Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Artist without Eyes; An Amazing Video

I have been busy involved in the act of photography, hence the lack of entries on this blog. Tonight I sat and relaxed a bit and watched this quite amazing video of an artist who was born without eyes. As photographers we take for granted our vision and seeing. But what if we lost our sight? Would we be able to achieve what this sightless man has done?

Click the Movie clip to view.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Now for the first time: A Video and Review of the Nikon D90

Yes, the Nikon D90 does exist, and with two new great features: 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS imaging sensor, and video. Now, take a gander at the Chase Jarvis video:

And here is a written review by PDN photography news.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Photo Storage on the Go: ASUS eee 1000h

I have been planning a ten day trip, and I had to solve a problem of photo storage. Since I shoot in raw and quickly use 12 gigs of memory a day, having enough memory cards was an unprofitable solution.

I work on a tight budget, and most of my expendable income goes toward lenses and other photographic equipment. I considered the possibilities.

1) A portable storage devices like one of these:
Digital Foci PST-251 Photo Safe II 80GB Digital Picture Storage
Epson P-3000 40GB Multimedia Storage Drive, Viewer, and Audio-Video Player w/ 4-Inch LCD
Wolverine ESP 80 GB Portable Multimedia Storage Player

2) A used laptop bought on eBay, like a ThinkPad. Cost would be at least 300 dollars, with a questionable battery.

3) A new, relatively inexpensive laptop with a small footprint and a long battery life.

I chose the the third option and got an ASUS eee 1000h. This small computer is smaller than the size of a loose-leaf notebook paper and appears to be the perfect solution.

So far these are the things I like:

The cost is four times cheaper than comparable notebooks of this size.

The build quality is impressive. It looks and feels like it could take a lot of abuse.

The screen is bright and pictures I have view appear at great resolution (ten-inch screen).

Start up time is quick. Windows XP loads in a flash.

Eighty GB hard drive which I supplemented nicely with an 160 GB portable hard drive. It has one GB of ram upgradable to two. But this computer performs well without hangups on one GB.
I even installed Photoshop, and it runs snappy.

The keyboard works exceptionally well, and I can manage to touch-type even with my big fingers.

The touch pad is a dream to use, I have used others but this one seems to do exactly what I want. I thought I would want an external mouse, but the touch pad seems to work great.

Instant connections on wireless networks, and it has Bluetooth, something I may use in the future.

Battery life is phenomenal. Today I used it on battery for about four hours and it still has 60 percent charge left.

I have not figured out any negatives on this system. I have seen a few negative comments in reviews (although most were good) and those few negative comments appear groundless or very minor. This is one great machine.

So am I pleased? Yes, this appears to the perfect solution in a small package for my storage problem, and I can already see new possibilities for increasing my photo sales. More about this in the future.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Photography News: "Photosynth" 3D Image Panorama

One thing I have not had the patience for is doing a panorama with photo stitch programs. I have made some lame attempts but have not had the success I wanted. Now that may all change.

Photosynth is a new program from Microsoft Live Labs, and it promises to offer the photographer a remarkable ability to build 3-D panorama shots that can also be seen with their individual shots. This looks very promising and is similar to what Google has done with Google Earth's Street View. In Google Earth you can take a 360-degree panoramic trip down a road in many parts of the world. I have done this in Yellowstone National Park and it is beyond awesome.

Photosynth takes this one step further with the ability to piece pictures together in a remarkable fashion. You can even take close-up shots and they will integrate with the mix of pictures that you post. I rarely use a tripod, and stitching would be an extreme hassle. But what I have seen of this program is that a tripod will not be necessary. And the program will be able to stitch the scenes together for you.

Now for the Photosynth review:

Well, if you look at the screenshot above, you will see that the green progress bar is stuck and not going forward. I took two days to process about 120 photos to try the 3-D rendering software. I think I lost my mind in the process of over 30 hours of processing. Then it came to the test. I uploaded about 80 of the photos to Photosynth, and it took 4 hours to process and ended with a server error. A000000B. Hmmm. I read the error report and tried again (as Microsoft Labs suggested), another four-hour process that took me to the publishing stage. I thought all was going well, but the publishing bar just stopped making progress.

Well, now I am thinking of the 40 hours invested in trying to do the 3-D rendition. And I am not up to trying, in the near future, another upload process that takes four hours.

