Jul 31, 2009

More Lightning, anyone?

OK, so I have not captured any lightning photos quite as beautiful as these over at the Big Picture blog, but things are getting better.

It is really instructive to look at great shots, use the power of the information age to see what the good photogs are doing, and get inspired to do better each time out.

One thing among the good shots is that they have a subject with or without the lightning. The lightning makes it dramatic. Just a picture of a lightning bolt could be anywhere, but adding another identifiable element makes it much more interesting to look at.

Attempt 1... A church with a huge, brightly lit cross in the parking lot.

Lightning July 31-100

And much better...
Lightning July 31-101

Attempt 2... very identifiable landmark, WalMart...
I did not find a good place where trees were not blocking the signs or the parking lot lights weren't causing a lot of flare in the lens.. next time I will be prepared to shade the camera better...
Lightning July 31-102

Lightning July 31-103

OK enough of that...

Jul 30, 2009

Exposure Basics - Fountains and Shutter Speed

FW Botanic Garden-102

This blog started as a place to point people who ask me about photography. One of the questions I hear most often (usually sports related) is about stopping action. When you leave your camera on automatic mode, you are at its mercy in this regard.

Shutter speed determines how long the exposure takes, and therefore how much of the subject's movement or camera's movement is captured in the frame. Faster shutter equals less recorded movement.

Many people are disappointed in their camera's ability to use faster shutter speed in dark areas, and this is one of the areas in photography where money ends up making a big difference. Newer and more expensive cameras and lenses are more sensitive, and let in more light to enable the higher shutter speeds.

The easiest way to play with the shutter speed is in "shutter priority" mode. You pick the shutter and iso, the the camera does the rest. For some reason, tV is the designation for shutter priority mode on the camera. If you know why, let me know.

Streams, waterfalls and fountains make great places to play with shutter speed, because at either end of the spectrum, motion stopped or blurred, there is a neat result.

Here is a run through of the same shot with corresponding shutter speeds of a fountain at the wonderful Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
FW Botanic Garden-111
1/400 Shutter Speed, the motion is mostly stopped. The focus point for this series is the rock in front, so the drops are out of focus on this one.

FW Botanic Garden-112
1/100 Shutter speed, the drops show a little movement, but are still separately defined elements.

FW Botanic Garden-113
1/50 Shutter speed, and you can really see some motion happening.

FW Botanic Garden-114
1/15 Shutter speed, and the drops are blurring together. To me, this looks closest to seeing the fountain in person.

FW Botanic Garden-115
1/5 Shutter speed and all definition is lost. Past this point, you get the silky-white water look that turns waterfalls into a surrealistic flowing look.

1/5 was also as slow a shutter speed possible on the 5D with this much light (Lowest ISO setting and highest aperture). To get more, you can add neutral-density filters on your lens to knock down the light a bit.

A tripod is recommended as well. I did not have mine for these shots, so I was kneeling on the ground "being" the tripod....

Using high shutter speeds is fun with water as well, to freeze droplets in mid air like the abstract looking thing at the top of the post.

Here are a few more shots from the FWBG...

FW Botanic Garden-116
1/500 shutter
FW Botanic Garden-117
1/40 Shutter

Fountains acn make interesting background objects because of the organic shapes.. In this case it looks like a ghost!
FW Botanic Garden-110

The fountain makes an exclamation point for the end of the vine-covered walkway...
FW Botanic Garden-107

Hanging vines with water droplets, low Aperture setting, and that turned out even better than I had hoped...
FW Botanic Garden-109

Some flowers I've never seen before...
FW Botanic Garden-105

And roses of all shapes, sizes, varieties and colors...
FW Botanic Garden-106

Including dead
FW Botanic Garden-101

The view down through the rose garden and fountains
FW Botanic Garden-100

And another abstract water droplet shot, just for the fun of it.
FW Botanic Garden-103

Happy Shooting

don j.

Quick Pics - Phone Photos in Fort Worth

I have heard wise photographers say, "The best camera is the one you have with you." With cameras built into the phone, at least we almost always have a way to get snapshots (or better) and capture a moment.

Today I was out in Fort Worth for work. Fort Worth is one of my favorite cities, because it really maintains a country, smaller-town feel. I grew up on small country towns, so I feel at home there.

I take my "real" camera almost everywhere, but it is a little bit big to carry around, especially when talking to customers for my real job. Which gets us back to cell phone cameras.

