What Digital Photography Has Given Us

January 28, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

IMG_1114IMG_1114 Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing fine this week.  Today I want to get on a soap box a little and  Reminiscing of film days gone by.  I was listening to a podcast that had a National Geographic photographer with almost 40 years experience as a guest.  I really enjoyed listening to him talk and he brought up some differences between now and then.  As a younger teenager when I started photography I dreamed of being a top photographer working for National Geographic or Look or Life magazines.  How glamorous it looked when you look at the works of famous photographers during the depression taking photo's of life in the US back then just to document it.  How their camera's were mechanical wonder machines with precision workings inside. How the black and white photo's they took were sharp and clear and made time stand still.  But some things I had forgot.  How the film had limits to them and you could only do so much with the low ISO or back then ASA film. Like you could only shoot  1/2 hour before sunrise and 1 1/2 hours after and 1 1/2 hours before sunset and 1/2 hour after.  Everything else was useless grainy shots. Not to mention Night time photography.  If you look back at older issues of National Geographic you'll never see anything shot at night because they couldn't. And how the learning curve for a new photographer to really be able to shoot and produce good prints from film.  Because the learning curve was so long.  Think about it.  You had to Bodie Island MilkywayBodie Island MilkywayMax Stansell Photography shoot your shot ( in manual of course) then you had to develop your film.  Then you had to enlarge it or at least make a contact sheet and then you could see if your photo was ok.  Its not like now you take a photo and look at the back of your camera and say " oh that was over exposed let me make an adjustment"  Then shoot again and see it.  So now the learning curve is much less than it was back then.  According to the guest it would take one or two years before a young photographer would be good enough to trust to take a shot for a publication.  Now it could take only and couple of months to be as the same level as back then because of the short learning curve. What about quality of work?

untitled-43-Edituntitled-43-Edit When I look at the national archives photo's from the 20's, through the 60's I am astonished on how good some of these photo's are.  They are crisp and sharp with lush blacks and mid tones.  But then I start to think about it could they stand up to a iPhone 12 today?  The guest of this podcast took some photo's that he had taken in the 70's with a Leica camera and put them up against an iPhone and he said that the iPhone beat the Leica in every way but one that's story telling .   Which is done by the photographer not the camera.  The majority of photographs taken today is with our phones.  We are documenting history and don't even know it because it has become a part of our lives.  We shoot food, our pets, our children, events at church almost every aspect of our daily lives are documented with our phones.  Then we put them on the internet like Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.  When they go on the internet they are there forever.  Just yesterday I was looking for a photo to show a co-worker and I ended up finding it by googling myself and looking at the images on a photo sharing site that I don't even use anymore.  What would we know about our parents if they had iPhones back then?  What would we learn about ourselves that we don't know now because it was something that was lost in time?  Professional photographers in the past had to impress a photo editor of a magazine to get published and make money.  Now a days its "likes" and "followers".  The more you have , the more popular you are ,the more people that look at your post the more valuable you are for companies to get you to talk about their products.  People make a living out of being popular on Instagram alone from sponsorships. 

So what has digital photography done?  It has brought photography to everyone that owns a phone.  Every time you look at a screen , whether its Facebook , Instagram, Amazon, whatever its because of digital photography that its happening.  We all have a powerful tool in our hands every day.  And like in the Spider Man Movie " with power comes great responsibility". Sounds kind of crazy doesn't it.  People use their phones for good every day. From taking a photo of some injustice.  Think about the George Forman incident.  All photographed and documented with phones/digital photography.  Or something as innocent as taking the photo of a lost dog and putting it on Facebook so the owner can find it. Digital photography has changed the way we see the world and the way we live in it. Its debatable whether that is good or bad thing that's for you to decide. But as you see it's pretty powerful if you sit and think about it.

Well that's enough soap boxing for today.  Until next week get outside and shoot!


New "New Years Tradition"

January 21, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

_MSP8201-Edit_MSP8201-Edit Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing well so far this New Year! Back in 2020, my photo buddy, Robert, and I went to the coast of North Carolina for a photo of the New Year.  We had a great time and it was a great start to the new year that actually turned out great considering that Covid started.  Speaking of Covid, we didn't do anything in 2021 because of it.  So this year we decided to make a go at it again.  So we went from sea level in 2020 to the highest peak east of the Mississippi in 2022. 

Trip Planning: Trip Planning was pretty easy.  We had 3 or 4 ideas on places ranging from Virginia to South Carolina.  Once we decided on the location, my photo partner in crime booked the nearest hotel.  That was pretty much it.  It was a 4-hour drive, and he volunteered to drive. So I really didn't have anything to do but show up. Which is wesome!

