Tag Archives: photo tips

Repost: Improving Your Photography by Having Go-To Places

Hi Friends,

It’s been so long since I have posted any tips here, been way to busy with work, play, fun–life in general. Having said that, I found a great article that I thought was worth sharing. What this article is essentially saying, is that by having a specific location that you love, you can improve your photography by visiting it over-and-over again in various conditions (lighting, weather, season) without having to go out and look for somewhere to shoot. When you have a particular place to go, you are not wasting precious time looking for that particular place.

While not an actual spot (there are way too many), my go to place is Mt. Rainier in Washington State. I live about an hour or so from 2 different entrances, so it is very convenient for me to get in the car and go at just about any time.

The link below will take you to the article. Hope you enjoy.




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Shooting Locally

As you are aware, I love landscape photography. The lure of a faraway place-someplace of beauty, splendor, or mystique-often calls me. But like most people, I have a very limited budget for travel, and thus never get quite the opportunities, not to mention the time away from work and other obligations. So, when the itch to take a photograph strikes I have to scratch it. But I get bored, bored, bored of the city I live in–there is really nothing here and what is here are all quite familiar. I have to find another way to satisfy the craving.

One way to satisfy the craving is to find a new way to photography the same subject.

Because local locations are, well, local, our perception is that they are not the “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. And because of that, it should remove the pressure to get that shot we all seek. This should give us the freedom to explore without the fear of coming away with nothing. If we do come away with nothing, that’s OK since we can always go back. This will give you the opportunity to learn from the mistakes you made. And as an added benefit, exploring the same area during different times of day or season of the year presents you the opportunity to see how things might change and give you the opportunity for a different look and/or feel to the subject.

Anyway, I hope that you can see that shooting locally is a good alternative to shooting nothing when shooting at the “exotic locale” is not an option and a great way to hone your skills without breaking the bank. I am trying to live by my own advice and get out in my town a little bit more, I hope you do too.

Happy shooting and as always, blessings.



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Macro Photography Extension Tube Review

Back in April, I posted a tip about cheap macro photography. Well, I broke down and had to try it myself. Not owning a Macro lens, I purchased a series of extension tubes and some close-up filters for my 24-105mm Nikkor lens.  The results? Mixed.

This particular post is about the macro extension tubes I purchased: Vello Auto Extension Tube Set for Nikon cameras. You can purchase them at B&H Photo for $79.95 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/787224-REG/vello_ext_nd_auto_focus_ext_tube.html)

I am posting here a series of photographs that I took using my Nikon D800 DSLR camera and a variety of lenses. I used a 50mm, a 70-200mm, a 24-105mm (all Nikkor) and a Tamron 28-75mm. And for the most part, I tried to photographs flowers in the garden, which posed numerous challenges such as lighting and wind. Over the course of the 3 days I tried to photograph, I could not get the wind to cooperate–it would just not stop blowing. That is until I put everything away. Another challenge that I had was the precise aiming of the camera and lens while on the tripod. You see, my tripod is just not designed to fine tune height and direction.  And of course, I had to do this with all the extension tubes on the camera.

The next test was to remove two of the tubes and use just the 50mm Nikkor lens. These results were much more satisfactory, although I could not get the zoom I want. Exact focus is an issue that must be dealt with too. Of course, read any text on macro photography and focus and Depth-of-Field will always be an issue. The answer: focus stacking, that is taking multiple exposures with different focal points and then combining those photographs in Photoshop or another program (that subject is out of scope for this blog).

Now, keep in mind that I did not try just one of the elements on any of my other lenses, just the 50mm.

Light is another issue that must be considered. Even though I was shooting in full daylight, I had to pump up my ISO to 800. And even though Vello claims that the lens info will be passed onto the camera thus being able to I found that my camera’s metering got somewhat out-of-whack and I had to make adjustments to exposure.

I was pleased with the results-I mean what more could I ask for for $80. I would still like to try a true macro lens, but I think that I will wait a while before shelling out the bucks to buy one and just make use of these tubes.

So the photographs posted below, the flower photographs are with the combined use of the 3 tubes, while the remainder are with just the 12mm tube. The only adjustments I made to these photo’s are exposure, contrast, a bit of sharpening and noise reduction. I did not crop any of these so you can get a sense of the magnification.

Next blog post will be about the close-up filters.



P.S. The photograph of the dogs eye has the camera reflection of Lynette digging in the garden. Awesome!

