The Roads Less Traveled

Ideas for new photos can come from where you least expect it. I don’t know what your commute to work is like each day, but by taking some extra time and traveling some dusty back roads, I’ve found a whole new world of photographic inspiration.

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Take Better Sunrise and Sunset Photos

Sunrise and sunset photos are among the most photographed things in the world. It is a natural thing for anyone to shoot these because they are spectacular. But I see a lot of sunrise and sunset photos that are poorly exposed or just shot wrong. Here’s an easy way to shoot them. Continue reading

Why Shooting Landscapes and Nature is Better at f/11 or Less

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Shot at 8mm, f/5.6 on an APS-C camera. The focal point was about 1/3 of the way into the frame at a point about 30 feet from the camera on the green grass where it meets the road.

Almost everything you will read will tell you that to have a great looking landscape shot it has to be sharp from front to back, and you have to shoot at f/16 or f/22 to get that.

Not true.

That is not how it works in the real world with your eyes, and it is not how a camera or lens should be used either. I’ll break this down and destroy this myth. Continue reading

Review: The Sigma 8-16 mm Lens is Excellent for Landscapes

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Sigma’s 8-16 mm f/4.5-5.6 lens is the widest rectilinear lens made for APS-C sized cameras. This is the 35 mm equivalent of 12-24 mm. If sweeping landscape shots and front-interest images with tremendous depth are your things, then you’re going to love this lens.

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Review: Why the Hoya HRT CIR-PL Circular Polarizer is a Winner

Hoya HRT CIR-PL UV box

The Hoya HRT CIR-PL UV filter is a winner in my opinion. It has both the polarization and UV protection, but most importantly it does not cut down on the light reaching your camera sensor as much as many of the others. Together with its low cost, I think this is the filter every photographer should own.

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Storm Light

What is “Storm Light?”

“Storm light” is a special kind of outdoor lighting that occurs usually just after a storm has passed. The atmosphere is usually full of small particles of dust, rain, and ice, and this creates a unique coloration of the sky and land. It is one of the best, most difficult, most dangerous, and rarest of times to shoot landscape photos. Continue reading

Choosing a Focus Mode and AF Frame

Focusing Modes Explained

Choosing a focusing mode (also called AF Mode) for your camera can be confusing. Very confusing. It’s not something you’re going to want to be thinking about when you’re ready to shoot, that’s for sure! Here’s a simple explanation for some common focus modes and how I use them. Continue reading

Behind the Shot: Ludington Beach

Ludington Michigan on the West coast of Michigan’s lower peninsula is a beautiful lakeside city. Sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan, it attracts visitors who are eager to get away from the cities and towns, and who are looking to enjoy the lake.  This photo was taken on the beach at Ludington, late in the day.

I got down low for this shot because I really wanted to capture that look and feel of a late summer day on the beach. However, the land and sky were hardly cooperating with me! I made do though and here’s how…

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Capturing Color – What You See vs. What Your Camera Sees

I just returned from a trip to the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman and the colors of the ocean were so beautiful there. They were every shade of blue to green that you could think of, and I just knew I would never be able to do those colors justice in my camera images. Why? I know that my eyes capture more colors than any camera ever will… Continue reading

Composition and the Mind – A Modification of the Rule of Thirds

When I go to take a photo of something, I think first about the composition. I go through all of the rules I’ve learned about what looks best to people and where to position each element in the photo. But I’ve often wondered why some of these rules of composition work in the first place.

It really comes down to how we think when we see things, and it is interesting and very helpful to know this when setting up for a shot. Here’s an example… Continue reading

Scouting Shots

Before setting out to shoot some photos, it is always a good idea to scout¹ out some locations that may produce great shots. The idea here is to go and find those spots where a great photo could be taken, so that you can set up and be ready to go when conditions are right and the photo is there for the taking! It is very similar to what good hunters do when they are preparing to hunt their prey.

“But where?”  I’m glad you asked. Here’s some ideas “where” and more importantly here’s “how,” “why”, and “when!” Continue reading

Flashlights for Outdoor Photography

When out taking photos, every good photographer has a good flashlight with them. If you’re a time-lapse or night photographer, it is essential equipment and a red light in it is best for the eyes (not reviewed here). But every outdoor photographer has a need for a good flashlight during those “golden hours” before sunrise or after sunset when the best photos can be taken. And, as a safety item, it’s invaluable!

I’ve used a few different flashlights over the years, and have settled on the following ones as the best and brightest!

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Same Location – Different Photos

Isn’t it funny how two people can look at the same thing and see something slightly different? Or maybe even completely different? The same happens in photography. With well-photographed areas and attractions, it is easy to see how the perspective of the photographer comes into play in making the photo! By the end of this post, I hope you will see what I mean…

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Photographing Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Here’s what I learned about photography from my recent trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons!

I went there on vacation in mid-September, and it was the perfect time with the crowds gone and the elk running all over the place. The foliage was still green in low lands, but turning in the high lands where it had just frosted.

Before leaving, I was really wondering what gear to take to get the types of shots I wanted. So, I took everything I had. But here are the items that I really used, so maybe you won’t have to take so much stuff. Continue reading

Realism in a Photo

The sun is bright and when you look toward it, your eyes can’t see any detail in it. It is “blown out” in your eyes. Is this any surprise? No. Shocking information? No. Well then why do we as photographers complain when our photos show the sun as a feature-less blown-out highlight? It is, after all, what you would have seen had you been standing there behind the camera isn’t it? Of course it is.

Let’s say you’re standing in a dark ravine looking up with dark rocky outcroppings all around, but a bright sun shining above. Do your eyes see detail in the shadows? Of course not. Surprising? No. Something wrong with your eyes? No. It’s a high-contrast scene and this is what your actually seeing. So why do we as photographers when we look at the photo later, feel as if we’ve failed somehow because the shadows in our photo are black without much detail. It was, after all, exactly what we saw when we were there.

How well can you see details on the horizon? Are treelines perfectly clear to you? No. What about the haze in the air. Do those distant tress or mountains look perfectly clear? No. Could they be a little out of focus to your eyes? Sure. When we get behind the lens though, we want everything to be sharp and clear – but clearly not how we actually saw it. Why?

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Analyzing Photos Taken by the “Masters”

How can you tell if you are making your photographs look as good as the “masters” in the field of photography? One way is to do an analysis of their images using Lightroom or similar software. I used Lightroom for this example.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. I captured a photo from the “master” artist/photographer that I wanted to emulate.  I chose Peter Lik for this example because he is a great landscape photographer in my opinion. Here is a copy of one of his most beautiful photos from his website. You should choose whomever you want based on who’s works you find the best and whom you want to be most like in making your own. When doing this, don’t feel that you have to get full-size images. I took mine from his site at a low resolution and low size. This works just fine. Continue reading