Max Stansell Photography: Blog en-us (C) Max Stansell Photography (Max Stansell Photography) Fri, 22 Oct 2021 08:34:00 GMT Fri, 22 Oct 2021 08:34:00 GMT Max Stansell Photography: Blog 97 120 What I Don't Miss Anymore! Hey Everyone! Hope everyone has had a great week!  This week I want to talk about something new in my bag.  Something I have been missing ever since I switched from full frame and went to crop senor cameras.  I did not miss the image quality or even the dynamic range that full frames claim to have.  But I did miss one thing.  When I was shooting Full Frame cameras of course I was shooting full frame glass and very good lenses to boot.  I had two out of the big three for Nikon.  I had the 70-200 f2.8 and the 24-70 f2.8.  Let me say I just loved these lenses.  Although they did weigh a ton the image quality sharpness was outstanding!.  I recently got on to Light Room and did a search for the most used focal range and the 24-70 by far has the most photo's taken.  Whether I was using a crop sensor or not .   This focal range was the most used and I knew that but wanted to see the numbers. 

When I first got into the crop sensor sized camera's I like everyone else just had the kit lens.  I quickly upgraded the kit lens that was a 16-50 (24-75mm full frame equivalent) pancake lens with a variable aperture to the 18-105 f4 lens ( 27-157.5mm equivalent). This was a pretty good upgrade without too much money and I used this lens for quite a while but it wasn't as sharp as I wanted.  What I wanted was a 24-70mm f2.8 that didn't exist.  I finally upgraded to a Zeiss 16-70mm f4 (24-105mm equivalent) Lens and this was better but not by much but was more compact.  I still didn't have the large aperture that I was used to at 2.8 so I got a 35mm 1.8 (52mm equivalent) and a 24mm 2.8 (36mm equivalent) But I still didn't have the zoom with the wide aperture that I was used to with my Nikon setup.

Finally about a year and a half ago Sony announced a 16-55mm f2.8 lens was coming .  I got a little excited until I saw the price and it cost more than my camera did.  They also came out with a longer zoom a 70-350 variable zoom lens which I got at a lower price.  This was a fantastic lens and I could only imagine how the one I wanted was.  So I stuck with the kit I had for another year.  I only buy one big item a year if I need to in camera gear whether its upgrading older equipment or something new.  This year I finally bit the bullet and invested in the 16-55 f2.8 lens.  And invest is the right word.  Its a very expensive lens but if I remember right I paid about the same price for my Nikon full frame but it was 10 years ago.  There was another contender by Tamron a 17-70mm f2.8.  But all of the reviews talked about how the image quality wasn't quite as good as the Sony and that's why I was upgrading in the first place.  It almost half the price of the Sony but quality won out and I got the Sony.  The lens is still new to me but so far I love it .  The Images are sharp and crisp!  It feels like a quality lens and it is not as large as the Tamron.  Size was a big factor when I went from full frame to crop sensor size.  So all around I am happy with my purchase and my kit is about as good as it gets as far as I am concerned.  I am a 99% photography only shooter with almost no video. A rarity these days.

So my main kit now consist of a Sony A6500 body, a Sony 10-18mm F4 the new lens Sony 16-55 f2.8mm and the Sony 70-350mm f4.5-6.3.  This kit gives me a full frame equivalent range of 15-525mm Range.  This is the kit that I leave in my camera bag all the time and are my go to.  I do have other specialty lenses that I use for food or Star or Street photography but this is my main kit.  Which lately I haven't used a lot but plan to making a change to that situation.

So until next weeks discussion grab your kit and get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) 16-55f2.8 aperture blog crop sensor Full Frame landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Sony website workshops Fri, 22 Oct 2021 08:33:42 GMT
Lens Hoods and UV Filters? Hey Everybody! Hope your week is going well.  This week I want to talk about two pieces of equipment that can be controversial .  People tend to be on one side or another whether to use them or not.  So I will give you my opinion on why I do or don't use them.  First is the Lens Hood.

Lens hoods come in all shapes and sizes and they are always in the box when you buy a lens.  Very few lenses don't come with a lens hood in the box.  Lens hoods attach on the front of the lens and are for protection against stray light bouncing on or off you lens.  Much like if you walk outside and you put your hand out and over your eyes to protect from the sun shining right into your eyes.  Without your hands seeing is difficult and you have lots of glare.  But when you put your hand over your eyes you can see more clearly.  This is how lens hoods work.  So when should you use them? Should you only use them when sun glare can be a problem?  My answer is use them all of the time.  Here is why.  There is no disadvantage of not using them.  They stick out in front of your lens providing extra protection if your lens should bump into something protecting your front element.  They also keep you from touching the front element by accident while handling your camera putting a unwanted smudge on the front element.  The only time I would remove the hoods is if I actually wanted sun flares in my photo.  Sometimes when you're using a larger lens and you want to use your pop up flash I would remove because they can cause a shadow on the bottom of your frame.  I personally never take them off. Even when I put my lenses away in my camera bag they are always on.  So I'm in the for using them and bonus they don't cost anything extra you got them with your lens.

Dune GrassDune Grass UV filters.  Use them or not?  In the film days UV or UV haze filters were used to keep a blue haze off of photographs.  With digital there is no need for the filters.  So why do so many people insist on using them?  One reason is its a way for camera stores to make a little more money on the initial sale by selling you a 40 dollar filter.  But that aside people use them for protection of the front element of their lens.  I do think there is "Some" justification to that.  I just watched a video on Youtube that pretty much debunked the myth that they protect your camera against falls or breakage of the front element.  This guy did experiments on how sturdy the filter was compared to the front element .  With only a 1/2 pound of weight being dropped 8 inches all of the filters broke.  But it took 11/2 pounds from 3 feet of height to even scratch the front element of the lens. So protection against a drop I don't think they protect your lens.  Actually a lens hood would do better and I have some experience dropping lenses with the lens hood on and everything turned out OK.   But I do think that they do protect in certain situations.  I think that shooting by the ocean or in very sandy situations they will protect the front element of your lens.  There is also the discussion about quality.  You buy an expensive lens and put an inexpensive piece of glass in front of it will it harm image quality?  My answer to this is probably not that you could notice unless the filter has a scratch or something on it.   And then there is the question of cost.  If you  have 5 different lens you have to buy 5 UV filters.  And of course I use a polarizer a lot of the time so I'd be stacking one on  top of the UV which  could cause vignetting at the corners especially on wide angle lenses. So my answer to using UV filters is, not all of the time only when needed like by the ocean or really sandy and windy.  I have one for each size of lens I own.  In  my camera bag I have a 67mm and a 62mm.

