Nikon D7000, Active D-Lighting

Your camera provides a function that can automatically make your pictures look better: Active D-Lighting. It works this way: The camera evaluates the tones in your image and then underexposes for the highlight areas while lightening any areas that it believes are too dark or lacking in contrast (Figures 11.12 and 11.13). Active D-Lighting is automatically applied to images that are shot in any of the automatic scene modes except for High Key, Low Key, and Silhouette.

Without Active D-Lighting
Figure 11.12 Without Active D-Lighting, the shadows are very dark and lack contrast.
With D-Lighting set to Normal you will see shadows become lighter
Figure 11.13 With D-Lighting set to Normal you will see shadows become lighter. Notice how we can see more detail in the vendor’s face and within the booth.

You can choose from six levels: Off, Low (L), Normal (N), High (H), Extra High (H*), and Auto (A). You will need to evaluate the strength of the effect on your images and change it accordingly. I typically leave it set to Normal so that I have brighter, more detailed shadow areas in my photographs while still maintaining good exposure in my skies. You should know that Active D-Lighting can only be adjusted when using one of the professional modes. Also, you will want to turn it off if you are using flash exposure compensation since it will work against you when you alter the flash strength.

Setting up Active D-Lighting

Setting up Active D-Lighting

  1. Press the Info button twice to activate the cursor in the information screen, then navigate to the Active D-Lighting setting by using the Multi-selector (A).
  2. Press the OK button and then move the Multi-selector up or down to select the level of Active D-Lighting that you desire (B).
  3. Press the OK button to lock in your changes and resume shooting.

The Active D-Lighting setting can also be changed in the Shooting menu.

 

 

Nikon D7000, Playback

There are a couple of options for reviewing your video once you have finished recording. The first, and probably the easiest, is to press the Image Review button to bring up the recorded image on the rear LCD, and then use the OK button to start playing the video. The Multi-selector acts as the video controller and allows you to rewind and fast-forward as well as stop the video altogether

If you would like to get a larger look at things, you will need to either watch the video on your TV or move the video files to your computer. To watch low-res video on your TV, you can use the video cable that came with your camera and plug it into the small port on the side of the camera body (Figure 10.3). To get the full effect from your HD video, you will need to buy an HDMI cable (your TV needs to support at least 720HD and have an HDMI port to use this option). Once you have the cable hooked up, simply use the same camera controls that you use for watching the video on the rear LCD.

If you want to watch a video on your computer, you will need to download it using Nikon software or an SD card reader attached to the computer. The video file will have the extension .avi at the end of the filename. These files should play on either a Mac or a PC using software that came with your operating system (QuickTime for Mac and Windows Media Player for PC).

Plug your cable into
Figure 10.3 Plug your cable into this port to watch videos on your television.

 

Nikon D7000, Sound

The D7000 can record audio to go along with your video, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind while using the built-in microphone. The first is to make sure you don’t block the microphone. If you look closely at the front of the camera body, you’ll notice three small holes right below the silver D7000 nameplate, located above the lens release button.

The next thing you need to know about sound is that it is mono, not stereo. This is lower quality sound than you are used to hearing in movies and music. To get stereo quality audio you will need to use an external microphone. I use a Rode shotgun microphone (Figure 10.2) that mounts to the camera’s hot shoe and plugs into the stereo audio jack. These mics do a very nice job of recording audio for your videos and are one of the least expensive options.

The Rode shotgun microphone
Figure 10.2 The Rode shotgun microphone mounts to the camera’s hot shoe and plugs into the stereo audio jack for recording high-quality sound.

Turning off the sound

Sometimes you may wish to turn the sound off altogether—maybe sound would be distracting or you plan on adding your own soundtrack later. This comes in handy when I add the Chariots of Fire soundtrack to my daughter’s cross-country videos.

To turn off sound

  1. Following the directions for setting the movie quality above, locate the Movie Settings menu and press OK.
  2. Highlight Microphone and press OK again (A).
  3. Select the Microphone Off option and press OK to lock in the change (B).
  4. Press the Menu button twice or the Live View switch to return to shooting mode.

turn off sound

Canon EOS 60D, The My Menu Settings

You may find that you are constantly going back and forth in the menu to change some of the same settings over and over again. Instead of going into the menu to hunt for the one item that you need to change but that you have misplaced (this happens to me all the time), take advantage of the 60D’s simple solution to help you keep a few of those settings in one place and make them easier to find—the My Menu tab.

