Please Remove Your Watermark

Watermark.jpg
  1. It's distracting
  2. You are not good enough
  3. You assume people are criminals
  4. You are the copy right owner anyway
  5. It doesn't protect you
  6. It's a false sense of security
  7. It can be removed in PhotoShop
  8. It's a waste of time
  9. If you don't want your work stolen don't share it on the Internet
  10. Thank you for removing your watermark

3 Reasons Photographers Should Ride A Cargo Bike

There's a revolution taking place, perhaps you've heard.  As more people choose bicycles instead of cars, cargo bikes are becoming the new minivan.  Moms and dads use cargo bikes to take their kids places, for running errands, and so much more.

Out for a ride with the boys

Out for a ride with the boys

I'm a dad who's in the kid haulin' cargo bike category taking my boys to and from daycare every day on my way to work and before heading home.  I love running errands on my bike, and stopping occasionally to take pictures.  I ride it so much so that my family is a one car household.

My steed is an old Specialized Rock Hopper, circa 1990, with a Xtracycle LEAP making it a longtail cargo bike.  With it, I can haul just about anything.  The bike can, supposedly, carry up to 400 pounds.  I once had close to 200 pounds on it, which made it a bit difficult to control.  Just because it can carry a lot of weight doesn't mean I want it to.  At some point it just gets ridiculous. 

But enough about me and my bike.  Let's get to the reasons why every photographer should ride a cargo bike (at least some of the time).

1. It can take you places your car can't

You wake up one day and think, "Hey, I'll go to the mountains and take some landscape pictures, but I don't want the same picture everyone else has from the side of the road.  I know, I'll walk from the trailhead to a quiet overlook."   

You get your gear together and start packing the car when an epiphany strikes, "What the %&#@ am I thinking!  All this gear is heavy."

Cargo bike to the rescue!  Walking takes a long time.  Biking is fast, efficient, and quiet.  Load the bike with your gear, some food, maybe a cooler with a few special beverages, and enjoy the ride.  In a short while you arrive to your spot and do what you came to do, make great photographs of beautiful places.  

2. A cargo bike frees you from making tough choices

Photography is hard because of the tough choices you have to make.  Which lenses should you bring?  Should you carry a tripod?  What about all the other miscellaneous items like extra batteries, lighting, and a laptop?  Studio work is easy.  Everything is there.  While out and about all day, your gear gets heavy. 

Who wants to leave a lens at home just because you don't feel like carrying it, or whether you should take your tripod for that "just in case" moment.  If you can't get your gear there you can't take the shot, so it's time to load the cargo bike and go.

3. It's like walking but better

The beauty of walking when shooting street photography is that you're in the moment and at the ready to take the shot when you see it.  Riding a bike is just as easy.  As you come rolling past and see the picture you've been looking for you stop, pull out your camera, and capture the image.

But why on a cargo bike and not just any ole bike?  Simple, as you are out running errands, taking your kids to school, or commuting to work you can stop when you see something you want to take a picture of and capture it.

Yeah, you can do that while driving, but do you?  I never do.  Driving is such a hassle. 

Picture this (sorry for the pun), you are driving and you see something you want to photograph.  You are in the left lane, so you need to get to the right, find a place a few blocks down to turn, stop and park.

You get out of your car, walk back to where you saw the shot, and when you get there it looks completely different because you were going past at 50 miles per hour.  You shrug your shoulders.  RUMPH!  And walk back. 

That scenario will never happen because you will never stop.  It's too much of a hassle, and when driving you are in a different frame of mind when compared to riding a bike.  While driving you want to make time, you have a point A to point B mentality.  Everything in between be damned.

Now consider the same scenario while riding your cargo bike.   You're riding home with a load of groceries and takeout.  The sunlight falling between two buildings catches your eye and you think, "Someone walking into the light from the shadows would make for a great silhouette.  I think I'll stop!"

And so you do, right where you see it.  The bike takes you on your errands, and provides you with options.  You can easily stop, whip out your camera, and start shooting.  No need to find a place to put your sheet metal bubble.  You are in a different frame of mind.  Rather than raging through town in your car you are aware of your surroundings, and willing to stop and be a member of your greater community. 

Bonus

Riding cargo bikes is just plain fun.  People far and wide will want to talk with you about it.  I can't tell you how many times someone waved at me and my boys just to say hi.  It's disarming.  In other words, it's more human.

People may be more open to you taking street portraits of them as you now have a relationship instead of cruising past inside of a car aggravated because these squishy obstacles are in your way.

So, there you have it.  A bike, and especially a cargo bike, can make you a better photographer because the biggest challenge to making great photos is gaining access to the people and places where you capture them. 

Start the conversation.  How has a bike gained you access to something that a car couldn't?  Bonus points if you were on a cargo bike.

Photographing Low Angles

Ride 2 Recovery

Ride 2 Recovery

Each year down California's Central Coast is a charity ride for wounded veterans called Ride 2 Recovery, and each year they ride past Vandenberg Middle School down Highway 1 where the kids come out to cheer them.  This year I had the opportunity to witness the event, so I grabbed my camera and got ready. 

I had no idea this guy would ride past cranking a bike with his arms.  When I saw him down the road coming toward me I became as giddy as a school girl knowing that a low angle of him riding past would make for a great photograph.  The kids high fiving him was the icing on the cake.

Why make photographs at low angles?

Great photographs have a different perspective.  Notice how the photographer in the background is shooting from the standing position?  Other than documenting the cyclists riding down the road I doubt her pictures tell much of a story.  We already know what the world looks like from the standing position because we see it from that perspective everyday.  A picture that gets noticed isn't better, it's different. 

If I were standing to take the shot above it would have been just another snapshot.  Instead, I bent my knees and got low showing the world in a way most people don't typically see it.  When you view a photograph with a different perspective it makes you stop and think for a moment.

Whereas, a photograph from the standing position is not too different from any other photo from the standing position regardless of the subject.  I think this is most noticable when photographing kids.  Get low and on their level.  It not only shows their perspective with how they see the world, but it presents you with a different view of the world, too.

Practice getting low, shooting up, change your perspective, add angles, and find different lines that that lead to your subject. Low angles will make your pictures more interesting. 

Which Focus Point Would You Choose?

My two boys are fortunate to have a pile of toys they love to play with.  Their creative energy is astounding.  I try photographing their play in new and creative ways to document their childhood, and to help me improve my techniques. 

My philosophical approach to photography is that anything can make a nice picture.  You just have to "see" it right. Sometimes I am confronted with a photograph that I see in my head, but I'm not always sure if it will work the way I want.

When I saw this picture I knew how I wanted to make it, but I was torn between two different focus points.  Should I have focussed on the airplane, or did I do it right by focussing on his hand?

Either way, I love the juxtaposition between the blue and yellow within this narrow frame.  The bright colors of the airplane draw your eye to it, whereas the hand is used to grab and play with the plane bringing me back to my original question. Which focus point would you choose?

Why I Love Digital Photography

Going through boxes full of photos has proven to be a daunting task.

I recently discussed why I hate digital photography, but in spite of hating it I also love it, and here's why.

Digital Saves Money

The obvious reason digital saves money is that you no longer need to buy and process film, but you already knew that.

The hidden reason digital photography saves money is the inexpensive cost of high quality gear.  Camera technology has advanced to the point where consumer grade cameras can create pro quality pictures.  Though an inexpensive camera can make a great picture, it is still the photographer who makes the image. It's the quality of the story rather than the quality of the pixels that makes for a compelling photograph.

Superior Image Quality

Digital images are clean with little grain when shooting at low ISO.  Shooting at a high ISO in low will add grain to the image, but not so much as to make the picture unusable.  Just about any camera made within the past three years can produce clean enough images at ISO 6400.

