Yah Gotta Stop And Smell The Roses

Stop along the way and get your picture

One of my rules is to stop and take some pictures whenever I run accross anything interesting. I think we all have that rule and we all break it more than follow it.
On my drive from Las Vegas to Pahrump I was enjoying a beautiful desert view of Yucca, Joshua trees, and the far off snow capped peaks.

So, I stopped the truck, took the Nikons (D90 and D500) with me in order to get a few beautiful desert images. I noticed right away that a huge power line was going to ruin any picture I snapped. I  decided to walk past the power line in order to get much better pictures. In so doing, I spotted two Red-tail hawks sitting on one of the power line poles. I immediately regretted not taking along the Sony with the 200-500mm tele. I crept up on the hawks the best I could, knowing they would take off any second and did get lucky with this shot using the Nikon D5000 with the 18-200mm lens set on 200mm.
I did not see these birds when I started out and had no real reason to take along the tele but this kind of surprise happens often enough where I should know better.
In just wanting to get rid of the power lines I ended up with some pretty good pictures of Red-tail hawks and then finally, I also got my landscape free of the ugly power lines.
I eliminate power lines whenever possible from my photos because I consider them eyesores. If I can’t drive past them, I will walk past them. I think the last image illustrates my point.
Taking care to frame your shot the best way possible costs nothing but a little time and effort but can go a long way to better pictures. I should have taken along my tele, I can carry three cameras with no trouble, so this is a reminder to self.
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Best Photography Advice Ever

Words to photograph by

No matter what level of photographer you are, newest newbie, amateur, professional, there is one thing that will dramatically improve your photography for the rest of your life and it won’t cost you a dime.

If you frame your picture like everyone else, your picture will look like every one else’s.

Take that with you from now on and your photography will improve dramatically!

Get down eye level with your Chihuahua, baby or worm.
Use a stool or ladder or the top of your beat up truck cab.
Frame your picture anyway except the way everyone else does.
Get in close, use window light don’t use that dinky flash on your camera. Those things are red eye factories.
Don’t follow the crowd.

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Depth of field (DOF)

Control depth of field in your photography

Depth of field refers to how much of your image will be in sharp focus. Shallow depth is characterized by blurred backgrounds, which is cool for portraits. A deep focus on the other hand has everything tack sharp. The most obvious way to control DOF is by shooting in aperture priority mode. The smaller the f-number, the larger the lens opening and the more shallow your depth of field will be. On the other hand, setting the aperture to a higher f-number, the smaller the aperture (lens opening) which will give you a much greater depth of field or focus.

Another way to control DOF is by subject to camera distance. The closer you move towards the subject, the shallower the DOF becomes. It’s a good idea to play with this concept using your digital camera. The results are instant, so it’s a great learning experience.

Finally, the focal length of your lens also plays a role in controlling DOF. A wide angle lens, by nature of its design will have a wide DOF. It’s almost impossible to blur the background when using a lens with say 20mm or less. On the other hand, a telephoto lens makes for a very shallow DOF.

The best way to become familiar with this concept is to go out and do some experimental photography using various f-stops and camera to subject distances.

If you want to get really technical then you might find this Depth of Field Calculator of value.
I know I made this short and to the point, so if any reader wishes to expand on this subject, please feel free to do so.
Again, the best way to get an handle on DOF is to go out and take a lot of pictures, keep notes and then study your results.

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To HDR or not to HDR

When I photograph in HDR

According to Wikipedia:

In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminances between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wider dynamic range allows HDR images to more accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight.
In my opinion HDR is grossly overdone. I think it’s a crutch for poor photographers that use HDR as a gimmick instead of a photography tool.
I seldom use HDR because:
Most of the time it’s not needed.
It forces me to wade through piles and piles of junk, poorly exposed images.

I can usually get the same or better picture with just one image.

I do use HDR in Photoshop when I am photographing a scene with grey or cloudy sky, when photographing the interior of a junk car, where I usually encounter bright light and almost total darkness. HDR is great for that. I have absolutely no need for HDR shooting landscapes or wildlife under a nice blue sky or a partly cloudy sky.

A lot of people have incorrectly associated HDR with “enhanced”, gaudy, crappy colors. Flickr Explore is infamous for this kind of tasteless crap.
Bright, bold, gaudy colors have their place but only a small minority of the time.
Photographers use that trick on Flickr because their gaudy thumbnails will catch the eye. Click on the picture and you get this ugly, stupidly gaudy image with super saturated colors. That is NOT HDR.

