Lake Tahoe during Thanksgiving

edited November 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum

I will be travelling to Lake Tahoe this Thanksgiving. Could you please help with the lens and other accessories that are required to take some good shots of nature? I'm a beginner to photography.

Any help is appreciated!


  • edited November 2015
    What lens do you have now?

    If you have the usual kit 18-55mm lens, this is actually not a bad lens for scenery and the like, and also for general use on people, groups, cityscapes, closeups and much else. You generally are going to want generous depth of field and relatively wide angles for scenery, both of which that lens can deliver well. If you're doing a lot of scenery, a tripod is nice to have, as it allows you to frame carefully and shoot steadily.

    If the nature you're shooting is more like wildlife, birds and animals, then something with more telephoto reach would be good. If you're on a budget, the 55-200mm DX lens is a nice companion for the kit 18-55mm and low in price. The 55-300mm gets lots of reach and is a great traveling lens, but costs a good bit more. It's worth checking for sales and rebates. The lens is reasonably sharp, has lots of reach, and the vibration reduction is very effective.

    The 35mm f/1.8 DX prime lens is also relatively inexpensive. That gives you what would generally be considered a normal perspective, low light capability, fast focusing, and it's sharp and well behaved. You can't zoom it, so you have to pay a little more attention to composition. Many people find that it helps them to concentrate on what they're doing. I use a different 35mm, but would not like to be long without a good normal perspective prime lens. If I did not have a "pet" normal lens already, I'd almost certainly get that one.

    Because the standard kit zoom is kind of cheap and plasticky, people tend to dismiss it, but it's actually decent optically, covers a useful range, and can make good images. If you find yourself with nothing else, you can still do well if you take care.
  • edited November 2015
    Please tell me how to blur the background on a D3100.
  • edited December 2015
    Blurring the background is a matter of minimizing depth of field, which is the area in front and behind the point of focus that will also be clear. Three factors affect depth of field: aperture, focal length of lens, and distance from the subject. The larger the aperture (smaller F number) the shallower the DOF. The longer the lens, the shallower the DOF, and the closer the subject, the shallower the DOF. A longer focal length lens must be further from the subject than a shorter one, but for the same size image, the longer lens at a closer distance will have slightly shallower DOF than a short one further away.

    Even the kit lens can get a good part of the way there, if you do a couple of things. First of all, open up the aperture to its maximum, and set the focal length at or near the maximum as well. This will give you an aperture of f/5.6 or so, and a 55mm focal length. Try to keep your subject fairly close to the camera, and finally, try to keep distracting backgrounds as far from it as possible.

    Picture posing a person in front of a brick wall. If the person is standing right up near it, both the person and the wall will be in focus. If you stand the person several feet away from the wall, the person will be in focus but the wall will be less so. Your goal is to get all the distracting backgrounds as far from the focus point as you can.
    Depth of field is entirely a matter of the lens, not the camera.

    There is also a difference in how large background objects will appear depending on focal length. A wide angle will tend to show background objects not only in more detail, but smaller. The longer focal length will tend to compress the effect of perspective, and background objects will appear larger, and closer in size to the subject. This can work in your favor if your background has a shape that is itself distracting, as a large part of something is often less obtrusive than a whole something.

    Picture standing a person in front of a shelf of knickknacks. A close up shot at a wide angle will show the subject, and all the objects on the shelf. A further shot at a longer focal length, arranged to show the subject at the same size, will show much less of what is on the shelf. The objects will tend to be larger, blurrier, and less identifiable as individual things.

  • edited December 2015
    I'm traveling at the moment, but did a quick and dirty demo, which might help a little to illustrate. The link that follows, if it works, will show three views of an apple, placed about four feet away from the kitchen wall behind. The size is not carefully matched, mostly because I'm a little lazy, but it should help. The left hand shot is the apple at 18mm, the shot slightly cropped because I could not get close enough to focus on the apple at 18mm. The middle shot is the same apple at 55mm, uncropped. The third is the same apple at 300mm, also uncropped. The 18mm shot is at f/3.5, the others at the long zoom max of f/5.6.

    Note that although the blur is not much different between the 18mm at f/3.5 and the 55mm at f/5.6, the background objects such as the bananas are much less distracting. At 300 mm, the background is nicely blurred. A long focal length does wonders if you can get far enough from your subject. In addition I could likely have improved the 55mm shot by varying the angle I took it at, in order to incorporate less distracting objects in the background.

    (see here)
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