So that's my take on Lens Hoods and UV filters.  What's yours?  Drop me a comment and let me know if there is anything that you would like me to go over or any questions you would like answered.  Until next week keep those lens hoods on and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog landscape learning Lens lens Flare lens hoods Max Stansell Photography Photography UV Filters website workshops Fri, 15 Oct 2021 07:11:34 GMT
The Myth About Always Shoot at 100 ISO! Hey Everybody! Hope this week has been fantastic for you!  This week I want to talk about ISO settings on your camera. One of the big three of Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO. The ISO is how sensitive your sensor is to light.  The Higher the number the higher the sensitivity of your sensor.  But with that sensitivity also come noise.  So the higher the ISO the more noise.  Now back in the film days you used to buy your film at ASA 100 or 400 and it worked the same way as ISO does but you couldn't adjust on the fly like you can with digital it was set in stone to what the film was.  But now this is a movable number from frame to frame if you want to and it can be adjusted like Shutter speed and Aperture.  When digital first came out noise was a problem on even the most expensive camera's.  And you didn't move the ISO off of the lowest number unless you had to.  If you did you got noise in the dark Max Stansell Photography portions of your photo. But with all of the technical advances in sensor technology that isn't the case any more and this number can be adjusted like the other parts of your camera.  Nowadays its no problem putting your camera ISO at 6400 and shooting with no noticeable effects. That's 6 stops of light you have to play with.  So what are some of the situations that you can adjust your ISO.  I'm going to use some landscape situations that this would come in handy.

Max Stansell Photography Waterfalls- In shooting water falls getting the water to look right is the most important part.  So first I would get my Shutter speed in the ball park to get the water looking like I want it.  Then I would set my Aperture to get what I wanted in focus.  But if I have a Polarizer and a ND filter on the seen could be 2 to 3 stops too dark at 100 ISO.  But if I move my ISO between 400 and 600 ISO I can bring that exposure back to the normal range.  Now I could lighten the shadows in post production but that could bring in noisy grain but if I get it right in camera by adjusting the ISO that will make my photo look better in post production and my finial photo will look more crisp.

Windy Landscapes-  This is when the leaves on the trees are moving and I want them to be nice and still and crisp.  So I would first set my Aperture to set the part of the scene that I want in focus.  Then I would set the Shutter speed to the speed that will make my leaves nice and crisp. And if my ISO is at 100 and the scene is too dark because of the higher shutter speed I can up my ISO until the exposure is back and like above I don't have to do it in post.

Newer camera's no matter what brand can handle the increase in ISO.  A good thing to do is test your camera.  You can easily do this by setting your camera on a tripod and shoot many photographs of the same scene using different ISO's and you can see where the highest ISO is that you like or can make a difference in your photography.  Where you feel comfortable at.  That threshold might be different for different cameras or different people with the same camera. Its all very personal.  For me and my main camera its about 6400 ISO.  For just run and gun shooting I usually shoot on Aperture Priority and  set my ISO to Auto and put a limit to 6400.  Anywhere between 100 and 6400 will be fine for me.  When I'm on a tripod I usually shoot in Manual mode and manually move my ISO.  

So that's my soap box speech on 100 ISO.  So until next week get out and shoot.  If you have any questions please put them in the comments and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

(Max Stansell Photography) Auto ISO blog Canon Exposure Triangle Fujifilm ISO landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Nikon Olympus Panasonic Photography Quality Sony website workshops Fri, 08 Oct 2021 08:24:23 GMT
Buy Nice or Buy Twice! Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing well today.  This week I want to talk about purchasing equipment. Now I have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and I have purchased a lot of equipment over the years.  It has taken me quite awhile to learn the Buy Nice or Buy Twice system.  I am all about buying the best equipment that you can afford.  And upgrading equipment will always be a part of photography because of technology improvements.  In the olden days of film, the camera or lens technology did not improve for a long time the technology for film did.  So you kept your camera for years and years.  But when digital came about, technology pushed the camera companies to make model after model every year like phones.  Keeping up can seem like a chore.  But in my experience, if you buy the best you can afford, it can last for years without needing to be replaced. But how to afford them? It's a boring answer. Save your money!  I tend to buy one big item a year for my camera kit.  It could be something new like a lens or an upgrade of something I already have like a lens or a body or lights. You'll find after a few years you'll have a great kit.  It's very hard to build a great kit from the beginning. We all have to start from the beginner camera with a kit lens and start building up.  Where do you start to build your kit? 

First start with research.  While you're saving up your money, start looking at what you need.  At first you'll just be filling gaps of focal lengths that you have after you've bought your camera and kit lens.  Try to find out what you love to shoot the best and what equipment will facilitate the best photo. Look at what the pros shoot.  They make their living with the equipment they purchase, so they usually invest in the best. You can research professionals through YouTube or just Google the type of photography you like.  Take food photographers for example. Photographers love gear, and when you find a photographer that shoots what you like, they will soon start talking about gear.  My recommendation is buy the best glass (lenses) you can. Glass Lasts. Good lenses are expensive but can last for decades.  While camera bodies change every other year, new technology lenses stay the same. And anyway the lens makes the photo in my opinion.  Better glass equals better photos. When you find what equipment you want, let's say we're looking for a new lens, the cost of the lens new is your target for saving.  First, you might want to try one out by renting it for a weekend. Try it out make sure that's what you want before you get one. Now where can I get one?

