Google+ Followers

I'm now selling my photos!!!

I now host galleries of my favorite photos @ Feel free to surf over there to see photo's that may have drifted into the darkest reaches of the archives here on Blogspot.

I also have begun selling my photographs when requested, I can handle most sizes and finishes either locally or via my on-line printing service.

Thanks for looking!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I'm a little different.....

...and I like to look at the world a little differently sometimes. On one day, I want hyper real, another just the facts ma'am, other days I think the entire world is some kind of joke and only I can see it. Other days I am just dying to take a picture that interests me. Yesterday all those desires and viewpoints were swirling along with the rain clouds. Fortunately my camera and lens are weather resistant and I don't melt in the rain.

Not going to comment on these, unless you leave a comment.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ahhhh..... Walking about!!!!!

 If you have been reading my stuff/looking at my blog for long you will have realized that I LOVE to just walk around and take pictures of whatever I see that interests me. Sometimes I get a lot of... eh, whatever... type of photos, even to me, but often I get a lot of stuff that I like. You may not like them, but I really don't care so much... They help me remember a happy day, one spent with a camera in hand!

I see this building every Monday, always looking for a different take on it. I had decided to use one of my favorite lenses for walk about this day: the Pentax DFA 100mm f2.8 WR. I usually like a more traditional focal length like 24-28-35mm lens for walkabout. But... yeah... I'm different. If you click through the link you will see what those look like of this same building.

Light-Rail stops here in Utah are decorated with art installations, some I like more than others. I liked the juxtaposition of shapes at this stop.

This is all about shapes and shadows of shapes.

Flowers, the Monday after Valentines Day, NOT a usual happening in Utah.

This stopped me in my tracks. It is deliberately abstract and I will leave it like that. Write a comment if you want to know what it is.

There is a joke here if you can find it. And you are familiar with German pet names.

I really liked the patterns of these plants, I struggled with depth of field and shutter speed. I think this would be an excellent subject for focus stacking.

I am always captivated by the light on my beloved mountains at the end of the day. Had to make a panorama to frame it right. Sigh... I love how putting a camera in my hand incites appreciation of the world around me.

Panoramas? YES!

Anyone who appreciates cameras in small packages (Like ME!) but with high image quality has tough choices to make. There is a compromise to be made between portability and IQ that recent cell phone camera advances cannot obviate. Now, cameras are getting smaller, and some mirrorless cameras are very very capable and small. Until you put a quality zoom lens in front of it. Then you are stuck with a body that is too small to work well ergonomically with the lens. That (besides money) is why I have stuck with a DSLR. Problem is DSLR's are not really compact, especially with a big lens stuck on the front. Enter good old fashioned non-zooming Prime Lenses. Now before you recoil in horror, let me list some good things.

1) Primes tend to have better Image Quality (i.e. sharpness, resistance to flare, contrast)
2) Primes are smaller than most zooms. Especially zoom lenses that can approach Prime quality.
3) Primes can have a faster/larger aperture, and will typically deliver critically sharp images at wider apertures than zooms.
4) Primes are usually lighter than zooms.
5) You get more exercise "Zooming with your feet"
6) You miss more shots/You have to work harder to get the shot you want.

Did I shock you? Yes #6 is a good thing! Unless you are shooting a paid event where you have to get the shot. Then I use a zoom. But I would rather use a prime.

Some people argue that you miss shots because you cannot go wide enough. I call BS. Both of these shots were taken with a 35mm Lens on an APS-C (or cropped) sensor Pentax K-5. This equates to a slightly longer than "Normal" lens yet I think these look pretty good and I didn't feel particularly limited. Plus the resolution is amazing, I could print these pretty big with no problems at all. Try that with a ultra wide angle zoom that you cropped to the same aspect ratio!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Easy to get in a rut... Gotta break it!

I hate when I get busy with life and don't get to take pictures for fun. I shot a family of 10 right after thanksgiving which was a fun opportunity, but I don't get to share the photos here. So for the new year I plan to make more time for me. Somehow.....

Anyway, I haven't been completely deficient, as you saw in my last post I did go out around new year's and get a few shots. I find that a prime lens and free time allow the juices to flow nicely when I can grab a few moments.

These next two shots were quick grab shots in the mall while wife and kids were doing Build-A-Bear... which I can only stand for a certain length of time before my head explodes.

I liked the shapes of the decorations on the ceiling. Nothing fancy, just a quick and dirty shot wide open at f2.8 with my trusty 24mm.

The bears are kinda cute, but if you look at them for too long they start to get a "Chucky" expression on their faces. This is at closest focus and f2.8.

I find myself looking at common things in a totally new way with a camera in hand. I have punched this timeclock at my part time job for over 11 years. The wall is bare, painted hospital taupe, and suddenly quite stark when I make it black and white. Still pondering if this is rubbish or not, I took it today and I am still quite in love with the image. Will probably hate it in a week.