This is what I read from the Photosyth staff that commented on the publishing problem four days ago:

"Photosynth has been under incredible demand since we released late yesterday evening. Getting ready for the launch we did massive amounts of performance testing, built capacity model after capacity model, and yet with all of that, you threw so many uploads at the service we had to throttle them back for a few hours.

At the same time, we tried to tweak a few database settings to allow us to handle more uploads and inadvertently introduced a bug that is causing a small percent of synths to fail with an error code or hang right at the end. We're rolling back that change now and that should fix the majority of those errors.

While that is being fixed, we are adding capacity as fast as we can and letting in more and synthers. Keep trying, but it might be a few hours before we can get everyone in. In the mean time, we hope you will check out our "How to Synth" video (, grab a camera, head outside and start taking pictures for the next awesome synth.

No excuses; just the facts on why you are seeing these issues. We really appreciate the enthusiasm and are hard at work ironing out the issues and adding more capacity."

I am thinking of putting my images away for another stab later, when they might be ready for prime time. If by chance the synth does get published, I will add a link. As a teaser, this is one of those eighty images which I uploaded.

I suggest you might want to wait until Microsoft irons out the problems, unless you have the patience of Job.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Photo Composition: Can Give your Photos Class

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Recently I have been mulling around what makes a great shot. And when I start thinking like this, my mind spinning around all of the possibilities, my first thought is the rule of thirds.

In its most basic concept, the rule of thirds is a grid divided in thirds, and the idea is to place objects of eye interest on the intersecting lines - almost like playing tic tac toe, but at the intersections. And slam, bam, you are supposed to end up with a great picture.

But before you thank your mama, let's take a harder look at the rule of thirds. Start thinking of the rule of thirds as a 3-D adventure. Lay that grid down in your mind and start thinking foreground, mid-ground, and far-ground. You want to lead the eye through the picture. This is your goal. A trick I often use is to have something close of interest and something that draws the eye to the mid-field. Then, for the kicker, have something in the horizon that continues to draw interest. When I take a picture, I generally compose it as fast as I can click the shutter with these elements in mind.

And still this scratches only the technical aspects of composition. And the rule of thirds is a rule I break often. But the rule of thirds is classical, and means class. And if you follow the above simple formula, you will start to learn where and how to break the rules.

Look at the picture above. It is not in perfect alignment with the rule of thirds, but it follows one of the most important concepts. It leads the eye. Every time I look at a photo I think, what is leading my eye? I think of this in several different ways: light, shadow, colors, objects and direction. All of these elements are in my mindful consideration when I either take a photo myself or look at artful photography from another photographer.

Other things to consider when taking a photo:
Leading lines
What is the story?
Impact with visual, emotional, or mysterious elements
Diagonal elements
Vanishing points
Perspectives that are different
What a picture will evoke in the viewer

Each of these topics I will cover in later posts. But if you are like me, you will start thinking of all the possibilities now.

All of these elements work their way into making a good photograph. Below are my personal thoughts on the picture I used to illustrate this article.

The photo was taken with a Cannon elph sd750. It was the third shot I took with the camera while testing it out. I won this camera in a photo contest and I think it will make a great pocket camera. It's cheap and fun, and I also think that it proves the point that you can take a good picture with any camera at your disposal. And that is the point of this paragraph - you don't need an expensive camera to take a good shot.

Now about the compositional elements:

My friend is smack in the foreground with good play of light and shadows. The window frames the road and leads the eye directly to the mid-ground of the road. In the far-ground, a white sign leads the eye into the distance. Since my friend is looking forward, I left plenty of space so you can imagine the road ahead. I like the idea that he is squinting. It makes you feel his concentration. One other note - there is a diagonal line of interest from the end of his nose to the sign, and, off in the far distance, a barely-seen light pole. Now, you might like or dislike this shot, but I thought it would be a good photo to illustrate the points of how I use composition.
I know my mama thanks me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Photography News: Be in the Know Zone

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Newsweek has put out this wonderful slide show for us camera buffs who could not make it to the Olympics. Some of these shots are quite amazing and beautiful. These are shots to learn by.

Rotor News is reporting on a contest with a thousand-dollar prize. They are taking submissions till September 15Th - read the details. I imagine the number of entries will be low, so your chances of winning could be high.