Posted in Landscape and Nature Photography, Photography Tips & Techniques Also tagged , , , |

Fireworks 2013

So for years I’ve always posted and reposted tips on getting great firework photographs and have yet to post any of my own (that is without having to dig through the archives). This year was going to be different-a trip out to the big firework display with lots and lots of new and exciting photo’s to post. But, the dogs wouldn’t hear of letting us go away. If any of you are aware, the last 3 years have been especially challenging for us with keeping our animals under control during the days leading up to and following the holiday (they have escaped the yard the last couple of years and have been lost and gone for hours and hours). So once again we were forced to be at home.

Nevertheless, there are usually plenty of opportunities to get cool photographs of fireworks around your own house. The pictures I post here are just a few of the ones that I shot just around my own abode. Ok, they are not as spectacular as those you might capture at a large fireworks display, but still cool.

Anyway, enjoy and perhaps next year we can post some photographs from a larger display.



P.S. If you are an individual that likes to set off fireworks around your house, please be responsible and clean up your mess. Lynette and I took a walk around our neighborhood yesterday and both of us were disgusted at the amount of firework trash left to rot in the street. Do the right and responsible thing and clean-up after yourself please. Your neighbors will appreciate it

Posted in Event Photography, Photography Tips & Techniques Also tagged , , , |

The Challenges of Unlimited Photographs

Digital photography is both a blessing and a curse! And for many different reasons. While digital photography makes our job as photographers somewhat easier, there are many challenges that must be addressed.

One of the positive aspects of digital photography is obviously the ability to quickly see the results of pressing the shutter release button and thus the ability learn from our mistakes and to make corrections on the fly. But with that ability comes the downside that is not often discussed. Let me outline a few.



This is the first issue. Remember those 1000 shots of the sun setting into the horizon off the coast while you were driving down the coast last summer? Well, they are still sitting on your hard-drive, aren’t they? And chances are as those drives continue to fill up you’ll be buying more and more drives for such the occasion as going through them “when I get home.”

Contributing to this problem is the fact that storage is cheap. Last time I checked you could get a 1 terabyte drive for less than $100. So the tendency is to just get a new drive when the need arises. But, to be safe, you’ll also want backup those drives, preferably to an off-site spot, and you’ll probably want a cloned copy for extra insurance.

Storage also become an issue as the drives you are using become more and more fragmented (although this can be avoided by ‘defraging’ from time-to-time) and file access times become slow. You may also need to consider storage needs while traveling (I always carry an external drive). All these costs (i.e., primary drive, backup drive, extra memory cards) start to add up but because they are small and incremental while they occur they seem inconsequential.



Most people complain about not having enough time in our day, I know that I do, but yet we go out and spend more and more of it by shooting more than we need to. Time is spent, er wasted, in a couple of different ways.

First, there is the time it take to review all those photographs. Lynette and I took almost 1300 images at our last wedding, and guess what, someone needs to go through each and every time. With a little more diligence on our part before hitting the shutter release, and in some cases anticipating the action better,  we could probably cut that number by at least 1/3. If it takes us 5 seconds to review a shot and decide if it stays or goes, 1300 images will be 6500 seconds or almost 2 hours to review. We could easily knock 45 minutes of that by just being a little more discerning in our shooting.

Time also comes into play while transferring images to our computer. Most people can think of other thing to do while these transfers are happening, but for a lot of people, they slow down computer speed as the hard-drives is constantly being accessed and written to.

Finally, there is the backup issues again. Extra photographs mean extra time backing up. Multiply our wedding shoots, or any shoot for that matter, by the number of shoots over the course of a year and we’ve added hours to our backup schedule (not to mention the additional costs if those backups are send to a remote service).



The final issue is a bit harder to quantify. Many years ago (too many to mention a specific date) I started learning photography on film. Film did have one big advantage over digital- either I started learning to take better photos or I stopped shooting because of the cost of film and developing. That is not the case today. Most people can now take thousands of really bad photos because there is no cost barrier once the camera and cards are purchased. If a consumer doesn’t have a desire to learn to improve, they are more likely to continue shooting bad photographs.


I hope that I didn’t completely rain on your parade. On the whole there are more positive benefits to nearly limitless shooting in digital photography than there are negative, just a few things to be aware of (if you can you think of any other issues photographers should be aware add them to the comments below).

Happy shooting,


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Tips for a Great Christmas Photo Card

With summer well past us, I figured it was time to provide you some tips on how to take a great family photo to use for your Christmas Cards this year.

