Coffee

Picture info: ISO 6400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/800 sec

Picture info: ISO 6400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/800 sec

Week 44 (6/2/2014 -6/8/2014): Parent’s Kitchen

Picture taken on 6/8/2014 at 3:42 PM

Photograph description:

As a child I never knew why people drank coffee, as an adult I don’t know how I would get along without it.  Oddly enough I can remember the exact day that I made the transition to a coffee drinker.  My first cup of coffee was drank more out of a sense of duty than desire but the addiction took all the same.

It all started on a cold foggy spring morning in April of 2009.  I was at West Point Military Academy to compete in a paintball event.  On the first morning of my stay I was awoken by the sound of a bugle horn, followed by machine gun fire (blanks).  Although the startling sounds woke me up, they did not warm me up so I set out into the fog, cold and half asleep, for the mess hall to find some hot chocolate.  Once I arrived at the mess hall found a soldier standing by a hot water dispenser.  I kindly asked, “excuse me sir, do you have hot chocolate?”  The soldier sternly replied, “No, we have Coffee” while handing me a cup of hot coffee.  As the soldier handed me the cup I noticed he was a reasonably high ranking NCO.  Feeling embarrassed to turn down the cup of coffee from such a seasoned soldier I accepted the cup and drank it black.  Not only did that cup of coffee warm me up, it also gave me such a jolt of energy that I was hooked from that day forward.

These days my coffees aren’t shared with soldiers but instead typically with friends and family.  This past weekend while home visiting my family I grabbed a cup with my brother as we caught up.  After our coffee run we came back to my parent’s kitchen and brewed some coffee not for the purposes of drinking, but for the purposes of shooting coffee photographs.  It was a successful experiment and resulted in me finally checking “coffee picture” off my photography bucket list.

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Photography concepts:

This week’s picture was difficult to pull off, mainly because it required two things, a fast shutter and focus speed.  The first hurdle to overcome was how to get a fast enough shutter speed in a low natural light setting.  Even with a wide open aperture of f/1.8, my shutter was still too slow to when using a normal ISO setting.  I was left with no choice but to use an extremely high ISO setting of 6400.  Lucky I was able to clean up the “noise” created from the high ISO in lightroom by using noise reduction.  The trade off for using noise reduction is decreased detail and what ends up looking like a very smooth image.  In the case of this picture I actually liked the look that the noise reduction created so it all worked out.

My low light problem was solved with just a few clicks of a button, with my camera doing most of the work.  When it came to focus speed it was all on me to make the adjustment.  Since I was using a wide open aperture it was very important that I had control of where my focus point hit.  Small apertures result in small focus planes, meaning if my focus point hit the wrong spot my whole image would appear out of focus.  It’s easy to work around a small focus plane if you’re shooting something still, but I had to fire off pictures quick to catch milk’s mixing action.  The solution I came up with was to place my camera on a mini tripod and put my camera into manual focus.  The advantage of manual focus is the camera’s focus engine doesn’t think, it will keep firing instantly.  They key to using manual focus, at least in this situation, was to calibrate my focus via autofocus, then put my camera into manual focus mode so it wouldn’t change again when I clicked the shutter button.  The reason I had to use the tripod was so my camera didn’t move at all and lose my precise focus point.  This manual focus strategy worked well and is definitely something I’ll keep in my back pocket for pictures that require quick focus.

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