Friday, May 30, 2008

Tips for better photography (Valentine style)

Everyone has tips and tricks so why not me? I have done these because of my tip #3

Tip #1: Find people that have the same interests as you.

This accomplishes many things. You have a support base that can give you advice. It is so tough to get started in photography. Anyone can have a camera now and take pictures. It is what sets you apart from everyone else that a like minded group will bring. The group can tell you new ways to look at things, lend you equipment, help you decide where is the most important place to spend your money and so much more. Maybe more importantly is the fact that they will inspire and modivate you to get out and take pictures.

I joined the Colorado Springs Photography Meetup and it has been a great decision.

Tip #2: Know your equipment

Knowing how all of your equipment works is critical. It will enable you to think on your feet and to be able to make effective changes.

I borrowed a set of studio lights and just started messing around with them. That is a good way to get started but I didn't take the time to read anything about them later. I couldn't figure out why some of my pictures looked good and some were quite dark. Out of pure luck I figured that
the light do not "dump" when the settings are changed. This becomes a problem when you think the lights are adjusted and you look at your "test" shot and it looks ok. It turns out that first shot was your dump shot and the next one will reflect your actual lighting setup. I thought everything was good and the lights were getting dimmer with the next shot.

Tip #3: Write about your journey

Writing will make you think about what you are trying to accomplish. It will give you direction. blogger offers a free medium to share your thoughts but you could just write in a notebook if you like.

Tip #4: With digital still be selective

Digital photography has given so many options to so many people. You can shoot for hours on one memory card and still not run out of room. That creates a lot of pictures to go through once you get home. That is good and bad. The good is that you have lots of pictures to choose from so you know that you got at least one of them right. The bad is that you have to go through and pick the 10 you want out of 200 and if you want more then you have to edit more. There is a fine line.

I try to be selective when I get home and review my pictures. If it is out of focus I delete it. If I don't like it then it is gone. Maybe not the best but it keeps me from feeling bad about having lots of unedited pictures just sitting around.

Tip #5: Read Read Read!

The more you know the better you can think on your feet. Even if you are not reading about photography read something. It will increase vocabulary, stretch your imagination and make you think.

To go along with that there are so many blogs and free places to find information on the web. I have a couple links to them. I am excited about a DVD series that was just released as well that can be found at I am hoping to get this set sometime soon. FYI I think that it is selling out FAST.

Tip #6: Get out and take pictures

With all of these tips and suggestions you will never become better at capturing pictures if you don't go out and practice. The more you take pictures the more you will find what you like and will refine skils that you have learned from reading.

Tip #7: Print your work

I am not very good at this step although I am working to get better. This is important because it will let you see what you photos really look like. The computer screen can be very different than print. Print some pictures and see what they look like.

Those are my first few tips. There will be more to come but I think that is a good start.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spring Afternoon Baseball

Last night I was able to attend a baseball game. The Angels beat the first place Dodgers in the last inning. All the Angels runs in the last inning were accomplished with 2 outs and I happen to know the game winning hitter. It was a good game.

I was able to take about 200 pictures there before the battery started to die. This is one of the better ones.

Lesson 1 (AGAIN): Make sure that the batteries are charged! I found out that with the vibration compensation in my lens engaged the camera can get confused and just freeze. The shutter stays in the way and the camera will not turn off. To reset the battery has to be removed. There are lots of theories about this on the internet but I think the VC is the culprit.

Lesson 2: Pictures from the back of players are not very interesting. I did get inside the fence for a little while but the fence around the field was too high. It was tough to combat the fence in all the pictures.

Lesson 3: Make sure your computer monitor is calibrated. I am still working on that one. Pictures look different on all three monitors that I use.

One day I will have these lessons learned but for now I am still working on them.

I may have another chance this Saturday with a full battery and hopefully some lessons learned!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Studio Results

These are a few pictures taken in the studio. There is little post processing done.

The first picture is very well lit I think and the second two are a little darker. I am not sure what happened with the lighting. We were moving it around some but I am also not familiar with the lights. I borrowed the lights from a friend just to see how shooting in a studio would be.

Some things that I will do differently next time. I was using some gels to change the background color so I was not able to use the modeling lights because the gels would have overheated. Once I took them off I forgot to turn on the modeling lights. I would also just start with one light and get that down really well first then add more lights.

All in all it was fun to shoot with the lighting setup and I will be looking into some lighting options for the future. I am still torn between monolights or speedlites. Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Weekend Strobe Fun

This weekend I had the opportunity to barrow some studio lighting and set up more of the studio. Here are a couple shots of what the studio set up was like. I had a fried over and we took some pictures. Let me know what you think of the studio.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dance Pictures

First of all I am going to start writing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. My hope is that my material will stay fresh and it will still give me time to keep the rest of my life in order.

The new lens was great and did surprisingly well focusing in the low light. I should have tried a faster shutter speed but I am still learning. Next time! Another big help was the bigger sensor in the Canon XTi. I was able to take pictures at an ISO 1600 with little color noise. Enjoy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lens update

So far I have been very happy with my new lens. I used it at a dance performance with low light and I was pleased. I am working on those photos now and will post them sometime this week.

I do have one complaint about the lens. It creeps. I can take a picture and tilt the camera down to look at the LCD and the lens extends to 300mm. It has not been a problem yet but it could be.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Plan for the studio

The garage has been fixed but fear not I will continue that studio pursuit. The plan is to make the area duel purpose. If I want to take pictures of something I have the equipment and space. On the other hand a huge hail storm is coming I can also pull the truck into the garage.

