Don’t f-stop me now


Yesterday I was back at the Ventnor Botanic Garden to attend a photography course entitled “Get off Auto”.

Modern digital SLR cameras are so easy and effective on Auto mode that it is tempting to never stray, and just click away, rejecting any photos that don’t work.  And indeed that’s what I’ve done to date with the photos on this blog.  However, having had a father who was photography obsessed (pre digital, of course), I’ve always known there was a ‘non Auto’ world out there, and yesterday I took some baby steps to discover it, with the help of my two lovely course tutors Julian Winslow and Simon Wells.

We learnt about composition, aperture, depth of field and shutter speed.  And then, after a tasty lunch, got into even more detail with exposure (exposure level increments are measured in f-stops, hence the title) as well as light metering, white balance and ‘chimping’.


The two photos above of magnolia, both flower and bud, taken at VBG yesterday, were an exercise in the use of a relatively short depth of field, where the background was made deliberately blurry.  Conversely, the picture below taken at home this morning of the ‘Gentleman Bather’ sculpture by Denis Fairweather looking at my Prunus persica Mesembrine was all about exposure compensation, where I manually increased the exposure to ensure the Gentleman’s features could be seen.  I think I’ve rather overdone it as the peach blossom looks a little bleached, but I actually quite like the effect and it is heartening to realise I couldn’t have got a shot anything like it by leaving the camera on Auto, so I must have learnt something!


This particular tree is a nectarine with doughtnut shaped fruit (which I think I chose because I’d read that they ripen more easily than the larger spherical ones).  It grows in a large pot under a glass canopy, and not only does the canopy offer some protection against the dreaded ‘peach leaf curl’, but the glass warms the surroundings and thus helps to ripen the fruit.  Last year (year 2) we harvested just three fruits, but the flavour was stunning – unrecognisable from the bullet like nectarines we are offered by the supermarkets.  I think one of the reasons for the lack of fruit last year was some rather erratic watering, so I need to be more careful this year.  Also, I will need to tickle the blossom with a soft paint brush to ensure pollination of these beautiful flowers, as the bees are currently rather thin on the ground (or indeed the air).

And the last plant pictures are a mystery one from Ventnor (do you know what it is yet?) as well as a continued celebration of my Melianthus Major.  This has never previously got through the winter without being ‘frosted’.  I continue to cross my fingers.

Now whether the course will make any noticeable difference to the quality of my pictures  I don’t know.  What I do know however is that today I’ve been wandering round and round the garden taking the same picture over and over again using different settings and then uploading and critiquing, and then starting again.  Which is all very interesting and enjoyable, but it doesn’t get the seeds planted:


6 thoughts on “Don’t f-stop me now

  1. AnnetteM

    Love your title – very clever. Well done on getting off manual photography. I keep trying too and I guess it is necessary for some photos, but as you say it is very time consuming. I keep hoping it will get easier as time goes on. Is the mystery photo part of your dog?

  2. Uncle Spike

    Looks like a side on view of Trachycarpus fortunei, the Chusan Palm (or similar)…. Once the fans are chopped off, you get that ‘stump’ with a slightly concave top and deeper convex under part. Plus the hair… very palm like ‘fluff’.

  3. Pingback: End of month view – April 2014 | Duver Diary

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