First reviews of the new Nikon SB-900 are out, and it is going to be a powerhouse of a Speedlight. You can read the review here.

If you have ever felt ill at ease when taking photographs in public, it is nothing compared to the paranoia of picture takers in England. At least it is not this bad in the United States, but we all have our unfortunate tales.

And one more contest, but you have to be quick. This one is from Aperture and will include the trip of a lifetime. Contest ends in 11 days.

And for my friend who talked about needing a bubble level for their camera, see the ad below.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Five Free Photo Contests: Better than the Lottery

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Having been a winner of photo contests myself, I am a great believer that you should enter your work. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Most of these contests have odds of winning better than the lottery. In one contest I entered, the odds of winning a prize broke down to 1 in 200. And the Grand Prize was a Ford Escape. I didn't win the Grand Prize, but the prize I won wasn't shabby either.

Take the plunge and try your luck with these:

Photo of the Day: Three winners are picked each month from submitted entries. It is free to enter and there are prizes each month for the top three winners. Prizes are usually high-end Canon Printers.

Circuit City Photo Contest: This photo contest happens in a forum and is restricted to amateurs, but the prizes are great - mostly Nikon and Canon DSLRs. Winners are selected each month. Again, this contest is free to enter. They give away three cameras each month.

The RitzPix Photo Contest: Cash prizes are awarded in this contest. You have a small window to enter, from June 1 to September 15. There are 40,000 dollars in prizes. The grand prize winners receive 2,000 dollars each. And it's free.

Better Photo Photography Contest: Monthly prizes include a Deluxe Better Pholio or a 4-week photography course. First prize winner receives a Tarmac Sling Pack. You can enter a photo a day for consideration in the monthly contest. No fees here.

Cannon Parks Contest: Win a trip for two to any National or State Park and a Canon EOS 5D with an EF 24-105 HSM lens, and a Pixma Pro9500 printer. Entry deadlines are April 22 to September 30.

Photography News: New Products on the Horizon

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Lenovo Unleashes Highest Performance Mobile Workstation with ThinkPad W700

Look for this laptop to come out in September. This laptop will feature a built in Wacom and a 17-inch WUXGA screen. Another excellent addition will be built in - screen calibration by X-Rite.

With slots for 8 gigs of ram, this computer will certainly be a powerhouse.

Along with a hefty price (expect to pay 3000 plus), this laptop will weigh more than a five-pound sack of potatoes.

Expect two new cameras to come out soon: The Nikon D90 and the
Canon EOS-9D UPC's codes are out at retailers now, as discovered by Endgaget.

Features of the new Nikon D90 are humorously reported at this site.

Did you know? There is a ban on photographers taking pictures of military returning dead. This ban was enacted in 1991. A Bill in the House of Representatives is now challenging this.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Camera Repair: When it is in Pieces on the Ground

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Precision Camera Repair

Then it happens - you drop your DSLR and it is in pieces on the ground. Heartbroken, you pick up all the small parts. Is there hope?

Yes, there is. If you enter camera repair in the Google search, you will find Precision Camera comes up at the top of the list.

Last week I had the misfortune of my camera backpack opening while on my back. I heard a thump and looked down to see my D80 broken and in pieces. I carefully recovered the parts and did an online estimate for repairs.

Precision Camera quickly came up with an online estimate of 248 dollars, which included return shipping. I paid the estimate and sent the camera off along with a bag of the parts that had been spread on the ground.

I sent the camera on a Wednesday and checked the online progress. Precision received the camera Friday. It went into repairs on Monday and was headed back to me on Tuesday. By Friday, I had the camera back in my hands, in time for an important photo shoot on Saturday.

So how did Precision do, besides the very quick turnaround? Excellent. The camera was returned to factory specs, everything was recalibrated, they did a superior cleaning job both inside and out (including the sensor) and the camera software was updated.

The camera looked as good as it did when I first purchased it. Function-wise, everything was put back in exceptional order. They did a great job.

Precision Camera Repair is an authorized factory repair site for all leading brands of cameras. By the way, they even repair lenses. I truly expected a second higher estimate after they saw what bad shape my camera was in, but I never got that email and they performed the repair at the original online estimated price.