Expanding film speed to those numbers is nearly impossible. If you did shoot high ISO/ASA (fast) film in low light you often had pictures that were too grainy to be considered usable.

Another inherent problem of film is that picture quality degrades over time. Oxidation burns holes in slides, prints fade, and negatives yellow.

There is also the issue with fingerprints, tears, and dust. As a kid I remember my dad's slide shows with dust on the pictures, and he would inevitably place them backward in the carriage.

All of these issues with film were the way things were, so you just lived with them.  Today however, dust, backward pictures, and every other photography faux pas from 30 years ago is unacceptable.

Chimping

Chimping is what everyone does with their digital camera.  You take a picture, look at it, take another and look, take another, wash, rinse, repeat.  It can be annoying when someone does this after every shot. 

However, when used conservatively chimping has great benefits that you could never get with film.  The screen on the back of your camera gives you the opportunity to check exposure, see whether someone blinked, you can check composition, focus, and so much more.

In the days of film you shot roll after roll then sent them in for processing. You weren't able to see your pictures for a week. If you missed the shot it was too late. That moment in time was gone forever, and you never knew what you did wrong. 

Learning Curve

When you pay attention to the camera settings, and use them as a learning tool you can learn photography at a much faster rate then when you shot with film.  

In the days of film the only way you were able to remember your settings was to write them down for each shot.  Today, the camera tags each image with metadata.  Now you can get instant feedback with each picture and make adjustments on the fly.  What may have taken years to learn can now take weeks.  Instead of wasting time figuring out camera settings you can instead practice framing, composition, and story telling.

A method to help you learn fast is to photograph the same subject over and over by incrementally changing the settings to see how they affect your picture. You get instant feedback, the metadata tells you the camera's settings, and it doesn't cost you anything to practice.

For example, you can change your lens from f/1.8 one f/stop at a time to f/22 to see how it affects the depth of field.  You can speed up or slow down your shutter, change ISO to see how it affects the other settings, and so on. 

Cataloging & Metadata

Metadata is not only useful as a teaching tool, it also helps keep your library organized. Every photograph has a time and date stamp, it tells you the camera and lens, your settings, you can add copyright information, and lots more. 

With so many pictures taken daily, digital photography makes it easy to catalog them. You can quickly sort through your library, delete the bad one's, rename the good one's, tag them, place them into collections, or any other creative way you want to organize you photos.

Whereas, my analog photo collection is a rat's nest of a mess. I don't know the camera's that were used, the type of film, the settings, the film speed, the date and time, or any of it. This makes it hard to organize pictures chronologically, you have no idea what the camera settings were, or any of it.

Without this information it has taken me years to get my analog collection somewhat organized. When I do get the motivation to work on it I quickly lose interest.  It is such a daunting task. 

Even if my analog photo library was well organized it would still be hard to find certain photographs that were taken years ago. Searching analog content is hard. Whereas, digital searches use tags, keywords, and metadata.

Physical Storage

When you shoot digital you don't have boxes of old photographs stored away in a closet deteriorating and taking up space. All of this material has volume and weight that requires you to spend money transporting boxes of pictures from one house to another every time you move.

There is also the issue of fire, flood, tornado, hurricane, or whatever disaster is waiting to destroy your cherished pictures.  The only thing digital images require is that you have a good backup solution with at least three copies with one offsite.  If the house burns down and everything is destroyed you can retrieve your pictures from your offsite backup. 

The final reason I love digital photography brings me back to my first point... it saves money.  You don't need a large house with lots of storage to keep a huge photo collection.  Smaller homes are less expensive to both purchase and own.  When you compound your savings over decades your potential nest egg can grow into the hundreds of thousands of dollars allowing you to retire from work earlier giving you more time to take pictures.

Why I Hate Digital Photography

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about the end of Polaroid film called, Time Zero | The Last Year of Polaroid Film. It was an insightful and emotional documentary. The end of Polaroid film was the end of an era in photography, and everyone over the age of 20 has had some experience with it.

The documentary got me thinking about how digital cameras have changed photography. Today, just about everyone has a camera in their pocket. This allows people to take snapshots all day without thinking about composition, lighting, or whether they will become a cherished relic.

Photographs Without Intent

With easy access to the camera in their pocket people take too many pictures that are quickly forgotten. Film cameras required you to think about every shot because every shot had a cost of, let's say, 50 cents.

With digital that's not the case. Because every digital picture is free people take less care when composing, when thinking about the settings, the lighting, or any of it. Today, you take a shot, look at it, make adjustments, take another, wash, rinse, repeat. 

Then there is the guy who motor drives every picture. I cringe when I hear machine gun fire coming from someone's camera when there's no action. You can't possibly frame the shot with proper focus when rattling off 10 frames every time you press the shutter.

Film forced you to slow down and think about what you were doing. You couldn't afford to miss the shot because you only had 36 frames per roll, plus the monetary cost.

You can miss shot after shot with digital and it doesn't matter. Just take another one. The only problem is that you leave with too many pictures and only a few keepers. Whereas, if you just slow down and shoot with intent you walk away with fewer bad images, which leads to the next reason why I hate digital photography.

Sorting Through the Junk

After you snap a thousand photos from the day's shoot it's time to sift through everything looking for the keepers. All these pictures require a computer, hard drives, multiple storage points, multiple copies of your library, photo editing software, time to organize, tag, and name your photos, time to edit your pictures, and so on.

After a few years you will have terabytes with tens of thousands of images that you need to make searchable otherwise you may never find them again. As your library grows your computer's hard drive rapidly fills. When it does, you need to move your photo library to an external hard drive. Then over time that one will fill, and when it does you need to buy a larger hard drive, a NAS, or whatever it takes to store what are mostly mediocre snapshots. 

To battle this problem you need a detailed workflow to quickly clear the clutter so you can find the good shots, edit your images, and share to social media.

After every thing is imported and sorted through you are faced with the decision of how you should organize it all. Do you rename every photo? If so, do you rename them so you know which camera you used? What naming scheme should you use so you can easily search for the images? Should you organize by event, chronologically, or just leave the image name that the camera assigns? Does it even matter?

All of this presents yet another problem - sitting in front of your computer for hours. You sit in front of one at work, you sit writing emails, you sit when you video call with the grandparents, when trolling Facebook, reading this article, and everything else you do on your computer. With thousands of photos it's just more seat time.

Sharing Your Images

How often have you seen someone's Flickr, Instagram, or Facebook page filled with hundreds of pictures taken of the same event. People don't discriminate the good from the bad. They believe that every picture of their kid is a masterpiece, so they share everything they take. 

If I can impart one thing it is this, select only the best image(s) and share those. If you think that 50 of the 1000 you took are amazing then choose the best 5 of those 50 to share. Most often, one or two good images a day are enough. When you flood people with everything the good one's get lost in the clutter.

Backing Up

Backing up all of your data is another inherent problem of digital. You don't want to lose those irreplaceable pictures of grandma blowing out 100 candles to a dead hard drive or accidental deletion. To avoid these problems you need multiple backups of everything with at least one off site. All of these hard drives and backups come at both a monetary and time cost.

Then over the years you purchase new cameras with larger file sizes. This requires more computing power, more RAM, and more hard drive space. Again, all of this comes at both a financial and time cost.

Digital is Not Tangible

Digital images, whether on your phone, tablet, computer, or TV are sterile with little thought put toward presentation. When you show people images that are mounted in a photo album you write little blurbs, you make them into a collage, group like images with like images, place them in a timeline to represent one's life, scrapbook, and so much more.

Much of this can be done with a computer, but it takes time and skill, and the end product is less than personal. There is nothing to hold, nothing to embrace, nothing to cherish. 30 years later there is nothing to discover hidden away in the back of a closet to stir old memories, to have and to hold. The life of a photo on the Internet is only a few seconds, if that.