1) Prepare:

Everyone know that getting the entire family together for a formal photograph can be a daunting task. Family must come from all over the place, some have short attention spans, babies crying, making sure make-up is correct, other wanting to go out shopping, eating, and visiting others. So, giving the photo subjects plenty of time is key. And not planning the day, but also the time. to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Make sure that your location is scouted out, that everyone knows where it is, and that lighting is sufficient for that locale.

Having everyone dressing in similar colors that complement the background will also help in getting that winning shot. Not that everyone has to dress in the same outfit, but outfits that are similar in appearance so the tones complement the location (lighter shirts for a dark background, etc.).

Make sure that you know who is taking your photographs. Do they know how to operate your camera or will they use their own? Will you be using a self-timer and trying to “run into” the photo? Either way, make sure that equipment “issues” don’t prevent you from getting the photo.

2) Arrange your subjects:

When you get to the location, make sure you pay attention to the arrangement of your subjects. Don’t line everyone up like tin soldiers. Make sure that you don’t arrange so people are standing directly in front or behind others. Find unique arrangements and experiment. Start with an “anchor” person (maybe someone that needs extra help) and fill in the others around them. Try arranging in a triangle, perhaps. Bring in any ground cover for people to sit or kneel on, if needed.

Place children last–that way they are not complaining about having to stand around so long while you prepare everyone else.

And above all else, on sunny days arrange so the sun is behind people and use a flash. Having the sun directly in front of people creates “squinty eyes”, but having the sun behind will add depth to the shot.

3) Take the shots:

When the time has come and everyone has been placed, go ahead and start shooting. Like previously mentioned, use your flash even though your camera might be telling you it is not needed.

Vary your shots. Try taking some from slightly different angles. Try arranging your subject differently. Get all the formal shots out of the way first, and then try some fun shots. Let everyone relax but keep shooting. Try an arms raised or a group hug shot. And with digital photos, don’t be afraid to take 50 or more photos. If you’re experimenting with different things, you’ll want to make sure that you have some good shot in case the “experimentals” don’t turn out as expected.

4) Print and share!

Finally, don’t keep the photos to yourself. Print them out at your favorite photo printer and get everyone a copy. They’ll appreciate much more than if you were to just email it. And most printers offer templates for those special Holiday Cards–go ahead and get some printed with your great family photo. Or do something crazy and get that photo printed out on a sweater and wear it around. It will definitely show your holiday spirit!

God’s blessings to you and your family this Christmas,


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Tips for Great Fireworks Pictures

SOLFW_smallIndependence Day is just a few days away, and if you are like me, you love to take pictures of all the day’s events, including fireworks displays. While your average family snapshots are a breeze with most of today’s automatic point-and-shoot and semi-automatic cameras, capturing fireworks can be somewhat tricky. So I have prepared a few tips to help you make the most of those opportunities.

    1.  Find a good display to photograph and get as close as possible. Nothing is worse than a meager display or being so far removed from the action that the display is overshadowed by the back of the crowd.

    2. Usually, using a tripod is my number 1 tip, but although I have relegated it to number 2 here it is still important nonetheless. The reason I say use a tripod is that because it is dark you will need a long exposure to capture the burst and to avoid a blurry picture. Even with today’s anti-shake technology built into cameras and lenses blurry pictures will result from even the slightest movement in a long exposure picture.

    3. Some of today’s new cameras may actually have a “fireworks” mode, and if so, set it to that (I am not intimately familiar with every make and model of camera, sorry folks). If not, put your camera in manual mode and set the shutter speed to 5 seconds, aperture to f8, and ISO to 200 for starters. Snap an image and see how in looks. If needed, adjust only the shutter speed, leaving aperture and ISO as is. A longer shutter speed will allow the burst to expand in your image. But beware, at the end of the show fireworks usually come in fast and furious, so a slower shutter speed may overexpose the image. Adjust down as needed.

    4. If you can, include a landmark in your image. This will help with scale and may provide some relevance. Also, as the fireworks burst over or near that landmarks, they will illuminate it nicely.

    5. Take a lot of photos and discard the bad ones! Digital camera allow us to take a lot of photos with no cost, so shoot away. And ask yourself the question when editing that is always asked of me: “what are you going to do with that picture?” If the answer is not post in my online album, share with friends, or print and/or frame, then maybe it needs to end up in your computers recycle bin.

      Best wishes for great fireworks photos and from my family to yours, have a safe and sane 4th of July!



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