I receive a lot of praise for my photography. I am grateful, but it has only been a little over four years ago that I picked up a Nikon D40 to dip my toes in the water to see if I really had an interest. I had a Fuji F20 that I bought a year earlier, but I became easily frustrated because most things were automatic and left up to algorithms built by the Fuji engineers. Buying that entry level DSLR gave me a reason to get up and go outside to explore. I shot everything. From time to time, I think about how when I first picked up the camera that I would literally look at everything as a potential subject whether it was a fire hydrant or building. I was always looking for something to shoot. It took me a while to learn about the camera. In the first year, I shot over 25,000 images. Now that I have a chance to reflect on these images, they’re really horrible photographs, but a great learning experience.
Photography is much like life. The knowledge that you possess is the sum of your understanding of your own experiences. The world is a vast place to live and photography is just as boundless as one might imagine. Some lessons you can learn quickly while others take time to absorb. But just as in life, those who seek a deeper understanding can really learn how to make great images no matter what comes their way. (more…)
At the end of 2012, I can say that I really have grown tremendously as a photographer. Over the past few years, I would devour anything educational about photography. I would revisit lessons that I had learned and really involve myself into understanding the concepts. Then I would put them into practice.
The other night, I had some time to myself and I grabbed my gear and shot smaller items on my kitchen table against a black cloth. While watching online videos, reading books and even workshops are great ways to learn, nothing beats the experience of doing.
My wife bought my this watch for Christmas. I don’t have a macro lens, but what I do have is an extension tube. This allows me to focus closer than normal with my 85mm lens.
I shot through a white cloth to get a big broad light and then used the silver cover of a 5-in-1 reflector kit to reflect the light back around the watch.
I did other setups for other items. For the Beretta 9mm PX4 Storm, I used grids to control the light hitting the pistol while the photo of the 12 year Redbreast Whiskey I used broad light source and reflector.
I began 2012 with a Nikon D200 and three nice lenses that I relied on for most of my work. However, I really desired to go full frame and by March, I had essentially traded in my Nikon gear for a used Canon 5D and one 85mm lens. Later, I purchased the 17-40mm f/4 Canon L lens. With these two lenses and rentals from Lensprotogo.com, I shot the rest of the year with Canon. The switch was not too difficult because the same concepts of composition, exposure and light work with every camera you use whether it is a high end digital SLR or an old film camera. There are always tradeoffs and I feel that the D200 autofocus system is superior to the Canon, although Canon’s 35mm sensor size has double the area of Nikon’s DX sensor.
While awaiting the arrival of my Canon DSLR, my wife and I went to Walt Disney World with her parents. I had not been there for twenty years.
While I shot the D200 indoors at high ISO rangers of ISO 1600 or more, I really desired the increased performance of the larger sized sensor of the 5D. Some time ago, I captured the same image at ISO 1600 with both the Nikon 200 and the full frame sensor Nikon D700 borrowed from a coworker. And the difference was stark. The full frame camera captured much more detail, color information and was overall a sharper image. It was then I decided to forgo the latest and greatest DX sized sensor and go for a full frame camera. Months went by and the D700 price had gone up due to the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. I wasn’t going to pay over $2000 simply for a full frame camera.
So I found a used Canon 5D for less than half the going rate of the D700 and began selling my Nikon gear. I loved my 70-200mm Nikon lens, but I was willing to give it up for the bigger sensor and I am glad I did. Eventually, I’ll have a white Canon 70-200mm lens, but for now, I will rent when it makes sense. I did rent the Canon 100-400mm lens for this past year’s air show. It was burning hot and I drank numerous amounts of bottled water and used waterlogged towels on my head.
While I like the 100-400mm lens, I don’t see a need for it in my routine tool kit. I would rather use the 70-200mm f/2.8 and a teleconverter for times when I need a little extra reach. But as for the Canon-Nikon debate, I can say that both sides are idiots. It really doesn’t matter which you choose because if you are a great photographer, you can pick up any camera and get really great photos. There are things to admire about both systems, but I noticed that immediately when picking up my 5D, I knew exactly what to do to make great photos.
