Lenses & settings for capturing underground mines

edited March 2013 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I was talking with a fellow D3100 owner over on my Facebook page and he was wondering which lenses and settings would be best for shooting underground mines. I thought it would be beneficial to share our conversation with all of you...

Neil's Question: Hi Moose, at the end of the month, I am visiting some underground mines in Poland. They say that the mines are well lit, but I am wondering what lens and settings to use to capture the scenes. I have a 50mm 1.8 and also the 18-55mm kits lens which I think may be suitable.. A tripod is a non starter as I will be part of a tour. Any advice greatly accepted!

Moose's Answer: Sounds like a great time. Let's start with lenses...anytime you're in a confined space, it's good to have a lens that can give you an extremely wide view. The lower the "mm" the wider the picture, the higher the "mm" the closer you can get to distant subjects.

Shooting at 18mm on your kit lens, would give you an effective focal length of 27mm on the D3100. This is due to a 1.5x crop factor.

Many digital SLRs have sensors smaller than 35mm film. As a result, a sensor smaller than 35mm film will capture only a portion of the information projected by the lens into the 35mm film frame area, resulting in a "cropped field of view".

Have I lost you yet? ;)

What this basically means, is that any lens you attach to the D3100 will have to be multiplied by 1.5x in order to get the 35mm equivalent. The reason I brought this up, is because you're desiring to shoot towards to "wide" end of the spectrum and wanted to make sure you understood that 18mm is actually 27mm on your camera.

To get an extremely wide field of view, you'll want a lens that starts out near 10mm. The Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 is a great starter wide-angle lens. With this lens you'll have an effective focal range of 15mm to 36mm, which is great for capturing subjects or scenes in ultra cramped spaces.

Now onto settings...

Since you're shooting mines/caves/equipment, you're going to want everything in focus. To do this, you'll need an aperture of f/8 or higher. To control the aperture, just enable Aperture priority mode (A on the mode dial) and rotate the command dial.

Since you won't be able to use a tripod, you'll be forced to use a high ISO in order to prevent image blur. Rather than fiddling with the ISO for every shot, I would just set it to Auto and make sure your 'MAX ISO' is set to 3200. You can do this inside the D3100 menu, by adjusting the ISO sensitivity options.

In addition to that, I would also enable burst mode. When you find a composition you're happy with, steady your camera and rattle off a series of images. This will help increase your odds of a few keepers. Happy shooting! :)


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