Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Comfort Zone

We all have that comfort zone that we live in 95% of the time. We are happy there and some people have even told me that it's "OK cause everyone there knows them". We all know change can be hard and in fact human nature is to resist change. That holds true in most everything we do including our photography.

If you like to take landscape photos you might not want to do portraits or still life. Maybe you like to take pictures of family and friends but would never do any urban street photography. Whatever your niche, when given the chance, that is what you most likely will find yourself doing.

I, of course, am the same way. There are certain subjects that I just don't photograph. This year I decided that I would make an effort to try to expand my photography, if just for a fleeting moment. It just so happens that one of the forums I am on has a monthly challenge. No prizes, just bragging rights for the month. So far this year they have been looking for subjects that I just don't or haven't done. I have attempted every one of them so far and am happy to say that I was among the chosen on the last one.

The challenge was food, something I have not tried since High School and the use of film. Needless to say that most of what I had learned back then was filed where my mind could not seem to retrieve it. After playing around with different things this is what I came up with.

It may not be the greatest shot and I do not think that it will end up on the pages of any cookbook, but I likes what I was able to produce and so did some other folks.

The moral of this one is simple. Make a promise to yourself to challenge your photographic "Comfort Zone" this year. Whatever it is I promise that you will be glad you did.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I was reminded today by a friend that our photographs can, and do, evoke emotions in our viewers. Her comments struck a chord with me and brought me back to a blog post I read recently. The blog discussed the fact that we, as photographers, are often too concerned about having our work accepted by other photographers. We are all looking for the critique from our peers and for the win in the local photo club contest that validates what we are doing. We follow all the rules of composition we have learned and concern ourselves with the perfect exposure and proper depth of field. But when we take that picture do we really think about the effect it will have on all the viewers we are really trying to reach?

Now that I posed the question I guess that the readers of this are looking for me to provide the answer. If it were only that easy. You see, if I took the picture than it must have been an emotion within me that caused that to happen. Did it make me feel sad, happy, joyful, angry? And is it something that my viewer would also see? Or was it  gee, my photography friends should like this one. And if I don’t feel that instant emotion should I even bother taking the shot? Maybe I don’t feel great about it until I get home and see the picture on the computer screen. Then I hear that little inner voice say WOW, that’s a good one. That makes me feel something. So what does all this really mean?

Let’s go back to my original statement. From time to time I send out pictures to different friends just wishing them a good day. That is what I did this morning with this picture. I might even get back the old “nice picture” comment or even “I wish I could do that”.

Today one of those responses was a little different “… you should know that at this very moment, for no apparent reason I needed a gift. I am pretty sure it’s my thyroid not functioning properly. Most times it really does do what it needs to..but every now and again, I get sad. Picture that… me? Sad?.. and yet, it’s true. So I say a prayer to God to send me a sign, to move forward. When I opened my eyes,..your email was there… Angels. The people God places in our lives at times when we need them the most. Thank you for being my angel today.....

Was that a response I was looking for or even had thought about? I think not. But it was a reminder that a photograph can indeed garner an emotional response from the viewer. Not always because it is technically correct but because it was the right picture for the right person at the right time. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Shutter Speed and You

In my last post I discuss the need to get away from using the Auto setting on your camera. Today I would like to take a quick look at shutter speed and some of the reasons you want to use it to control what your camera is doing for you. I do over 50% of my shooting in this mode.

As you know shutter speed controls the length of time that light can reach the sensor. The more time you allow light to enter the camera the greater your chance of blurring the photo. Granted, sometimes this is a good thing, but for this discussion we are going to look at eliminating that blur. The photo below is a good example of stop action photography.

This picture was shot at 1/500 of a second allowing the camera to capture the birds in flight. Had the camera been set on auto and allowed to fend for it's self it most likely would have picked a slower speed and all that would have been captured was a bunch of blurred wings.

Next time you go out with your camera set it on shutter priority. Yes you will need to think about what you are doing and maybe even have some pictures that don't come out like you were thinking. Don't worry because as they say practice makes perfect. Once you get comfortable with that you will be ready to move on to other priority settings.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Get Off Your A****

At work the other day I noticed that a coworker had a Nikon P90. So of course I started a conversation about it and photography in general. During this exchange I discovered that for the most part she never moves the camera from the Auto setting, which leads me to this discussion. If you are like her and always shooting on Auto it's time to get out of your comfort zone and start taking control of your photos.

So the first question you ask is "Why would I want to do that"? Auto was put there by the manufacturer for a reason wasn't it? Well let's look at that. When you are on auto the camera decides for you both the shutter speed and the aperture. Since the camera does not know what you are taking a photo of, it only knows what amount of light is getting to the sensor. But doesn't the camera know best?

Well if you are photographing a fast moving subject the camera may not set the shutter fast enough to stop the action. Or if the aperture is not set right you may not have enough depth of field to have all the area of the picture you want in focus. then there's different types of lighting to consider, many of which can be adjusted in other settings.

That's a lot to consider, but if you are reading this you must want to improve your photography. So my first suggestion is get your manual back out and take a second look at it. Start to understand what the different settings are for. Take some practice photos and see what they do. And watch this blog for more posts about the effect shutter speed, aperture and ISO have on your shots.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Placed Revisited

I am sure we all have a few of those places that you like to go from time to time just to see if there is anything new that might get you attention. Maybe it is a local park, a trail by the river or an outside restaurant near the hustle of downtown.  And if you are like me you most likely have some sort of photographic device with you.

You don't have such a place? Well I'll bet if you think about it there is someplace that you already have or could revisit from time to time. As you can see here I photographed this tree both in the fall and during a recent winter snowfall. This spot is only about 5 minutes from the my office.

 There are always changes happening around us. Take the time to go back and revisit a spot you have been and see what catches your eye.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Moon Shot

In a previous post I discuss techniques for "Shooting The Moon". Since then I have established a rather large collection of Moon Shots showing it in various phases. So you may ask why take all these pictures. One answer is the old "Because I can". The better answer is because I might have a use for them some day.

Enter the picture above. This was a nice shot of a boat leaving the harbor at nightfall and would stand on it's own. But just for the fun of it (isn't that what this is all about anyway?) I added a moon to the picture. I did this in Photoshop Elements and how I did it is for another post.

So some people say this is not really a picture. That can be a full discussion as well. I will say I used this trick in my darkroom back in the 60's. Then I had many moon pictures that I could burn in to anything I wanted as well. Besides some may say we are creating art and if this was a painting we could add anything we wanted. Anyway you look at it, it's still a nice picture.

So have you done anything like this?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Elements 11

The Christmas rush is over so it is time to get back to posting. What better way to get started again then by looking back at the fun we had on Christmas Day.

First things first, I received Photoshop Elements 11 as a Christmas gift from my daughter. Naturally I needed to try it out as soon as I could. Of course I feel that there is no better way to learn than by trial and error so why spend time reading the book when I can jump right in. To do that I first needed to pick a photo that I could work with and enhance in some way. A photo I had taken of my grandson bowling in the hallway on Christmas Day seemed to fit the bill perfectly. But what could I do with it?

After looking through some of the examples in Photoshop, I decided that the "Out of Bounds" effect looked like something that would be fun to work with and hopefully produce a nice result. Now my next question was how does this work? Remember I didn't read any of the book that my daughter also gave me. Luckily for me Adobe has some good tutorials online and this effect was among them. So after my third attempt I achieved the results you see here.

The moral to this story is very simple. Don't let something you have never done before stop you from trying. Just dive in and see what happens. Hopefully you agree that I did obtain a decent result.