Under the My Menu tab, you have the option to register up to six different menu options and custom functions. I usually select menu items that I use frequently so that I can quickly make changes to those settings. Some of the items I tend to keep in the My Menu settings are Format, Creative filters, Expo. comp./AEB, and White balance (Figure 10.1).

This is what the My Menu settings look like on my 60D.
FIGURE 10.1 This is what the My Menu settings look like on my 60D.

CUSTOMIZING YOUR MY MENU SETTINGS

CUSTOMIZING YOUR MY MENU SETTINGS

  1. Press the Menu button and use the Main dial to select the tab to the far right (the star). Select the My Menu settings option, and press Set (A).
  2. Highlight the Register to My Menu item, and press Set.
  3. Use the Quick Control dial to scroll through the available menu items (B); when you see one that you want to add, press the Set button and confirm that you want to add it by selecting OK.
  4. Continue adding the items that you want until you have selected your favorites (up to six of them).
  5. You can sort your menu items as you see fit or, if you change your mind, you can delete them individually or all at once.
  6. If you want the My Menu tab to be the first menu tab that appears each time you go into the menu on your LCD Monitor, enable the Display from My Menu item (C).

Quick Control dial to scroll

Nikon D7000, Using the Built-In Flash

There are going to be times when you have to turn to your camera’s built-in flash to get the shot. The pop-up flash on the D7000 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.

If you are working with one of the automatic scene modes, the flash should automatically activate when needed. If, however, you are working in one of the professional modes you will have to turn the flash on for yourself. To do this, just press the pop-up flash button located on the front of the camera (Figure 8.8). Once the flash is up, it is ready to go. It’s that simple.

A quick press of the pop-up flash button will release the built-in flash to its ready position.
Figure 8.8 A quick press of the pop-up flash button will release the built-in flash to its ready position.

Shutter speeds

The standard flash synchronization speed for your camera is between 1/60 and 1/250 of a second. When you are working with the built-in flash in the automatic and scene modes, the camera will typically use a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The exception to this is when you use Night Portrait mode, which will fire the flash with a slower shutter speed so that some of the ambient light in the scene 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 in the professional modes.

  • Program (P): The shutter speed stays at 1/60 of a second. The only adjustment you can make in this mode is overexposure or underexposure using the Exposure Compensation setting or Flash Compensation settings.
  • Shutter Priority (S): You can adjust the shutter speed to as fast as 1/200 of a second all the way down to 30 seconds. The lens aperture will adjust accordingly, but typically at long exposures the lens will be set to its smallest aperture.
  • Aperture Priority (A): This mode will allow you to adjust the aperture but will adjust the shutter speed between 1/200 and 1/60 of a second in the standard flash mode.

Flash range

Because the pop-up flash is fairly small, it does not have enough power to illuminate a large space (Figure 8.9). The effective distance varies depending on the ISO setting and aperture. At ISO 200, f/4, the range is about 14 feet. This range can be extended to as far as 20 feet when the camera is set to an ISO of 1600, f/8. For the best image quality, your ISO setting should not go above 1600. Anything higher will begin to introduce excessive noise into your photos. Check out page 147 of your manual for a chart that shows the effective flash range for differing ISO and aperture settings.

The pop-up flash was used to fill in shadows. The longer exposure time allowed the ambient light to illuminate the rest of the scene.
Figure 8.9 The pop-up flash was used to fill in shadows. The longer exposure time allowed the ambient light to illuminate the rest of the scene.

Metering modes

The built-in flash uses a technology called TTL (Through The Lens) metering to determine the appropriate amount of flash power to output for a good exposure. When you depress the shutter button, the camera quickly adjusts focus while gathering information from the entire scene to measure the amount of ambient light. As you press the shutter button down completely, the flash uses that exposure information and fires a predetermined amount of light at your subject during the exposure.

The default setting for the flash meter mode is TTL. The meter can be set to Manual mode. In Manual flash mode, you can determine how much power you want coming out of the flash ranging from full power all the way down to 1/128 power. Each setting from full power on down will cut the power by half. This is the equivalent of reducing flash exposure by one stop with each power reduction.

