Saturday, June 26, 2010

Grocery Night

You know, there are some days when you just can't go out and take photos.  Perhaps your day has been packed full of just too many things to do.  You have to work, take care of the kid(s) and then go grocery shopping.  No time for photography...  At least that is what I thought.  While at the store we picked up some various fruit...  Why?  Because I like fruit...figured that was obvious.  Anyway, when we got home and unpacked everything I looked at the package of strawberries we bought and thought 'hey, I could photograph that!'.  So, off to the office I went and just a few minutes later I was clicking away.  Here are just a few of my images.  Ultimately it took little to no time and that was with the help of a two year old!
Prints available at stating at $50.00 

So the next time you are at the grocery store look around to try and find things to photograph...  The best part is if you start to get hungry while taking the pictures you can just munch on the side.  Warning;  if you do that too much you might very well eat yourself out of a photo shoot!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Printing your Photographs

Technology is great. You have laptops, iPhones and now iPads that can display photographs beautifully. This type of technology is no doubt here to stay (and for good reason). BUT, an image on an LCD screen does not have the same feel as a print in the hand. Photographs, to an extent, are made to be printed. Photos that have been printed, framed and hung on the wall just have a look (and tangibility) about them that cannot be matched by the computer screens or digital frames. No, modern printers can display all the colors on paper that can be seen on screen. The mind’s eye will fill in the missing colors so you will likely not even notice. Typically, I only print a handful of images because of the cost but when I run across a truly good image the first thing I do is make a print. To me it just feels more like art when I hold it in my hand.

There are two options when it comes to printing. 

First, you can purchase a printer and print them yourself.  There is considerable cost here if you want to get printers that are made just for photo printing.  To get the prints to look great takes a considerable amount of effort.  I have done this for years and with the cost of the printer, paper and ink I have determined that it is best to use option number two.  If you like to print them yourself and are happy with the results then have at it...  There is something to be said about getting a print when you want a print. 

Second, use a professional printer/lab.  If you are serious about your work then I certainly suggest that you use a "professional" printer rather than the 1-hour photo labs.  Why?  Because professional printers take a vested interest in ensuring that your prints are the best they can be when they leave their location.  I use Bayphoto for all my printing needs.  They are capable of printing on just about any type of material (luster, gloss, metal, canvas, etc) and to just about any size you want.  Mpix has also gotten great reviews from many professional photographers. 

However you choose to print make sure that the print lives up to your standards as an artist!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Approaching Storm

Just recently the family and I took a quick trip down to Key West where I thought I would do the typical thing of attending the Sunset Festival with the family. This was anything but typical. When we arrived there were plenty of clouds and bright blue sky to give me hope. I just knew it would be a great sunset. When you are waiting on something like the sun to set time seems to almost stand still. There is no rushing the sun....after all it was put into motion a long time ago and no matter our best efforts it still sets when it sets. Dark clouds began to roll in at a distance and I just knew it was going to "destroy" my idea of a sun set. I started clicking off a few shots and it was not long before I realized that nature was planning a not so typical ending to the day. Needless to say I had a great time with the family and a not so typical sunset photograph.

Prints available at starting at $50.00

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Right Place, Right Time

Sometimes it is about be in the right place at the right time. You can plan all you want but there are times when the weather is just not going to cooperate or some unforeseen issue arises. Then, there are times when you just randomly make that decision to go take some photographs and it is perfect. Really, it can be hit or miss. Check out the image below as an example. My wife and I had decided to go to a local air show where of course I took my camera. The mid field was crowded and while that is where a good amount of the air show took place we decided to head down to the end of the runway. It was vacant which was great for me. Well, it so happened that the “Heritage” fly over from the P-51 and F-15 made its turn exactly where I was standing. Better yet they passed right in front of some dark clouds being backlit by the sun. The entire trip was worth it for this shot.
Prints available for sale at starting at $50.00

You can take two things away from this post.
1. You have to go in the first place
2. No matter how much you plan sometimes you just get lucky.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Get organized.

One of the most difficult parts of being a photographer has always been the organization of your images, post capture. Back in the film days it was easy to just chuck them in a shoebox and label them “pictures”. Once every few years you might pull it out and look through them with no rhyme or reason. Heaven forbid you try to find a specific one. If you shot slide film it was a little easier because you could put them into protective sleeves and then into binders or folders.  However, to label them was a challenge all its own.