Buying Used. Buying used gear can be a great way to afford good gear.  I have bought new and used and have good luck with both.  If you know someone that is selling gear, that is the best way to buy used. I really like this method because you can touch the equipment.  It's not just a photo of the equipment. My main camera that I use now I bought from a friend that loves gear more than me and had only had the camera body less than a year.  It was in great shape, and I saved lots of money buying a used one.  But there are other places to get used gear.  Amazon sells used gear.  When you look at a new item, they usually have other options, and used is one of them. The big photo stores Adorama and BH Photo both have used departments for gear, and they rate the condition of the products.  eBay is another option.  I have bought and sold off of eBay and have had good luck, but you never know what you'll get.  There are companies that only buy and sell used equipment. Companies like MPB and KEH are great sources for equipment and also rate the condition of the equipment. So buying used is a good option in buying equipment.

Of course new is a great way to go too.  With new you do get a warranty and know that no one has used the camera but you.  This is my preferred way just for the wear and tear that I put on equipment. I just like to start from new if I can.  I have bought from Amazon, Adorama, BH Photo, and let's not forget your local camera shop.  When I can I try to buy local.  The last new camera I bought was from a local camera company near me. Its about a 45 min drive to get there, and my granddaughter and I drove there and made a day of it. She was the first photo I took with it. And I got a great deal to boot!

Make sure to protect your investments with insurance.  Maybe that will be a  future blog. Well, that's all the rambling for this week.  Take your newly purchased gear out and start shooting.

(Max Stansell Photography) Adorama B&Hphoto blog Buy Local KEH landscape learning Max Stansell Photography money MPB Photography saving used website workshops Fri, 01 Oct 2021 07:57:48 GMT
What Color Space Should I Use? SRGB or Adobe RGB Hey Everyone! Hope your having a great week!  This week I want to talk about Color Space.  What color space is and what you should set your camera to and what you should export to.  This is a subject that can really get you lost in the woods and its very simple to figure out.  There are lots of opinions on this subject.  First of all if you shoot only in RAW you it doesn't really matter what you set your camera at.  Only if your shooting JPEG's.  It does affect your live view a little but not really.  So lets talk about Color Space first.  

SRGB.  SRGB is the most common color space.  It is what your phone , computer screen and all of the devices use for their color.  I like to think of the color spaces as crayons.  SRGB is the pack you got when you were in pre-school.  Maybe 8 Colors and you can mix and match all of them to make other colors.  So all of the colors that you see on your laptop, iPad, phone even TV are SRGB.  Most camera's come factory set at SRGB.

Adobe RGB.  This color space came out after SRGB and has many more colors.  In crayon terms its the 64 crayon box full of colors.  It has 35 times the colors that SRGB has.  The problem is that you have to have a special monitor to see the difference between SRGB and Adobe RBG. So that is the difference between SRGB and Adobe RGB color science.  One Adobe RGB is much more colors than SRGB. So when can I use Adobe RGB?  The only time I think you could use it is when printing.  Some printers can print Adobe RGB and if your entering photo contest they use Adobe RGB monitors to view the photo's.

So for setting your camera if your shooting in RAW which you should it doesn't matter. If your shooting in JPEG you could use either. The real question is how are you going to present this photo? So its really how are you going to export the photo from your photo editing software? Most of us are going to put it on the web or use it as a digital image.  Remember Screens can only see SRGB so if you shoot in Adobe RGB and are outputting for digital use all of the colors won't be used because SRGB space is so small. If your only going to display as a print then Adobe RGB printed on a Adobe RGB printer will work great.  But there aren't many Adobe RGB printers. And they are expensive.  If your going to send it out to be printed check with the company your using on what color space they use. Then choose that one.  The simple answer for all of the questions is SRGB in most cases and Adobe RGB in special occasions.  I hope this has helped and not muddied the water.

The reason I came up with this topic this week is because I was looking at some of the EXIF data on some of my photo's on my web site and saw that some photo's were in SRGB and some were in ADOBE RGB.  So I started researching and thought I would share. So until next week keep learning and get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) Adobe blog landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Oupput Photography printing RGB SRGB web use website workshops Fri, 24 Sep 2021 06:56:58 GMT
Learning Your Photo Equipment Hey Everyone! Hope y'all are doing great this week.  This week I want to talk about learning how your equipment works. Everyone loves to get new equipment, especially me. Sometimes the equipment isn't as simple to use as we might think.  So we need to learn how to use the equipment before we take it out on a photoshoot.  A photoshoot isn't the time to learn the new equipment.  Not knowing how to use your equipment is embarrassing and very frustrating.  We all want to take and make great photography, but being a good photographer is more than just vision.  We must also be a technician to operate our cameras and the associated equipment.  To some people this comes easier than for others.  I tend to be a very technical photographer.  But others are more artistic and less technical.  Being artistic is super, but the artist in us must make the effort to be more technical.  So how does one become more technical when it doesn't come naturally? Well here goes a few tips that might help.

1.  Find someone that knows about your equipment. Maybe they have the same piece of equipment that you have or something similar.   Ask them to teach you one-on-one.  Maybe you can help them with a photoshoot where they might have the time to show you exactly how the items that you're trying to learn work.  Let's use off-camera flash for example.  They could show you how to set up the lights and put them on the stand, go through the settings on the lights themselves and how to make the triggers talk to each other.  Maybe how to use a light meter to set up the lights and your camera. One-on-one instruction is always a good place to start.

2.  I almost hate to say this one, but read the manual.  Most complicated equipment comes with a manual that will take you step by step on how to set up and use the equipment.  Sometimes this is a hard read, so take your time and go slow.  Even if I know how to use the equipment, if I haven't used it in a while I'll read it again just to get familiar with it, especially if I have a photoshoot coming up where I'll be using it.  Just like having all of your batteries charged, it's good to get your mind in the game before a big shoot. 

3. I am a big YouTube fan.  You can find out how to do almost anything on YouTube, from changing the brakes on your car to setting up a photoshoot with food.  This is a good place to learn your equipment and maybe get some inspiration on how to set up or use your equipment. Also online tutorials. Places like CreativeLive have lots of camera-specific tutorials that take you through every part of your camera settings and how your specific camera works.

