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5/5 Posts and Sites You Should Read for 5/6/11

Here are the photography blog posts and sites that I found this week that I think you as a photographer should read. Not all of them are always related to photography, but they are worth looking at and will probably make you think.


Someone Just Fired Their Photographer – Don’t think you job is secure.

A Backyard Bird Set-up – Mine looked very similar to this.

12 Unique Cases for Your iPhone – They are unique.

Wildlife Gardening for Beginners – How to turn your garden into a small wildlife sanctuary.

The Best NP for Spotting Wildlife – Want to see animals? Go here.


Camera Hacker – Rewriting the software in your camera.

Digital Pro Talk – A good site for some interesting tips, tricks, and opinions.

SLR Gear – A GREAT site for reviews on equipment. It’s one of the first I check when contemplating a purchase.

SmugMug – The BEST site for storing and selling you images online. I use it, you should too.

Camera Dojo – Kerry Garrison has great ideas and tips and is willing to share them. His podcast is good too.

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Posted 5 years, 9 months ago at 10:21 am.

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Using a DSLR: Get It Off the Green Auto

No Auto

I was doing some photography for a community theater yesterday and was talking to one of the board of directors about using a camera. She said that she had purchased a Canon Rebel a couple of years ago, but had bought a point and shoot last year because she didn’t understand how to use the Rebel. Her quote was “I just put it on the green auto and then I don’t know what to do. Why carry a big camera when a small point and shoot will do the same thing?”

After some further discussion I figured out what she meant was that she didn’t know how to use the camera to utilize the features of the camera. She didn’t understand the relationship of the exposure triangle; shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. There have been plenty of books written about exposure, so I’m not going to go into it here. I will address how to wean your way from auto to full manual.

The first step is to GET IT OFF THE GREEN AUTO. But where to?

Start with the Program setting. It’s the same on Canon and Nikon cameras: P
Program is basically the same as the Green Auto, but you have some control over it. The camera’s computer evaluates the scene and picks the best settings to get the correct exposure. But you can change the settings; usually by changing the shutter speed. As you change the shutter speed, the camera changes the aperture to maintain the correct exposure. If you are looking through the view finder and watching the numbers at the bottom, you will begin to see that as you slow the shutter speed down, the aperture number gets bigger.

That is because the longer the shutter is open, the more light is let in. To compensate for that the camera makes to opening in the lens smaller. Likewise, when you use a faster shutter speed, the aperture numbers will get smaller because the opening of the lens is getting bigger.

If you experiment with the camera on P, changing the shutter speed and watching the aperture change, you can begin to get a feel for how the camera is thinking as it evaluates the scene in front of it. When you are doing so, take lots of pictures and start to look at how the images are effected by each change.

Once you feel comfortable with changing the settings on the Program mode, try Shutter Priority (S on Nikon and Tv on Canon). Again, watch the aperture settings in the viewfinder as you change the shutter speed. Remember, as you slow the shutter speed down, you will begin to see motion become blurred in the image and as you speed it up, motion begins to take on a stopped look.

You can also begin to experiment with Aperture Priority (A on Nikon and Av on Canon). Once more, watch the shutter speed settings as you change the aperture. Aperture is the setting that confuses most people. Just remember, the bigger the number, the smaller the opening, but the bigger the depth of field. In other words: if you set the aperture to f16, you are making a very small hole in the lens and letting less light through, but you are allowing more to be in focus. Conversely, if you set it to f2.8, you are making a really big hole in the lens, but you have a very short depth of field.

Think about the affect of aperture when you are taking a portrait. If you set the aperture to f2.8, your subject will be in focus, but not the background and the shutter speed will be very fast. A setting of f16 will result in everything being in focus and a slow shutter speed.

When you feel comfortable with those, try Manual. Again, its the same on both Nikon and Canon: M. In this setting, you control everything and this is where photography gets fun. Lets say you want to take a picture of a person walking. You want some blur of their hands and feet as they moved and you want to isolate them from the background. You would use a slower shutter speed (maybe 1/15) and a more open aperture (possibly f4).

