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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Crafting Photography

Organizing Shoes & Toddler Matching Game 

by Kristin Savko

I recently decided to tackle the shoe disaster that was happening on my closet floor. At our old place, the space I had necessitated that the shoes be low and flat on the floor. In this closet, the available space is more vertical. SO I bought some clear shoe boxes and was thrilled....EXCEPT finding the right shoes was a disaster. Even though the boxes were clear, it was so hard to see what was in them. I got out my camera and took photos of all the shoes and got them printed when Snapfish was running a 99 prints for 99 cents deal. Really, it was a lot less effort than it sounds!

Here's where the toddler part comes in. I placed all the photos out on the ground. One at a time I would open a shoe box and have Ethan find the corresponding photo. Once he did, he was responsible for placing the photo in the box, putting on the lid, and stacking the box in the closet. He LOVED it. Seriously, it was great.

I bet it would be fun to do a scavenger hunt using the same method. Take photos of simple items and match the photo to the corresponding item. Maybe the next time prints go on sale....?

Kristin is the author of the blog Crafting Play She is also a Graphic Designer and Photographer.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Have you ever entered a photo contest?  Or have you just said to yourself I never seem to be able to take the kind of  photos that win. Maybe it's time for you to go for it and start entering any contest that you can. I have never seen anyone publicly humiliated because they did not win. I am pretty sure, however, that  no one ever won if they did not enter. 

Alright I have to admit that I fell into the "Nothing I have taken" group. Although people have told me many time I should do something with photos they see that I have taken, I always just ignored it and moved on. However recently I have decided to take my own advise. So I started to look for contests where I could enter some of my favorite shots. Of course, some entries did nothing. OK, so take some more of my own advise and keep trying.  That's exactly what I did. 

Well it has finally paid off, a little bit anyway. Recently one of my photos received the most likes for the month on a Nikon Facebook page. The only prize is bragging rights but that's fine with me. It means other photographers likes what I did. And today I found out the picture above was chosen as a finalist in a contest run by the Blog Beyond MegaPixel. So now I just have to wait for the readers to vote. But win or lose one of my photos was chosen by other photographers as good enough to make the cut. 

So go ahead and find a contest to enter a few of your own shots. What have you got to lose?

BTW if you want to vote for my photo shown above  CLICK HERE before Dec 6th. And thanks for your support.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Look Back

I found this posting the other day and felt that it needed to be shared. This is a review from PC World in July 1998. At $799 it must have been a budget buster for many people. 

Sony Mavica Camera Slims Down, Speeds UpBryan Hastings
In PC World's last digital camera roundup ("Snap Judgments ," February) Sony's Mavica MVC-FD7 earned the Best Buy award for its good image quality, easy-to-use controls, and especially its ability to save photos directly to a floppy disk. The latest Mavica, the $799 MVC-FD71, is a slimmer and faster improvement over its predecessor. After testing a shipping version of the new model, I was impressed with the changes.
The original Mavica camera weighed almost 1.3 pounds and was a bulky 3 inches thick. The FD71 weighs 1.2 pounds and is 2.5 inches thick, making it a bit easier to hold and tote around. And whereas the original model took about 8 seconds to save a photo to a disk, this version averaged a more tolerable 4 seconds.
In addition, Sony has added some nifty new features. These include the ability to make copies of floppies using just the camera--very handy if you want to hand out extra disks on the spot. A new quarter-resolution (320 by 240) option also makes it faster to e-mail photographs. (The camera's full resolution is 640 by 480.) A built-in menu on the MVC-FD71's LCD screen permits you to easily take advantage of useful new options such as these.
My main complaint? The high price tag. List-priced at $799, the Mavica costs more than many high-quality 35mm cameras. And as with most digital cameras, this model fails to deliver image quality that is comparable to the quality produced by a 35mm. Still, if you've decided to go digital and want a good camera that will let you effortlessly copy files to your PC, the MVC-FD71 is hard to beat.
Sony Digital Mavica MVC-FD71Stores pictures right to a floppy disk; faster than original.Smaller than original, but still not svelte; high cost.Best attribute is convenient transfer of photos to a PC.$799

Of course it would be a fun camera to have around now just to play with.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Love The One You're With

OK maybe it sounds like I am having a 70's flashback, but I am really thinking about my cameras. As a wise man once said, it's not the camera that creates a great picture it's the photographer. So if you are out without your preferred camera and see the possibility of a great shot don't just let it go.