31 December 2021: We left about 10:00 in the morning and started the long drive.  The conversation was lively as it always is.  We talked about Mt. Mitchell SunriseMt. Mitchell Sunrise gear, new photo techniques, politics, almost anything.  I don't think there was a minute of silence the whole way there.  We stopped to get gas and made some sandwiches with stuff we brought with us.  We kept heading to the mountains.  Robert's brother in-law was going to meet us at some point.  He has a little Miata that he was driving and wanted to drive the curvy roads of the mountains.  We finally made it to our hotel in Marion, NC, and realized that we were still an hour away from Mount Mitchell.  So we dropped off a bag, got back into Robert's truck, and headed out.  The road up was very curvy and steep in places.  We finally made it onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and after a few tunnels, we were there.  When we got out it was cold, windy, and looked like it was going to rain.  The bags we dropped off at the hotel had our jackets in them.  Yikes!!!  We bundled up the best we could and headed to the top.  This was a short but steep climb, and we finally make it to the observation tower.  We took photos and scoped out where we were going to Sunrise 2022Sunrise 2022Mt Mitchell shoot in the morning.  On the way down, we met Robert's brother in-law and we went back up to the top.  We then all headed out to get us something to eat.  Robert attached a GoPro to the Miata for footage of the trip down the mountain.  We found an excellent Mexican Restaurant in Marion and had a feast.  After that we headed to the hotel to get ready for the New Year's shoot.

1 January 2022: We started early and left the hotel at 5:30. For some reason we thought that sunrise was around 7:00, but it wasn't until almost 7:30.  We figured that the drive would take longer because it was dark, and it was.  We arrived at Mount Mitchell at 6:30 and didn't know if the gates were going to be open.  They normally don't open until 7:00, but they were open so we drove to the top parking lot.  It was 6:30, dark, rainy, and cold. The temp was 39 degrees, and the wind was howling.  We were sitting in the truck and it was shaking in the wind.  And we were the only ones there.  After a while, another car _MSP8206-Edit_MSP8206-Edit and a truck showed up, but it was still dark and windy.  We saw a lone figure heading up with a hoodie pulled over their head, so we decided to get bundled up and head up.  I ventured not to take my tripod because it was so windy it would just get blown around, but Robert brought his.  When we finally made it up to the top, there were 5 or 6 people there watching the sunrise on the new year. The wind was howling and the clouds were streaming by.  The lone figure we saw was a smallish young lady who was standing on a bench with her cell phone being almost blown off the bench at any given time.  It was a pure pleasure to be with these people watching a new year start. There were these big columns that I sat my camera on to steady and it worked out okay.  Robert wedged his tripod through the rungs of the railings and it kept steady.  We oohed and awed at the scene for about 30 minutes.  I turned around and a young man was on one knee proposing to his gal.  It was an honor to be a witness to this at this place and time.  She said yes.  We got some great photos and video and really enjoyed the new New Year's tradition.  On the _MSP8233_MSP8233 way down, we stopped at a couple of places along the way and got some shots.  We stopped by the hotel and, score, they were still serving breakfast, so we sat down and had a big breakfast before heading home.  Our journey home was much like the one there, filled with conversation on many topics.  But the most important topics were the next adventures we have planned.  Some small and one large adventure planned for the future.  We'll talk about these later.  

So until next week, start making more photo traditions and get outside!


What My Filters Do

January 14, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing well this week. This week's topic came from one of my camera club members that read an earlier post about what filters I use.  She wanted a description of when I use particular filters. So this is for you, Patricia. This is a list of the filters that I have and use, what they do, and when I would use them.  And there are really only 3 types of filters I use.  Polarizer, Neutral Density, and Graduated Neutral Density.  I will list them in order of importance in my opinion. 

Polarizer -  The polarizer is the most important filter of them all in my opinion.  It does what no other filter does, and it can't really be duplicated by Photoshop.  You may have heard it called a circular polarizer also.  It actually comes in two flavors - one is the linear and the other is circular. The circular is the more popular of the two and screws onto the front of your lens.  It has a rotating part that you can turn to increase or decrease the effects of the polarizer.  The linear polarizer is typically a square filter, and you will need some type of holder that attaches to the front of your lens. There are really only two positions.  If it doesn't work, rotate it 90 degrees and it will be working.  Both kinds will block 1 to 2 stops of light that travels through them, so you must make adjustments.  Your camera will automatically do this if you have it in one of the auto modes.