Due to it being President's Day the train was not crowded and I was able to lie down on a bench and rest my weary back. I stared up at this hand strap which I have seen and held many times. It looked completely different, and new, the light reflecting in the metal creating a pattern I had never noticed. I will never look at it the same again.

This image is a 4 shot panorama, I could have gone with 3, but I like to make sure I have enough data to work with, and you can never go back and re shoot something like this. I did a little to bring out the texture under the clouds and correct the WB. The old K200D tends to make these images too cold in camera. Nothing amazing, but I quite like the clouds.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Even Photographers Take Snapshots... Ours are just more fussy!

Was talking with a friend the other night and looking through some photos with him. He commented that it was good to see that not every photo I took was fabulous and amazing. Been thinking about that today. Along with a phrase I have heard. "The difference between Professional and Amateur Photographers is the size of their wastebaskets." I think there is a lot of truth in that statement. I may go out and shoot 100 frames and get 10 shots I like, or I may shoot 200 and get one, and that is when I am TRYING to take meaningful photos. Sometimes it is fun to just not have to think about composition, aperture, ISO, focus point, shutter speed in relation to focal length etc.... and just have a little fun.

That said even when I am not being "Serious" I have trouble being sloppy. Case in point: At the 2014 Festival of Trees I took only two lenses one for videoing my daughters dancing (My Pentax K35mm f3.5) and one to do close up details of the trees and gingerbread houses. (Pentax DFA 100mm f2.8 WR) They are both VERY sharp when handled correctly and do very well wide open (i.e. at the largest aperture they are capable of.) Not a zoom. Not that I don't like zooms,  but I wanted to make myself work a little bit and not just stand in one place and zoom in and out.

What I did then was mount the DFA 100 and shoot it mostly wide open with the ISO pushed up to the 400-800 range, varying the ISO based on the shutter speed I was given by the metering system. As a side note I tend to shoot in Av mode mostly, I could have used a different mode on my Camera where I set the shutter speed and aperture and let the camera vary the ISO within a set range to get that combination. I just haven't used that much. And I am used to watching my shutter speed. It would have been easier to just ask for a shutter speed of 1/the focal length of the lens (1/100s for my lens) and f2.8, which is a tried and true method to avoid too much camera movement during an exposure. 

Where was I? Oh yeah, snapshots. Here are a few, hand held, just quickly shooting as we shuffled past. Just looking for a few details that would remind me of the event. 

Like I said, more fussy. All at f2.8.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What is HDR? And why does Some Dude use it?

I often have to explain what HDR is when I mention that I have used it for a picture. In this post I hope to explain why it is important to my work, and a little about HOW to do it, but without explaining it completely. It is always good to work at something a little isn't it?

HDR stands for "High Dynamic Range", which could lead one to think, what is low dynamic range, or for you really smart folks who get to the meat of things, what the heck is dynamic range? In photography we use dynamic range to refer the relative luminance of all the part of the image captured in a photograph. From the darkest to the lightest parts. Many scenes we want to photograph have a larger luminance range than the sensor (or in the old days film) can capture. Meaning that either the bright areas are correctly exposed and the darker areas are too dark, or the darker areas are correctly exposed and the brighter areas are too bright. Many scenes have such a range of bright to dark that one single exposure will have areas that are completely black (Blocked up) and other parts that are completely white (Blown out). (This is usually the case with most of my night time temple photographs. Which was a prime driver in developing my humble skills using HDR. Specifically the program Photomatix.)

Many cameras have a setting that will allow you to see blocked up or blown out areas with a blinking warning when you view the photo on your back LCD screen after taking it. On my Pentax K5 & K200d the black areas blink green/yellow and the all white areas blink red. Which drives my wife a bit crazy, but is helpful to me.

Why does that matter? Well... human eyes are much better than the best camera sensor we can possibly build, they can manage to see hugely different levels of light in the same scene and show you detail in the shadows and not have the brighter areas be too bright. That is why when you take a photo of a scene, the photo doesn't look just like what you were looking at. Between the lens, the sensor, the screen you are looking at it on (or heaven forbid an actual paper print!) and the ambient lighting your eyes are adjusted for etc........... It doesn't look the same. 

HDR is a way of combining multiple photos taken at different exposures to produce an image that when viewed on screen or as a print looks more like what you experienced when viewing the scene originally. Notice here I did not use the "R" word, "reality" is a concept I am not ready to discuss relative to photography. In part because I firmly believe that trying to capture "Reality" is a fools errand when you are a photographer!

Now, to many photographers HDR is a bad bad BAD thing, because there are so many examples of people producing results that are not... aesthetically pleasing. The software used for this type of work (I use Photomatix) has a multitude of settings, some intended for one type of scene and some for another. Misapplication of a certain pre-set can be disastrous! See the link above for some pretty bad photos.