As you can see, I'm a big fan of knowing how to use your equipment.  I must confess, I don't know everything that I should about my equipment, usually just enough to get it to work the way I want it to.  Think about your own camera.  Do you know all there is to know about it?  I sure don't.  So if I want a new camera, I just need to get in the manual and learn about my camera and I'll have a new camera that can do what I didn't know it could.  I think if you know your equipment and how to operate it, you will be a better photographer because the technology will be second-hand and you can devote all of your thoughts to your subject and not your camera or gear.  So until next week, get your gear out and shoot! And get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog gear landscape learn learning manuals Max Stansell Photography one on one Photography website workshops youtube Fri, 17 Sep 2021 07:21:46 GMT
My Favorite Photography Accessories! Part 2 Hey Everyone! I hope y'all are doing great today! This week will be a continuation of last week's discussion of my favorite photo accessories. Today I'm going to open my bag and just start going through it. I've already told you about one thing that was in my bag, my Lumecube 2.0 light. So let's get into my bag.

1. Lens Brush.  I love to keep my things clean. This little brush helps keep my lenses clean and the body free of dust.  It's just a cheap brush but very important.

2. Blower Bulb.  I have a small blower bulb and a small nozzle on it.  I got it from Amazon and it's a jeweler's blower.  I like it because it's small and works great.  I try to blow off my sensor to keep dust off of it.  By doing this I don't have to clean my sensor as much.

3. Microfiber Lens Cloths.  Lots of them! I put one or two in every compartment of my camera bag.  If I pull out a lens, "BOOM" lens cloth.  These cloths come with almost all kinds of things you buy.  I just keep them and try to keep them everywhere.  I always have one in my pocket.  I try to keep my equipment as clean as possible.

4. Desiccant Packets.  You know, those little packets that are put in everything to keep the moisture out.  I keep these little packets and put them everywhere I can.  They don't cost anything, and I think they work. I've never had a problem with my lenses and equipment.  Anyway, that's one of the things I do.

5. SMDV Radio Remote Trigger. I found this company out of Korea when I shot Nikon cameras, and I fell in love with them.  When I got my Sony, they didn't make them to fit my camera for a while, but then they started making them and I snatched one up. They are great and simple triggers.  They do use AAA batteries, so you need to have some on hand.

6. Lens Coat Battery Holders.  With my little Sony cameras that still use the older battery, battery life is still a problem and you need to have spares.  I have two of these battery holders that can attach to your belt if you wanted.  They help keep my batteries organized and separated.

7. Think Tank SD Card Wallet.  This is a great little card wallet.  When I take a long trip, I use one card a day and use the card as backup until I get home and on my computer.  This card can hold many cards.

8. Vallerette Photography Gloves.  This will be my last item, but there are many more.  These gloves are great and warm.  They are pricy but when you're out in the cold holding a metal camera, your hands can get cold quickly.  These gloves have fingers that fold back with little magnets that keep them back.  They even have little pockets on the back of them that you can put some hot hands into.  Hot hands are the little chemical pouches that you shake and they get warm.  I should have made these one of my accessories, but the gloves beat them out.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this blog series on accessories.  What are some of your favorite accessories? There are so many things that can help you with your photography, and I love them all.  Until next week, keep shooting and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog blower desiccant landscape learning lens brush Max Stansell Photography micro fiber clothes Photography Think Tank Vallorette website Fri, 10 Sep 2021 05:36:57 GMT
My Favorite Photography Accessories! Part 1 Hey Everybody! Hope your having a great day!  This week I want to talk about my photography accessories that I like the most.  Everybody likes gadgets and I am no exception.  Over the years I have acquired lots of photography stuff and a few of them I don't think I could do without  I can't go over all of them there are just too many but I thought I would share some of my favorite ones.  Here goes a list in no particular order just as I look around my room and see them.

1. Peak Designs Slide shoulder strap.  This was the first thing that I ever bought off of Kickstarter and have been a fan of the company ever since. I have had many slide shoulder straps with my big cameras when I shot full frame to the smaller camera's I use now. They are made out of a material like a seat belt and have a really neat quick disconnect feature to quickly take it off of my cameras.  I'm also going to include wrist straps that I use that were made by Peak Designs.

2. Peak Design Camera Pro Clip,  This great clip attaches to your camera backpack strap, or they have one's that fit on your belt.  There is an attachment that is Arch Swiss compatible that screws onto you camera.  The clip on your shoulder strap grabs this attachment and locks your camera in place .  The little clip makes it easy to hike with your camera out and ready to shoot in just seconds by just pushing a button and sliding your camera out of the clip.  Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

3. Lumecube 2.0 waterproof LED portable light.  This is a new addition to my camera kit but it makes the perfect off camera light when doing landscape photography.  Maybe you're shooting a detail shot but you need some extra light this little light has lots of punch to light up your scene.  You can remotely control this light with your phone and it is re-chargeable via USB-C connector.  It comes with attachments and it is only 1 1/2 inches square.  It comes with Barn doors and defusers and gels to control your light.  

4. Mountain Smith Daylight Lumbar Bag.  This is not a camera bag but a hiking lumbar pack.  But I have adapted it to my camera shoot bag or my street photography bag.  I have taken the shoulder strap off and replaced it with a Peak Design Slide Camera Strap.  I put a cheap camera divider that I got off of Amazon to keep my camera equipment safe.  Love this bag.  People that shoot with me know that I call it my Purse. LOL

5. Shimoda Action X 30 liter camera bag.  This is my main camera bag that holds all of my Landscape stuff. This is another Kickstarter acquisition.  This bag has a roll top entry and can be expanded to hold more than 30 liters easily.  This bag is water proof with waterproof zippers.  It is set up like a backpacking pack. Very comfortable to wear. Many popular professional Landscape photographers make Shimoda their bag company.  They have many bags in various sizes.  The bag is a little pricy but it is the best photography backpack that I have ever had.

6. Backblaze Cloud Storage.  We all have many, many, photographs on all kind of drives and one thing about drives its not " if " they will fail its when.  Backblaze backs up your computer and any drive that you have connected to it.  I have a solid state drive that all my photo's live temporarily while I edit them.  When I'm done I have another drive that I store all of my photographs on.  Backblaze backs up all of your computer and any drive that is connected to it.  It does this automatically.  You don't even have to think about it .  If your drive fails you can get access to all of your files through them.  Its a great peace of mind knowing that when your drive fails you still have all of your stuff.

