Teachable Moments / by Gabriel Newman

Though this blog and website both have the tendency not to be updated as frequently as I would sometimes wish, I am hoping to start a new series using my photographic work to inspire some of the newer photographers out there. 


I'm calling the series Teachable Moments, because these are tips and tricks that I have employed in my work to achieve the results I was aspiring toward. 


Students took advantage of a few inches of pristine snowfall early the morning of February 6, 2017 on Todd Field.

In the pilot of this series of posts, I want to focus (no pun intended) on this image. 

The subject in focus spontaneously decided to throw a snowball. Some luck and a lot of patience played a role in capturing this image. Though I didn't know that the subject was going to throw the snowball, or at whom, I was able to wait long enough to compose an image I was satisfied with, by using settings that I thought would freeze the action. 

Let's break it down. 


Here's the important data: 

Camera: Nikon D810 Lens: Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8G VR II

Shutter speed: 1/500 Aperture: f/2.8

ISO: 800 Focal Length: 175 mm


So, what does this mean, and why did I make these choices? 

I'm using a full-frame sensor and fast-aperture telephoto zoom to be able to allow in as much light as possible. Pushing the ISO from the standard of 100 to 800 allowed me to use a faster shutter speed, which froze the motion in this photo. I didn't want anything to be blurry, and by moving from ISO 100, not to 200, or 400, but 800 -- 3 full stops of exposure, I was able to properly expose the frame at 1/500 of a second. In all honesty, 1/500 is a little low. I lucked out and it worked here, but you may wish to try at 1/1000 or faster. F/2.8 also aided in ensuring proper exposure -- by keeping the aperture as wide open as it can possibly go, I was able to separate the subject from the foreground and background, while more importantly, also allowing for a fast shutter speed without increasing the ISO and adding more grain. At 175 mm and roughly 45 feet between the subject and I, I was able to blur the foreground and background, creating separation. 


Now that I've explained the basic settings, there's the question of post-processing - what did I do to make the image pop even more than the RAW file did straight out of the camera? 

I'm a big fan of Lightroom -- it's where I do almost all of my major editing, so that's where I was working on this image as well. In Lightroom, I did change the exposure slightly - dropping it 0.10 of a stop because the image was initially a little hot. I pushed the contrast +55, pulled the shadows +9, dropped the blacks -26, and increased clarity and vibrance +24 and +12 respectively. By the time I was working on the clarity, the snow was popping out of the image, and after I pushed the vibrance a little, the colors of the subject's clothes really started to make a statement.