Yes, old prints fade and slides become oxidized, but that adds to the treasure. When photos are taken with intent the memory is seared into your brain. You remember the smells, the time of day, the feeling of your new sweater against your skin. Those images take you back to the moment they were taken. In your mind you are a kid again playing with your favorite doll, or train set.

Those grainy, and slightly out of focus images are endearing. It's all you have of those moments gone by. They are something to be cherished. Compare that with digital. You take thousands of snapshots because the cost is nothing. Then they hide on your hard drive where only you know they exist.

Too Complicated

The Camera itself presents another problem. Your digital camera is a small computer, and overtime it will become obsolete like any other computer. In a few short years you will need to buy a new one. 

Then there are all the different formats. Should you shoot RAW, JPEG, TIFF, or something else? Which color space should you use? What about white balance? You need to have a working knowledge of computers, digital imaging, proprietary software, and it all needs to be up to date.

A film camera, on the other hand, is just a light box that exposes film. Yes, there have been updates to film cameras, but you can still take great photographs with an old one. Whereas, an old digital camera will leave your images as less desired.

Are you a good photographer or a good image editor?

This brings me to the final point. Are the digital images you see actually what was captured by the photographer? Or are good photographers merely good image editors?

A photographer may take a mediocre picture that is poorly framed under exposed with a distracting background, but after hours of manipulation he creates a nice picture. The problem however, is that the photo you see is not what was captured.

And don't get me started on High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. On the surface they look cool, but there are no shadows, no emotion, no grit. All those things that create a compelling photo are missing. Yes, HDR can make for some amazing pieces of art, but they are completely manipulated.

Conclusion

I shoot digital like everyone else, but there are so many headaches attached to it that it makes me a conservative photographer. With digital I still think about my shots, the framing, and the settings. If I can't get the image properly framed, or it doesn't appear how I imagine it to be I won't push the shutter button. Why waste the shot?

Who wants to sift through hundreds of shitty photos just to find one gem that you captured by accident? I don't, and you shouldn't either. Take pride in the images you create. Cover the screen on the back of the camera, anticipate the shot, and photograph quality.

Film was certainly a simpler time, especially Polaroid film. And though I hate digital, I also love it. I know that sounds odd, but we all have personal conflicts.

Infancy of Yard Work

As a young boy I remember helping my dad with yard work. I hated it. I would get stuck pulling weeds, moving rock, and raking leaves to name a few. I also remember helping my friends finish their yard work so we could go play baseball. Needless to say kids all too often get stuck helping their parents with yard work, and my oldest son is no different.

In contrast to "forced labor", Timmy asked if he could help clean up the palm trimmings and he actually enjoyed it. Before starting however, he asked for pair of gloves, but all I had was a small pair that were way too big for his little hands. Regardless the size, after he put them on he had a ball picking up the palm pieces and throwing them into the green bin.

His enthusiasm lasted for about 20 minutes, and then decided he was finished and ran back to the garage yelling, "I'm done!"  I couldn't complain about him quitting as I didn't expect him to help in the first place. At three and half years old Timmy did a great job.

Yard work is not the scope of this post, however.  Rather, this post is a metaphor about the future. His age, the current state of the yard, and the size of the palm are changes we will notice when we look back 20 years from now.  This picture will show the obvious transformation of Timmy from a young boy to the man I am raising him to become while the oversized gloves project his maturity.

I'm hopeful the current drought conditions will yield rain while the palm may or may not grow larger. I think it's some type of pygmy.  My plan is to landscape this part of the yard with a French drain and native plants and grasses. In the coming years the yard will certainly look different, and so will Timmy. All things start in infancy and grow over time including yard work. 

I never enjoyed it, and I still don't. I want to create a landscape that requires little maintenance or water, but will look groomed with native flora. With a little luck I won't be doing much yard work, and me and my boys can spend our time playing baseball rather than pulling weeds, moving rock, or raking leaves.

Gear and Settings

I shot this photograph with an all manual 24mm f/2.5 Tamron lens that I bought about 20 years ago. It's an Adaptal 2 style lens, which means you buy the lens without a mount and add an adapter that is based on your camera's specific mount. It's a great little lens and gives an effective focal length of 36mm on my Nikon D7200.

My camera was set to ISO100 at f/5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second. I shot it at f/5.6 for a deeper depth of field to capture both the trash can and palm in focus. After looking at this image I should have shot it at f/4 or lower to blur the guy walking in the background.

In spite of that I still enjoy this picture, and it is one we will cherish in the years to come.

My Favorite Photography Podcasts (Part 2)

I listen to a lot of podcasts about all sorts of topics, and last week I reviewed three of my favorite photography podcasts. Today, in no particular order, I will round out my list.

The Candid Frame

The Candid Frame is by far the most sophisticated photography podcast I listen to. It is hosted by Ibarionex Perello, and he has the calm soothing voice of an NPR host. Ibarionex is a Los Angeles based photographer who interviews some of the world's most influential photographers at the top of their game. 

He has a YouTube channel by the same name where he humbly critiques photographs with a keen eye imparting his knowledge and experience onto the viewer. He discusses angles, lines, framing, emotion and the details that you don't initially see until he points them out. His reviews are insightful, and when you are finished watching a critique, or listening to an interview you are amped and motivated to go out and shoot.

His interviews will make you rethink your life with how you got to where you are. So many of the photographers he interviews have inspiring stories. Each week I live vicariously though them and dream about exotic expeditions working for Nat Geo, photographing portraits of world leaders, or whatever makes for an amazing photography career.

How these people became who they are seems so simple... in hindsight. But what you need to really think about are the sacrifices many of them made early on, and continue to make, that allowed them to get to where they are now.  I'm not so sure I have, or ever had, their tenacity to stick with something so difficult as to make it as one of the world's most influential photographers, but I do enjoy listening to Ibarionex's soft spoken perspective on photography.

Fro Knows Photo

I check Jared Polin's site once in a while to hear good info about the business of photography, and I do enjoy watching how he works through a photo shoot. Though he has good information, I am not a fan of his personality. He's a bit loud and obnoxious. Plus, that hair (his fro) is brutal, and his I Shoot RAW shirts are ridiculous.

This podcast is actually a YouTube channel that he links to from his website. Fro puts out random videos all the time and his weekly podcast, Raw Talk, is released every Monday. The podcast is decent. He and his cronies talk about the week's photo news, and he'll answer listener questions about anything photography related. He sometimes conducts interviews with other photographers and entrepreneurs, and then he does some gameshow stuff which is the point I turn it off.  

Jared covers a variety of topics, which is what keeps me coming back. You never know what he will talk about from week to week. He critiques listener photos and photography websites, he reviews gear, and there's his Raw Talk podcast, to name a few.

Along with discussions about the business side of photography, Fro also has a mountain of beginner information. If you are new to photography his site is a great place to start, but the more advanced enthusiast photographer is often ignored. I would guess that for every photographer making money there are thousands who don't and just shoot as a hobby, and it's these photographers who don't get much attention.

This is most notable when Jared does website reviews.  He tends to focus on the pro photographer with how their site is set up for clients and business, and on rare occasions he will he critique a hobbyist's website. 

He also (mostly) ignores the mirrorless side of photography. It's all DSLR all the time. Fro states that he will review Sony, Panasonic, Fuji, etc. when they send him gear. Geez man, rent a camera with lenses, review it, then send it all back. The world is moving in the direction of light mirrorless cameras, and I would argue a large number of photographers use mirrorless cameras.

Overall, Fro has good info about the pro and beginner sides of photography, but misses the middle, which is where most photographers reside. Regardless, I'll still tune in to watch the topic du jour.

Of the many podcasts I listen to these two photography podcasts, along with the previous three, are among my favorites. After reading this list which one's did I miss? Let me know, as I'm always open for a fresh perspectives.

