Light is Everything!

Archive for February, 2011

Book Review: The Moment it Clicks

Good day! I did another book review and posted the video to my blog’s YouTube channel. Why not subscribe? πŸ˜‰ Anyways, I decided to review Joe McNally’s Book “The Moment it Clicks.” It’s an awesome book that brings technical lighting, awesome photography, wise insights and a whole lot of easy to read fun together in one place. Definitely one of the best photography books I have read to date. Check out the full video review.



We had our second ever meeting of our newly formed Souris Valley Photography Club last night. It was a pretty good turn out of 10 people, despite another cold night to be out and about. I began leading the folks through a basics of cameras & photography course that I put together while making a little quick reference booklet for beginners.


Download your .PDF copy!

It’s always a lot of fun to get together and talk photography! After we went through some basic concepts of exposure and did some hands on work with the cameras, we shared pics from our photo assignment for February which was: the color red. There were lots of great shots to share and I think everyone had a great time. I am looking forward to our next club meeting in March!

I also put the basics class up on YouTube! Check it out and listen to the melodious sound of my voice. πŸ˜‰

I Shoot RAW

I watch a ton of YouTube instead of Satellite TV. Β Why? Because there is not much on TV worth watching! πŸ™‚ I also like learning constantly. I seldom watch TV to be entertained, that’s what movies are for. Instead, I dial in YouTube on my AppleTV and watch photography videos! πŸ˜‰ Β Recently, I have been watching lots of FroKnowsPhoto – Jared Polin’s channel. He has a website too and he makes videos constantly that cover lots of great topics from editing pictures to taking pictures to gear reviews, etc. He also shoots Nikon which makes him OK in my books. πŸ™‚ Right now he’s got a contest on and I decided to enter Phoebe. It’s a self-portrait with something from the show, either the “I Shoot RAW” slogan or the fro or whatever. I figured we’d cover all of our bases for these shots. Notice the depressed cable release? She actually took the shots her self and had fun blowing the motor drive at 7 frames a second! heheheeh….. 10 zillion Phoebe Fro shots! πŸ™‚ The winner of the contest will be selected on their live show. I hope we win because a really cool camera bag is up for grabs! (Ignore the Canon stuff in the picture) πŸ˜‰


This past Sunday I had the privilege of Baptizing a little girl at our Church in Frobisher and then going back to the families’ house to take some photos. I’m the pastor who officiates your rite, then takes your pictures! πŸ˜‰ Weddings come as a two for one special, ceremony & the photos cheap! Β The follow up party was a lot of fun and there were lots of photos to be had. I took my camera bag and used my 50mm f/1.8 lens to nab all the shots. We were inside which meant higher ISOs than I would have preferred but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get the exposure. I approached the event from a casual/candid/photojournalism type style with only a couple of “posed” shots. It was a lot of fun and the family was very gracious to allow me to celebrate their special day with them.

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105mm Challenge

Macro has always been one of my passions in photography. I love the miniature world hiding right at our feet. It’s often overlooked by most people too. I got my 105mm f/2.8 VR last year in late fall just as all the bugs were starting to get ready to hide for winter. But Macro isn’t only for bugs and other creepy crawlies, and the 105mm is one versatile lens. It also works great for portraits as it has some really nice telephoto to throw out backgrounds into buttery bokeh. I want to use it more often for various kinds of photography and so, I went out for another photowalk with the dog yesterday when the sun was shining. Β I only had with me my 105mm and tried to do some handheld macro stuff as well as any other shots that happened to show up. It’s challenging being only at one focal length – especially because I had a zillion deer all around me today. Which figures, because I didn’t have my 70-300 lens, deer came out right in front of me! I could have had some sweet whitetailed deer portrait shots! It always works this way!

Deer right in front of me!

But that’s ok, part & parcel of trying the one focal length challenge. The shots I did get I was happy with and it’s always just fun to go out and take shots.

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Up in Smoke!