As I discuss in a previous post your smartphone camera has a lot of versatility. With apps like Instagram, and Hipstamatic there are a lot of editing possibilities right within the phone. If you want you can always send them to your PC where you can do some additional editing. And the best part is it is probably always in your pocket. Just as mine was the day I drove past this sunset earlier this year.

Taken with Droid X2
If you are a DSLR owner another option is keeping a good point and shoot camera with you. With all the choices available you should be able to find one that will work within your needs and budget. Although you do not get all the control you have with a DSLR, most mid-level and high end point and shoots allow you to set ISO, white balance, etc. I have a Sony Cyber-Shot that I use for work so it is with me about 80% of the time. It's as small as my cell phone and just slips easily into my pocket (or briefcase).

The moral is with all the technology we have today we should be able to "Love the camera we're with".

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Know Your Camera

Did you even notice that when you are driving your car and need to change the AC or radio you don't need to look. You just reach over and take care of it. Well, a great way to improve your photography is to be able to do the same thing with your camera. It doesn't matter if it is a DSLR, a point and shoot or your cell phone camera. And it does not just apply to the basic settings. It applies to all the controls you have, including white balance, exposure compensation, focus controls, flash controls and well..... you get the idea.

So how do you do this? Here are a couple of ideas that may help you get to that goal. The first one doesn't even require you to leave the house. Just go into a dark room where it is difficult to see the controls  and practice changing things up. Or go outside and start taking photos of things around the neighborhood. Don't worry about the picture itself, just practice changing the way you shoot it. Either way, spend a couple of hours doing this and you will find you might not miss that next shot because you couldn't find the right setting.

Do you have any other ideas on how to "Learn Your Camera"?  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I think of myself as a storyteller. Both in my professional life and as my hobby I love to tell stories. Since photography comes to me easier than just the words I have made a habit out of covering each photo assignment as if I am 'writing' a story. Like the written story that has a beginning, ending, etc. a photo story needs to have basic elements as well. 

First off find a main subject to your story. You can include other people in your photographs but staying focused on one person's story helps the reader follow the flow. That first subject might be the person with the best expressions. Here are my five points to a good photo story. For our example I am using photographs taken during a croquet practice.

 First I start off with a general photograph showing them at play.

Next I'm looking for a close-up. Maybe of the mallet about to connect with the ball. If the subject plays the piano try getting close-up photos of the hands on a keyboard.

Now come in close to the face. People like to connect with other people. Seeing their expressions is great!

Take an angle from the back. This gives you a chance to show a different look to the general shot.

Lastly, go outside the box. Look into your creativity. This photo by itself might not tell any of the story but if it's used along with the other images might become that one piece that people remember the most.

Use your camera as your communication tool and share your stories with everyone. ~ Randy Flaum

Randy is the assistant managing editor for visuals at the York Dispatch.

Monday, November 5, 2012

SD Cards

Are you using the right SD Card? Do you understand the difference? No, I am not talking about brand, that argument can be almost as bad as should I buy a Ford or a Chevy. I am talking about the little number in the circle you will find somewhere on the label. This is know as the class of the card and comes in 2,4,6,8,and 10. As you might guess, class is the minimum MB's per second that can be written to the card. This is where the difference comes into play.

Speed matters when you are shooting at a burst or are doing a video at 1080p HD. A lot of information needs to be written to the card and a slow card can degrade the performance of your camera. This is where the price difference comes in to play as well. The faster the card the higher the price. So it might be best to buy the fastest you can afford.