Then the world of digital came around and you started shooting more and more images because “pixels are free”. You put them all in a folder on your hard dive labeled pictures and suddenly you realize that you have thousands of photos that might as well be in a shoebox. You could rename all the images to give you a better idea of the photograph but searching for something specific was difficult. Now, there are many programs out there to help you manage your photographic inventory. The two primary programs for professional photographs are Adobe’s Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture. There are others out there as well so please don’t send hate mail. Personally I use Lightroom 2 (Lightroom 3 has shipped!) and it is available for both Windows and Mac. Aperture on the other hand is only available for Mac. Both programs are good at managing image libraries and editing your photos. In fact, I rarely ever go into Photoshop any more as 99% of all my editing can be done in Lightroom 2.  I will not go into specifics for this post (more to come) but I will cover some of the library basics. The key really is to stay on top of your image library and not to let images pile up over months or even years. Here are some suggestions for you to ensure that you don’t lose control of you images.

1. Put all you images in one folder! You can have subfolders inside the main but ensure that you have that one main folder. Me? I use _Photos as my folder name. Using the “_” before the name places it at the top of the list on the hard drive.

2. Come up with some naming convention that works for you. Both Lightroom and Aperture can help with this upon import. I use the date followed by “_” followed by the original name given by the camera. They look like this: 100527_JEP5975

3. Key Word all your images. Inside Lightroom you can place key words on your images that will allow you to search the database later (they will also be in the metadata when you export them). This is a powerful feature so long as you code them correctly. You can do batch key wording to make life easy.

4. DELETE all the bad photos. If the photos are out of focus or hopelessly under/overexposed then just delete them. The more junk you have the harder it is to find what you are looking for and the more hard drive space it takes up.

5. Backup, Backup, Backup. I cannot stress this enough. If you do not have three copies of your images then you don’t have one copy of your images!

No matter what program you choose stay on top of your images.  That way you can spend more time in the field and less time behind the computer trying to make sense of the mess.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Change Your Perspective

When you first arrive at a photo location what do you do? Do you immediately take out your tripod, fully extend the legs, and put your camera on the head in the landscape position? If you do all these things (and I am guilty too) then you are limiting your creativity. I would suggest that you take your camera and walk around just a bit to find different angles and heights. Find what you are looking for THEN get your tripod. Most of my landscapes are all taken from a height that allows me to look into the viewfinder without having to bend over. This is something that I am working to change.  Why?  Because everyone does just that.  Believe it or not but just the change of a few feet can make a difference.  If you are taking some portraits try extending the tripod all the way and then hold it way above your subjects. This may take a few times to get it right but the perspective will be unique.

If you are photographing wildlife remember that it is important to be at eye level or lower.  The reasoning behind this is that it gives the subject a sense of power.  The image below of a wild turkey would have had a different feel if I had been on my feet.  It would have seemed smaller than it was and not nearly as commanding of its environment.  I had the tripod collapsed as far down as I could get it and I was down on my knees in the wet grass. 

There was one morning that I was in the Foothill Parkway overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains. While I was there a van full of photographers enjoying a workshop showed up and started the tripod extending process. By this time I had climbed to the top of the Ford Explorer I was driving and set up my tripod. As these photographers walked by I heard several of them laughing at me for standing on top of the vehicle. As the sun started coming up they quickly realized that the underbrush directly in front of them blocked a magnificent sunrise. One of the photographers that laughed at me quickly looked up and said “well, I guess you do have the best seat in the house”. I just smiled.

With the advent of digital everyone is a photographer. If you want to be different start my changing your perspective.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rough day of Shooting

Sometimes you have the highest hopes for a day of shooting but it just doesn’t happen. Today was one of those days… I whet with a friend to a local park here in Miami early this morning. First, I woke up late which is a terrible start but I did get out the door in enough time to find good light. It was a bit on the humid side so I was a little concerned about the lenses fogging up but I had some anti-fog wipes for just such an occasion… I left them at home! I spent a good portion of the morning trying to clean off the lens. Almost all the shots that I took this morning ended up with fog on the lens and not usable. The humidity continued to haunt me the rest of the morning with the heat index reaching 101 by 9:00am. While at the first location we discovered tons of dewdrops hanging off multiple plants. In these dewdrops was the reflection of the trellis overhead. It was a good opportunity for some macro shots. I left all of my macro gear at home! In an effort to salvage something I shot 500+ photographs today. I think I kept TWO and I am not crazy about them.  See below.

HDR image

HDR image

What, if anything, could I take away from a day like this? TONS! First of all, I had a great time with a friend which cannot be overlooked. Second, we found some good locations with some unbelievable potential given the right light and lenses with no fog. Third, I know what not to forget next time. While there were not many visual pluses for today it was not completely unsuccessful.