So tonight I was trying some way cool smoke tricks I saw on Gavin Hoey’s YouTube page. His tutorial is super cool and explains everything so I won’t repeat it all here. But it’s a fun technique that creates some really neat shots!


Whoa, man!

Then, you can get creative and go the next step further and do some colorizing in Photoshop (or in my case, GIMP). It also works pretty darn slick!


Rad Man! Far Out!

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When the Camera Lies!

OK, it might be a bit of mis-statement. But it’s more or less true. πŸ˜‰ What I’m talking about is my history of occasionally blurry shots when shooting handheld with my 50mm f/1.8. I noticed that shots would sometimes be bang on and sometimes they would be off ever so slightly. Most of the time I would lock the camera into Aperture priority mode, dial in ISO 320 (I’m not a huge fan of noise) and let the camera work out the shutter speed. It would work out an exposure for me and I would click and sometimes it would be blurry and sometimes it would be bang on. I blamed it on photographer shake and went on with life, with lots of occasional blurry shots.

Cute but Blurry

1/50 - the right recipe for blurriness!

Then, I learned about the handheld rule – this literally changed my photographic life!Β  When I finally learned that if your shutter speed drops below 1/your focal length (in my case 1/50th for a 50mm), you’re shot will be blurry if it is handheld. You can compensate for this somewhat by cranking your ISO but your overall picture quality will degrade too. Now, when shooting handheld inside in natural light, I switch to M mode and dial in no less than 1/100 to be safe.

The logic is because the handheld rule originally applied to film and it still works on full sensor cameras. But on crop sensors like my D300s, you have to multiply the focal length by a factor of 1.5 (for Canon crop sensors it’s 1.6). So, a 50mm prime on a C-Sensor camera is actually a 75mm. You’d need a shutter speed of no less than 1/80 of a second to get a sharp shot.

Success & Prestige Await!

Keeping this rule in mind, you can tell why shots taken in Aperture Priority mode would sometimes be blurry. If the camera calculated your exposure to be 1/60 at f/4 at ISO 320, on a handheld 50mm lens, end result is a blurry shot which is a real drag! Switching to M mode and watching my meter has virtually eliminated my blurry handheld shots.

Cute & Sharp

1/400 is a better option for sharp shots

Try out the handheld rule the next time your taking inside shots in natural light handheld. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes! It’s now become innate for me, that is to say, I never deviate from the principle now as it just comes automatically. I don’t even have to think about it anymore. Which is a real plus! It means I can get back to concentrating on composition and making photographs.





St. Valentine

Go buy some chocolates and roses! Or, some potatoes and red paint! Life is much simpler when you’re 3! πŸ˜‰

Book Review: The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography

I decided to do a book review – a video book review! The book is Tamara Lackey’s “The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography.” I enjoyed the book very much, she does a really good job with it. The review video is just some of my thoughts, what I liked and thought could have been better! πŸ™‚ I think we should always be reading and watching what other photographers are doing so that we can eventually develop our own style. I liken it to learning to play the piano. When you first start out, you learn songs that other people wrote. With much practice, you may even write your own stuff someday. Same goes for photography. See what awesome photographers are up to, what you like and don’t like, then make it your own! Have fun!


Nighttime Fun!

So we had a Valentine’s Family Fun night at our church tonight and Phoebe won a heart based princess wand glow stick – which she won on the merit of being under 5. πŸ™‚ All that ran through my mind was “Wicked! We can take super rad pictures with that thing!” And, so we did. πŸ˜‰

I love crazy shutter stuff. And glow sticks make the very best night shots, especially when kids are fired up to try it out. Grab your camera, your tripod and your fun shoes and give this a whirl. Manual Mode dialled into 30 seconds at f/8, ISO at 200 or whatever (mine was at 320 I think). Make sure your focus is on manual and set your lens to infinity. Then get your kids to go in front of the camera and start whirling around like crazed psychos! The more excited the better! She had the best time!

Whirling Dervish!?


Who's having all the fun? There she is!