This was my second experience with Precision Camera, I had a Sony H5 that was still under warranty which they repaired, quickly and exceptionally well. Thus I had a great deal of confidence that they would repair my Nikon with the same high professional standard. I highly recommend if you break a camera or have a broken camera to give them a try.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Digital Camera Lighting: As Simple as 1 2 3

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Here you will find a crash course in digital lighting. Go to each of the sites in order, and you will absorb in lightning speed a quick understanding of the principles of camera lighting.

Step 1. Strobist Preliminaries One great little video, given a five star-rating with 96,000 views.

One comment on this video was:
"In a mere seven minutes and fifty-one seconds you taught me everything I've been trying to learn during the last 5 months." Suddenly you will have the starting blocks to understand strobe photography.

This video is from the great strobist site Strobist: Learn How to Light. They have a good index of posts for further learning.

Step 2. Dave Black Photography has some great information on the practical use of speed lights outdoors. I find his advice very useful, as well as some pointers on how to position the speed lights. You can also find an excellent tutorial by Dave in the Nikon Learning Center.

Step 3. Concepts of lighting and Digital Photography is a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand site with some excellent tutorials.

These three sites helped fill the void for me and I hope they help you also. Now, go out and shoot some great photographs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Photography News: Will the DSLR become Extinct?

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New Technology could lead to Cameras based on the Human Eye

This article is about current research of building a camera sensor like a human eye. Since the beginning of photography, images have been projected on a flat surface. This could soon change and usher in a new breed of cameras that may force extinction of the cameras we use today.

Lenovo Unveils Ramped Up ThinkPad W700 Laptop Aimed at Photographers

IBM is rolling out a new laptop targeted for the photographer. One interesting feature of this laptop is built-in Wacom tablet. Another interesting feature - super-bright 1920 x 1200-pixel, 400-nit WUXGA display with up to twice the brightness of earlier ThinkPad laptops.

When It all Goes Wrong

A new, hopeful magazine is closing up shop. Built on the model of JPG Magazine, EveryWhere Magazine has failed to establish a customer base. Read this article to see what happened to this offshoot of JPG magazine. Sometimes when one door closes, another opens.

Did you Know?: JPG Magazine pays 100 dollars for pictures that are published in their magazine and also pays for photo stories. You may want to get an account and try your luck. I have been published there and so can you.

If you like, you may vote for my recent entries: Theme Faith and Theme Nighttime

Related post: A Photo Essay: The Dream

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Photo Essay: The Dream

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"Dreams are like the paints of a great artist. Your dreams are your paints, the world is your canvas. Believing is the brush that converts your dreams into a masterpiece of reality."

We all have dreams. Sometimes they can become reality. Sometimes they are so far off that the vision disappears and we never arrive. A dream is almost like a mirage.

Sometimes when we try to reach it, it simply disappears before our grasp, but we keep trying. We keep seeking. And part of the joy is the journey.

Perhaps they will be mirages and just disappear like a reflection in the water, like when the butterfly reaches out to touch his reflection and finds there is not another butterfly there.

"The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle."
-Anais Nin-

Then I met this man on the lake of dreams. He told me something about himself. He told me how he came to this lake to dream. He talked about how he saw a deer everyday who swims across the lake. And then he told me of his dream.

He dreamed of having a boat so he could cross the lake like the deer. He told me as he watched a small boat on the other side of the bank. The boat was distant and could barely be seen on this overcast day. You could see in his eyes his dream, how he would love to be on a boat. To wander near the far banks. To see what life was like on the other side. His dream.

He was an old man with a young dream. And to him it was a dream that would never be. It was always slipping from his grasp, disappearing before his very eyes. He has been dreaming this dream for years, wishing for his boat to take him places he has never been.

"I learned that there were two ways I could live my life: following my dreams or doing something else. Dreams aren't a matter of chance, but a matter of choice. When I dream, I believe I am rehearsing my future."
--David Copperfield

When I left the old man I walked down the bank and around the bend. Sitting there was a derelict canoe that sat there rubbing against the bank. Perhaps lost or abandoned, it sat there, the vision of the old man's dream just out of sight.

I have thought of the old man and wondered, did he find his dream? Or did it just remain out of his sight, and his dream continued to be a mirage? I also wondered if the boat was lost from its owners who would find it, but it was most likely abandoned.

I do wonder if the old man's dream became real or if it continues to be a mirage in his thoughts.