Setting the flash to the Manual power setting

Setting the flash to the Manual power setting

  1. Press the Menu button and then navigate to the Custom Setting menu.
  2. Using the Multi-selector, highlight the item labeled E Bracketing/Flash and press the OK button (A).
  3. Highlight item E3 Flash Cntrl for Built-in Flash and press OK (B).
  4. Change the setting to Manual (C) and then press the OK button to adjust the desired power—Full, ½, ¼, and so on—and press the OK button (D).

Don’t forget to set it back to TTL when you are done because the camera will hold this setting until you change it.

 

Nikon D7000, Focusing in Low Light

The D7000 has a great focusing system, but occasionally the light levels are too low for the camera to achieve an accurate focus. There are a few things that you can do to overcome this obstacle.

First, you should know that the camera uses contrast in the viewfinder to establish a point of focus. This is why your camera will not be able to focus when you point it at a white wall or a cloudless sky. It simply can’t find any contrast in the scene to work with. Knowing this, you might be able to use a single focus point in AF-S mode to find an area of contrast that is the same distance as your subject. You can then hold that focus by holding down the shutter button halfway and recomposing your image.

Then there are those times when there just isn’t anything there for you to focus on. A perfect example of this would be a fireworks display. If you point your lens to the night sky in any AF (Automatic Focus) mode, it will just keep searching for— and not finding—a focus point. On these occasions, you can simply turn off the autofocus feature and manually focus the lens (Figures 8.5 and 8.6). Look for the A/M switch on the side of the lens and slide it to the M position.

 You can’t count on autofocus. If the camera just can’t find its focus, take it into your own hands.
Figure 8.5 You can’t count on autofocus. If the camera just can’t find its focus, take it into your own hands.
I took this in my field in Montana after watching a magnificent sunset. Autofocus would not work because the light was just too low. I had to switch to manual focus to get the job done.
Figure 8.6 I took this in my field in Montana after watching a magnificent sunset. Autofocus would not work because the light was just too low. I had to switch to manual focus to get the job done.

Now, I don’t want any e-mails saying, “John, you broke my camera! It won’t focus!” So make sure to switch your lens back to the A mode at the end of your shoot.

AF Ass ist Illuminator

I know I told everyone that I am not a huge fan of the AF-assist illuminator in Chapter 1, but that is primarily when I’m shooting people. The D7000’s AF-assist illuminator does a good job helping with focusing by using a small, bright beam from the front of the camera to shine some light on the scene. This light enables the camera to find details to focus on in low-light situations.

This feature is automatically activated when using the flash (except in Landscape, Sports, and Flash Off modes for the following reasons: In Landscape mode, the subject is usually too far away; in Sports mode, the subject is probably moving; and in Flash Off mode, you’ve disabled the flash entirely). Also, the illuminator will be disabled when shooting in the AF-C or manual focus mode, as well as when the illuminator is turned off in the camera menu. The AF-assist should be enabled by default, but you can check the menu just to make sure.

Turning on the AF-ass ist feature

Turning on the AF-ass ist feature

  1. Press the Menu button and access the Custom Setting menu (A).
  2. Navigate to the item called A Autofocus and press the OK button.
  3. Highlight the menu item called A7 Built-in AF-assist illuminator and press the OK button (B).
  4. Set the option to On and press the OK button to complete the setup.

Disabling the flash

If you are shooting in one of the automatic scene modes, the flash might be set to activate automatically. If you don’t wish to operate the flash, you will have to turn it off in the information screen.

To turn off flash

To turn off flash

To disable the flash when shooting in Auto mode, turn the Mode dial to the Flash Off symbol (a circle containing a flash with a slash through it).

Remember, if you are shooting in a professional mode, the only way to get the flash to fire is to turn it on yourself. If you are shooting in an automatic scene mode, depending on the mode, it will come on automatically. For example in Candlelight and Landscape modes it does not come on, whereas in Pet mode or Night Portrait it is automatically on. If the small flash icon appears on the control panel when you are shooting in a particular mode, it means the setting calls for it and the flash will fire automatically.