But then, it get’s even more fun when you get more people to join in the madness and, add your flash. It ends up giving you the coolest Ghost images! Fun! πŸ™‚

Then, at the end, I couldn’t resist. I had to get in on all the madness myself – I’m not sure who had more fun, me or Phoebe?! Hehehheh… πŸ˜‰

Check out the rest of the shots in the slideshow. They are all single images edited only to pump up the saturation. The ghost images come because of multiple flash fires while the people move around to different spots.

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Shooting in Harsh Light

The idea that “You can’t take pictures now! The light is way too harsh!” is a bunch of crap. You can take pictures any time of the day in any lighting conditions. You have to use the light in many ways and Β some are far more pleasing than others! πŸ™‚

The 5:16PM sun was streaming through our gigantic south-west facing window yesterday evening. It was nearly golden light as it was so rich and warm. BUT, the sun was also low on the horizon as it approached its setting – giving wicked shadows and brutal contrast. The ticket to making pictures happen (and I am NOT saying it makes for optimal pictures) is to break the rules. Put the subject between you and the sun. Shoot right into the light and see what happens! It’s crazy mayhem to say the least! I was fortunate that the bright light was also bouncing off the north-east wall in our house providing this really warm fill light to help illuminate my beautiful subjects. πŸ˜‰ Are you going to get blow outs? Yep. It makes for some wild & ugly histograms! For pixel peepers, these shots are garbage. But you can still make pictures happen, regardless of the light and the time of day you have to make them.

Ugly-Assed Histogram

These shots are inside my living room, all handheld with my 50mm f/1.8 lens. Are they optimal? No, not really. But they do give some really cool highlights/backlights that challenge the photographer to nail the exposure in less than optimal natural lighting conditions.

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Sleepy Doe

I woke up this morning and looked out my bedroom window and behold! There was a Whitetailed Deer snuggled into a snow bank across the ravine from our house. And not only that, she was framed inside a natural vignette! It was pretty cool looking, so I ran for my camera. After taking the window opener apart, I was able to get my camera in place to compose the shot the way I wanted to.

Sleepy Head


There were a couple of challenges to over come though. The first was as it was early morning, the light was garbage. I couldn’t setup a tripod because my bed is in the way. So I braced the camera on the window frame itself to try to make a rest. I tried a pillow too but there was too much shake. My 70-300 has the VR technology which helped but with an aperture of only f/5.6 it wasn’t what I would call optimal. So I had to crank my ISO to try to get a sharp image. As a result, the image quality degraded more than I would have liked.

I waited a little while for more light and I was able to drop the ISO to 800 and still get a reasonable shot, but it was still too noisy for my liking. I dropped the files into Aperture and fired up my Dfine 2.0 plugin from Nik. Pure awesomeness results! It magically cleans up the noise without eliminating all the detail from the shot. See the 100% Crop.


Dfine 2.0 Magic - Click to enlarge

As you can see, it is magic for cleaning up noise. Next, I had to fix the color. The early morning light was still too blue. I screwed up by not having my white balance on shade to warm it up to where it needed to be. Thanks be to RAW! I was able to change the white balance in Aperture and warmed it up substantially.

White Balance is Key! - Click to enlarge

I also did some some tweaking with Color eFex 3.0 to adjust the contrast and enhance the natural vignette by brightening the spot where the deer was lying. A couple other touchups and I had the final image I was happy with!


Sleepy Doe

Another reminder that pictures are happening all around us! πŸ™‚




Photo Walk: Winter Prairie

The weather warmed up a ridiculous amount today. So much so that it was nice enough to go for a walk. And if you’re going for a walk, you might as well bring your camera! Truth is, I messed up my back shovelling snow the other day and sitting is no good for me. So out the door with the dog I went.

