Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Mode Wheel

There's a good article on Pixiq about Translating the Mode Wheel. You know, the wheel that determines what mode your camera shoots in. The article basically says that you should never use any of the "specialty" modes (like Sports, No Flash, etc.) and instead use Program (P), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv) or Manual (M). A little extreme? Perhaps.. but perhaps not.

I have been burned by using some of the specialty modes. Let's step through the ones available on my T1i, in no particular order.

Creative Auto
When I first bought the camera, I was shooting trains in Creative Auto (CA) mode. It gives you some flexibility in settings but is not full on Program mode. The problem is that in low light it pops the flash up, which is useless for shooting trains. To combat this, I switched to No Flash mode.

No Flash
The problem is that No Flash mode picks the slowest shutter speed it can get away with. I really got burned on this in Calgary shooting CP from an overhead bridge. I showed some video in my post but no stills. I had taken the stills, but they were blurry because the shutter speed was too slow.

Now I shoot in Shutter Priority (Tv) mode - basically the same but *I* get to control the shutter speed. I find 1/125s is good enough for most trains, but if you are close to the train and it is going perpendicular to where you're aiming, it is good to use a 1/160 or 1/200 shutter speed to ensure the train is frozen with no blur.

I confess I use Portrait mode a lot when shooting people pictures. I put that down to laziness and I really should use Aperture Priority (Av) mode instead.

I have used Landscape mode with good results, but I don't use it much.

Full Auto
I might have shot one or two pictures with this mode when I first bought the camera, but I don't see any point in it. Why get an SLR if you are going to shoot in full auto?

Honestly, I'm not sure that I have ever used this. As the article says, if you have a macro lens, use Program or Aperture Priority. If you don't have a macro lens, this isn't going to help you at all.

I tried using Sports mode to shoot trains, but the problem with that is it uses a single point of focus (the centre) and that really interferes with good composition. I'd rather keep my 9 points of focus, thanks.

Night Portrait
I've never used it.

Do you use any of the specialty modes in your camera?


Unknown said...

Most of my shooting is done Apature Priority and bracketed. I do not use any of the programed settings on the "wheel". I use the camera settings to "fit" the type of shooting (get out the manual and practice practice).

Blair Ivey said...

Thanks for the brief explanation of the 'mode wheel' and how it relates to rail photography. I'm still using an 'old school' Canon AE-1 and usually use AP @ 1/125. I've found that you have to pay attention to what the camera meters off of. If it 'sees' something like bright snow in the background, everything in the foreground will be underexposed. As Gordon mentioned, it's a good idea to bracket your shots, amd with a DSLR that isn't quite so expensive!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks for your comments. Bracketing is a good idea and it's something I should do more often. I haven't really played with that.

Blair, I've found that when shooting snow it's a good idea to bump the exposure up 2/3 of a stop to compensate for just what you mentioned. It takes a dark shot and makes it good. Exposure bracketing would help too!