I hope you all find beauty beyond your wildest expectations, that you feel the pulse and flow of nature that I so much enjoy. I hope that your spirits and creativeness leads to new avenues of wonderment and that you find amazement in this thing we call life.

Five Quick Tips For Better Point and Shoot Photography

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If you have a point and shoot camera, you can compete with those who have the fancy DSLR's. Some of my best and most profitable shots were made with the Sony H1 through H5 cameras. These cameras were particularly great for landscape shots.

The picture is of my old Sony H1 Camera with the telescope extender attached.

1. Use the timer on your camera. You will have less blurry shots - the camera moves when you press the shutter. Also, hold your breath while you shoot.

2. If you see a beautiful shot in front of you, also look behind you. You might be surprised by what you are missing.

3. Look at the lights and shadows. Having great light and shadows in your shots adds a natural feel of three dimensions.

4. Use the bracketing feature of your camera. If you take three exposures at different EV settings, you will be able to decide what is the better exposure. (EV is exposure value. EV compensation tells the camera to expose at a higher or lower setting than it thinks is right.)

5. When you compose your shot, think foreground, mid-ground, and far-ground. Look to see how the eye will be led through the picture.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Photographing the Red-Tail Hawk: Getting Close

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Red-Tail Hawks are not easy subjects. If you have a long lens, your chances are better at getting good shots. But if you do not have a long lens, you have to learn how to get close.

Steps in getting close to Red-Tail Hawks:

1. Know your subject. Learn what a hawk call sounds like. Be able to spot a Red-Tail Hawk from its silhouette. Keep your eyes open when you walk or drive.

2. Hawks like a variety of settings. In the mountains, think like a hawk - where would they get the best vantage point to spot prey? - and look there. Look for the position of the sun and how it shines down the mountain sides. Trees above these areas are favorite spots for Red-Tail Hawk perches. On paths, look on branches of tall dead trees. They like the unobstructed views when limbs are bare. Look at the top of telephone poles for the same reason.

3. Listen for birds having a commotion. Other birds, especially crows and mockingbirds, will cause quite a fuss when a Red-Tail is in their territorial area. If you hear a big commotion, chances are they are harassing a Red-Tail.

4. When you see a Red-Tail in flight, watch where it goes. Chances are they did not go far and you can reach the spot they flew to with a short walk.

5. Red-Tail Hawks are really not afraid of you. More so they are just bothered by your close presence. When trying to get closer, do not hide from a Red-Tail. Believe me, they saw you a long time before you saw them. Let a hawk evaluate your presence. The Red-Tail will decide how close you are allowed to get. If you are lucky and they are eating prey, your chances of getting closer are greater. Approach a few steps at a time, then stop and take some photographs. I find it helps if I talk to them in a soothing, quiet voice as I get closer. Be sure to take some photographs each time you stop. A Red-Tail can take off at any moment. Follow their flight - they may only fly a short distance.

6. On rare occasions you can befriend a Red-Tail, and when this happens they will know you and let you into their world. This is the ultimate Red-Tail Hawk complement.

How to befriend a Red-Tail:

Let me tell you a short story of how this happened to me. In the pictures through this story are pictures of the same Red-Tail that I took over a two-day period. I first met this Red-Tail while he was eating a squirrel on a limb. He was not really anxious to leave his meal so he let me stay. I took hundreds of photos and stayed with him over an hour, within ten feet of him.. I talked to him often in a calm voice. I felt a connection, and apparently he did also.

The next day I was walking down the same path and spotted him on a limb. He was not eating this time, but looking for prey. He allowed me to get very close, within five feet. I was able to stay there with him for several hours. Then I saw him dive in some underbrush. He had caught a mole and flew in a close-by tree and let me watch him dine. I had gained his trust the previous day, and that bond of trust did not disappear.

Whenever I walk the same path, I am allowed to approach and share some kind words with him.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Photoshop Tips,Tricks and Advice

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Adobe Photoshop to me is a constant learning process. I have only scratched the surface of what can be done with this fabulous program. As a constant student, I am always interested in new ideas of how people use the program. And even if I do not use their technique myself, some of what is done is fused in my mind, more on a subconscious level.

And when I look at an image and see where I want to go with it, I have more of an intuitive, and counter-intuitive approach of how I reach that result. After all, if we all used the same techniques, all our photos would have the same monotonicity. They would lose impact. You may become the master of the technique but at a loss of your creative edge. And ultimately, your images would drift into the sameness of the collective whole.