From the days of black and white film to digital photography one fact has always held true.
Nothing beats a properly exposed picture.

When I do resort to HDR I warn myself by shooting with my fingers accross the lens before and after I work in HDR. I generally set the camera to bracket at 1 or 2 f stops above and below the camera’s level.
That gives me three images to work with but I have found that if you are doing a great scene and want to really nail the picture then 6 to 12 exposures done manually at 1/2 fstop work really well.
For that kind of work you need a very sturdy and steady tripod and a light touch as you adjust the camera.

I have tried various HDRI software packages but have found that Photoshop starting with CS3 on up does a far superior job and is much easier to work with than any of the standalone software.
Yeah, you pay a lot for Photoshop but for the long haul you get so much more for your money.
Don’t expect Adobe Photoshop Elements to do the same job the full package gives you. There is a reason Photoshop costs so much more. It delivers far more.
Let me know how you edit your pictures and if you have any tips you want to share.

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Today’s Poppy Shoot

Photographing Poppies

The poppies have returned to El Paso. It’s our sure sign of spring. I have been counting the rainfall all winter and finally knew that we would have a bumper crop of poppies.


So, we packed up the dogs and the camera gear and headed out for the poppy fields.

I planned on using the Nikon D90, and Nikon D5000 with the Tokina 11-16mm, the Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye and of course old standby and do everything, the Nikon 18-200mm zoom.

I think I got some really good results with the fisheye and it’s this lens I want to talk about first.

It’s aperture range is from f/2.8 to f/22. At f/22 you get an incredible depth of field.

This picture perfectly illustrates my point.


ISO 400 f/20 1/640
What do you think about this picture? Awesome lens or what?

The lens is extremely small and light. It only weighs a scant 10.7 ounces and is 2.5 inches around and 2.5 inches long.

This is one fine lens and I’m still wondering why it took me so long to buy it.

Here is another picture:

ISO 400 f/20 1/500

I initially visualized using the fisheye for car shows and for special effects but I have so warmed up to this lens I now use it on any subject that is close. It’s minimum focusing distance is a scant 5.5 inches and it gives a true 180 degree view.

My final picture below was taken with the old standby, the 18-200mm zoom. I use this lens for everything. It was the first Nikkor I bought and for good reason. It’s 18-200mm range pretty much takes care of 75% of the shooting.

ISO 400 f/11 1/640 112mm

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Time for some flower photography tips

Photographing flowers

Warmer days have finally come to El Paso, so it’s time to think about doing some flower photography. Here is a short list of do’s and don’ts that I go by.
Don’t photograph around noon. The light is too harsh and flat. I prefer directional light when I photograph just about anything, including flowers.

Don’t try to do any flower photography when the wind is blowing. It’s a sure recipe for frustration. Here in El Paso that can be a problem because we have high winds in the spring.

For my DSLRs, I use either my Sony camera with the really excellent Sigma 105mm macro.

Increasingly however, I use my Nikon DSLR with the Nikon 18-200mm lens and one of the extension tubes in my Kenko three-piece set. The Kenko set is really cool and works very well with all camera functions being available. I have a set for Nikon and Sony. The reason I use the D5000 and not the D90 is because the Nikon D5000 has that marvelous swivel LCD that let’s me get in and do all sorts of weird angles and points of view. I can get down low without crawling along with the worms.
A really cool gadget to take along is the Seagull viewer. This cheap gadget is really cool for photographing small dogs, toddlers and flowers, to mention just a few subjects.

Take along a spray bottle of water for those cool “wet look” images and I also take along some color cardboard for background and for directing the light even more. I don’t use flash because the onboard flash won’t work when working really close and a second flash would require a third hand, which I don’t have or the use of a tripod which I hate.

As always, I shoot in aperture priority mode and generally, with the lens wide open (smallest f number).

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Don’t touch that dial!