My Favorite Photography Podcasts (Part 1)

I listen to a lot of podcasts about all sorts of topics such as cycling, economics, science, and comedic news to name a few, but this is a photography website, so here is my list, in no particular order, of the photography podcasts I listen to.

This Week In Photo (TWIP)

TWIP is a weekly staple of mine. New episodes are released every Thursday, and the host, Frederik Van Johnson and his guests, discuss the past week's photo news stories. They also answer questions from listeners and give their 'weekly picks' that can be anything photography related. 

Like everything, some episodes are better than others, but overall it's a solid show. The format is your typical Skype call-in discussion that so many of these types of podcasts use. There is both an audio and video version of the show, but the video comes out a couple of days after the audio... I think. I listen to the audio version each week, so I couldn't tell you the quality of the video.

One annoying aspect of the show is when they discuss a piece of gear, and hold it up to the camera for everyone to see. Apparently they forgot this is an audio podcast. I'm sure some people watch the video, but when working in the yard, driving, riding my bike, or whatever, I listen. I'm sure most people listen instead of watch, too.

Some of the guests, like Doug Kaye and Shiv Verma, have a great perspective and are humble photographers. Others, like Scott Bourne, not so much. Though I haven't heard him on in a long time. Maybe Frederik felt the same.

I think the show leans a little too much toward gear talk, however. New gear is low hanging fruit for photography discussions, but I doubt most photographers care about flying drones, or $7,000 pro camera bodies. People of course, do fly drones and use expensive cameras, but I doubt the average listener does. 

The direction I would prefer to see the show move is discussions surrounding photographic principles rather than megapixel talk. I do enjoy their controversial discussions, however. They recently debated whether or not Steve Jobs should be inducted to the photography hall of fame with arguments for and against. That's the stuff I enjoy because there is no definitive answer, and someone who argues well can help you form your opinion about the topic. However, telling me about a screen that increased from 3 inches to 3.2 inches is boring. 

Overall, I enjoy their discussions even if they are about gear. They often give you nuggets of information that is usable and actionable that I apply to my own photography.

This Week In Photo - Family

Jenny Stein, as she states each week, is a mom with a camera who loves photographing her family, and she always has a clever and unique introduction to her show. I enjoy her podcast because, well, I have a family. I love making great photos of them, and this podcast helps me do that. 

TWIP-Family is released every Tuesday, and each week Jenny interviews a photographer who may be a pro, but is often an enthusiast to gain an insightful look into their world with how it relates to family photography. One thing her guests all have in common is making great photographs, regardless of whether they get paid or not. 

I began listening to this podcast since episode one, and since the beginning Jenny has mentioned that she participated in a yearlong "365 Project" with her brother and some friends a few years ago. She talks about 365 projects so much that I decided to start my own at the beginning of this year. Jenny has a TWIP-Family Flickr group for her listeners to share their daily photos, and as of this writing I have about 100 days left until the end of the year and the end of my project. It's been a long one, but one I'm glad I am doing.

This podcast is done in a casual conversation style, and most of her guests are great. Like episodes of all podcasts, some are better than others, but overall I've learned a lot about photographing my kids, my family, and people in general. The show is light on gear talk, moderate on the business side of things, but always informative on various techniques often bringing in the human side of photography. 

Too many photography podcasts, websites, and blogs miss that point. After all, photography involves people. It isn't necessarily about how you look, but how you feel. It's important to remember that the camera sees both ways. It not only captures an image of someone with emotions, but it shows what the photographer saw, it expresses how he or she felt about their subject, and can represent the mood the photographer was in.  Even if a person is not in the frame the photographer is. Each week I look forward to this podcast and it's varying topics around family photography.

This Week In Photo - Street Focus

Bonjour! Here is a third podcast from the TWIP network. Valérie Jardin, the host, is a French street photographer who lives in Minneapolis, MN.  She often engages in a bit of humble bragging when she tells her listeners how she is jet lagged from her world travels, or how she missed a photography show because she was in Paris. Life is rough, I understand. 

Aside from that minor annoyance, Valérie has wonderful guests with insightful thoughts about how to make great street photos. She produces two types of episodes. The first is the type I enjoy. She will interview guests who discuss the principles of street photography with tips and strategies about making great street photos. 

She produces another type of show where she interviews photographers who discusses street photography in some specific city of the world. I usually don't listen to those episodes because I don't find them relevant. I suppose if you live in the city they are talking about, or if you plan to visit that particular city it makes sense to listen. Otherwise I don't find it interesting because I'm not familiar with those cities and feel lost in the conversation.

One thing I would recommend is to record the 'Streets of the World' episodes in a video format. Since photography is a visual medium it would make sense to show photos of the city they are discussing and it would be more engaging if you could see what they were talking about. Street Focus is released on Thursday's. 

One thing most photography podcasts have in common is promoting their workshops, books, print sales, photo walk meet-ups, Patreon campaigns, or whatever. I understand they have a business, and want to make money, but when you listen week after week their ads get old. Unfortunately, like television and radio, these annoyances are the price of free content. Otherwise paying a subscription to listen would surely impact their audience size, and they may not exist otherwise.

I listen to too many photography podcasts to give them all a comprehensive review in one article. I'll round out my list next week, but in the meantime I'd like to hear about the photography podcasts you enjoy.

Update: Two days after this article published Valérie Jardin announced that her show is ending. Great timing, eh? She had a 104 episode run, but she is not hanging up podcasting, however. Rather, she is moving her show to her own website calling it Hit the Streets with Valérie Jardin.  She indicated on her last episode of Street Focus that her format will change a bit. After I listen to a number of episodes I'll update my review of her podcast. 

Frederik Van Johnson, on this past week's TWIP episode, indicated that Street Focus will continue with a new host. I'm curious, and looking forward to how it will be. 

Why Every Camera Bag Needs A Fisheye Lens

It's all about perspective

It's all about perspective

One of the things I enjoy about looking at someone's photos is when they have a unique perspective that shows a well known landmark in a way you've never seen. Or they create a unique perspective that can't be explained, but you know it's different. Maybe it's the angle they chose, or the lighting, or some combination of settings.

When my wife and I were researching places to visit in Europe we saw a lot of photographs of the Eiffel tower, but they were all similar. Many were beautiful images with the city in the foreground or from the park, but there was nothing extraordinary about them. While looking at these pictures I was curious how the curved support structure would look with a wide angle lens from underneath. It is a picture I wasn't seeing anywhere.

I knew that fisheye lenses distort straight lines into curves, so I wondered how it would show the tower's support structure when it is already curved. To put my curiosity to the test I bought a Rokinon fisheye lens. It is a fully manual 7.5mm f/3.5 lens that cost about $245 new on the micro 4:3 system.

There are fully auto fisheye lenses that both Olympus and Panasonic have available, but you'll spend about $800 for one. They may be a little sharper and they have auto focus functions, but for the price difference I'm not certain they would produce a better image than the Rokinon lens.

I was also curious whether the the curves of the tower would hide the fisheye's distortion. After capturing this shot I looked at the back screen on my camera to see if it looked how I imagined and was happy to see that it did, and was pleasantly surprised that you only see a small bit of distortion at the bottom of the frame.

This unique perspective is why every photographer should carry a fisheye lens in their camera bag.

As a fully manual lens it's easy to nail focus, especially when you use an electronic view finder with focus peaking. The lens is sharp, but if you crop you will notice some chromatic aberration at the edge of lines.

Though fisheye's capture everything in a 180 degree angle, and create an interesting and unique perspective, you need to be careful to not over do it. When you first get one you're amazed at how much it "sees", and you think it's great to get everything in the frame. It's tempting to use all the time, but don't. It's like that ace up your sleeve in a card game. You only play it when you need it, so leave it in your bag 99% of the time.