An example of this is when everyone was using the flood program,

It was catchy for awhile, and I even have some photos that I applied this to in my Flickr Archives. This photo at one time had reached number 1 in interestingness, had over 2,600 views, and 95 called it a favorite. At most it was a cheap trick of an easy program to use.

I have had better photos, and perhaps my best, Foggy Wood, has had over 1,100 people call it a favorite, and nearly 67,000 views. Why? Because this photo has genuine impact. It separates itself from the pack of any my photos, and perhaps many other excellent photographs. This in part was a fluke. Foggy Wood is 90 percent the composition and the shot, and 10 percent processing. I remember when I processed that shot it took less than five minutes. And believe it or not, I did not even have Photoshop. It is the kind of picture when "God presses the shutter," as Ansel Adams would say. At least it felt that way to me.

The point is to gain impact, to absorb what others are doing and then strike out on your own. When you take that great shot, and you will, the processing will fall just in place, like falling dominoes.

Now, I am going to recommend a site that has some excellent Photoshop videos. I recommend that you just watch them and absorb. Don't worry if you don't get the technique down pat. Remember you are adding this to your creative intuitive reason, and when you get into the flow of processing you will use what you need naturally.

By the way, the book below is my favorite Photoshop Book.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Todays Must Reads: Photography News

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How Every Flickr Photo Ended Up For Sale, by Jim Goldstein
An article about how the Flickr API is used by companies and individuals without regard to copyright and a commentary on whose fault this is. A must read for every Flickr user who values his or her photographic art.

I need your Help Badly, By Kris Kros aka Joe
Joe has been a good friend of mine for years. In his field of photography he is the best. Right now, he is facing a crisis in his life and needs our help. He is selling his Fine Art work for a tenth of what it is worth.

How to Win Photography Contests, by PhotoCritic
This lengthy article can serve more than as a suggestion on how to win contests. It gives an in-depth view on what makes photographs great. A must read for any photographer who wants to improve his or her art.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Power to the Photographer: assault and battery

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Just a fun post today, and I hope I captured your attention with the title. But I actually do have a recommendation about batteries, and then I promise something fun. If you use AA batteries in any of your cameras or camera accessories (especially flashes), I recommend that that you get the new pre-charged batteries.

The advantage of these batteries is that they can sit for up to a year and hold their charge, so when you go to your camera bag and get these batteries for your flash they are charged and ready to go - even if you put them in your bag six months ago.

I discovered these batteries when I was researching the field photo storage project I am working on. (More about the photo storage project later.)

The project required an emergency backup power pack that could charge from a USB port. By the way, it's great for cell phone emergencies and for point-and-shoot cameras that run out of juice in the field and you do not have another camera battery.

Below, continue to the fun at the Museum of the Obvious:

A totally amusing link to release your inner creativity. It's better than sliced bread!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Photo Editing: The Best Programs and Filters

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If you are like me, photo editing is always a quest for finding the best tools. We just want each of our images to be more impressive than the one before. We strive for excellence.

And that quest can empty your pockets pretty quick. Soon you learn, though, what works best for you and find that many of those expensive filters you have bought have remained unused.

Now, I have some recommendations. These are the programs and filters that I use time and time again. And some of the recommendations might surprise you.

The article continues below:

The essential list:

Photomatix: This is the standard HDR (High Dynamic Range) program that everyone uses. It's one of the best and if used properly can really enhance the colors and details of your image.

Photo Impact Pro: It's a program that is very similar to Adobe Photoshop. The advantage of this program is the cost factor. It is much cheaper than Adobe Photoshop CS3 but has many of the same functions. In some ways I prefer this program over CS3 for editing some of my images. The photo above, and this photo, were edited strictly in Photo Impact Pro and Photomatix. I like Photo Impact Pro because sometimes the edited pictures have qualities that I cannot achieve in Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended: This is the premier photo editing tool, at least until CS4 arrives. You can take a lifetime learning all the things that can be done with this fabulous program. The major cons of this program are the expense and the steep learning curve.

Filters I use most frequently:

Imagenomic: I use their pro noise reduction program. They do have a free community program that I used for awhile. The only problem I see with the community program is that it greatly reduces the size of the file you are working on.