Nikon D7000, Stabilizing the Situation

If you purchased your camera with the Vibration Reduction (VR) lens or if you have the kit lens, you already own a great tool to squeeze two stops of exposure out of your camera when shooting without a tripod. Typically, the average person can hand-hold his camera down to about 1/60 of a second before blurriness results due to hand shake. Even if you have pipes as big as Mr. T’s you need to use this feature. As the length of the lens is increased (or zoomed), the ability to hand-hold at slow shutter speeds (1/60 and slower) and still get sharp images is further reduced (Figure 8.3).

Turning on the VR switch will allow you to shoot in lower lighting conditions while reducing hand shake. I love this feature— especially if I haven’t had my morning coffee.
Figure 8.3 Turning on the VR switch will allow you to shoot in lower lighting conditions while reducing hand shake. I love this feature— especially if I haven’t had my morning coffee.

Hands off to sharper images

Whether you are shooting with a tripod or even resting your camera on a wall, you can increase the sharpness of your pictures by taking your hands out of the equation. Whenever you use your finger to depress the shutter release button, you are increasing the chances that there will be a little bit of shake in your image. To eliminate this possibility, try setting your camera up to use the Self-timer or Exposure Delay mode (Figure 8.4).

A portrait needs to be sharp, and by using the Selftimer or Exposure Delay you reduce the chances of camera shake.
Figure 8.4 A portrait needs to be sharp, and by using the Selftimer or Exposure Delay you reduce the chances of camera shake.

Self-timer

  1. To turn on the Self-timer simply press the release dial lock and rotate the release dial to Self-timer (A).
  2. Press the Menu button to find the Custom Setting menu. Highlight and select C Timers/AE Lock, then press OK (B).
  3. Select C3 Self-timer and click OK. I generally choose 2S (2 seconds) to cut down on time between exposures (C).

C3 Self-time

 

Nikon D7000, Directing the Viewer’s Eye: A Word About Composition

As a photographer, it’s your job to lead the viewer through your image. You accomplish this by using the principles of composition, which is the arrangement of elements in the scene that draws the viewer’s eyes through your image and holds his attention. 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 in 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 go. The second is sharpness. Sharp, detailed elements 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 him through the frame.

In Figure 7.15, the eye is drawn to the bright splashes of water and the sharply focused rocks in the foreground. From there it is pulled up the river, where the frame gets darker and the eyes come to rest on the mountains and the shore. Finally, they move up into the active sky, starting with the light fluffy clouds and ending in the dark blue at the very top of the frame.

I enjoy fly-fishing the Madison River in Montana so much that I decided to photograph my favorite trout stream. Standing in the water with my waders on, I took this shot of the river. When composing it I wanted the viewer’s eye to be drawn into the image and pulled up to the mountains and the wispy clouds above.
Figure 7.15 I enjoy fly-fishing the Madison River in Montana so much that I decided to photograph my favorite trout stream. Standing in the water with my waders on, I took this shot of the river. When composing it I wanted the viewer’s eye to be drawn into the image and pulled up to the mountains and the wispy clouds above.

Rule of thirds

There are quite a few philosophies concerning composition. The easiest to begin with is the “rule of thirds.” Using this principle, you simply divide your viewfinder into thirds by imagining two horizontal and two vertical lines that divide the frame equally.

The key to using this method of composition is to have your main subject located at or near one of the intersecting points (Figure 7.16).

I wanted to show all the dead trees in the paint pot at Yellowstone National Park, so I decided to compose the image with the nearest tree in the bottom right quadrant. This created a more compelling composition than centering the tree.
Figure 7.16 I wanted to show all the dead trees in the paint pot at Yellowstone National Park, so I decided to compose the image with the nearest tree in the bottom right quadrant. This created a more compelling composition than centering the tree.

By placing your subject near these intersecting lines, you are giving the viewer space to move within the frame. The one thing you normally don’t want to do is put your subject smack-dab in the middle of the frame, sometimes referred to as “bull’s-eye” composition. Centering the subject is not always wrong, but it will usually be less appealing and may not hold the viewer’s attention.

Speaking of the middle of the frame: Another 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. 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.

In Figure 7.17, I incorporated the rule of thirds by aligning my horizon in the bottom third of the frame and the sky and steam in the top third. I also placed the river in the foreground to draw the eye to the bottom third of the frame, giving the viewer a chance to travel throughout the frame, ending on the steam, sky, and bright sun. The top two thirds contain the sky and the steam rising from the geothermal features in Yellowstone National Park.