There is a cutting-horse show at Will Rogers Arena, with lots of photo opportunities. The horses, cows, Cowboys, Cowgirls, boots with spurs... all kinds of photographic goodness.

While there, I noticed in the main arena there were lots of riders going around in circles. It reminded me of an ice rink, except completely different.

On the side was one cowboy watching and having a quiet moment with a horse.

There was not much light, so the riders in the background were blurring out, making a nice effect. It's all about layers.

Of course, I wish I had my dslr, but I am still happy with these pictures for capturing the feeling in the arena at least a little.

One more cell-phone camera example...

A very "Fort Worth" snapshot...

Use the camera you have with you, and even if it is just a cell-phone camera, you can still use it to make memorable photos instead of just snapshots. All of these photos are taken with a Blackberry Curve.

Happy Shooting,

don j.

Jul 28, 2009

Shoot Around

One fun excercise I enjoy is finding a subject and shooting around it with different backgrounds and camera settings. By doing this, then analyzing the results, you develop your ability to pre-visualize a photo and use the camera, light, subject and background to make it happen.

Back out at the Reunion Demolition site, I came upon some variety of sunflower growing in the parking lot. For all kinds of reasons, a flower at this place is a contrasting element, so it became a photo subject.

Here is a basic walk-up snapshot of the pretty flower and ugly demolition in progress.
Canon 5D, 24mm, f10, 1/200, iso100, -2/3 exposure to accommodate for the big dark spot in the middle.

Next up, shallow depth of field to knock the background into blurry goodness. I played with this on in LightRoom quite a bit to for some funky colors, just 'cuz I liked it.
Canon 5D, 32mm, f2.8, 1/1600, iso100

Now how about a family portrait with a nice cloudy sky background? hmmmm...
Canon 5D, 45mm, f5, 1/1600, iso 100

OK, and a close up?
Canon 5D, 65mm, f5, 1/500, iso 100

I'm really liking the blue sky in the background contrasting the yellow, so wide angle it is...
Canon 5D, f5, 1/1600, iso100

Sooooo, find something interesting and have some fun shooting it. Change settings, change angles, look for backgrounds... you will definitely learn something in the process if you take a little time to look at the results....

Happy Shooting,

don j.

Jul 24, 2009

Quick Pics - More Reunion Arena

Do you ever get sort of attached to a photo project a little more than you thought you would? I have no real affinity for Reunion Arena, but having watched it go from intact building to a mangled wreck, I now feel drawn to the place.

Of course, after a while, all of the photos start to look the same. The idea then, is to find new details and new angles to shoot from. (a full set of my Reunion shots here on Flickr)

Mangled twisted rebar... interesting...

Framing the shot within the photo is usually a nice touch. This has also been massively adjusted in Lightroom because I wanted the funky colors.

Walking farther than on previous visits gave me a shot of the arena with part of the skyline behind, and the Reunion Blvd. exit sign below.... I thought it was going to work better but it just turned out OK.

I thought this picture of the stairs would be neat, but after looking at it I think the broken glass and debris are what make it interesting.

Without any people to give scale to the size of the place, the machinery has to do the job. The area that looks like a ramp is a stairway covered in rubble. Where the equipment is sitting would have been blocked by the upper seating bowl.

I bought a used truck (new to me!) earlier in the week, so I wanted some tough looking truck shots... this was my favorite, with the sun doing some nice highlighting to pop it out from the background. You have to watch out for reflections in the shiny parts though...

Have a great weekend, everybody (and go make some pictures!)

Happy Shooting,

don J

Jul 21, 2009

Fun Photo Stuff from the Web

What the duck... animated...

My wonderful wife and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary over the weekend so I missed out on the Worldwide Photo Walk activities... Jim had one going over in Terrell, and there were several around our area. If you are a Flickr member (it's free) go check out some great photos in the photowalk groups to see what the hubbub was all about. Videos are on Scott Kelby's blog (including a slideshow from downtown Dallas) and youtube... I definitely want to participate in the future. If anyone is interested in an "EastTexasPhoto" photo walk or get together, let me know. Collaboration can be a great creativity booster.

The move toward "Citizen Journalism," which includes blogs and other self-publishing avenues is very interesting to me. Unfortunately, businesses with very low costs of entry and broad competition are hard to make profitable. Further, while the pool of "journalists" gets exponentially bigger, the depth of reporting and seems to be at an all time low. That makes this interesting. A collaboration of sorts to distribute news event photography from regular people for licensing by larger traditional and new media outlets.

Canon EOS 5D shutter release in super-slow-motion looks very violent to me.