We visited Aruba and Curaçao in December aboard the Grand Princess. I used what I have learned to really capture and process images of our trip. We had a wonderful time and even though sometimes I felt like a zombie when getting up before the sun to capture the sunrise, it was well worth the effort. So check out my gallery of our trip:
A gallery of photographs, many taken with iPhone/Instagram.
A friend of mine asked me to shoot her daughter who turns nine months old. Hannah is a doll! I’ve not spent too much time shooting children, but I like trying different things with my photography. I brought along some gaffer’s tape, which helped hold backgrounds up on the wall without leaving sticky residue. I used two speedlights since I was going to shoot pretty much wide open. One light was in a giant softbox for fill light and at first I used a small softbox a little closer as the main light. As she moved around more, I used a large umbrella that allowed me to stay at the same aperture. This has something to do with the inverse square law. While I was shooting at a large aperture, I did take an exposure to make sure ambient light was not affecting my exposure at all. (more…)
My friends Robin and Luke tied the knot this past Saturday. The wedding was held at the Top of the Market located at 32 Webster Street between Second and Third in Dayton, Ohio. The ceremony was held upstairs and was colorfully decorated. They hired a photographer, but I brought along my Canon 5D to take a few shots. I had previously shot with a Nikon D200 about a year ago at a wedding and I must say that the 35mm size sensor really impresses me with handling noise. It really is like night and day between the sensors. Although I did get some fairly decent shots at ISO 1600 with the D200, it was still horribly noisy. I can push the 5D to its “High” setting, an equivalent to ISO 3200, and still come out with a cleaner image than the cropped sensor Nikon I used to own. (more…)
Scott Kelby and his company Kelby Media Group has created a plethora of educational materials for those wishing to learn about image making. He is an author, seminar trainer, magazine editor, CEO, co-host of popular video shows such as Photoshop User TV and The Grid. In 2007, Kelby Media Group launched KelbyTraining.com.
Kelby Training is a great online video resource for photographers, graphic designers and even videographers. With instructors like Joe McNally, Corey Barker, Bill Frakes, David Ziser, Matt Kloskowski, Moose Peterson and many, many others, you’ll find something to learn about making an image. Whether it is discussing gear, color theory or the latest features in Photoshop, you’ll find the lessons are really worth the money.
Photography is really a process. No one was born knowing it all. It takes time to develop the skills one needs in any line of work, which disappoints a lot of amateurs who believe that the latest and greatest camera will get you spectacular images. Nothing is a better teacher than experience and why not spend time watching the most experienced photographers take you step-by-step in their process of capturing light? After spending a couple months of watching videos on Kelby Training instead of sitting in front of the television, my photographs dramatically improved simply based on what I learned.
In fact, it was photography that got me outside to go explore light rather than sit in front of the TV. While educating yourself on camera technique and lighting can improve your photography, there is still no substitute for getting out there and shooting. Take the lessons you learn and just go out and do it.
It would be easy to say that you know enough or you’ve already learned even simple techniques, but I find myself sitting through some of the most basic teaching of photography for a couple of reasons. One is that it never hurts to revisit a lesson so it becomes engrained. You need to not only have heard it, but know it for yourself. A lesson reinforced becomes a habit. I have spent a lot of my time realizing the one thing I did wrong the last time I shot photos.
Another reason for listening to what you might already know is that someone always seems to have a better way to teach others. People learn differently and hearing the same thing in a different way helps in learning. It also helps me to pass along the lessons I’ve learned to others.
So check out kelbytraining.com
I’m normally visualize the world thinking of how things would appear through a telephoto lens. I love focal lengths of 100mm or more, but currently, the longest focal length I have is 85mm. However, I also love the other extreme: wide angle. I have only had this lens for a few months, but I’m really liking it. There are a couple reasons I bought the Canon 17-40mm L lens.