A polarizer does a few things. The first thing it does is increase the saturation of things.  You can make your FiltersFilters blah skies turn bluer than blue. It will also increase the saturation in vegetation making leaves green.  It also knocks the glare and reflection off of things. Looking through a storefront window, if you see yourself in the reflection, using a polarizer will make the reflection disappear.  If you look at water and it's too shiny, when you use a polarizer it will let you see to the bottom of a clear lake.  It's just like wearing polarized sunglasses when you're driving. Not only do they darken, but they knock the glare off of the windshield so you can see clearly.  With a circular polarizer, you can adjust as you like by turning the ring. For best results, the sun should be 90 degrees from where you're pointing. So not behind or in front of you, but to the sides.  This filter is great whenever you shoot around water, say shooting waterfalls.  This is a must-have in any photographer's bag.  Price will vary on the quality of the filter. Generally, you get what you pay for.

The Neutral Density Filter.  These filters are used when you want to darken the scene to either do a long shutter release or you want to open up the aperture of your lens.  This filter is used quite a bit for video work.  But for photography, it's mainly for long shutter release or opening up your aperture to give that great bokeh in broad daylight. Say for example you wanted to take a portrait in bright sunlight but you wanted to use an open aperture of 2.8, which is pretty wide open.  You would have to crank up your shutter speed to the thousands to get it to work if your camera would even get that high.  But when you put on an ND filter which darkens the scene, the wide aperture would let in enough light and you could slow down your shutter speed. I mainly use these filters to show motion.  I can do a long exposure in daylight and still blur a waterfall or have motions of the clouds drift across the sky giving a cool effect. These filters come in different strengths.  They are measured in stops of light.  Usually 3,6,8,10.  You can double up and have a 6 and a 3 together to make a 9.   Or a 3 stop and a polarizer to give a 4 or 5 stop light reduction. This is the combo that I usually use for waterfalls.  These filters can come in either square or circular filters.  For the square ones, you will need a holder of some sort to attach to the front of your lens.  The circular ones just screw onto the front of your lens, so you need to know your filter thread size. (usually found on the front of your lens)

Graduated Neutral Density Filter.  This filter can be duplicated in Photoshop or Lightroom in post-production, so it is not widely used as when film was king.  This filter is usually a rectangular shape and goes from clear to dark.  Sometimes it's a quick transition, called a hard graduation, and other times it's a slow transition, called a soft graduation.  These filters are used for sunrise and sunset shots mainly, and you can hold them over the bright part of the sky with the dark part of the filter and the light part goes over the land.  The hard grads are used for like at the beach where you have a clear cut horizon line, and the soft ones are for hills or trees  where it is not as clear where the horizon is.  Like I said earlier, these filters are not used as much anymore because you can do the same thing in post-production.  These filters come in different strengths also, like the ND filters and by stops also.  I haven't used one in a while but thought I would share.  These can be handheld for the shot.

Well, there you go, Patricia.  There are the different types of filters I use and when I use them.  Until next week, keep shooting and get outside.


Off Camera Lighting. Settings TTL vs Manual

January 07, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

414BFcFy2sL414BFcFy2sL Hey Everyone!  Hope you had a super week!  This week is a continuation of last weeks blog. Off camera lighting.  If you haven't read that one please go and read.  This week I want to talk about camera and flash settings for Off camera Flash.  This can be kind of tricky so I'll try to keep it simple.  As always when you're in doubt pull out the manual. The first thing you'll have to decide is TTL or Manual metering.  This can be a simple answer if you only have manual strobes.  But if your strobes can do both then you have to figure out which one you want to do. You can't really mix and match its either one or the other and I'll explain why later but first lets talk about TTL.

TTL (Through the lens metering).  When you have the correct strobe set up you may be able to use TTL metering.  This means that the camera meters the scene and then tells the flash how much to flash a little or a lot. This is how TTL works.  When you have your flashes set to TTL and your camera on one of the automatic modes like say Aperture Priority mode.  When you press the shutter button a signal goes from your trigger (mounted on your hot shoe) and it tells the flash to send a pre flash.  The flash pops and the camera reads the signal through the lens and determines the shutter speed and how much flash to use.  Then the trigger sends a signal to the flash to flash with the proper amount of flash.  All of this happens so fast you don't even see the pre-flash only the final one. But the camera has made all of the decisions. This can work great if all of your lights are TTL.  But lets say you only had one TTL flash and you were using it for your main flash.  Your second or third flashes were manual and you had them 41zl9yX4ltL41zl9yX4ltL to trigger optically.  Which means they see a flash and they flash.  So you have everything set up and you go to take a photo and this is what happens.  You only see all of the manual flashes and it looks like your TTL didn't flash at all.  But this is what really happened.  You pressed the shutter your TTL flash sent a pre-flash your other lights saw this and flashed. Your camera saw a lot of light because everything flashed at the same time.  Your camera saw all of this and told your TTL flash to go to minimum power and flashed.  So all of your manual flashes went off but the TTL was so weak that it looks like it didn't.  Confused yet?  The main point here is not to mix TTL and Manual its one or the other.  The main advantage of using TTL is simplicity.   You set them up turn them on and shoot. The disadvantage is cost and may not be as consistent light from frame to frame.