I bought the lens about 6 months before leaving on our trip so I could get some practice using it. I took a number of different images over that time to learn it's limitations so I would be able to capture the image that I envisioned of the Eiffel Tower. 

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras

Backyard Oak Tree

Backyard Oak Tree

The other thing I love about shooting with a fisheye is lens correcting software. There are times when I want to shoot ultra wide, but I don't want the curved distorted look. Lightroom can correct for this by removing most of the distortion along with chromatic aberration. With it, you can capture an ultra wide image that looks as though it were taken with a rectilinear lens.

Fisheye lenses are another way to think outside of the box, and you need to think in terms of a wide frame when using one. They can make for a great image with a unique perspective, but as I stated above, leave it in your bag 99% of the time. Though cool, you can over do it.

What's In My Bag?

My daily camera kit

My daily camera kit

Every now and then I get asked what camera I use for my travel photos, what camera I take with when on vacation, when shooting street photography, or whatever. In last week's edition I wrote that I carry my camera everywhere, so here is the kit I take with me. The key is to carry only what you need, and remember, there is creative power in limitations. So don't take every bit of camera gear you own. You'll regret it.

The reason I bring my camera everywhere is that you never know when a picture will happen, so I want to be ready to capture it when I see it. Plus, it doubles as a "man bag". I get tired of filling my pockets with junk, and this bag is perfect for carrying my camera and all the other things I need to have with me.

So what's in my bag? Well, I'm glad you asked.

The bag itself is a Domke F-5XB Rugged Wear Bag. It's a small weather proof canvas bag that is solidly constructed in the USA with lots of room and comfortable for all day use. It's balanced, and holds weight well. I carried it everyday for more than two weeks on our European trip this past summer. 

Next is the most important item in the bag... the camera. I shoot with a Lumix GX8 using an Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens. I moved away from carrying my Nikon DSLR, and started shooting with a micro 4:3 system for its smaller form and less weight. My whole bag, when combat ready, is lighter than my Nikon D7200 with the Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8.

The downside of small mirrorless cameras is they're power hunger. I can only get about 350 shots from one battery compared to roughly 1100 from my DSLR, so as a result, I carry three extra batteries with the charger.

The rest of my photo gear takes on a supporting role. Along with the batteries and charger, I have an extra 64GB SanDisk SD card, and a basic cleaning kit. The cleaning kit is a Rocket Air to blow dust, a Nikon Lens Pen/Brush, and a lens cloth. 

One thing to note about lens cloths, never use it for anything other than wiping your camera lens. If you wipe your eyeglasses, for example, you will transfer oils from the glasses to your lens smearing it all around. I use old lens cloths for my glasses or to wipe the back screen only after they get a bit funky. Lens cloths are cheap, and you can get them a lot of places for free.

Last on the list are my personal artifacts. I carry my cell (Nexus 5), wallet, car keys with bottle opener, Visine, Tums, facial tissue, an ink pen, and yes, an old cloth for my eyeglasses.

One thing I plan to get are personal 'business' cards to hand to people when shooting on the street. I love street photography, but sometimes I feel uncomfortable photographing people even when I ask permission because I have nothing to offer them.

But if I have a business card to offer then I can snap a photo and hand them a card with my email address offering to send them the picture when they email me. I enjoy meeting and talking with new people, and this is a great way to market your photography.

Finally, I do have other micro 4:3 lenses, but lately I've been leaving them at home. I want to get proficient with seeing photographs through one focal length, and right now that is the 17mm, which is a 34mm full frame equivalent. The human eye is roughly a 50mm focal length, so a 34mm is a little wider, yet still considered a "normal" lens. 

As I said earlier, there's creative power in limitations, and using only one focal length sets limits on what I can capture. As a result, I need to think creatively to make the pictures I see even if the lens isn't wide or long enough. It forces me to move and not be lazy.

Since I started carrying this kit my DSLR has seen the outside of the house once. Just remember, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Capturing Moments

Looking for Randi & Ronnie

Looking for Randi & Ronnie

If you pay attention, fun moments happen often and they're fleeting. My boys are often doing funny things and getting into all sorts of mischief, and I want to be ready to capture those moments. That's the reason I carry my camera everywhere, and at home I always have it at the ready. If you don't have a camera with you, or you aren't prepared to photograph a moment when it happens you'll miss it. As the adage goes - the best camera is the one you have with you.  

The other day, after arriving home from picking up the boys from daycare they wanted to play in the yard, as they often do. When I unlocked the back door they ran outside to play. Timmy enjoys riding his glide bike around the path in the yard, and Mikey loves wagon rides. 

When not on the bike or in the wagon they will curiously investigate the yard. On this day, Timmy found a hole in the fence, and was peaking through it looking for the neighbors two dogs, Randi and Ronnie. Randi is an older Labradoodle around 10 years old and Ronnie is a 6 month old Labradoodle puppy. I can only guess that Timmy was getting puppy licks on his face while he was poking his head through the crack. Yuck!

While Timmy was having fun getting licked by the puppy, Mikey was peaking around trying to catch a glimpse of the dogs. The boys often discover places in the yard that captures their curiosity, and it is at these times that I capture some of my best photos of them.

If you want to test your camera's speed, your proficiency at using it, and your photography prowess then I suggest you start photographing children. It is a challenge to make great photos of kids, and it's guaranteed, if you pay attention to your process, that your skills will improve. You just have to be ready with your camera, know how to use it well, and quickly react to photographic moments.

For this image I set my camera's aperture to f/5.6 at ISO 100 with a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second, and shot at 50mm (Full Frame = 75mm). I chose these settings for two reasons. First, the boys are running around, and I wanted a fast shutter to freeze the action. I set the aperture to f/5.6 to get a deeper depth of field that would keep the shutter speed fast with a low ISO in the bright sunshine.

Focussing modes are another decision you need to make when photographing active kids. I go back and forth choosing which focussing mode is best. I will sometimes set it to single focus, lock it in, then recompose the composition. But with single focus they can move out of the locked in focal point and become blurry. Whereas, when the boys are moving fast I set the camera to continuous focus. This way when they are running around the camera is continuously refocussing, so most of my shots will be tack sharp.

The one thing I rarely do is motor drive the shutter. I don't view that as photography as it's too much "spray and pray". I'd rather capture a nice moment that engages me in the process while creating a lasting memory of that moment.

One of the things I love about this image is that it reminds me of two different scenes. My first thought was something similar to a modern day Huck Finn. The boys are curiously off on their own engaging in mischief. 

The other scene reminds me of the film The Sandlot. Sure, it's not a baseball picture, but it can be two young boys looking through the old broken fence for their baseball in Mr. Mertle's back yard. Though the Labradoodles are far less ominous than Hercules.

Finally, I processed the image in color because I like how both boys are wearing blue. Perhaps if they were wearing different colors I would have gone black and white, but I felt the color added to the interest of this picture. My first reaction to pictures, whether or not I process in black and white, is to make the determination if color takes away from the story, or is somehow distracting. In this case, I thought the color added to the interest with telling this story. The blue also makes a nice contrast against the grey fence.

What's the takeaway? Have a camera with you, always. Once you learn to see photographs everywhere you can't stop seeing them, and you will want to take lots of pictures. The key is to know which moments are photographs and which are just snapshots. Now get out their and practice learning the difference.

Blue Hour

Musée du Louvre

Musée du Louvre

My wife and I recently celebrated our 10th anniversary in Paris. While there, we visited a number of tourist spots to include the Louvre. It's one of the best museums I have visited and is unbelievably huge. It is said that if you spend 30 seconds in front of each item for 8 hours a day that it would take you 100 days to see every piece. I don't know how true that is, but it's believable. 