First, the price was less than half of the 16-35mm f/2.8. While one-stop advantage can help in dark areas, there is one great advantage of wide angles, you can typically hand hold it at slower shutter speeds. The typical rule is to not shoot anything less than 1/focal length. And with such wide apertures, I could easily shoot 1/30-1/60 second at ISO 1600 indoors. Secondly, the lens covers four standard focal lengths of 20mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm. Buying each prime lens would be terribly expensive. While the f/4 zoom lens is a bit slower than such prime lenses, it is the tradeoff of photography that one must weigh between cost, convenience and capability of the equipment. I also have the added bonus of getting really wide at 17mm. Ultra-wide angles are great for distorting space and creating some really intriguing photos.
While you can read reviews of the lens and the technical jargon at other websites, I like to just see what I can create with it. Life’s too short to study MTF charts and write about how some lens is deficient or how primes are better than zooms. Creativity doesn’t manifest itself until you get to the limitations of your equipment. And I can honestly say that I still have yet to put this lens through its paces. (more…)
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting the various websites I have checked into over the past few years when I first picked up a Nikon D40. I find that you really never stop learning when it comes to photography. I still check out these resources and look for new places for learning the art and skill of using a camera. I think the dual role of technical knowledge and creativity is what keeps photography interesting. There are some photographers who are super technical and others who just have an eye visually, but when you can combine both elements, you can begin to really make some great photos. I’ve often heard the same lessons over and over. But instead of being bored with the same information, it has reinforced them. I’ve found myself many times forgetting something only to see my images later and thinking what I could have done better.
So, for the first week, I want to introduce you to Photofocus. It has been published by a great and very experienced photographer named Scott Bourne since 1998, which is a millennium in online photographic resources. Photofocus also features a podcast, which can be found in iTunes. I’ve listened to many episodes hosted by Bourne while driving twenty-five minutes to work. It is a question and answer forum with guest photographers. You’ll learn a lot about not just photography, but you’ll also learn about the business, the equipment and the fact that the best camera out there doesn’t make somebody a great photographer.
Check out Photofocus by following this link: http://www.photofocus.com
Or check out their podcast on iTunes
It was the best of portrait photography, it was the worst of portrait photography, it was the age of digital, it was the epoch of small flash, it was the epoch of f/2.8, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Shadow, it was the spring of c-stands, it was the winter of light modifiers, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to that big softbox in the sky, we were all going direct to our lighting diagrams – in short, the period was like the current how many megapixels can you stuff into your DSLR, that some of its noisiest experts insisted on you attending their workshop, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Recently, I posted a self-portrait; the one on the left. Some comments likened it to a mug shot. However, being that I work in television news, I know the not-so-fine of an art that a mug shot actually is. So, I posted my own example on the right.
I am convinced that the difference between a professional photographer and amateur is that the amateur will shoot dozens of photos and show them all, but a professional will shoot thousands and only show a dozen. Having a camera is merely step one of becoming a photographer, but it is a much longer journey that just pressing the shutter button. Each time I engage myself in photography whether looking through a viewfinder or admiring other artists’ work, I’m really building up my knowledge that I need to create better images. Scott Kelby recently taught a course titled, “Crush The Composition” and emphasized a photographer’s need to edit his or her photographs and be able to determine which ones are keepers and which ones should be cut from your portfolio.
Just recently, I spent a little bit of time at Hocking Hills over the weekend. My parents were camping there and took my wife and I out to Ash Cave. As we walk towards the rock formation, it seemed that a wedding just concluded as some very nicely dress families were walking out. However, the light was flat and uninspiring. I didn’t shoot much, which is why only one photo made the cut with the sun blazing through the trees.
I thought of when I first purchased a DSLR, I shot everything in my path. It wasn’t long ago that I look through my catalog of images from early on and can say that the first couple of years of photographs are horrible. Underexposed, poor composition and just plain old ugly light. As I tell most people, the first year of shooting I learned the camera, but it wasn’t until the second year that I began to see the light. Yet, I still feel that there are plenty of lessons still to be learned and my photography continues to improve as I explore new areas and experiment with capturing light on a sensor that merely translates light into a bunch of ones and zeros. (more…)