Your camera’s mode dial

Don’t touch that dial! The mode dial that is. Set it on A and forget it.
The white A not the green one. The green A is for hopeless cases that think the camera is smarter than they are. So just turn the dial to the white A and stay there.
Unless you want to go to M for manual. I almost always shoot in aperture-priority unless I’m being lazy or I’m shooting in manual mode. Shooting in aperture priority automatically forces me think about what I’m doing and gives me fine artistic control over the picture I am trying to create. Subject matter makes little difference. If I want to freeze motion I usually go to ISO 1600 and set the aperture as wide open as possible. That automatically forces the camera to go to a high shutter speed. For landscapes I go to a small aperture (high f number) for as much depth of field as possible.

One more thing, on one of my photo outings I once heard the remark that if you are shooting at normal camera angles (standing and just pointing the camera at the subject) then you are wrong.
At the time there was too much going on for me to pursue that subject with the person that made the statement but it has always stuck with me.
If you are taking a picture like everyone else, then your picture will look like everyone elses. Makes sense.
The train depot at Rhyolite, Nevada is a good example.
When I walked up to it my heart sank because there was no way to get a really decent shot of the fine building.

A big ugly chain link fence surrounded the building and then if that was not enough, the Bureau of Land Mismanagement threw power lines over the building just to make sure you can’t get a decent image.
I went and got my old truck and climbed on the roof of the cab for this picture.
People thought I was crazy, and they are probably right but I think I got a much better picture.
I hate fences and power lines. Sometimes I will walk 50ft or more to get past a power line.
Yeah, I strayed a bit from aperture-priority shooting but the point is to get a beautiful picture instead of an ordinary one.
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Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

The Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX lens is one of my favorites

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

This has got to be one of my favorite Nikkor lenses. It’s small, light and cheap. Don’t let the low price fool you, this lens even has a focus motor so that it will work with the smaller Nikon DSLRs.


This lens is targeted at “entry level” camera owners such as the D40, D60 and D5000. I personally hate the sales terms “entry level”, or “prosumer” or even professional. Those terms are meant to appeal to egos and boost sales. Nothing more. If your D40 is working for you and you love it then you don’t need a higher priced camera unless you want to stroke your ego for a short time. DSLRs don’t have a long life and cost a fortune.
If a pro needs to be told this and this is pro level then he or she ain’t much of a pro to begin with.
I use this lens with the D5000 almost exclusively in my babe photo shoots because the combination is small and very light. Believe me, after about 3 hours of shooting with a behemoth like the D300, you will welcome the smaller rig and get the same image quality you would with a D300. Going light and nimble is being professional.

Click the above link and look at the specs and the customer reviews to see what I mean.


It only weighs 11.2 ounces!

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Sony Does 24 megapixels again

Sony just released the much-rumored Alpha A-850.

Sony’s new 24 megapixel camera

Sony Alpha DSLR-A850 Full Frame Digital SLR Camera + Sony 24 -70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T Zoom Lens + Transcend 32GB CF + Sony Case + Travelers Starter Kit


Sony just released the much-rumored Alpha A-850.


This is a full-frame, 24 megapixel tour de force that is going to shake up the camera world. I consider this camera far superior to anything being produced by Canon or Nikon. The price of $1999.00 is not bad for a full-frame, super specd camera body.


Combine this body with the awesome Carl Zeiss line of lenses and you have it all!


Every Sony DSLR comes with image stabilization built into the body and the A-850 is no exception.


Sony is new to the DSLR world but with their purchase of Minolta and their close association with Carl Zeiss they are being propelled right to the top. Their passion for innovation is going to drive Nikon and Canon crazy.


Sony is not saddled with the 35mm tradition Canon and Nikon are still burdened with. Instead, Sony is free to explore and develop a totally new approach to digital photography.


Their quality control is well known by audiophiles and the television market, so you know you are getting a super-quality product.

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Two-Camera Holster That Works

Two-Camera Holster that works. This thing is really slick. Check out the video.
I have used this rig for some time now and love it!

Two camera quick draw

Two-Camera Holster that works. This thing is really slick. Check out the video.
I have used this rig for some time now and love it!
I have two HUGE dogs I take walking and have never been able to comfortably take a camera along, but with this carrier I can take two cameras with no problem.
There are some things to look out for.
Remove the cameras before you get into the car. If something pushes up on the cameras, it can come off the holster and hit the ground.
Other than that, this is a great rig for those of us that use two cameras or even three.
For three cameras you carry one, and then just swap off if you need one you have on the carrier.
I did this on my recent trip to Rhyolite. Works like a charm.

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