Saturday, May 29, 2010

Product Review: Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead with B2 AS II clamp

The Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead was a purchase that I debated for years. I had a good ballhead (Manfrotto 469RC) as it was but it was a bit on the heavy side and the operation was getting sluggish. There were several posts by some world famous photographers boasting about this particular item but I just wasn't buying it... After all, a ballhead is a ballhead right. Time past and I just kept looking at it over and over. Needless to say, I made the purchase along with an "L" bracket for my camera and custom plates for my lenses. Here are my basic findings:


• Relatively lightweight
• Very sturdy
• Smooth/flawless Operation
• Liquid Level on the clamp (great for doing panoramics)
• Solid Quick Release Lever and custom quick release plates
• Low Profile
• Fast locking knobs to hold the camera where you want
• Good tension knob with a large amount of adjustments possible
• Stylish... and really cool looking


• The quick release lever is long and sometimes gets in the way when removing or mounting the camera with a large lens attached (tripod colar mount on the lens). This however, was more me getting used to the equipment than an actual con. By the end of the first day I had it down pat.

Really, the only other con I can think of is the price tag. This product is only available through the Really Right Stuff website. You can check them out here

So, why would you spend this much money on a tripod head?  The answer is simple; quality and reliability.  The very first day I used the BH-55 I took a good tumble down some wet hit the rocks really hard (as did I) but the clamp held the camera firmly in place (saving the camera from a watery grave). The cosmetics of the ballhead were damaged but the functionality remains sound. At least now it looks used.... Overall, I wish that I had bought this product years ago. Really Right Stuff has a new and very pleased customer.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Having fun with Portraits

I am a nature photographer at heart. I love wildlife, streams of flowing water, majestic mountains, and wildflowers in bloom. Here lately I have been working on portrait photographs and trying to find ways to make it unique. One way I have found is to combine portrait work with the outdoors for "on-location" portraits... While I was in Tennessee I had some folks that wanted portrait work done so we found a few locations and off we went. Well, the only exception would be the baby of course. Having great subjects is always a plus as I am sure you can tell by the results below.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don’t get too hung up on the Technical

But don’t forget about it either...
When I first started in photography I was so focused on gear and making the right exposure that I completely missed the composition aspects. Sure, I had some good gear but my photographs lacked depth and substance...they were still “snap shots”. Okay, before we continue on there is a disclaimer: You have to master exposure in order for your vision to show at its fullest potential. At some point along the way I started really looking at the work of other photographers and attempted to understand what they were going for with their image. It was then that I started becoming a better photographer.

Think outside photography
There is an art form that has been around for thousands of years that can benefit most photographers if we would just take time to look. Painting….I recently became friends with a painter by the name of Angeline Martinez. I started really looking at her work and asking questions to try and understand how she created the image. We as photographers can learn a great deal from this form of art. Painters have to make so many choices. They have to choose the scene, the type of material that they will paint on, the colors, color mixtures, type of paint, mixed media, lighting dynamics, overall subject, and the type of emotional message that they want to produce. If we as photographers could just take the time to study the images that we take with this level of detail we would only improve our work. You can check out Angeline’s work (and I suggest you do) at and her blog at  Both are well worth your time.

Ansel Adams used to say you don’t take photographs you “make” photographs. That is my point!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Understanding Exposure (Part 3 of 3)

ISO is the measure of a Camera's digital sensor's sensitivity to light just like the film speed in the old days. A high ISO means that it takes less light to make an exposure than a low ISO. As a general rule the lower the ISO the higher the image quality and vice versa. When the ISO is increased the noise (or grain if using film) increases degrading the image. The following is a quick list of the ISOs that most DSLRs have: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600. 

The images below represent two different ISOs to give you an idea of the image quality you might see at different ISOs.