The Louvre has an extensive history. It was originally built as a fortress around 1190 by Phillip II, and later used as a palace through the middle ages until Louis XIV moved his palace and the government to Versailles in 1682. During that quiet time the Louvre was used as a residence for artists and later opened as a museum in 1793 after the French Revolution.

Fast forward to the evening of July 17, 2016. After a long day viewing many of the Louvre's priceless works, to include da Vinci's Mona Lisa, we left for another fantastic Parisian dinner. After dinner we walked back to the Louvre and hung out on one of its many stoops waiting for blue hour to arrive.

Blue hour is that time of night just after golden hour. It is the period of twilight that occurs at early dawn or late dusk when the sun is significantly below the horizon when indirect sunlight takes on a blue hue. It typically lasts for about 40 minutes, and the quality of the light is treasured by photographers and artists alike.

Sunset was at 9:47pm, and this image was taken at 10:56pm. After arriving back at the Louvre, my wife and I waited a couple of hours for this moment. I'd say it was well worth it as I love this photo. 

I started shooting right after sunset around 10pm, but the sky was still too bright to display the pyramid and the lights on the building. This was also the second location I shot from, and I like this angle much better than the first. Not only does it showcase the pyramid well, but I also like how it shows the motion of the ferris wheel in the background, and the starbursts from the street lamps.

The camera settings are straight forward. The aperture was set to f/8 for a deeper depth of field, ISO was set to 200 so the image had as little grain as possible, and the exposure was set to four seconds. The lens focussed on the pyramid. To avoid any camera shake I used my little travel tripod and the camera's timer.

A fun side note to this image was the number of other photographers making similar photographs along with others photographing models, and couples in formal wear. Some were using flash photography within a long exposure to highlight the couples with the Louvre in the background. I enjoyed watching and learning from their creative styles.

The architecture of the Louvre is just stunning. Any photograph taken of it is beautiful, and yet I still struggle to grasp the magnitude of its size and the impression it puts upon you. I would say that is also true of Paris itself. It's such a majestic and wonderful city. If you have the opportunity to visit, take it, you won't be disappointed. 

Annoying Photography Practices

I see terrible photographs all the time and everywhere. The following, in no particular order, are the one's I notice most.

Photographing kids from the standing position - I see this one all the time and everywhere. People who post pictures of their kids on Facebook seem to be the biggest offenders. Bend your knees, and get down at their level and on their plane.  You look at kids all day from an adult perspective. We all know that view. Get low, lay down, shoot up at them, and get a perspective that actually shows your kids (and animals) in a flattering way, and within the environment. They're your kids, make them look as cute as you think they are. People will notice and appreciate your efforts even though they may not recognize what you did or why.

Just say no to this perspective!

Just say no to this perspective!

Bend your knees and get on their level

Bend your knees and get on their level

Shooting video in portrait mode - If you shoot a video with your cell phone in portrait mode then you may as well hang your TV on end. This is another big offender seen all the time on Facebook. How many movies have you seen in the theater with the screen hung in portrait view? None, that's how many. Turn your camera to landscape orientation. That's "sideways" and enjoy better videos. You're welcome.

There's no clear subject in your picture - A picture with a ton of shit going on is confusing. You don't know what to look at, and your eye is not drawn anywhere. In really busy pictures you don't know who or what is the subject, or what story you are trying to tell. Find a subject and make that your focal point telling your photo story. Get closer if you have to. Change your angle, talk to people. Ask to take their picture*. A good photograph is all about composition, story telling, and having a clear subject. 

Other than chaos, I have no idea what I found interesting.

Other than chaos, I have no idea what I found interesting.

Posting/sharing blurry images - If an image is blurry delete it. I don't care how cute their smile is, it's blurry. Share only tack sharp images, and stop posting blurry pictures on Facebook. No need to elaborate further. Just say no to blurry pictures! Don't confuse a blurry photograph with motion blur. When done right blur can add an artful touch.

Quick Tip: Every time you photograph someone always focus on the eye nearest you. You can learn more about making tack sharp photos here.

Motion blur adds an element of interest.

Motion blur adds an element of interest.

Over processing an image - Shifting the color correcting sliders all the way to the left or right does not equate to art. Crazy over processed HDR (high dynamic range) images are awful. Trey Ratcliff does HDR well, but few people can. Subtly is the key to a great image.

No image processing - Take a few minutes to retouch your photos and make them come to life. You took them, you want to share them, so why post a flat toned and poorly contrasted picture. None of your friends will share a crappy image. They will however, share something beautiful that stirs emotion. Or better yet, try processing in black and white.

Crooked water - Water does not stay put when it's angled. No, it runs downhill. Crooked horizons don't make sense. Get your lines straight. The same goes for Dutch angles. Your pictures aren't a Batman episode. If you're like me and can't make your lines straight then correct them in post. All image editing software can straighten what's crooked. Not much else to say about it.

At least it's angled in the direction the water is flowing.

At least it's angled in the direction the water is flowing.

 But this one is better.

 But this one is better.

Pictures of watches - If you create a nice image of your old watch, great! Just make sure the hour and minute hands are at the 10 and 2 positions. It's uniform, it frames the watch manufacturer's name, and just makes sense. Next time you see a photo of a watch that has the hands at some random spot you will now know why it looks odd. It's like driving... 10 and 2 people.

Distracting objects at the edges of the frame - Before you snap a picture look at the edges. Is something there that will distract the viewer from your subject? There is? Then move in closer. Change your angle of view, or move the object out of the way and try again. Clean edges keep the focal point on your subject.

Distracting

Distracting

Not Distracting

Not Distracting

Overly cropped images - Now this one is not too bad, but it's one you want to be aware of when cropping an image. Straightening an image or cropping in slightly to remove a distracting object is okay. Just note that a 24 megapixel sensor when not cropped is showing you 24 megapixels. If you crop half the picture it is still the same dimensional size, but now with only 12 megapixels. If you crop further, it may only be 8 mega pixels.

This is the same when you zoom with a smartphone camera. Digital zoom does not zoom. Rather, it crops the image. So your 8mp cameraphone becomes a 4mp image if you zoom 2x. If you need to zoom then stop being lazy and use your feet to walk closer.

Why should you care? Because you want a sharp image. When you crop you remove resolution, and you increase the size of the pixels making your photograph more pixelated. Pixelation is different from grain. A grainy image when, shooting at a high ISO, is fine. Pixelation is not fine.

Do your self a favor and practice getting it right in the camera. Perhaps you need to crop later in post, but study the reasons you are cropping in the first place. Learn what you did right and wrong and how you can improve. Then apply those lessons to the next picture.

All of these things annoy me, and I'm sure I missed a few. Learn the basics to good picture taking and your friends and family will love you for it. I'm done. Now go out and take a picture.

* If you take someone's picture on the street give them your email so they can contact you and you can send them the image later. Another idea is to have a personal business card with your name and email address on it. Take their photo then hand them the card. It's a nice way to meet new people, it helps create community, and it will help improve your photography skills.

Panning and Framing

 Let's face it, a poorly framed photograph is just another snapshot. On the other hand, a properly framed image will draw your eye to the subject, make you think for a moment, and stir emotion. Getting creative within the frame adds even more interest. Consider the above photo. I framed the train's engineer in the window of the engine while panning to show motion... and perhaps his emotion. You can almost hear his thoughts, "Ugh, round and round I go, and these people call this fun."

This picture was made at Travel Town in Griffith Park near downtown Los Angeles. It's a train museum where they have old locomotives, rail cars, cabooses, and all the fixins' on display that go along with the rail industry. They also have a small train ride that rolls around the entire park. My cousin had his little boy's three year old birthday party there on the day I made this photo. Train themed, of course.

The little train runs passengers around and around for hours, and it continued to pass right by where we were sitting. While watching the train roll past I created this picture's image in my head then picked the spot that would allow me to pan, while getting the engineer sitting in the window of the engine.