Sometimes, on a very few occasions I have gone over the top for artistic reasons and produced a lurid image that has been popular, however, I try to NOT got there. I prefer to use a gentle touch that produces an image that looks more natural and is closer to an artistic representation of what was pleasing in an image.

Now, "how do you do it?" you ask. Easy, (Well not really but I want to to try it so I will tell you it is easy, but Shhhhhh don't tell anybody else!)  I first compose the scene I want to capture. This is really the hard part, it is what separates the photographers from the plebian masses. Composition! I have read and tend to agree that the best landscape photos are taken either within 3-4 feet of the ground or way above it. That is why I am not allowed to wear nice clothing when I am on a photo expedition. If your knees are not dirty, or even better your entire torso, then you probably didn't get anything. 

Once you have composed the photo, then you need to do all the other things correct, choose the best aperture for the scene, the correct base exposure, lock down the tripod etc...  Then you need to either set up your camera to auto bracket exposures, or if you are like me and shooting EVERYTHING manually a lot of the time, set the bracket exposures yourself. Most quality cameras will do 5 exposures automatically and you can set the exposure gaps as you like. For something like our example below I usually choose +/- 1 stop for each photo.

This was -2 stops. (f10, 1/125s)

-1 stops. (f10, 1/60s) notice the increased detail in the shadow areas and less detail in the sky.

+/- 0 (f10, 1/30s)(or as the camera metered the scene, off the bottom right bump)

+1 stop (f10, 1/15s)

+2 stops (f10, 1/8s)

Notice that the aperture or "f stop" doesn't change. You want to keep your aperture the same, and you want to choose the correct aperture from the beginning.  I usually will be anywhere from f8 to f13 depending on the lens. (Aperture determines Depth of Field or how much of the scene is in focus, as well as how much light reaches the sensor/film.)

None of these shots above looks exactly how my eye saw the scene, or how yours would either.

This, however, is more like what I remember seeing. Maybe a little enhanced, leveled and corrected for the inherent distortions of the lens, but what photographer doesn't enhance things a little though?

So, that is a brief introduction to the what of HDR and a little of HOW, but not all. There are some specifics to HDR that need mention:

1) Solid positioning of the camera. HDR programs can adjust for slight movements of the camera between shots, but it can result in decreased resolution. I have shot HDR handheld in bright sunlight, but it is MUCH easier to do when you shoot a tripod.

2) The movement of elements in the shot can be a problem, called "Ghosting" for me it usually happens with cloud movement. Avoiding longer exposures, and gaps between exposures helps with that. One of the nice features of the camera automatically setting the exposures for the bracketed photos. In the linked photo I was setting them manually due to the longer exposures needed and there were up to 1 minute gaps between exposures.

3) White balance can be a huge problem if you get it wrong. HDR can magnify small  differences in color and make the whole image skew off into weird color land. I will usually take several RAW images and play with them in my converter (ACR) until I like the color balance. Sometimes I have to Re-Convert ALL my shots after washing them through Photomatix and not liking the result. I prefer to work with 16-bit TIFF files in Photomatix rather than bring them in in RAW format. The converter in Photomatix tends to add noise.

4) You really should go easy on how much you use it. You can easily make an image that makes you go WOW! And everybody else barf...

5) don't limit yourself to just 3 or 4 or however many images. Some of my best images have been 6 or 7. One of my favorites was only 3, but gapped more than 1 stop apart. Longer exposures with small apertures (Larger f-stop numbers) can help you to get rid of people in a busy scene. Like this shot, if you have ever been to Temple Square in Salt Lake City at Christmas you know that it is PACKED with people. My longest exposure was something like 15 minutes which really helped to get rid of a lot of people!

Hope this whetted your appetite to try HDR! Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On The Rocks.

That was the phrase going through my mind Friday night. It may have been the cold, it may have been that there was a lot of bare rock that I was looking at. All I know is it was kind of annoying really.

So, I went to my usual favorite place, Goblin Valley State Park last Friday. I know I need to branch out, but I keep telling people about it and they want me to take them there. My bad I guess. I was worried that it would be cloudy, as it was cloudy in Salt Lake but the night was pretty much clear as a bell. No moon until later so it was a nice night for Milky Way shots.

On a technical note: ISO 3200 is a starting point with your lens wide open and 30s exposure, beyond that, you just have to play with it and look at your histograms closely. And a really steady tripod.

Two airplanes and the Milky Way in the sky, lit up tent in the foreground. Works for me!

I am not a huge selfie fan, but I hardly think this is your usual selfie. I was trying to stay warm more than anything else really.