Well it looks like this is going to be a two part Blog.  So this is part one and part two will be next week.  I just have too many photo accessories that I like to get into one blog.  Next week I'll go into my camera bag and share some of my accessories that I always use.  Until next week Keep shooting and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) Accessories Backblaze blog Clip gear learning Lumecube Max Stansell Photography Mountain Smith Peak Design Photography Shimoda Strap Tutorial website Fri, 03 Sep 2021 07:55:10 GMT
What Lens Should I Get? Nifty 50! Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing great today! Today I want to talk about lenses.  I get asked from time to time by new photographers, "What lens should I get next?" Well, today I'm going to answer that question. Some experienced photographers should listen also.  The lens that I'm going to talk about either already is or will soon become the most versatile lens in your kit. For the experienced photographers, they probably have this lens stuck in a bag somewhere not using it. But they should dust it off because it is awesome.  I'm of course talking about the Nifty 50 lens.  The 50mm lens is the most versatile lens, and old-timers like me remember that this was the lens that came on a film camera. It is a great all-around lens and is said to have the same look as your eyes do.  This is the most natural lens that you will use. If you are using a crop sensor camera, a 35mm will give you the same focal distance as a 50mm on a full-frame camera. So if you have a crop sensor as I do, a 35mm is the same as a 50mm.  It can be used for all types of photography from portraits, landscape, street, low light, product/food, and everything in between. So I have 10 things that make the Nifty 50 so great.

1.  The 50mm is sharp!  It's a prime lens.  People use zooms so much because they are easier, but primes are Curved CupsCurved Cups known as a general rule to be sharper. That was very much so 20 years ago but not as much now.  But they are still sharp!

2.  They are small.  These little lenses are small and lightweight.  They are usually made mostly of plastic which keeps the weight down.  These lenses are perfect for street photography where you're carrying your camera around with you all the time.  The small size does not intimidate people when you approach them to take their photograph.

3. These are great portrait lenses.  These prime lenses are great for portraits!  They do not distort the facial features like a wide-angle lens or a telephoto lens would.  And the sharpness is really great!

4. They are great for street photography!  These little lenses, as I said before, are not too wide or too telephoto. They are just in the middle of the focal range, which means you can really frame your scene to keep in what you want and leave out what you don't.  

5. They are super for landscape photography.  I know people think of wide-angle lenses for landscape, and yes they Forsyth Park FountainForsyth Park FountainForsyth Park Fountain, Savannah Ga a lovely 30 acre park. Great fountain and lots of shade on a hot summers day. #MaxStansellPhotography #funwithphotography #Getoutandshoot #awesomestuffisee #SonyA6300 #alphashooter #NorthCarolinaPhotographer #NorthCarolinaLiving #visitNC #NorthCarolina are great. But they have a distorted view.  By using the 50mm and doing pantographs, you have more of a natural-looking scene than you do with a wide angle lens which distorts the edges of the frame.  And did I mention that they are lightweight? LOL

6.  They are great for product/food photography.  They are the perfect focal length to shoot product or food photography.  I just got into food photography, and this is a great lens for shooting food.  The sharpness of the lens is a great asset when doing this type of photography.

7.  They have a wide aperture.  These lenses, like all primes, have wider apertures than zoom lenses.  They can come in any size from f2.8 to f1.2, but they're most commonly found in the f1.8 range. These wide apertures make them great for shooting almost anything where you can control how much of the scene is in focus.

8.  They are great for low-light photography.  With the wide aperture as mentioned above, when they are opened up they catch a lot of light. This makes them great for shooting indoors or in low-light situations.  They can even be made to shoot astro photography.

9. Bokeh!!! These lenses are bokeh machines! Bokeh is the amount of blurry goodness that is found on great portraits. The bokeh can be used for art interpretation or just for isolation.  If you have a busy scene behind your subject you can open up this lens and really blur out the background.  People who love bokeh love these lenses.

10.  Inexpensive!  These will be some of the most reasonably priced lenses that you can buy.  Now don't get me wrong, you can spend a lot of money on big f1.2 glass. But if you're not making a living out of your photography, an f1.8 will do just fine, and you can find them well under $300 and sometimes in the $150 range.  I paid about $250 for mine.  

Man in WindowMan in WindowMan in Window. While on a lunch break I took my camera out and took a walk in Raleigh where I came upon this scene. There you go! Ten reasons you should have a Nifty 50mm with you all the time.  And maybe after using it a lot, you might start thinking about getting rid of some of your other lenses to lighten the load.  Until next week, get outside with your Nifty 50 and keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) 35mm 50mm blog bokeh canon food Photography fuji gear hiking Inexpensive landscape learning low light max stansell photography nifty fifty nikon Photography Portrait sony street Photography website wide aperture Fri, 27 Aug 2021 09:00:00 GMT
What Camera should I get? Pentax MXPentax MXPentax MX, My Pentax MX from 1982 Super camera works great! Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing great today. This week I want to talk about cameras! Yay! I haven't talked about cameras in a while.  I often get asked what's the best camera or what camera should I buy? Well, this is a very loaded question and a hard one to answer. I was listening to a photo podcast, "This week in Photo," and the host was talking about this topic, so I thought I would pile on and share some of his and my thoughts on the subject. So let's do a spoiler alert and say that the answer is that "it depends."  I know, I know, it sounds like a copout answer but it really does depend on a lot of factors. Like have you ever had a real camera before?  What type of photography would you like to do?  Does size Lee Filter HolderLee Filter Holder matter? LOL  Do you have photography friends, and what do they shoot?  These are just a few of the questions that you should ask yourself.  I have owned lots of cameras in my life.  Everything from film cameras that I started with, to a 2mp point and shoot when I started digital, all the way up to a full-frame beast of a camera that had a 36mp sensor on it.  I have narrowed down the system that works for me now.  It may change in the future, but now I think I have the perfect system. "FOR ME."  What you need might be totally different.  So let's go through a few of the questions that you should ask yourself before you go out and spend a lot of money.  And it will be a lot of money.

Have you ever had a real camera before?  When I ask this question, younger people will probably say, "No, just my phone."  A phone with a good camera on it is a great way to start photography, and there is no shame in using your iPhone for your main camera, especially when you start out.  Learning the fundamentals of composition, lighting, subject, and storytelling can be accomplished with almost any smartphone nowadays. And these aspects of photography are the most important skills you need when doing photography.  If you have never had a "real" camera before, I might steer you in the direction of a high-end point and shoot.  These cameras can shoot in manual or can use almost any mode available, and you will get a better quality photo than with a phone because of sensor size.