Nik Software Color Efex Pro™ 3.0: This is a great program for making those photos pop. I love this program and all the filters that are included.

Viveza: It's also a program by Nik Software. Its ability to selectively adjust light, color, and contrast by control points is essential for the pro photographer. I use this program often.

Tiffin Dfx software: This product is sold by the same company that makes excellent filters for lenses. I highly recommend this this comprehensive suite of useful filters, and I use their filters often.

Nikon Capture
: This is a great program for editing raw pictures non-destructively. I shoot in raw, and this is the program I use to tweak my photos before editing in Adobe Photoshop or Photo Impact Pro.

Lucis Art: This product adds a very creative unique touch to your photos. It does not work with all photos, but you can get spectacular results. I would add that if you are on a budget this should be the last program that you buy.

These are the programs that I use. You do not need them all at once. I would suggest starting with Photo Impact Pro and the community version of Imagenomic, which is free. Then as you learn and develop skills, start ramping up to the next level. You will know when it is time.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Photographing for Dollars: Sports Photography

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In photography there are certain ways to assure an income. One thing to keep in mind, though - you have to be good. Event photography brings immediate results.

The selling scenario:

A simple formula to follow is if there is avid interest in an activity and you can capture things that stir people's emotional ties, those photos will sell. This is how I do this:

I go to an event such as a Natural Bridge Speedway race. I take pictures. People become curious about the guy with the camera. After the race, I send an email to the owner of the track, and tell them what I am up to. Plus I give them a link to a book I made on Blurb, and hope that they are impressed.

When I go to subsequent races, I bring the books and 8x10s, which are presented nicely in a case. I make sure that I give some photos and books to the owner of the track.

Now, I have their blessings to sell, but I still keep a low profile and let people approach me. Everything sells like hotcakes. I keep my prices low, like ten for an 8x10, and twenty for a book.

A small profit margin, but sales are repeated over and over.

This sounds simple enough, but you need to use tact, and be graceful. And be sure to thank the owner of the event for this special opportunity.

If this is all that happens, you will make some income. However, there are other possibilities.

Start thinking in a larger perspective. Could your photos be used for event promotions? And think of the countless products that could be made and sold through the event owners, or even the participants. Be creative and think out of the box, and even more income could come your way.

Now, this is a small-time operation that is run on a dime. Some people specialize in event photography and have the photos developed on the spot. Operations like this one have really capitalized on event photography.

Personally, I could not develop on the spot. Each photo takes time for me to process and I am very particular in getting the image enhanced just like I like it, but developing on the spot would definitely increase sales.

Shooting Wide: The Sigma 10-20mm Lens

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When it comes to shooting wide, there is only one solution in my mind: The Sigma 10-20mm lens.

The picture at left, (taken by me in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia) shows the beautiful result of using this lens set at its widest setting, 10mm. As you can see there is minimal distortion for shooting at such a wide angle. This picture was taken holding the camera about 90 degrees to the scene.

If you follow the lines in the picture, you can see for yourself the quality of the shot you can get with this lens.

I read plenty of reviews, both good and bad, from prominent lens reviewers before purchasing this lens and and I wondered why there was such a divergence in opinion. Then I looked at the pictures of users of this lens and that made up my mind. This lens was for me.

The article continues below:

The lens is like one thick barrel - it is substantial and has a tight feel when you zoom in and out. I am well pleased with landscape shots I make with this lens.

In the picture of Lynchburg, there is minimal distortion. If you hold the camera and tilt up or down while looking through the view finder you will find that you can add a little distortion with an artistic bent. I do this often to emphasize the clouds or the landscape. The picture of the James River illustrates this technique. I consider this a plus for this wonderful lens.

If you want to shoot wide and are wondering which lens is for you, I think you will agree that this is one fantastic lens.

Buying through these Amazon ads found on my website helps support my photography and this blog.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Photographing for Dollars: Wedding Photography Hints

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So you have that expensive camera and have posted on Flickr, getting glowing comments. Perhaps some mail has come and you have some sales. You want that more expensive lens, and you want to justify the purchase. This article is for you.

Turning pictures into dollars happens fast when you do niche photography, and do a good job of it. One area of niche photography is capturing that memorable moment when the ring is placed on the finger.

