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".