If you have some camera experience, I would ask, "What type of photography are you planning to do with the AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2Photographer: Anthony Thurston camera?"  Will it be portraits? Travel? Landscape? Wildlife? Food?  What are you planning to shoot?  This will really determine what type of camera you will get. If you are just going to be taking photos of your kids on family outings, I might suggest an entry-level DSLR or Mirrorless camera. But if you were going to concentrate on wildlife or portraits, I might point you in the direction of a higher-end mirrorless camera, an interchangeable lens camera with a larger sensor to get more detail.  So it all depends on what you're going to shoot that determines what type of camera you get.

What do your photography friends shoot?  This question would help me pick out the brand of camera to shoot.  Shooting the same brand as your friends has many advantages.  You can share lenses.  If you were going to do a photoshoot and you wanted a special lens to use for it and one of your friends had the lens, you could borrow it to do the shoot and see if you liked it enough to buy one of your own.  Learning where all the buttons and menu items are on the camera is very hard to learn by yourself, and a friend with the same setup could help you figure out how and where everything is on your camera.  This is a big advantage also.  What brand of camera you shoot isn't that important in the long run, so if you're shooting the same as your friends, the advantages outweigh any disadvantage to any brand.

Does size matter? LOL I always joke with my friends that the answer to almost any question can always come down to size.  Too large, too small.  It can also be helpful in choosing the right camera for you.  If you do landscape or maybe street photography, size will certainly matter. Having to lug a very large camera and lenses up a mountain to get a shot is a big chore when you can get a great shot with a smaller, lighter camera.  Doing street photography with a large camera is cumbersome and awkward when taking photos of people on the street.  It is also heavy and hard to conceal.  This question is what made me change from a large full-frame camera and all of the large lenses that come with it to the kit that I am personally using now.  For the type of photography I do, which is mainly travel/landscape, my crop sensor Sony does great.  So size can matter.

So for every person, the answers to these questions can be different.  And just to make sure you know, there are no bad answers.  And any modern camera you get these days will take great photos.  I was one of the first in my camera club to switch from a big full-frame professional camera to a mirrorless camera system.  It was a hard decision to make, and it took me almost a year to commit to it.  But in the long run, I am pleased with the choice I made by asking myself "What type of photography do I shoot?  Does size matter?" Researching the cameras at the time, I came up with the decision of Sony crop sensor cameras.   I am a nimble photographer and don't get as tired as I used to get lugging around large equipment. Would I pick the same thing now if I had to make the choice?  I would still go to a crop-sensor camera but maybe FUJI instead of Sony, but like I said brand really doesn't matter.  But that's just me. You might need something altogether different.  But asking yourself these simple questions and researching, asking questions, and learning all of the different systems will help you decide what camera is best for you.  So until next week, get your camera and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Canon crop sensor DSLR food photography Fuji full frame gear landscape learning Max Stansell Photography mirrorless Nikon Photography Sony website wildlife workshops Fri, 20 Aug 2021 07:47:59 GMT
New Photography Style for me! Hey Everyone! Hope y'all are doing great today.  This week I want to talk about shooting something new.  Something that isn't outside.  Maybe something to shoot while the weather is bad. I'm talking about Food Photography.  If you know me I love to eat so what better subject to shoot.  I recently went to a workshop on food photography that my camera club was giving and it was the first in person workshop that I had been to sense Covid has invaded us.  I had a ball!  Now I thought it was just seeing everyone again (and it was) but I also had fun shooting the food. Those that know my story know that I have been shooting since I was a teenager starting in film.  When I got my first digital camera I did a lot of photography at my house. Either in the backyard shooting my wife's flowers or in a home studio that I was starting to build. I did a lot of product photography and some food but nothing too fancy.  Let me tell you about my studio.

My home studio is really just a table in a small spare bedroom that my daughter used to have until she moved out. Then I took it over as a office/laundry/gear/studio room.  This room is too small to shoot portraits so its really just a table top studio.  The table I use is a very sturdy table I found dumpster diving a long time ago.  Yes I used to dumpster dive.  One man's trash is another man's treasure. Anyway, This table is about 4X3 foot.  Now most of the time this table just collects junk like any another table its a handy place to set stuff on.  And it can get really junky.  But it is the perfect platform to place things on for product or Food Photography. I have lights and modifiers that I have accumulated over the years.  You can see about my lights and modifiers and how I use them in "My Lighting Setup" blog that I've previously written.

Now I'm no expert in Food Photography but I know you must have some sort of vision before you shoot.  For example my wife bought some hot sauce that was named "Lola".  My wife is from the Philippines and Lola is grandmother in her language.  So my grandchildren , children , nieces and nephews all have started calling her Lola.  So when I saw the hot sauce in the kitchen I immediately saw the photo that I wanted to shoot.  The photo is in this blog.  I wanted some Lumpia in the background.  But the star was going to be the Lola hot sauce.  Then I had to find props to have into the photo and a backdrop.  I think a lot of the fun of shooting food is the set up.  This was the hardest part for me.  I used some old flooring for a table top and a DYI photo holder that my mother made for the backdrop.  I look into investing in more backdrops in the future. Then its the things you place the food on or in.  Dishes, cups, saucers, plates, and anything else you have in the photo.  Vintage things seem to go well.  I can see a lot of flea market, goodwill, and antique shopping in my future for Food Photography shoots.  