I am planning on putting something white on the far or back wall of the studio. This will give some fill light to portraits and reduce the high ratio. The left wall I want to put a backdrop and for now I think Walmart sheets will do just fine. I have also noticed that I can add a spot light or hair fill light with the light socket in the ceiling of the garage.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First "studio" picture

I thought I would experiment with some light in the garage. I opened the garage and set up my subject. The weather outside was overcast and the light was dim but I was able to get some good shots.

Note: It can be hard to pose a dog!

There is nothing special about this shot. I faced her about 45 deg from the door keeled down and the light was great. I would say this is roughly a 1:4 lighting ratio and a pseudo Rembrandt style of lighting. With some work I can make this a great place for shooting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Garage Studio

It has been a few years since I have had a garage that I could call my own. Since moving into our new place in February I have had a two car garage but since March the main door has been broken. My wife and I park in the driveway in front of the garage.

This has got to be about the most useful garage yet. Sarcasm implied. A party here and poker night there. I don't want to waste that space so I am converting a corner into a photo studio. As I mentioned in previous posts there is a website out there for everything. I have found a some good ideas and have some people willing to loan me some lights. I am still learning lights so having somewhere in my own house where I can play would be priceless. Above is the current state of the future studio. Stay tuned for updates.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Gear

Friday I received a new lens. It was so difficult to stay at work that afternoon. Don't get me wrong the 50mm lens is great and allows me lots of flexibility with its 1.8 aperture. The problem I have is that I can't zoom with the 50mm lens. So off I went to find a versatile lens that I could use at dance performances (my wife and niece), at sporting events, wildlife and more. Tamron caught my eye quickly because they make an ultra zoom category lens. I did lots of research on Canon, Sigma, Tamron lenses. Tamron had the best solution to my needs.

AF28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC (Vibration Compensation) LD Aspherical (IF) Macro

That is quite a long name but don't worry I can tell you what it all means. This lens is auto focus (AF), has a focal length of 28-300mm, its maximum aperture of 3.5 at 28mm and 6.6 at 300mm, uses Extra Refractive Index Glass, was designed to work with film and digital cameras (DI), will help eliminate blur in photos (VC), has Low Dispersion glass and internal focusing.

There is quite a bit of information there. I like the
lens because it has a great focal range. The only lens I am missing now is a wide angle lens for landscapes. I was a little sad about the F-stop range because at 300mm 6.3 is kind of slow indoors, but fast lenses are very expensive. The feature I am most excited about is the VC.

Vibration Compensation is a feature in the lens that accounts for movement while taking a picture. This feature is useful if you want to handhold a c
amera and take picture in low light or zoomed all the way in (300mm). There are two gyros in the lens that sense movement and three coils that counter that movement inside the lens.

Originally I thought this was all hype and it could not work nearly as well as advertised. I put the lens on my camera and tried to focus at 300mm knowing that the farther I zoomed the more I would see the shake of my hands. I thought my hands we so steady that I didn't need the VC until I realized that it was on ans was already compensating for my had shaking. It is obvious from the pictures below that the lens does indeed compensate for vibration.

So far I am very happy with the lens. I think that it was a wor thwhile purchase as a great all around lens. I doubt this will come off of my camera often.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Splash of Color

I am not sure how many of you have checked out the links, lists and such on the right side but this post is working toward the goal of using PSE6.

Photoshop Elements 6 is a great tool and I am just learning the possibilities. Recently I worked on a picture of my bike and truck. I finished a ride and remembered that I have a slideshow assignment coming up about who I am. I mountain bike so I took some pictures. None of the pictures were capturing the bike like I wanted so PSE6 here I come.

I started by adjusting the hue and saturation of the blue layer because I wanted to bike to jump off the page. Then I added a layer and removed all the color from the picture. Finally I "painted" the color back into the picture.

Let me know what you think. Your opinions are also an important part of this site. There is nothing worse than someone lukewarm about your work. If no one tells you they hate it then you will never work to improve. If no one tells you it is good work then you will never know where to keep working. Thanks again

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More Sites

Yesterday I told you about So today I would like to talk a little bit about Digital Photography School. I have a link to this site on the right of my page as well.

This site is dedicated to teaching anything and everything about photography. Articles range from the basics of a dSLR camera to setting up complicated wedding shoots. Again this site has so much information that I can discontinuously find new material.

The internet has so much information but if you don't get out and shoot you will never get better at photography. I met with a friend who shoot high fashion and we were talking about why I am not out there shooting for tons of people yet. I said that I wanted to refine my skills, have more options when working with people and to have more confidence in my visions. I thought that was a great answer. Thoughtful, honest and to the point. He just looked at me and said that he wanted all those things too and asked me the same question.

Well I don't know the answer. All I have right now is that I am working on building a portfolio so lets take it one step at a time.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Infinite Resources

I am have been soaking up so much information lately that I forgot to tell you all about it. I have made links on the right side of the page so check them out.

The internet can find anything that you want. That can be good and bad but that is a different story. I have been reading all kinds of other blogs and websites so I thought that I would tell you a little about my favorites. - This is a great sight to learn about lighting in general. They cater more toward small lighting setups with big results. A couple sections there help you learn how to use speedlites such as lighting 101 and lighting 102. Other sections are how the site creator sets up for of his shoots. I could spend all day browsing this blog and still find something new. Be sure to check it out.