RCPS Press Report 26th May 2016

Have you really looked at your camera and worked out what each dial does or are you one of those people who set it on ‘auto’ and trust that it will deliver the best picture it is capable of without you having to worry? Lots of people do this and of course there is nothing wrong with it, however, after a while some begin to wonder what else the camera can do and if they will be confident enough to find out. So, what is on a typical camera? There is always an auto setting, often typified by a capital letter A and sometimes in a coloured box. Using this means that the camera will make all the decisions; it will set the aperture, the shutter speed, the ISO and, if fitted, the pop up flash, only just stopping short of making the tea. A circle with a diagonal line across it and a zig zag arrow on it is almost the same as Auto but this one stops the flash operating automatically and so is useful for museums, indoor theatre venues or similar where photography is permitted but not flash photography. A symbol showing a head will usually signify a ‘Portrait’ setting and can be used for, you have guessed it, taking portraits because it softens skin tones and throws the background slightly out of focus creating what is known as a bokeh. (‘Bokeh’ is a Japanese word for ‘blur’ and is an attractive and desired effect for backgrounds in portrait photography where the subject is clearly in focus but the background, whilst complimentary, is subdued and unsharp thus not fighting for the viewer’s attention). Another symbol, depicting hills or mountains can be found as a setting for taking landscape pictures, usually in good light in daytime. This mode generally puts a bit more punch into pictures, making the colours a little more vivid. A sports mode is signified by an image of a runner and in this setting, the camera shutter fires at a higher speed and freezes the action of fast moving subjects, be they runners, motor vehicles or animals. For close-up work, say flower photography, there is a setting indicated by a symbol that looks a bit like a tulip. Unless you have a really steady hand, when using this mode it can be helpful to use a tripod to get sharper images. A silhouette of a person’s head with a star above usually signifies a night portrait mode in which the shutter operates more slowly to capture the background in conjunction with the camera’s flash that lights up the subject’s face. Again, a steady hand is required and the subject is better being advised not to move. There may be a similar symbol but with a sun behind the person’s head, this one signifying use when a subject is backlit, that is the camera is facing direct or indirect sunlight. Without compensation such as afforded by this mode, any picture taken of someone looking at the camera with strong sunlight behind them will result in an underexposed, dark subject with probably an over-exposed background. Some cameras have a symbol showing a baby or child and in this mode the camera adds colour and punch to the background and clothing whilst keeping flesh tones subdued. The big four shooting modes are described by symbols, M for manual, A or Av for Aperture Priority, S, T or Tv for Shutter Priority and P or AE for Program Mode. M is for photographers who are either confident about what their camera can do or they are wanting to try out their own skills and knowledge by making all the adjustments themselves in striving for creative images. Program Ae mode is almost the same as using Auto but in AE the camera sets the shutter speed and aperture leaving the photographer to dial in the required ISO level. In Aperture Priority mode, the photographer sets the aperture value and the camera works out the shutter speed and ISO. In fact this is probably the commonest mode used by the majority of photographers. In S or Shutter priority mode the photographer sets the shutter speed and the camera sort of the aperture and ISO level. Shutter Priority is sometimes favoured by sports photographers who want to freeze action. On some cameras there are even more modes available, usually accessible by scrolling through the menu. There may be creative modes that enable a shot to be taken in a particular style, for example, looking like a cartoon or comic drawing, a film noir still or as a monochrome with a chosen primary colour popped through. Other modes may be best suited for taking pictures of fireworks, landscapes at night and any number of other scenarios. What any camera can do can be discovered by looking at it’s online or, rarely these days, published handbook or by comparing the attributes of cameras online.
One place you might want to start using your camera settings if you are unfamiliar with them is at Coverham Abbey, near Leyburn, DL8 4RL. For a small charge, on Sunday 29th May, twixt 2-4pm, you can visit stunning gardens set in the heart of tranquil Coverdale, within the grounds of a 13th century pre-monstratensian Abbey ruins. There you can wander through a large intricate knot garden, mixed borders, parterre and yew rondel with rose arches and a wild flower meadow. It’s part of the National Gardens Scheme and there should be a ‘hole’ lot of opportunities to experiment with your aperture settings! On Monday 30th May there is a Country Fair at Duncombe Park near Helmsley, this location also being the home to a great selection of birds of prey, so again many photographic opportunities.
On Thursday 2nd June, just north of Scarborough on the east coast there is an opportunity for an afternoon walk in the woods with a National Trust Ranger to discover how the organisation looks after the coastal woodland of Hayburn Wyke, its flora, fauna, landscape and features. It is free but for advance booking, which is essential, and more information ring 01947 885900.