 Putting the horizon of this image at the bottom third of the frame places emphasis on steam rising from the geothermal features in the landscape.
Figure 7.17 Putting the horizon of this image at the bottom third of the frame places emphasis on steam rising from the geothermal features in the landscape.

The D7000 has two visual tools for assisting you in composing your photo in the form of grid overlays. These grids can be set to appear in the viewfinder and on the rear LCD when in Live View mode.

Using a grid overlay in the viewfinder

Using a grid overlay in the viewfinder

  1. Press the Menu button, then use the Multi-selector to navigate to the Custom Settings menu and select D Shooting/Display.
  2. Navigate to D2 Viewfinder Grid Display, press OK, set the feature to On, and press OK.

Using a grid overlay in Live View

  1. Rotate the Live View switch to turn on Live View.
  2. Press the Info button until the grid appears on the viewfinder.

Although the grid in the viewfinder and the Live View screen aren’t equally divided into thirds, they will give you an approximation of where you should be aligning your subjects in the frame.

Creating depth

Because a photograph is a flat, two-dimensional space, you need to establish 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 to: a foreground, middle ground, and background. By using these three spaces, you draw the viewer in and give your image depth.

This scene of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Figure 7.18, illustrates this well. The hills in the foreground as well as my point of view helped create a sense of height. The faraway, flat horizon seems miles away, while the sunlight beaming through hit the small rock outcropping right in the center of the frame. All of these factors helped give the image depth and made it feel three-dimensional.

I was visiting the Badlands on a stormy day. There was a break in the clouds where the sunlight was coming through and shining on a small rock outcropping in the distance. The rain increased the colors in the striations of the rock, adding contrast and visual interest.
Figure 7.18 I was visiting the Badlands on a stormy day. There was a break in the clouds where the sunlight was coming through and shining on a small rock outcropping in the distance. The rain increased the colors in the striations of the rock, adding contrast and visual interest.

Nikon D7000, Using the Landscape Picture Control

When shooting landscapes, I always look for great color and contrast. This is one of the reasons that so many landscape shots are taken in the early morning or during sunset. The light is much more vibrant and colorful at these times of day and adds a sense of drama to an image.

You can help boost this effect, especially in the less-than-golden hours of the day, by using the Landscape picture control (Figure 7.7). Just as in the Landscape mode found in the automatic scene modes, you can set up your landscape shooting so that you capture images with increased sharpness and a slight boost in blues and greens. This style will add some pop to your landscapes without the need for additional processing in any software.

Using the Landscape picture control can add sharpness and more vivid color to skies and vegetation. Here it helped me capture the orange and turquoise colors that make the Grand Prismatic Spring so amazing.
Figure 7.7 Using the Landscape picture control can add sharpness and more vivid color to skies and vegetation. Here it helped me capture the orange and turquoise colors that make the Grand Prismatic Spring so amazing.

Setting up the Landscape picture control

Setting up the Landscape picture control

  1. Press the Info button twice, then use the Multi-selector to highlight the Set Picture Control feature (this is normally set to SD) and then press OK (A).
  2. Now use the Multi-controller to scroll down to the LS option and press OK to lock in your change (B).

The camera will now apply the Landscape picture control to all of your photos. This style will be locked in to the camera even after turning it off and back on again, so make sure to change it back to SD when you are done with your landscape shoot.

Nikon D7000, Using Noise Reduction

The temptation to use higher ISOs should always be avoided, as the end result will be more image noise and less detail.

There can be an issue when using a low ISO setting: The sometimes lengthy shutter speeds can also introduce noise. This noise is a result of the heating of the camera sensor as it is being exposed to light. This effect is not visible in short exposures, but as you start shooting with shutter speeds that exceed one second, the level of image noise can increase. Your camera has a couple of features that you can turn on to combat noise from long exposures and high ISOs.

Setting up noise reduction

Setting up noise reduction

  1. Press the Menu button, then use the Multi-selector to get to the Shooting menu.
  2. Using the Multi-selector, select Long Exp. NR and then press OK (A). Choose On and press the OK button.
  3. Now use the Multi-selector to get to the High ISO NR setting in the Shooting menu and press OK (B).
  4. ISO noise reduction comes in four options: High, Normal, Low, and Off. Set it to Normal for everyday shooting or High for those instances where you have to significantly raise your ISO (C).

significantly raise your ISO