Shootin’ Sushi

So I mentioned that I was taking a photography class, right?  I may also have mentioned that I am totally a Penelope and nerdy with anything resembling school.

I had my first class last week. As with my actual schooling, I positioned myself front and center at the head of the class with my clean new notebook and brand new pen ready to jot down all the pearls of photography wisdom spun forth by my instructor.  Despite the fact that my brain really does work in outline form, my class notes looked like pages of indecipherable scribble…just like in high school, college, and grad school.  Therefore, just like in high school, college, and grad school, I spent time this week recopying my notes.  While it may seem redundant, it actually helps me learn to recopy them because I am a visual/tactile learner.  In fact, the more I see it written or do it with my hands, the more it sticks.  So, to help me retain more of what I’m learning, I going to share it with you.

My first class primarily focused on the 3 components of good exposure:

  1. aperture (the amount of light let into the camera)
  2. shutter speed (the length of time the shutter is open/the image is exposed to film or media)
  3. ISO (degree of film or digital sensor sensitivity)

This can all get a little long.  So since my homework this week was about aperture play, I’ll focus on that for this post.

Aperture is measured in f-stops and is one of the key components in establishing the depth of field for your shot.  What do I mean by depth of field?  It basically refers to how much of your shot in focus.  In a shallow depth of field the photographer is basically telling the audience what it should attend to in the shot.  Only the subject is in focus.  For example:

By contrast a greater depth of field means that pretty much everything in the picture is in focus. There’s a lot of detail to take in.  While Ansel Adams was a master at this, here’s my example:

So how do you achieve one type of shot versus the other?  One way is by adjusting the aperture. Here’s where things can get a little confusing.  Remember I said that aperture controls how much light the camera lets in and is measured in f-stops.  The SMALLER the f-stop number, the MORE light is let into the camera, and the more shallow the depth of field.  The LARGER the f-stop number, the LESS light is let into the camera, and the greater the depth of field.  Totally counterintuitive, right?

I know, I know.  The only way that is going to stick in my head is by rote memorization.  So say it with me:

smaller f-stop = more open = more light = shallow depth of field
smaller f-stop = more open = more light = shallow depth of field
smaller f-stop = more open = more light = shallow depth of field

Conversely, you could say:

larger f-stop = less open = less light = greater depth of field
larger f-stop = less open = less light = greater depth of field
larger f-stop = less open = less light = greater depth of field

If you are interested in some additional reading about all this, check out what the Pioneer Woman has to say about all this here.

Here was my homework for week 1:

“With your camera in Aperture Priority and using a long lens, gather several objects together or one object against a busy background and shoot it using EACH different aperture/f-stop your camera allows.”

Now HERE’s where things get really delicious!  I decided that the ideal subject for this project would be sushi.  It’s delicious, colorful, and has multiple textures.  So the Beer Guy and I packed up the D90 and headed out to our new favorite Charlotte sushi spot – Cyros Sushi.

Cyros is a tiny little sushi place inside an unassuming strip mall.  This place is getting more popular and it IS tiny.  So if you go on a Friday night, you may end up eating in the atrium of the strip mall. Not cool or fun.  So we suggest going in the middle of the week or at least not at prime dinner time on the weekend so you don’t run that risk.

Ok, so it loses a couple cool points for location, but it’s really what’s inside that counts.  The decor is elegant and modern, but not so mod that it’s cold and uncozy.  The sushi is FAN-TAB-U-LOUS.  We generally have the same friendly server every time we go.  She knows us, we know her and that makes us regulars!  We love being regulars.

We ordered the Pork Shumai appetizer.  But before we could dig in, I had to whip out the D90. Remember we came here strictly for homework purposes (wink, wink).  I had to take a shot of this at each f-stop my camera would allow.  Since the D90 rocks that means I took about 20 shots of everything we ordered…but I’ll just give you the highlights:

Here it is at f5.3 with a shallow depth of field (i.e. yummy appy in crisp focus, BG’s beer fuzzy in the background)…

now at f14 with a slightly greater depth of field (i.e. appy still crisp, BG’s beer getting more focused)…

and again at f25, even greater depth of field (i.e. all the objects in the pics are basically equally in focus)

Yes, I know that everything in that last shot is slightly fuzzy.  That’s what’s called camera shake.  The longer your shutter is open, the more still your camera has to be.  This is apparently where tripods come in handy. But I was shooting in hand…and getting really hungry.  Growing faint and weary may be a better description.  I blame the camera shake on low blood sugar.  I took pics at 3 larger f-stops but I was basically foaming at the mouth at that point and the shots are complete blur! You get my point with the pics, right?

Good.  Let’s move on to the main course.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet Cyros Sushi’s Avant Garde Roll…

Did you just have to stop yourself from licking the computer screen?  Or was that just me…

Let me spell this out for you, people.  Tuna.  Avocado.  Cream cheese.  Covered in spicy aioli sauce and  – wait for it… fried garlic and shallot slivers.  OH – MY – GAH!!  Whew, I’m gonna need a minute…

Where were we?  Oh yeah…photography.  Just because the more you hear/see it, the more likely you are to remember it the above pic was take with an aperture of f5.3, giving a shallow depth of field (i.e. freaking awesome Avant Garde roll in focus in the front, fuzzy sashimi tuna and untensils in the background).  Here’s the same shot at f14, with a still somewhat shallow but greater depth of field than the last shot.

Notice that the sashimi tuna and utensils are still somewhat fuzzy in the background, but getting to be a little less so. And just for good measure here’s the same shot at f36…

Aaaannd, I’m spent.  I’m not lying to you, people.  I dream about that roll at night.  I lose focus at work thinking about it.  Did I mention the fried garlic and shallot slivers…

Huh?  What happened?  Oh yeah, and the last pic…generally equal focus throughout…unfortunately also with a little bit of camera shake.  Again, I blame low blood sugar.

And THAT, folks, is your first lesson in aperture.  And if you are a sushi lover, live in Charlotte, or are passing through town do yourself a favor.  Go to Cyros Sushi.  Order the Avant Garde roll.  I promise you –


Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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    • Amanda on 11.16.2010 at 12:02 pm

    You’re in Charlotte?!! So am I!! You aren’t taking your classes at the Light Factory are you? I took mine there. Good luck with your classes!!

    • on 11.17.2010 at 12:35 am

    Yes, I am! How funny! Such a small world. And, yes, I’m taking my class at the Light Factory. Loving it so far. I look forward to more of your posts. Thanks for stopping by!

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