What’s there to take pictures of in winter? The landscapes are bleak. Everything is dead. Color has turned into shades of grey. Most of the time it’s too cold to be much fun – especially on the prairies where you have to worry about the windchill. Can you even get pictures worth taking in these conditions? I asked myself that question before I ventured out and hurdled the barbed wire fence behind our house. I tried to do the photo walk Jay Maisel style. Just go out walking – slowly – and take a look at what you’re lookin’ at. Β The slowly part was no problem for me today. I tried to keep out of the deep snow by walking on old snowmobile trails that nicely packed the terrain. Most of them have been covered over thanks to the driving wind, but you can still see them. At one point though, I ventured off the packed trail and I sunk down to my pants pockets. Great… 😦 But, as I was pondering how to get out of this without wratching my back any further, I noticed a picture.

Coyote Tracks

Seems the coyotes aren’t quite as fat as I am! Must be nice to float across the top!

It’s true though, the faster you rip through an area, the more pictures you miss. Take a few steps, look around. Take another few steps, look around again. Pictures are everywhere. Another thing I noticed about the way Jay Maisel goes out on his photo walks is that he only takes one camera with one lens. So I did the same. I had my D300s and my 70-300. It’s actually quite freeing and fun to try to make shots work with just one lens. The obvious pitfalls – not having wide angle – makes life interesting! As does shooting in Manual, which is pretty much all I shot today. While I was watching Hanky burn off some energy, I happened to look down. I saw the picture, but I couldn’t get it because I had too much glass. I needed to back up a few feet in order to focus on this “last of the survivors” of winter.


I guess the lesson is, there are always pictures around us all the time. We just need to slow down and take a look at what we’re looking at! πŸ™‚

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Spa Day

The girls decided to have a Spa Day today while the wind blows at a blustery -31ΒΊC outside! Yuck! I took a coffee break and ran up to nab a couple of shots of girl power. Hanky was not overly impressed. πŸ™‚

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Embrace Light

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”

~ George Eastman

Don’t you just love those sage proverbs from the giants? I stumbled across this quote in a Kelby Training video. It is absolutely true and backs up my theme of ‘Light is Everything.’ Watching how other photographers use light is really amazing too. In Cliff Mautner’s Essentials of Creativity class he talks about how he uses light in extreme ways. Histograms?! “We don’t need no stinkin’ histograms!” he says. Hehhehehhehe… πŸ™‚

Ugly-Assed Histogram!

When you know all the rules, you can break them – and it looks like you are breaking them on purpose vs. you look like a moron who doesn’t know what he is doing. The moron and the pro might do the exact same thing, but somehow, it is different when the person knows the light.

As an aside, George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company and invented roll film, bringing photography to the masses. He was like digital v.0.01! πŸ˜‰ He was also an incredible philanthropist donating millions of dollars to various causes and schools.


Kelby Training

There is all kinds of information on the internet about photography. There are countless blogs, endless articles and an eternity of tutorials available. For the most part it’s a huge blessing! Free knowledge is a marvellous enterprise. However, there is a lot of crap out there too, and even more jibba jabba. πŸ˜‰

One excellent resource I have found is Scott Kelby’s online training for Photographers, Graphic Designers, Illustrators, Multimedia Artists and Hobbyists. It simply rocks the set! There are high quality videos from leading photographers on nearly all aspects of photography. And not just technical f/stop this, light meter that stuff. There are really great videos that speak towards creativity and finding your own photo style in addition to more technical items like the finer points of lighting, etc.Β 

Some of the best courses are simply photo walks with different renowned photographers. The Day with Jay Maisel comes to mind. He and Scott Kelby walk around the streets of New York taking pictures. It’s pure awesome, almost like being able to learn along with him in the same room. Other videos I have found helpful have been with Cliff Mautner a photo journalist turned wedding photographer. He has a wealth of experience and insight when it comes to “what makes the shot.” I’ve watched his videos time and time again. Joe McNally’s lighting stuff too. Also, Jim Schmelzer has some awesome videos on lighting for high school kid portraits. They are all excellent resources that I can’t recommend enough. Watching these dudes is like being in a room with giants! πŸ˜‰ Very inspiring stuff! It truly is “education for creatives!”