lowest point so that your camera is right at the apex of the tripod legs.
Image Stabilization and tripods don’t mix
If you are using the image stabilizer (IS) feature, remember to turn it off when you use a tripod. While trying to minimize camera movement, the image stabilizer can actually create movement when the camera is already stable. To turn off the IS feature, press the Menu button, scroll down to the IS Mode item, and set it to Off.
Enable the G12’s Built-in Level
When you want a level horizon but don’t have a tripod, look no further than the G12’s LCD. A built-in digital level can help straighten your shots. To enable it, go to the Tools menu (the middle tab in the menu screen) and scroll down to Electronic Level. Press the Function/Set button, and choose Calibrate. Exit the menus and, when you’re shooting, press the Display button. The level appears at the bottom of the screen. When the “bubble” is in the middle and turns green, you’re level. The feature also works in portrait orientation.