Panning shots are tough to capture. You have to move your camera at the same speed as the subject using a slow enough shutter speed so the background blurs all while keeping the subject sharply in focus. Panning creates the perception that the subject is moving. For this shot I set the shutter to 1/40th of a second. When lowering the shutter be mindful of the exposure triangle. That means you have to adjust either your aperture or ISO, or both to maintain a properly exposed image.

The second part to capturing a good panning shot is to place the focal point on the subject and move with it. In this case I wanted the engineer in focus looking through the window of the engine to create a frame within the frame. Panning makes for a cool affect and framing within the frame adds more interest.

My first challenge is to have you try some panning shots. Bicycles are great. They're fast enough to create nice motion blur, yet slow enough to help you set up the shot while showing lots of movement. Other vehicles work, too. Just note, the faster the object the faster you can set the shutter speed. Play around with various moving vehicles, and shutter speeds to get the hang of it. I find pans are hard to do well, but when you capture a great one you know it, and it feels good, too.

Second, look to frame your subject within the image. You can make a photograph while looking through the opening of a tent, a side mirror on a car (also adding a reflection), place the subject between columns of a building, or just about anything else that adds a frame. 

Overall, anything you do to add interest to a photo is great. Just be sure your subject is well composed and you can't be wrong. Now go outside and take a picture!

Star Trails & Timing

Let me first say, "RTFM!" When you're finished come on back.

Okay, now that you read your camera's manual you know how to use it. Or so you think. And that is why this star trail picture is not a picture of star trails, but star dots. Though I screwed up, it did make a pretty cool image. So how did I mess it up? Easy, I did what any photographer can do. I confused minutes with seconds. 

Before I get to that, a little back story. When this image was created we were camping in the Eastern Sierra at Twin Lakes just west of Bridgeport, California. The weather was tremendous with a New Moon, so the sky was good and dark. It was a perfect night for capturing star trails. 

To create a nice circle, if you aren't sure how to do it, point your camera in the direction of Polaris, the north star. The earth's axis points, more or less, right to it. If you are in the northern hemisphere, that is.

For this image, I set my tripod in an alpine meadow adjacent to the campground. On it was my old Nikon D7100 with a 17-50mm f/2.8 Sigma lens. I shot at 17mm with the lens wide open for 20 seconds/interval at ISO 1600.

The way star trails were made in the film days you shot with your lens wide open and the shutter would stay open for a length of time long enough to get trails. The longer the shutter was open the longer the trails. It was best to have a fully mechanical camera so the shutter could stay open as long as needed.

With an electronic shutter it would only stay open as long as your camera battery would last. The downside of star trails on film is that you would record skyglow along with your trails. So you would get both star trails and an orange glow from distant cities. Not ideal.

With a digital camera you instead take a series of shots at a specific interval then compile all the images in stacking software. If you want longer trails you take more photos over a longer period of time. Ideally, you want a couple of hours of images taken every 5 seconds for about 20 seconds each with the widest lens you have set to the widest aperture focussed at infinity. Doing so will get you nice trails on a black sky and no skyglow. 

Here is where the "500 Rule" should be mentioned. This isn't as important for star trails because, well, you want trails, but if you are photographing the night sky and want to avoid star trails you have to apply the 500 rule. That is, 500 divided by the focal length of your lens, which equals the longest exposure (in Seconds) before stars start to “trail” in your picture.

Why are there dots?

As I stated above, RTFM to mitigate mistakes. Or at least know the difference between 5 seconds and 5 minutes. And that is how this image has dots and not trails. When I set up the shutter interval in camera I set it to take a 20 second photo every 5 minutes when in fact I thought I was setting it to 5 seconds. 

To my surprise, when I woke up the following morning the camera was still working. As I calculated my intervals, it should have finished sometime around 4am. Yet it was still going at 6am. It was early, which further lead to my confusion until I realized my interval timing was wrong. Had I done 5 seconds I would have had trails.

After I got home and compiled the photos into a single image I was pleasantly surprised. This image is unique such that I have never seen anyone post a photo like it. So a mistake actually made for something unique and interesting, and gave me something to write about.

The takeaway is that you can salvage a mistake and make something interesting. The other takeaway is that you need to check and double check your settings making sure you will get what you think you will get. Lastly, pay attention to what the camera is doing after you start the series of intervals, and don't just walk away like I did. Let it take a few test shots.

I use StarStax to compile all of the images to create a star trail photograph. It's free to download and use on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Reflections

Reflections happen all around you, not just in mirrors. The story behind this image has to do with Jake and the backyard, or more specifically, the outside. I'm speaking in metaphors here.

Jake loves being outside. Even when the family is inside he will sit by the back door staring outside. Sometimes when you open the door to let him out he will just sit there, and won't move. I think he gets conflicted. He's a pack animal, so he wants to be with his pack, but he loves going outside, so he sits and stares out. He is happiest when we are outside with him... especially throwing the ball in a game of fetch.

I made this image inside by the backdoor with Jake looking upward towards it. It captures his personality well suggesting that Jake, when not outside, sits and dreams of times when he is playing a game of fetch, swimming in a lake (see below), or just lying in the sun.

To capture this image he had to sit still for me. Sometimes Jake is a bit rambunctious, so sitting still is difficult for him. He's a Labradoodle, so he has a lot of energy. I 'commanded' him to sit and stay, and lo and behold he sat still for a while. 

To make this picture I used a circa 1970's Tamron 300mm f/4-5.6 macro. It's an all manual lens, so unless you have perfect vision manual focussing is adequate at best.

That's one thing I love about mirrorless cameras with electronic viewfinders (EVF). They have a focus peaking feature, so when your image is in focus the EVF will highlight the part of the image that is in focus taking much of the guesswork out of the equation. 

Notice that I took this photo at 300mm with a shutter speed of 1/125. We have to also consider that the Nikon D7100, which I used for this shot, has a 1.5x crop factor. Ugh! there is that pesky math again. So this 300mm has an effective focal length of 450mm. The rule of thumb for setting your shutter speed while hand holding is that your shutter speed should not be less than the focal length of the lens. 

Keeping the shutter speed at or faster than than the focal length number will keep you from taking a blurry picture while hand holding due to the fact a telephoto reaches out so far exaggerating subtle movements. Knowing this, I placed the camera on a tripod to keep from camera shake.

So with Jake sitting still, and with the camera on the tripod, I composed the frame and took a couple of shots trying to get the perfect reflection. After a half dozen or more attempts I came away with the above image. I love how clean the Nikon D7100 handles ISO 3200. 

What I enjoy most of this image is the story behind it. Sometimes your favorite images have a great story behind them. I can only imagine Jake looking out the door dreaming about the fun he had swimming in Barney Lake after a long hike to get there. Once in the water it is hard to stop him. 

What I love most about the below image is when we arrived at the lake. There was a women's hiking club sitting on the beach taking a break. They were between 70 and 80 years old, and loved tossing sticks for Jake to retrieve. These women had a lot of energy, and had Jake in the lake for quite a while.

When we were finished at the lake we hit the trail back to camp. Jake has a lot of energy, to be sure. I can only imagine the things he thinks about while staring outside when sitting by our backdoor. His time at Barney Lake must be one of them.

Motion Blur

Most of the time you want to freeze action to avoid blurry pictures while making them tack sharp. On the other hand, there are times when you want to capture motion blur. It can add interest to an image giving it a lively feel, especially when panning.

The above photo was taken on Bourbon Street the night after Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday is one crazy time (see below). If you want to take in, and enjoy New Orleans' culture I recommend avoiding Mardi Gras all together. During Mardi Gras you won't experience the French Quarter's quaint streets, and it smells like piss and vomit everywhere. 

