Answering your Own Questions

amolitor

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I've noticed a couple of posts over the last few days asking question to which I replied (quietly, inside voice) "you can just figure this out yourself, it'll take 5 minutes.."

In that spirit, I am writing this as an effort to help people devise their own experiments to answer their own questions.

Let's say you have some question about some piece of equipment, or how something photographic works. I am going to assume that you have a digital camera with manual controls, including manual focus, available to you. It can autoexpose and autofocus too, the point is that you can turn that OFF.

Step 1 is to really get clear what your question is. Think it over a bit, and do your best. Try to get clear what the possible answers are. Is it a YES or NO question? Is the answer something like "10 millimeters", or "+2/3 of a stop of exposure" or "1/100th of a second"? The point is not to know the answer, but what FORM the answer will take. Is it a distance, a time, an exposure, a yes, a no?

Step 2 is to think up a scenario in which the answer will be clear. If yes/no, what kind of a picture would tell you which? You're trying to imagine, let's say, a picture which is "If this is blurry, the answer is YES, if the picture is sharp, the answer is NO". Or, maybe "the answer is the distance in millimeters between the nearest thing that's sharp and the farthest thing that's sharp"

Step 3 is to simplify that into a picture or pictures you can make easily. If the answer involves a distance, your picture probably has a ruler in it. If it has to do with exposure, you're looking for something that will give you a clear idea of the exposure -- an evenly lit white wall, perhaps. If it has to do with times and motion, you might need something you can drop or throw or otherwise move through the frame. More often than not your experiment will require multiple pictures. Devise a plan for changing settings or whatever else need to change to create the various pictures. Get this plan clear in your mind.

Step 4 eliminate variables. Unless you're asking a question specifically about how the camera moves around and what the effects of that are, you want to put your camera on a tripod or otherwise prop it and stabilize it. You may want to use a manual exposure mode, to guarantee same exposures or at any rate controllable ones - unless the question involves how the meter works. Nail down everything irrelevant so it cannot change on you. Set your ISO and leave it alone, unless the question is about ISO changes.

Step 5 now take some pictures and examine the results. The plan you devised in Step 3 will almost certainly need some tweaking. Go tweak it.

Keep track of which pictures were what - write stuff down as you shoot unless it's all in the EXIF data already

For depth of field and point of focus questions: photograph a ruler on a table positioned so it points at the camera (and appears as a vertical line in the frame). focus and control aperture manually.

For exposure questions: photograph a white wall or grey card, as evenly lit as you can manage.

For questions about things in motion: arrange to swing an object back and forth in the frame, perhaps, to avoid having to time exactly.

For questions about camera motion: handhold it, obviously, and follow your plan for changing up how you handhold or otherwise shoot. Pick a subject carefully, that will show or not show what you want to know the answer to.

And so on. How can I make a picture that is easy to make, and which will answer my question? How can I make THAT picture even easier to make? What's hard about making this picture, and how can I get rid of the hard part?

ETA: The main takeaway I hope people can get is this: You can figure this stuff out, you're smart enough and creative enough to be enough of a scientist to figure it out. You'll probably have some fun along the way, and learn some stuff you didn't expect to learn.
 
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cgipson1

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You are assuming the individuals involved are willing to actually exert some effort! It is much easier to just ask, then it is to figure it out yourself (even though most people would learn more by doing it themself!) Human nature in the Armchair / internet age... Good luck with that!

Most can't be bothered to do a simple "Google" on their own... much less something that actually requires thought!

(Or am I being overly cynical as I sit in my armchair wishing I could take a nap?)
 

squirrels

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I know. I know. Sorry about that. :oops:
I really do like to read first and then test. It helps me get a better handle on things.
But I do have a bunch of spiffy yellow shots of a ruler today. So I'm not a total slacker just maybe 70 or 80% slacker.

ETA: It also saves me a lot of that WTH?!??!? feelings during experiments. I got enough of that in grad school to last a lifetime.;)
 
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amolitor

amolitor

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I don't mean to berate people who ask before trying it themselves. I mean to empower people who come to questions with a default "I don't know the answer, I guess I have to ask someone" attitude. It's easy to fall into a pattern of assuming that since other people had to tell you stuff, that there's no other way to gather knowledge.
 

squirrels

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I don't mean to berate people who ask before trying it themselves. I mean to empower people who come to questions with a default "I don't know the answer, I guess I have to ask someone" attitude. It's easy to fall into a pattern of assuming that since other people had to tell you stuff, that there's no other way to gather knowledge.


No worries. I like your post! :thumbup::thumbup:
 

cgipson1

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I don't mean to berate people who ask before trying it themselves. I mean to empower people who come to questions with a default "I don't know the answer, I guess I have to ask someone" attitude. It's easy to fall into a pattern of assuming that since other people had to tell you stuff, that there's no other way to gather knowledge.

That statement basically denies any possibility of creative thinking on the part of those that feel that way!
 

KmH

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Long ago I realized that by making the effort to find an answer myself, I ran across other answers I didn't know I would eventually seek out.

Put another way, there is information we don't know we don't know, and by doing our own research we discover a lot of that information we didn't know we didn't know.

That ad hoc discovery process is also called serendipity.

When you ask someone else for an answer, serendipity gets short circuited.
 
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cgipson1

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Long ago I realized that by making the effort to find an answer myself, I ran across other answers I didn't Know I would eventually seek out.

Put another way, there is information we don't know we don't know, and by doing our own research we discover a lot of that information we didn't know we didn't know.

That ad hoc discovery process is also called serendipity.

When you ask someone else for an answer, serendipity gets short circuited.

damn it.. I even have to agree with Keith today! There IS going to be an Apocalypse!

Agreed!
 

480sparky

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damn it.. I even have to agree with Keith today! There IS going to be an Apocalypse!

Agreed!

And he didn't post a dozen links! It's the end of the world as we know it! :lmao:
 

ronlane

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I just can't believe that people here would actually expect someone to actually work to find the answer to something. Geez, what's this world coming to? First you expect that and now Charlie and Keith are agreeing.

Here let me do my part to help today. How do I google?

I'm going to the bunker since Charlie said there's an apocalypse today. I have :popcorn: who coming with?
 

baturn

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If the apocalypse is today I'm going to take pictures. What settings should I use?
 

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