Monday, August 24, 2009

The D5000 Makes Nice with San Jose Neon

Following up on a two-year-old post about San Jose Neon, I thought I'd share some recent images of local signage photographed during a particularly gorgeous evening. While the sun's position was not optimal for composition purposes, the grays and purples and yellows of the city at dusk were prettier than I'd seen in a long while. They seemed even nicer when interpreted by the sensors of our new camera.

Jenny and I took these pix while testing the Nikon D5000, a DSLR we bought three weeks ago on our New England Diner Tour. While we hardly chose this device for its video capability, I'm delighted with the quality I'm seeing. The still-shot of O.C. McDonald (above) is nicely augmented by the chance to present the sign in animated form. Yes, the video suffers a bit from some subtle pixelization, but this stuff certainly looks better than anything I expected from a prosumer level camera. And to think, I haven't yet videoed at the camera's highest quality.

Our goal is to explore night shooting in more depth than we've previously attempted. Jenny digs the look of blurred car lights, so we spent lots of time experimenting with the camera's timer function (aided by a wireless remote that's oddly not included with the unit). We found that the D5000 works well to reduce signal noise related to high ISO, producing smoother, more silky skies during long exposures. The live view's manual focus-point selection tool also helped craft relatively crisp shots in low-light situations (though we're still learning how to set the focus more precisely).

So where do we go from here? I guess we'll add a neutral density filter to gain more control over aperture and shutter speed. We should also practice with the vibration reduction feature, which supposedly reduces the demand for a tripod in some circumstances. But even with a basic set-up (using a tripod, of course, and a polarizer filter that we forgot to remove) the results of our neon odyssey bode well for our photographic adventures.

Yep, we're happy with this new camera, especially now that we've gotten our product recall-replacement (following the discovery of a defect in the model's power system). The D5000 offers a real advance over the Olympus C-5050 that served us so well these past few years. I'll likely post more notes as Jenny and I learn more about prosumer quality photography, working to expand our skills beyond the realm of point-and-shoot.

Bonus: Like that first pic of the neon pig? Here's some camcorder video of the Stephen's Meat Products animated sign I shot last year.

(Photographs by Andrew and Jenny Wood)


Evan said...

Great shots! Any plans to come back down to LA soon? There's a stretch of Sepulveda Blvd. in Culver City that has some great neon signs.

Andrew Wood said...

Thanks so much!

Yep, I plan to return. I'm just getting warmed up.

I'll have a clearer idea of my schedule in a few weeks.