Before I finish lets look at a couple other tips that I have learned over the years. First many experts agree that it is better to reformat your card rather than just delete the pictures. This removes any errors that might be there and sets the card back to the proper format for the camera. Next, depending on how you use your camera, it might be better to have four 8 GB cards instead of one 32 GB. The reason for this is simple. When you are on vacation you can use a different card every two days. If one of the cards goes bad (and it can happen) you have only lost 1/4 of your  shots. That is much better then losing all the vacation pictures.

So there you have it, my little SD cards tips. Do you have any other tips that might be useful?

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Photo by Kristin Savko Photography

Most of us have heard about the "Rule of Thirds" but it always helps to revisit these things from time to time. The basic idea here is to divide your viewfinder into "Thirds" as demonstrated in this photo. You then place your subject on one of the intersecting points or along one of the lines. This helps to create a photo that seems more natural to the way we view the world around us. Had this boy been centered in the photo it may have expressed the fact the the subject found his pumpkins, however using the rule of thirds you understand the gravity of his selections. This rule works well for many subjects such as placing the horizon of a landscape shot along one of the horizontal lines.

Many digital cameras have a setting that allows you to place these grid lines right on your LCD helping you visualize this while you are composing your shot. You also have the option of doing some creative cropping in your editing software if you would like. You might want to take some pictures you already have and see if you can change their effect by cropping them.

So next time you are out with your camera remember the "Rule of Thirds" and see if it helps improve the story you want to tell. Of course once you learn this rule, don't let it rule your life. Rules are made to be broken.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Need Inspiration?

Have you ever thought that you would like to do something new with your photography but just did not have the inspiration you were looking for ? Maybe a photo series would be a good fit for you. Picking a topic to photograph can help get the "juices flowing". If it sounds good but you still need some help getting inspiration here are a couple of ideas.

You can put together a montage of the same subject like these water birds photos.

Or here is a post from another bloggers site that might help....

Happiness Is...Never Letting Your Feet Hit the Ground

Taken on Android with Camera360, Edited in Instagram

Introducing my new photo series: "Happiness is..."

Let me give you a little background...

The project is also a good way for me to challenge myself creatively both for my personal mental status and for my professional life. I have been looking for a good creative spark and I'm hoping this project is a fit for me. I don't plan to make an entry every day. In fact, maybe I won't even hit once a week, but I just want it to be on-going and thoughtful. And if it falls flat, so be it...I'll still have the photographs! :)

I was inspired by Jennifer Borget's 365 Moments Project (in conjunction with Hallmark and Parenting). Absolutely love it.

I haven't thought about taking a photo series since college- a shame, because I really do enjoy them.

Have you ever taken a photo series?

Hopefully this inspires you to get out there and start shooting. What topic have you chosen?

Friday, October 19, 2012


Most of us understand Depth of Field and use it to our advantage to do things like blur the background in portrait and close-up photos. But you can also use it, as demonstrated above, to keep the entire scene in focus. The basic concept behind this is called Hyperfocal Distance and  is fairly easy to understand. If the lens is focused at it's hyperfocal distance everything from a point half that distance to infinity will be in focus. This is the way most digital cameras work when set to the landscape setting. If you are using a superfocus or DSLR with manual focus, knowing how this works can help you get the shot you want. 

To demonstrate this look at the scale on this lens. This lens is focused at 5 feet which gives it a DoF of 2.5 feet (1/2 the Hyperfocal ) to infinity. If you don't have a lens with these markings but have a smart phone there are DoF apps for both Android and iPhone which will do the calculations for you.

Are you ready to go out and give this a try?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Panorama Gone Vertical

Nikon P510 panorama

Most digital cameras manufactured over the last few years have some type of panorama shooting mode available. Some cameras will even do a top to bottom pan. But how many of us have stayed within the box and only used it to take the standard left to right shots?  It's time to "Think out of the box". Just turn the camera vertical and shoot away.

So grab your camera and start shooting. And if you would like to share feel free to e-mail your resulting photo to us for all to see.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Little Magic

Android Cell Phone Camera and AfterFocus app.
Like many folks these days I always have my cell phone in my pocket. So when an opportunity presents itself I am ready to capture the moment. The challenge, for me anyway, then becomes how can I create something special out of what might otherwise be just a snapshot.