Looks like I've found a new way to spark my creativity with photography.  I'm looking forward to many hours of enjoyment from this new branch in my photography tree. I'll try to keep you updated in my progress.  Get your camera out and shoot some food.  And don't forget to get out and shoot.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog food food photography learning lighting Max Stansell Photography Photography props studio website workshops Fri, 13 Aug 2021 08:29:53 GMT
Will things get back to Normal? Hey Everyone! Hope your week has been good.  This blog will be more of me just talking to you instead of telling you about a product or something else.  Well half of the year is over and I feel like I haven't done anything.  Last year even with the Covid-19 pandemic going on I feel like I accomplished more than I have this year.  Last year in the beginning I had plans to go to all of the State parks in North Carolina and then we had two Photography trips planned one in the Spring and one in the Fall.  Well I got started on my state parks then the pandemic started.  Then our photography trips got canceled then we were doing our monthly meetings via Zoom.   Well when some of the restrictions lifted I started my State parks project again.  So I had something to do.  I kept busy.  But this year I didn't have anything really set in stone.  I want to check out all of the National Forest in North Carolina and explore them.  But this plan was more flexible than last years and really I've only gone out a couple of times and have not done much photography. It seems like the only thing I've done on a regular schedule is this blog.  Now half of the year has passed and like everyone else life has gotten in the way of me doing photography and really getting into the outdoors as much as I want.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  I know , I know.  I've got to snap out of the Blah-ness.

This morning I woke up at 4-ish like usual , stumbled into the kitchen, made some coffee and wandered into my office and logged onto "Facebook" and the first thing on my screen was a Fall colors trip scheduled for my photography club to West Virginia!  Now I have gotten excited about what I was seeing.  I haven't seen my photography buddies since the beginning of the pandemic.  We did have one in person meeting but I had to miss it due to family illness.  Let me tell you I am really excited to be out with my photo buddies in beautiful places.  And today the Olympics started after being delayed a year.  So I hope things are looking up.  

So what does all this mean?  Well its given me something to look forward to.  A goal in the distance.  I haven't really picked up my big boy camera this year except to maybe take some blog photo's.  And to tell IMG_1562IMG_1562 you the truth I could do these photo's with my phone and sometimes I do. I'm getting excited about picking my camera up again and maybe some more photography related blogs.  I know that if people are expecting to see photography blogs that here lately its only been backpacking and camping blogs.  So I promise that the photography blogs and new photo's will be coming soon.  I'll still do the backpacking because I have some big goals coming up in the next couple of years.  I'm in training now trying to get back into shape.  I've lost about 15 lbs in the last few months but still have a bunch more to go to get lean and mean for those goals.  Maybe I'll have a few of my training things in a blog in the future.  

I have a fantastic camera kit and haven't even broke it out this year.  My lens and body combo is still great as far as I'm concerned and am looking forward to getting that kit in use again.  If you've forgotten I use the Sony A6500 as my main camera and a A6300 as my backup.  I know there have been about 3 camera IMG_1114IMG_1114 bodies that have come out since then but I think my camera bodies are great and that the advances in the newer ones are not going to make a significant difference in my photography.  My lenses are still great lenses .  Of course I'm always looking at new ones but again don't think that they would make a significant difference in my photography. I'm still in the belief that if the newer camera is not going to increase your photography Quality or do something new that you can't do now I don't see the need in buying newer gear.  I feel like I'm very rusty and will have to get back in the groove and start going back out on weekend trips to take photo's.  I think that getting back in the grove and just start taking photo's again will get me back to taking decent photo's again. 

My photo club had a workshop on Food Photography and I had a great time.  I knew I liked food but taking photo's of it who knew? I had a great time with my photog friends some I haven't seen in over a year.  It was great to get together and mingle and take photo's.  I have included some in this blog for you to see.  So until next week get outside and keep shooting.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Covid Eastern NC food GAPC landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Normal North Carolina photo club Photography travel trips website workshops Fri, 06 Aug 2021 08:59:43 GMT
Gear Review Aftershokz Bone Conduction Headphones Hey everyone! Hope you're doing well today!  Today I'd like to do a gear review.  I don't do many, but maybe I should being a gearhead and all. LOL Today I'd like to talk about some new technology that I acquired a few weeks ago and have fallen in love with.  Bone conduction headphones. What is that, you ask? These are headphones that don't stick into your ear canal but rest on the bones in front of your ear and vibrate to send the sound to your ear instead of your eardrum doing the work.  I know it sounds kind of weird, doesn't it, but it truly works.  Now, why would you want bone conducting headphones?  Well, that's a good question. First of all, I don't think they are for everyone. But their best use is when you exercise. If your are a cyclist, runner, walker, or hiker like I am, they are great! Because the headphones don't go in your ears, you can still hear all of your surrounding environment. If you're out for a run, you can hear all the traffic, bicycles, cars, and trucks that surround you while you're on that 5k run. If you're a walker, especially around town, just like the runner you can hear your surroundings. For a hiker they are great because you can hear all the noises in the forest and you can hear trail runners coming up behind you or a mountain biker coming up on you. You can do all of this while having the music you like or a podcast playing in the background. I know that ear pods have a transparent mode in them now that kind of does this, but not as well. These are excellent for exercise and hearing what is around you. Regular headphones block out all the noise and can be a safety concern if you need to hear your  surroundings, like traffic or a rattlesnake. These are also great if you want to have a conversation with someone. Say you meet someone on your hike or run and you stop to talk, you don't have to pull a device out of your ear to talk to them. So now let me talk about the ones that I got, the Aftershokz Aeropex.

The Aftershokz Aeropex headphones are light, less than one ounce. One size fits all. They are very comfortable to wear. You actually can forget that you have them on after a while. They are waterproof, which is great for me because I seem to always find myself in some sort of rainstorm while I'm out and about. They will last 8 hours, which for most of us is more exercising than we will have in a day. The sound is very good. Maybe not as good as conventional headphones, but unless you're a music snob and can really tell the difference between the decibels of base and such, these are great. I can't tell the difference while I'm using them. When you get them in the box, you get a silicone carrying case with a magnetic closure, as well as two charging cables. These are proprietary magnetic charging cables, so it's nice that they give you two. I have one in my backpack and one at the house. They also supply you with earplugs if you wanted to use them as traditional headphones. I think the earplugs are silly and useless, but at least they tried. The Bluetooth 5.0 is very good, and I have had no problems with them hooking up to my phone. You can go to their website to see all of their specs if you're interested.

As you can tell, I love these headphones. This particular set comes in at $159.99 on Amazon and comes with a little sport belt you can wear to put your phone in. These are a little pricey, but you can get older generation ones for much cheaper. However, when it comes to technology, I like to buy the best that I can afford at the time. It stops buyer's remorse, and I seem to use them longer.  Anyway, that's all for this week. Until next week, get outside! 