For these next three I did something interesting, I went from a 8mm Fisheye with 180 degrees of view from corner to corner, to a 17mm lens wide open at f2.8, and, with this shot up to 6400 ISO I got a lot more noise AND a lot more star activity in the sky.

Going back to 3200 ISO I started working on my light painting technique. Using a simple headlamp, a Black Diamond Storm if you care to know. My first attempts put WAY too much light on the rocks, a nice problem to have.  Eventually I figured it out, of this framing, this was the best.

Now this was quite a bit more difficult, if you noticed above the rocks are not as well lit as below, which is OK, the problem becomes getting the sky looking right and the rocks the right color. I solved this by creating two layers in photoshop and color balancing the top layer correctly for the  rocks, then making the under layer correct for the sky. I then erased the sky from the top layer leaving only the foreground rocks (not as easy as it sounds) and then flattened them down. Leaving me with this. I am excited to try to print this and see how it looks. Could be a good one!

Early the next morning, I woke to frost on the INSIDE of the windshield, and the light just staining the sky to the east. The temp was in the mid to upper 20's F, and I am prepared enough to be able to shoot in those temps. In fact I was too hot by the time I hiked down to the valley of the goblins! Nice problem to have if you ask me.

While hiking down my old friends the "Three Sisters" were standing vigil off the side of the road. Took a picture to say "Hi!" and kept on hiking so I could be set up for first light.

This would work better as a sunset shot, I had to work the HDR route to get the sky and foreground to talk to each other. Loved the frost and snowy spots.

Moving back up I began to search for the perfect first light shot. This is one composition I really liked, but I began to realize that a butte was going to mess with my light. sigh.

Moving up higher, Molly's Castle was starting to get light so I quickly set up for it, REALLY liked it.

Turning around and moving 30ft I set up for "The Shot" I have wanted to get the Iconographic shot the epitomizes Goblin Valley. I think this is close, I again had to go the 5 shot bracket and HDR technique to get the light balanced properly. I think I avoided the really outre HDR look, and kept it natural. What do you think?

Thanks again for coming to look, enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Old Friends.

Every so often there is a convergence of some ineffable and unknown factors that creates something wonderful. Peanut Butter and Chocolate. Ferrari's and twisty mountain roads. Hot Cocoa and crisp fall mornings. For me it is my Pentax SMC 24mm f2.8 lens and my Pentax K200d camera. They combine in some way to create photos that speak to me. The focal length frames up just right for me eye on APS-C and the sensor creates pleasing colors. Now neither are up to current spec, the mirror on the K200 is a bit clanky, especially compared with my K5, & the resolution is only 10MP, but I can live with that. I am willing to carry the K200 with me in my backpack on a daily basis and with the 24mm it makes a nice fairly lightweight and unobtrusive combo. Which means it is ready to go at the drop of a hat.

On successive Mondays I just HAD to take a few moments and take some photos, that is my decompression time. Plus great clouds on crisp fall afternoons make photography even more tempting. I see this flag every time I work at the University and walk back to the light rail. I wanted to put the sun behind the flag but would have been standing in a tree. Played with black and white and desaturating all but the flag, but it didn't work.

Some buildings are just wrong, design, execution, detail. In some (many) ways this is that: just plain wrong. It doesn't fit with the older buildings next to it. No graceful curves, just cubist lines and mirrored sides. Yet... beauty can be found even in things you don't like.

The contrast between organic and inorganic, straight lines and chaotic curves.

Is it a jarring monument to modern design, a sharp edged chisel jammed into the sky, or is it an accent, a foil, that emphasizes the differences enhancing both in the process?

Maybe both, or none.

I feel a photo essay coming on spending a day comparing and contrasting the old with the new...

It is a nice place for a selfie though.

Monday, November 3, 2014

One Fine Day!

So... one of my best friends has a daughter who asked me to take some photos of her, her date and 3 more couples at a local high school dance being held at the State Capitol Building. Never one to turn down a chance to make a quick buck I agreed. You will however not see those photos here, I haven't asked if I can use them for publicity purposes and that could get me in trouble. What you get here is the photos I took before and after, why because that is more fun. I really don't like people photography that much, I am far too critical to feel relaxed doing that kind of stuff.

Yeah a flower photo, I don't really post that many so you can no roll your eyes and label me an amateur just because I took a pic of a flower... just to kinda get warmed up.

I had about an hour after I got off work and before the paying customers arrived. So I took off my shoes and socks and waded into the pool to play with my favorite perspective and see if I could come up with something interesting. I had to stitch two photos together to get it all in. I think I may have gotten a little too close. This is still my best shot I think. 

During the shoot the light became, more than somewhat awesome, so I snapped off a quick shot, this was taken with my 28mm f3.5, which was a perfect lens for the work of taking group pictures without wide angle distortion. 

After it was all said and shot I just HAD to try to capture the light. I really do like this building. A. Lot.