Wedding Photography:

Photographers specialize, and perhaps the best known is the classic wedding photographer. They can get between 400 dollars to 2,000 dollars per wedding. Wedding photography is hard work, and you only have one time to get it right. And you better get it more than right to please your customer. If you choose this path, my hat is off to you. But you better be prepared and below is some suggested reading:

A suggestion to an aspiring wedding photographer is to add some features to their total package. Some would be wedding announcement cards, specialized postage stamps, and envelope sticker seals. All of these products can be made on Zazzle, and they do a great job, and the turnaround is fast. Below is an example of what one person did with Zazzle, and from their sales you can see it was quite effective. My experience with them is quite positive.
One thing that is essential for today's wedding photographer is the wedding book. I publish books on Blurb and am quite pleased with the quality. The book creator they use is easy to use, and interfaces nicely with Flickr, as well as other sites.

Wedding photographers have to offer a total package. Develop a list of all that you will be offering your potential clients. Be creative, and offer things the client would not normally suspect. (Like the Zazzle stamps and cards above.) And also see: 21 tips for wedding photographers.

Brad, a very successful local photographer that I have gone on photo shoots with, specializes in weddings. Take a look at his site, and get a feel what is involved in being a successful wedding photographer.

Look for a future article on sports photography, which is a niche that I am developing for myself.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Creating Style: The Photograph Rebellion

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A rebellion is happening in the photographic world, from magazines to publishers, to contests, and the photographers themselves. The battleground lines are drawn. People are ready to draw blood to defend what they consider photography is.

(The photo at the left is mine, best seen if you click the photo to enlarge.)

The problem is Adobe Photoshop and the endless possibilities of its various filters - not even to mention some of the other great photo editing programs, like Photo Impact Pro. These programs present an incredible amount of enhancement tweaks, way beyond what many purists would find acceptable.

And even those who are the purists delve into to these programs to make their photographs pop.

But the war against this creative drive is great. Many are driven by the old world of film photography, hanging on to the past, even though creative magic did indeed happen in some of those darkrooms.

Ansel Adams said, "Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships."

Even great photographers like Ansel Adams did photographic enhancements, but mostly he was quiet about it.

Just look at magazine guidelines and contest guidelines. Many say they will reject stylized creative photography. Or at least that is what they say, but sometimes they are just too wowed to turn down a great piece of digital art. The battlefield has unclear lines.

There is a case for just excellent photography with a minimum of photographic adjustments. Sometimes there is nothing more perfect than a well executed image. In this imperfect world, I believe there is room for both. Sometimes I go from one side of the battlefield to the other, and learn from the skills of the soldier photographers on both sides of the front.

Amazing Photographs to learn from the artistic approach:
Grand Canyon
Kris Kros Gallery
Dave Hill Photography

Amazing Photographic purists:
The Magic of Nature by Rainey
J Webzone wildlife photography
Mark J Thomas Natural Selection

Then there is this great photographic artist:
"Vincent Versace is a Renaissance man who has produced the best how-to book of the year! With its subtitle of “A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop” Below is his book:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Why Zazzle for a Photo Gallery?

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Before, I told you about Photofront. Photofront is a free gallery that can be upgraded for ten dollars to add some additional features for life.

Well, there is another gallery site that is also free and if used right can generate income.

I first used Zazzle to make some personal purchases: stamps, bumper stickers, magnets, hats and a tee shirt. I was very happy with all of the products, except for the tee shirt.

This was the first tee shirt I made, and the problem was really mine. I should have understood the limitations of the silk screen printing. Plain pictures do not translate well on shirts - you have to make some design considerations that I will get into with another post.

Now, back to the Gallery(The picture above is in my gallery):

The advantages of having a Zazzle Fine photography gallery are:

Its free.

It can beautifully display your fine art photography.

You can design your own gallery, or use their themes.

There is a shopping cart attached, and people can add frames, mats, and choose different types of framing. And the quality of the different printing medias is excellent.
And best of all, you set the price of your commission.

Now, you can set your commission from 10 percent and up. On most of my products other than prints, I use the 10 percent markup (and consider this as personal promotion).

I honestly think, though, for your prints you should get a decent return. I set my commission for fine art prints from 70 percent to 90 percent. I recommend that you do the same.

If you value your art as much as I do, make the statement that your art is worth the price. Not only will you be more satisfied when you get a better commission, your customer will value your art more.