_MSP9577_MSP9577 Manual Metering-  Manual metering is done with an external light meter.  You can read my blog The Scoop on Light Meters and it will explain how they work.  Using manual metering and your camera in Manual and a simple trigger you can set each light individually.  And with a light meter there tends not to be a lot of guessing.  That said I am biased since I learned how to to off camera lighting with a hand held light meter. The advantages in shooting totally manual is cost, and you have full control but there is a learning curve.

Its hard to give precise settings of your equipment because they are all a little different but I will give general guidelines.

Shooting TTL -Camera you can shoot in Automatic or Simi-Auto but I would shoot in manual if possible. ISO I would put at 100-400. If your shooting in one of the Auto modes I would put the flash to be set to high speed sync and TTL.  This way if your shutter speed goes over the maximum sync speed of your camera it will still work. If in Manual mode your shutter cannot be over the high speed sync of your camera.

Shooting Manual- Camera in manual Shutter at maximum sync speed,  ISO 100-400 and aperture set to meter setting and after lights are where you want them.

Trigger Settings- Depending on your trigger if a radio set all lights to same channel and if you can have individual control set the lights to different groups.  This is pretty much dependent on the type of trigger you have.

Well as you can see there can be a lot to learning off camera flash.  But its really not as hard as it seems especially when you get your hands into and figure it out its pretty easy.  You just have to follow the directions of the equipment that you have and you should be ok.  There are lots of good tutorials online and one guy that stands out is Mark Wallace he has lots of tutorials on Adorama TV.

Until Next week Get outside and shoot.  If you have any questions or suggestions please leave a comment I would love to hear from you!


Updating Firmware on Everything!

December 31, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is well and healthy today.  This week I want to discuss something I don't think I have talked about in my blog. Firmware.  Back in the film days we really didn't have to worry about firmware because everything was mechanical but now in the electronic and computer age everything seems to have some sort of program in them.  And for some reason there is always an update to be had.  Firmware ( in simple terms) is the program that electronics use to do whatever they do. When you update your firmware you are altering the program that was in the device that your updating. Usually fixing some sort of bug or adding some sort of feature.  Much like Lightroom or Windows updates they correct bugs or improve stuff. In your camera this could mean better focusing or faster focus.  Maybe they add some sort of new software to make your camera like new.  As long as the hardware can handle the upgrade the possibilities are endless.  Some company's put out lots of firmware updates and some do not.  Making sure your camera has the latest and greatest update can make the camera perform like brand new saving you from having to upgrade or buy a new one. If you haven't checked your firmware you should. If you  have never updated the firmware you may tell a big difference in the way that it works.  Installing the firmware is easy and all of the camera companies will have a step by step procedure for you to follow to make sure you have the latest and greatest.  This usually involves installing on your computer some sort of program that when your camera is connected to your computer the program updates the firmware.  On older cameras it was _DSC6277_DSC6277 installing the firmware on a SD card and inserting it into your camera and going through a series of procedures to update the firmware. In any case it's fairly easy to do .

But now a days its not just camera bodies that get the firmware update its also Lenses.  Newer lenses have small computers in them also that can be tweaked to give that lens a sharper focusing and quicker focusing.  So check your lenses especially if they are fairly new.  The firmware updates that you do to them can make them really nice lenses.  If you have a new body that has super fast focusing powers but your lens is still using the old way of focusing a firmware update to that lens could make it perform just like a brand new lens. I just got through checking all of my lenses for the firmware updates and they were all up to date. Its a good feeling to know that all of your equipment is up to date and running as efficient as it can.  I think this should almost be an annual event or even a simi-annual event to check the firmware of all of your electronics.

 What about other types of photography gear?  I just checked on some of my newer flashes and strobes and they can all have a Firmware updates that can be installed.   I am currently shooting Godox and Flashpoint mono lights and they can have firmware updates too.  That's one of my projects for this weekend is to check all of my flashes and see if there are any updates and then update all of the firmware in my lighting systems.  With our camera bodies getting so smart and sophisticated we need all of the supporting equipment to be up to the task. So what else what about GoPro's or any action type camera's.  They definitely  have firmware and need to be to the latest version to get the best performance out of them.   What about drones? I don't personally have one but I bet the firmware update on these devices can be critical to their operation and stability.  Anything to improve communication between the drone and the controller or phone that it's flying it will be a needed update.

So I have rambled on enough about Firmware updates. Please check your camera's and equipment and get on your google machine and see if you have the latest updates installed. If not install them and you may have yourself a new piece of camera equipment in your hands without buying anything.  So until next week get outside and shoot!

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