I have been reading Within the Frame by David duChemin. I will try to review that when I am finished, but it has some very thought-provoking insights about the whys (and hows) of photography, especially when shooting in other cultures. That has me very excited about September because I am going on a top secret trip south of the equator. Very exciting. Like, I can't sleep. Part two of "Camera packing tips" coming up for sure!

And one from me... Space Shuttle Endeavor leaving JRB Fort Worth on the back of a 747 last December. A photo cannot capture what it was like to watch this thing fly. Amazing.

Happy Shooting everyone,

don j

Jul 17, 2009

Quick Pics - Drum Corps in Dallas

I only marched for one year in high school band, but it was plenty to give me some real appreciation for the work and talent that the DCI folks put into making some truly remarkable shows.  I've always been a drummer at heart (ask my mom what happened to the pots and pans), but this was the first time I have seen one of these events in person, and it was very fun and entertaining.

The July heat made it even more impressive.  I was a massive pool of sweat just taking pictures.

I arrived early, and the ambient light was still very bright, although some clouds were starting to soften it a little from direct sunlight.
DCI Blog-107

Using a flash in the daylight can put a little fill into faces, and if you want, you can intentionally underexpose the ambient light.  If it is done well, it just draws attention to your subject without being obvious flash.  Of course, it also helps to take the flash off of the camera and hold it further away to avoid direct flash flatness.

I like this one, but the background is a little dark, and it is pretty obviously flashed.
DCI Blog-105

On this one I like the light balance, but I completely missed on the composition... 
DCI Blog-106

Still kind of obvious with the flash, but I like this one for some reason. That is some serious plumage.
DCI Blog-120

By the intermission, clouds had rolled in ahead of the much hyped weekend cool front. Made for some really cool blue sky backgrounds up in the bleachers. No flash on this either, just using the stadium lights and letting the background be dark and moody.
DCI Blog-108

My favorite performance of the night was by the Blue Devils. Besides being very well played, they used a large number of folding chairs. They marched around chairs, sat in chairs, stood on chairs, moved chairs around and all without anyone falling on their face.  From the bleachers, photo opportunities were pretty bland (the longest lens I had was a 70-200mm) but the chairs made an interesting visual element.
DCI Blog-109

OK, enough of that.  I know it isn't for everybody, but if you have an opportunity to see these kids (I can say that because I'm over 30, right?) perform, take it in and I think you will be impressed.

Happy Shooting

don j.

Jul 14, 2009

Backyard news...

OK, so this is a bit of a divergence from photo talk, but there are photos...

My lovely wife is an avid gardener, and she has turned our back yard into an oasis of flowers, veggies and general beauty.  A mockingbird family took up residence in a trumpet vine, with two baby birds until yesterday.  Now there is one baby, and he has abandoned the nest, maybe a bit early.  The mother bird is none too happy to have a goofy photographer snapping away... 

Seriously, total snapshots, but great scrapbook material (one of my wife's other hobbies).

Mom bird looks down at baby bird...  If I had been thinking, I should have put this together into one shot.  

Mom bird glares at photographer...

In other news, a huge Tomato Hornworm is making a mess of the tomato plants.  Seriously making a mess of them.  These things make bigger poop than mice, and they devour the plants down to the stems.  They also do not die easily.

It was getting dark, and I had the camera out so I decided to play with the flash in the evening light. By hand-holding the flash off of the camera, you can have the light coming from other directions. This looks much better than direct on-the-camera flash.

Sooo..  get out and shoot some, even if it is in your back yard.  Use the time to practice a technique or just document what's around you.  I'm not old yet, but I do know that having photos to remember places, people and experiences will be a great joy in the future.

Happy Shooting,

don j.

Jul 13, 2009

Quick Pics - Reunion Arena

I mentioned a while back that I was occasionally taking photos as demolition of Reunion Arena progresses.  For those of you with lots of fond memories of events in this building, it may be sad.  For me, I have some good memories of a few Stars and Sidekicks games, and some concerts as well.  The building itself never really grew on me though.  It has a unique shape and is (soon to be was) a definite landmark, but it wasn't a building to fall in love with.  

As of this morning, it is down to a few seating supports, the roof, and a big hole in the ground.

The workday begins....


Photographic note...  having a person in a shot of something gives a sense of scale.  We can relate to the size of a person and feel how big or small something is.  



The wildlife don't seem to mind one way or the other about the building, as long as the trees remain.  

Happy Shooting,

don j