ISO 100

ISO 1600

So, why do you pick one ISO over another? Well, it depends on the light situation and what kind of shutter speed or aperture you want and what type of image quality you can live with...  Personally, even with noise reduction software I find it difficult to live with an ISO above 400.  Newer full frame cameras have incredible ISO performance so technology is changing the way we shoot.  Still you should always choose the lowest ISO you can get by with for greater image quality. For more information on exposure check out my previous blog posts on Shutter Speed and Aperture.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The One that Says it all.

Anytime that you take a series of photographs there is one that stands out above all the rest.  This is the one for me.  It is a panoramic taken the first morning I went to the mountains and shows the majesty of creation.  It is quiet and peaceful with only the sound of the wind in the trees and the birds starting their morning routine.  No, it would not win many awards but for me it says it all. 

Be sure to click on the image to see the entire Panoramic.  This print is available for sale at for $75.00.  

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day four in the Smoky Mountains

The three photographs below are from the forth and final day in the Great Smoky Mountain. There will be more photographs to follow as well as photography tips and "Understanding Exposure Part 3 of 3".
Prints available for sale at starting at $50.00

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day three in the Smoky Mountains

The three photographs below are from day three in the Great Smoky Mountain. There will be more to follow as well as photography tips and Understanding Exposure Part 3 of 3.

Prints available for sale at starting at $50.00

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Understanding Exposure (Part 2 of 3)


Aperture is the control of how wide the opening is in the lens of the camera. It also affects how much light is hitting the sensor. A simple way to think of Aperture is a faucet of running water. If the faucet is wide open then you get a lot of water. If it is almost closed then it is just a trickle. This is the same for light coming through the camera lens. One of the main purposes of the aperture is to control depth of field (see previous blog post on Depth of Field). The size of the opening is recorded in what is call an f-stop. Now, the math is a bit different for the Aperture than the shutter speed but the principle is the same. Each step represents the doubling or halving of the amount of light hitting the sensor. The following is a general list of the most common apertures: 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22. The smaller the number the larger the opening in the camera and thus the shallower depth of field. When you hear the term "fast lens" the aperture is what they are referring too. Why? Well, if you have a wide open lens (say 2.8) then the amount of time the shutter has to be open to make a proper exposure is shorter than it would be with a smaller aperture (larger number). This means that if you are taking photos in lowlight you can open up your lens and raise your shutter speed. When you are photographing wildlife in the early morning you need a fast lens. If you are photographing a wedding inside a dimly lit church when no flash photograph is allowed then you need a really fast lens.  The first image below shows a very small aperture (high f-stop number).  The second shows a wide open aperature (small f-stop number).  You can clearly see the differance in depth of field.

Image 1

Exposure:  0.7sec at f/16
Image 2

Exposure: 1/25 sec at f/3.2

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day two in the Smoky Mountains

The three photographs below are from day two in the Great Smoky Mountain.  There will be more to follow as well as photography tips and Understanding Exposure Part 2 of 3.

Prints available for sale at starting at $50.00

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Understanding Exposure (Part 1 of 3)

There are three main factors to consider when you look at exposure.  Shutter Speed, Apeture, and ISO.  Below is Part 1 of 3 on understanding exposure.  I will likely do a wrap up after part three to include the camera meter and histogram so stay tuned.

Shutter speed
The shutter speed of your camera is the measure of how long the shutter remains open to expose the sensor. Any motion that occurs while the shutter is open will show on the image. (the faster the shutter speed the more likely you are to freeze the movement). Shutter speeds are based on the doubling or halving of seconds. The following is a general list of the most common shutter speeds from long to short: 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000, 1/8000. As you can imagine the 1/8000 of a second shutter speed would just about freeze any movement.  The shutter speed for Image 1 below is 1/20th of a second.  This by no means freezes the movement but you can see that much of the movement was stopped.  The shutter speed for Image 2 was 1.1 seconds allowing the movement to blur the image.  Really it depends on what type of image you are going for.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Image 1

Shutter Speed: 1/20 sec

Image 2

Shutter Speed: 1.1 sec

Tuesday, May 4, 2010