Daytime on Fat Tuesday was much better than the evening. At that time of day it is an older crowd who are calmer with many fantastic costumes. Whereas the nighttime crowd is younger, smashed, and more aggressive.

Arguably, the best thing about New Orleans is the food. I challenge you to find a bad meal in this town. The food is great everywhere! There's a lot to do with a rich history and fun to be had wherever you go. 

To capture this photo I was out walking Bourbon Street around 10pm and noticed there were few people on the street, though just enough to make for an interesting photograph. I suppose the Wednesday after Fat Tuesday is the slowest night of the year here.

Both the above and below photos were taken with my Lumix GM1. It's the smallest micro 4:3 camera on the market. It is a tiny camera with great imaging quality. It has the same sensor as the Lumix GX7. The downside of this little gem is that much of the camera settings are menu driven rather than adjusted with dials, knobs, and buttons... though there are a few. The small form factor makes changing settings a bit slow. 

Another downside of this tiny camera is the touch screen. Don't get me wrong, having a touch screen is great, but the GM1 is so small that the palm of your hand will often touch the screen while shooting, which causes you to inadvertently change settings.

I missed a number of shots this way. I thought I had the settings adjusted for the picture and later realized they changed. Now that I am aware of this I pay closer attention to where my hand sits, and what the settings are before shooting.

You can turn off the touch screen, but as I stated earlier, much of the camera is menu driven. Turning off the screen limits your use of the camera. Since purchasing the Lumix GX8 I now mostly use the GM1 when mountain biking, hiking, trail running, etc. It's small size makes for light weight and I can easily fit it into a small pack.

Now let's get back to the photo. The key to capturing motion blur is holding the camera steady so the environment is still and tack sharp while people move through it. Notice how some people are moving while others are still. Also notice how bright and "clean" the scene is. I shot as wide as my lens would go at 12mm using the kit lens. I also set the aperture to f/5.6 creating a greater depth of field (full frame equivalent of f/11).

Quick side note. Micro 4:3 cameras have a sensor that is half the size of a full frame (the size of 35mm film). That creates a 2x crop factor. So not only does the lens angle get multiplied by 2, but so does the aperture when considering how much background blur (a.k.a. bokeh) you will get.

In my example, shooting at 12mm is like shooting at 24mm full frame, and setting the aperture to f/5.6 lets in f/5/6 amount of light, but the depth of field get's multiplied by 2 as well. So my shot would look like a 24mm angle of view with an f/11 depth of field while gathering f/5.6 amount of light.

Why is this important? A "normal" lens is between 40mm to 50mm, which is the human eye's angle of view. I continuously make these conversions in my head because I want to know what the angle of view will look like when compared to what I am seeing, and how much of the background I want in focus.

Now back to our story. The way you capture motion blur is to hold the shutter open for one to two seconds while people are moving through the frame, or shorter if the action is fast. To get the proper exposure I set the ISO to the camera's native ISO of 200. The key to avoiding camera movement with a 1.6 second shutter speed is to carefully push the shutter button without moving the camera. 

This brings up the issue of camera movement vs. subject movement. Sometimes you want camera movement, and other times you want subject movement. Sometimes you want both such as when panning. If you have a heavy finger and move the camera every time you push the shutter button then you can either use the camera's timer, a remote trigger, or connect it to your phone via wifi then use the phone's touch screen to take the shot. 

With the above image I placed the camera on a trash can (a tripod would have been better) and held it as still as I could then waited for people to walk by. When there were enough people in the frame I took the shot. I took six different photos to get a keeper image. After the first two I checked the exposure and framing, then a couple more were taken trying to get enough people in the frame with the right amount of movement. 

Finally, while editing in Lightroom I turned down the highlights to bring out the details in the neon signs. They are so bright that holding the shutter open for nearly two seconds blows out the highlights. I also lowered the color saturation for those same signs. They made color correcting a bit difficult, but shooting in RAW format makes these adjustments possible.

Take the time to try these techniques, and definitely make time to visit New Orleans. You won't be disappointed by either. 

Lighting

Dancing.jpg

My cousin Gina was married a few weeks ago. We had a great time at her wedding and I captured a number of great moments. I didn't steal too many pictures because she did hire a photographer, after all. So let's talk about the above photograph.

It works on a number of levels and doesn't on a few others. To start, I didn't want to be that guy who gets in the way of the photographers who is there and paid for to document their wedding. So instead, I hid out on the sidelines getting what I could get, which isn't optimal. 

Let's first talk about what doesn't work in this photo. The lighting that was provided by the videographers was damn bright. Every so often I looked right at the 'sun' and was blinded. The benefit of their bright lights was that they were able to light the room well enough to capture photographs without using a flash.

On the other hand, the lights made it difficult to get a good pictures. Notice how her arm casts a shadow across her face. I'm sure that was a problem for the photographer, too. In this photo the photographer in pink is taking a photo of the groom. She is using the videographer's lights and probably waiting for his arms to move away from his face.

You'll also notice the light above Gina's head. I was moving around trying to get a better angle, but the videographer kept moving, and it was tough to avoid.

The biggest challenge with photographing this way is that you have no say in the process, which leads me back to my earlier statement about getting what I could get. 

On another note, there are a few things that work well in the image, too. I think the composition tells the story of how things played out. The photographer was capturing the wedding with tight shots, and was trying to avoid getting the videographers in the frame. Whereas, this is more of a behind the scenes photograph showing the viewer what it was like to be there.

Her dress pops with those beaming bright lights. Below is a better example of how her dress popped with the videographer's light. I don't like the way it is framed, however.

The moral of the story... when you aren't in control of the photographic scene you just get what you get. Perhaps it makes for a more candid and challenging situation. That is what I love about making photographs. There's power in limitations.

Macro

I love candids and the journalistic style of photography. When you are out on a photo walk making pictures you sometimes just get what you get. If there's not much happening, then you don't get much. But if you are lucky you can capture some great images. I also love capturing my boys' true emotions while playing, eating, or doing just about anything.

That is the essence of street photography, but photography is also art as the image above suggests, and much of photography is staged. Some examples of staged photographs are wedding ceremonies, studio portraits, landscapes, telling kids to look at the camera and say, "cheese", flowers like the one above, and many other things to name a few. 

The dahlia above was taken with my Lumix GX8 using an 'antique' Nikkor 50mm f/2 manual lens attached to a tripod sitting on the kitchen table. The lens is attached to the camera with a Nikon to micro 4:3 adapter using a Fotodiox reverse ring.

When you turn a lens around it magnifies whatever it's pointed at, and becomes a macro lens. Buying a reverse ring for a few dollars is way cheaper than buying a macro lens, and I can get really close macro images when using it.

Micro 4:3 cameras increase the macro, too. The sensor is half the size of a full frame sensor creating a 2x crop factor, which makes this 50mm lens a 100mm getting me right down into the center of the flower.

The off center framing is what makes this photo. I offset the flower just enough that it draws your eye into the center of it. The outside of the flower has enough bokeh placing the focal point right where you would expect it. If everything were in focus your eye wouldn't be drawn to the center of the flower, and it would take you second to figure it out.

And that right there is the rub. Most photographs on the Internet have a few second lifespan. People just click through quickly looking at them and moving on, so you want to quickly draw the viewer's eye to the subject with proper framing hoping that they stay just a little longer to enjoy your picture.

The below image is how I setup this photograph. My wife recently had a birthday - Happy Birthday! - which is the reason for the flowers. I used the tripod to avoid movement and to aid with focussing. When "zoomed" in this close the slightest movement bounces the subject all over, and it's enough to make you dizzy. 

I set the ISO to the camera's lowest native setting of 200. The aperture was set to f/8, and the shutter was set at 1/10 of a second to give the proper exposure. I snapped the shutter using the timer to avoid motion blur from physically pushing the button. 

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.