This was the situation with the picture above. Although it was a good shot the background was in focus and therefore distracting from subject. Enter a little app called AfterFocus. This app allows you to choose what areas will be out of focus and also gives you a couple of blur options. There is also a color mask available which, as you see, changes the out of focus area to B&W adding even a more dramatic effect to the finale product.

Learning how to use AfterFocus is very easy and you should feel like a pro after your first couple of attempts. And don't worry about not liking the results because it saves the change as a new file so you can always start over with the original.

If budget is a concern for you, fear not, there is a very robust free version. You can also purchase a Pro version which adds a few more goodies including a feature that automatically  recognizes the background.

What other apps have you found useful?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It Confused Me

I am the first to admit that I really did not understand these and therefore avoided them by never turning this option on. I still do not claim to be an expert on the subject but maybe this discussion will get a few more of us looking at it. After all it is a nice tool in your exposure arsenal.

So what is it that I ignored all this time? A little feature called the Histogram. It is on virtually every digital camera be it your pocket point and shoot or a top of the line DSLR. That's nice but what does it do?

In short it is a graph that shows all the light levels of the photo from the darkest on the left to the brightest on the right. The overall scale across the bottom represents about 5 f/stops. This tends to be the maximum f/range that most digital cameras can record.  Any peaks on the extreme left indicate areas that are black and peaks on the extreme right show areas of light that are in effect blown out. Think of the middle as the average exposure. One that you would make if you photographed a gray card using a light meter. This in fact is the average most cameras are trying to obtain.

As you can see in the histogram below almost all the exposed areas are in the mid-range. Once you start using it and begin to understand the relationship between the Histogram and the photo you have taken you begin to understand ways you might be able to correct any exposure problems you have.  I have started keeping this feature turned on all the time. As I said when I started I am in no way an expert but every time I look at it I begin to understand a little more ways it can help me improve my photographs.

Are you ready to take the plunge and begin looking at your Histograms?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In My Humble Opinion

Having recently purchased a Nikon P510 I have been asked the normal questions about why I bought that particular camera . So although I am in no way a professional reviewer here are some of the reasons for this purchase.

At 4.3 to 180 the camera has a tremendous zoom lens. The 35 mm equivalent is 24 to 1000. There is also a 2x digital zoom giving you a 2000 mm lens. I am not sure I will use the 2x much because digital zooms just crop and expand the picture. (a topic for another blog entry)

It is much lighter than a DSLR. The P510 weights in at just under 20 ozs while a D90 body alone weights 22 oz. Then you have to factor in the lens that you would need to carry to be equivalent to the lens on the P510. Not having to carry those lens is another factor I considered.

It gave me a lot of the features that a standard point and shoot does not have. Besides the standard array of preset scene settings the camera gives you the ability to control your exposure. There is a full manual mode as well as aperture and shutter priority settings. You also have the ability for manual focus which comes in handy when the auto focus has a hard time locking on. I have found this happens mostly under low light situations. It also has a rather quick burst setting for a compact digital. In normal usage it get about 5 frames per second. There are some faster settings but it seems to me that 5 frames per second is about the best.

You also can control the ISO settings from 100 to 6400. Although above 1000 starts to get grainy I have seen good results in the 800 to 1000 range. There is also a couple of auto settings allowing the camera to pick between an ISO of 100 to 800.

Although there are, of course, some shortcomings over a DSLR this camera seems to give me what I was looking for in a light weight, easy to carry camera. If you are looking for a super zoom compact camera you might want to add this to your short list. (In My Humble Opinion)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cell Phone Photos

Taken with Droid X2 and Camera 360 app
Great photo opportunities can present themselves when you don't have your camera with you. But fear not,  most of us always have our phones with us. It good to remember that cell phone cameras aren't just for snapshots anymore. Most have better optics and larger pixel counts than many of the first digital cameras. Besides the camera you have with you is always better than the one you left at home.