You can find more about using a camera on this post at the Digital Photography School

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Posted 5 years, 9 months ago at 12:43 pm.

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Digital vs. Film

I have been listening to some podcasts recently and the debate of the merits of digital vs. film keep popping up in the conversations. I honestly don’t think this is even a topic of discussion. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Both have hidden costs and expenses. And both are embraced by many as the only acceptable way to capture an image.

I see it very similar to the way that Ken Rockwell discusses it in his post about the subject.
Neither is better on an absolute basis. The choice depends on your application. Once you know your application the debate goes away. The debate only exists when people presume erroneously that someone else’s needs mirror their own.

The question really is: What are you trying to accomplish when you take the photograph? Which do you like to work with?

In one of his posts, Chris Marquardt states that he has tested over 15 different cameras including different formats of both digital and film and admits that what he has learned has influenced his photography. The reasons he lists include aspect ratio, the focusing ability of the camera, the sound of the shutter, and the weight and size of the camera.

That all makes sense. Aspect ratio definitely influences how we see and view the world. The weight and size of the camera will determine how far off the beaten path we are willing to go for the image. The sound of the shutter may not be noticed in some situation, but will ruin the atmosphere in a scene in others. And the ability of a camera to focus can determine how quickly we can capture what we see and therefore determine what we shoot.

In a post on The Luminous Landscape, Charles Cramer discusses the quality of 4×5 inch film compared with a Phase One medium format digital back. He includes images showing quality comparisons. There is an obvious difference between the two, but in different ways. Film seems to have better resolution than digital, but digital has better color. Again, what are you looking for in a photograph?

With digital, you can shoot a lot without paying a any money for each image. If you use film, you pay for each exposure in film and development costs. On the flip side, digital requires a expensive software expenditure. If you buy a new camera, the current version of the software you are using may not support your model of camera. Digital cameras can become obsolete, while a film camera will continue to be viable as long as you have film.

Going back to Ken Rockwell’s statement, what are you trying to do with your photography? Once you have decided that, you can make the decision as to what medium you want to use.

The debate about digital vs. film will rage on, but remember, there is no right or wrong answer. There is a good, better, and best solution for you. Don’t let others tell you otherwise.

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Posted 5 years, 10 months ago at 1:34 pm.


Diagonal Lines in the San Juan Islands

A long exposure of a wharf and the water on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, WA

Night Wharf

After visiting Younes Bounhar’s site and reading his post on diagonal lines, I was looking through my images to see how I use diagonal lines and found this image of a pier extending out from Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands in WA.

It was dark, but the moon was out and full. You can see the brightness of the moon in the upper right corner. I was looking for some strong lines that I could include in the shot and found this image.

I not only liked the lines, but also the lights on the distant shores and the clouds overhead. The only thing that really caused a problem was the movement of the water.

Being open to the ocean, the water had a lot of ripples on it, but I figured that with a longer exposure the ripples would disappear. What I didn’t expect was that the lights, pier, and sky would still reflect on the water. It was a pleasant surprise.

Even though the water line and the distant islands are located in the middle of the image, the pier is asymmetrical in the image and the diagonal lines created lead your eye into the picture.

The image was taken with a D300 and a Nikkor 18-70 3.5-4.5 lens at 27mm. The exposure was for 30 seconds at f3.8 and an ISO of 200.

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Posted 5 years, 10 months ago at 9:34 am.

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Photo of the Week – Eastern Sierra Lake

Clouds and snow covered peaks reflected in a lake in the Eastern Sierras.

Eastern Sierra Lake

The photo of the week was taken in 2009 in mid-October along Highway 395. The first snow had fallen a few days before and the clouds were moving overhead. As they passed by, their bright white reflections showed in the lake below. I couldn’t believe how bright they looked and reflected on the lake at this altitude.

The image was taken with a Nikon D300 and Nikkor 18-70mm 35.-4.5 lens. The exposure was 1/160 of a second at f11 and an ISO of 200.

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Posted 5 years, 10 months ago at 12:20 pm.

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