With the large array of available apps both for Android and iPhone there is no reason that with a little practice you can't turn out exceptional photos. If you don't like the way your stock camera app works try out one of the many options available. And keep trying until you find the one that works best for you. There is no "One App Fits All" out there. The most important part is to get the picture.

Once that's done it's time for a little editing. Just like camera apps there are hundreds of apps to allow your creative juices to flow. You can add color, change it to black and white, make it look like a painting, blur the background, add scratches and other blemishes and the list goes on and on. Even Photoshop has joined in with a free app available to do some color and light editing. Just go to the app store of your choice and do a search for photo apps.

The most important thing to do is get into the back yard and practice. That was what I was doing when I took this picture on a foggy morning last spring. Once I had time to review what I had taken that morning I realized that B&W showed the dew drops on the web much better. A couple of taps later and here you have it.

If you would like even more tips on using your cell phone as a camera check out Your Cell Phone Club 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Is it real?

Is it a night shot...or isn't it?

Has this ever happened to you? You show some friends one of your photos and the first thing they ask "Did you really take that?"  In this age of Photoshop, Reality TV that's not so real, news bites taken out of context and sharing of photos on the internet it can be difficult to determine what is real.

Now the question becomes what is reality? A quick snapshot is usually as real as it gets. But photographers have been  manipulating their photos since the beginning. We change camera angles, we add light where it did not exist before, we pose people within the photo where we want them and we use various filters on the end of our lenses to change contrast or color. Long before Photoshop, when I was shooting 35 mm and had a darkroom, I did a lot of manipulation of my work. I burned in light spots and dodged out dark areas. I even had an entire roll of moon shots that I could add to any photo I wished.

So maybe the question is not "Is it real" but "does it really matter?" We took the original picture and like any artist we worked to improve on our interpretation of the world around us. As Ansel Adams said " You don't take a photograph, you make it".  Besides would knowing change the emotional response of the viewer?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Change Your Angle

Photo by Kristin Savko Photography
Sometime we just need to stop and look at things from a different vantage point. We have all heard change your perspective and you change the impact, but do we really do it. So many photographers are creatures of habit, taking pictures from the level of the subject. Or worse, from the level of their tripod. It's time we mix it up. Changing the position of your camera by inches can drastically change the final results.

Imagine that this picture had been taken from the perspective of the child. It may have been a good shot but it would not tell the story that this one does.

Next time, before you press the shutter, think again about the way you composed the shot. Changing your angle can really make for a dramatic image. As they say, practice makes perfect. Are you ready to practice this?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shooting The Moon

Nikon P510 1000mm 1/500 @ 7.8 ISO 800

Taking pictures of the moon can be difficult,.at best, but a few simple tips and some practice can help you get some amazing shots. One of the first things to remember, the fuller the moon the harder it is to get detail in your picture. Remembering back to science class the sun is shining directly on the moon when it is full. You get very few shadows and the most light is reflecting back to earth. If you shoot it at other phases you will see more of the shadow detail from the moonscape.

Depending on how large a lens you are using you may need to use a tripod. Some folks can handhold but not everyone is that steady.  Use manual exposure settings to get the results you are looking for from you photo. On automatic the camera will try to average the entire scene and thus will end up overexposing the moon. If you have manual focus set it on infinity.

Most of all Practice...Practice....Practice. Continue to try different exposure settings and adjust your focus until you get it just the way you want it.


Nikon P510 at 28mm 0n Macro Focus.
Many factors go into taking great macro shots. Depending on what you want to create you need to contend with what Mother Nature throws at you, including sun, clouds, rain or maybe snow. And if your target is wildlife you have to consider noise and movement. So here are a few things to think about.

Know your camera....know how to change settings as quickly as possible. Learn how close you can focus at different focal lengths. Take time to practice in your own backyard so that you are comfortable when you travel into the field.

Be patience...Things happen, but on their own time not yours. Be ready to stand in the same place for what may seem like hours. That will all be forgotten when you get home with that one of a kind shot. You can't chase the butterfly, it needs to come to you.

Be ready for the unexpected.....Have an idea of what you want to photograph but be ready to take any opportunity that may appear. Expect the "Unexpected".