(Max Stansell Photography) Aeropex Aftershokz biking blog Bluetooth bone conducting Headphones cycling exercise hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography running walking waterproof website Fri, 30 Jul 2021 08:22:12 GMT
If you Pack it in Pack it Out! Please Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing fine this week.  This week I want to talk about all of the new people that have started to go into the woods since the Pandemic has come.  Our National and State Parks and National Forrest are seeing a large increase of people visiting our nations greatest resources.  I think that it is great that people are finding out about our great parks and forest that we enjoy.  But with more people more stress to the environment that we are putting on this valuable resource. One of the biggest impacts is the trash and litter that is being brought into the parks and national forest .  I don't really know why people do this.  We all know how trash looks on our public roads.  Travel down any road in America and you can see trash everywhere.  And its ugly. No one wants to see other peoples trash thrown all about.  We don't like it in our cities and do not want to see it in our wilderness.  The litter comes in all sizes from candy wrappers and water bottles left on the ground to burning trash in fire rings at campsites to leaving toilet paper and human waste where it shouldn't be.  Yes I said it Poop!  I'm sure most of this trash and bad behavior is due to being new to the wilderness and just not knowing.  Not knowing that someone isn't paid to pick up your trash.  Park Rangers are not paid to pick up behind you and you should dispose of the trash in a approved container.  Like putting it in a trash can and not the ground.  If you have trash you should Pack it out until you get to an approved waste disposal container to put it in.  If you're at a campsite you shouldn't burn your trash because all of the plastic or foil that is not paper will not burn away and will be left for others to see and animals to ingest.  Pack out your trash. Please remember that coming to these places is a privilege that we have and we want to save it for others that come after us not to just get the quick Instagram pic and leave. Okay,  rant over let's talk about what you should do in the backcountry and trails to have a great time and leave the beauty for someone else to see.

Pack it in Pack it out.  Take only photographs and memories and leave only footprints.  These are just two of many sayings that can be used to describe how we should act in the backcountry and trails.  Trash, Trash that is taken into a park or forest should be taken out.  We all like snacks and goodies while hiking but please put your trash in a trash bag and haul it out.  Your pack won't be heaver it will be lighter because you've eaten what the wrapper covered.  When you get to an approved waste disposal container like a trash can or recycle bin then you can put it in its proper place.  If you hike into a camp and have a camp fire in a approved fire ring.  Don't burn trash.  Haul it out. Just like before your pack won't be heaver it will be lighter.  If you burn your trash there is always some left behind and after you leave some animal will come behind you and eat whatever you have left.  So Please pack it out if your brought it in.  For using the bathroom in the woods first use and out house or privy if there is one available.   If there is not one available go at least 200 ft from the trail or water source or camp site. Dig a cat hole approximately 6-8 inches deep, do your business in the hole and cover your deposit and soiled toilet paper with the dirt from the hole and cover with natural debris that is around like leaves pine needles.  Some parks and recreation areas do not want you to bury your toilet paper because the environment is not suited to quickly decompose the toilet paper or human traffic is too high and they will want you to haul out your dirty toilet paper.  You can put in double bagged Zip lock bags and dispose of in a proper waste container.   Some places that have fragile environment may want you to take the toilet paper and poop out and they will usually provide the bags to do it into. These bags are called WAG bags (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) They can used 3 or4 times and are puncture resistant double bagged. Mount Whitney the tallest mountain in the contiguous lower 48 is a very popular and dry rocky place and they issue WAG bags at the foot of the mountain for you to take with you.  This may seem very extreme to those that haven't been in the woods before. But high traffic and uninformed people can cause havoc on the environment.  I have been on the AT (Appalachian trail) in the Smokey Mountain park during the big bubble of through hikers and have seen the fields of toilet paper flowers from people who supposedly know what to do in the back country and didn't because they didn't dig their holes deep enough.  It is an unsightly scene and very un-sanitary.  Max Patch is another place that has been ruined by people who don't know.  This is a beautiful bald along the AT in North Carolina in Pisgah National Forrest. On this blog I have shared some photo's that I got off of the internet to show what happens when people overcrowd a place and don't know the rules of how to act.  They actually had to close Max Patch to campers because they were destroying the area.

What is the whole point of this blog? Too vent a little, and hopefully to inform folks that are new to the back country and how to conduct themselves to protect these great resources that we have for us and the future generations.  So Please share this info with others and take a grocery bag with you on your next hike to pick up some trash you may see along the way. And of course dispose of it properly.  Until next week Get Outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) AT blog landscape learning leave no trace Max Patch Max Stansell Photography Mt. Whitney National Forest National Parks pack it in pack it out Photography Pisgah Smokey's State Parks website workshops Fri, 23 Jul 2021 08:27:58 GMT
What I Take Backpacking on a Weekend Trip Bluff Mtn SummitBluff Mtn Summit Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing well this week. I am a gear guy.  Let's face it I love gear. Whether its Photography gear which I have talked a lot about on this blog to backpacking and camping gear.  This week I want to give you an idea of what I cary on a typical overnight backpacking trip that you would do on the weekend.  Some backpackers would take more or less but I think this is a good representation of what a typical overnight load out would be.  You can see what is in my pack by going to the Lighter Pack website link here. Im in the process of adding links to all of the items on the Lighter Pack website but haven't yet.  In the process means I have thought about it. LOL   I will give you a list of what's in my pack and a little description or why I use it below.  My base weight which means all the stuff in my pack except food , water and fuel is in the summer about 12-13 lbs and in the winter about 14-16 lbs.  These are pretty much dependent on what shelter I take if a tent it is lighter and a hammock its heaver. So here we go.

-Pack: My choice of pack right now is the Z-Pack's Arch Haul.  This is about a 55 liter pack and maybe a little much for a overnight but its a great pack.  There are many packs on the market and all of them have good points and bad.  You just have to choose the one that is right for you.

-Shelter- This is where my pack varies the most.  Depending where I go or what kind of trip I'm on will decide which shelter I use. Tent or Hammock.  I prefer to sleep in a hammock but it is heaver and you do need trees to hang it. The hammock I use is a home made one that I got the Idea from the company that I get all of my material from . "Ripstop by the Roll" It has a zippered bug net attached to it and is very comfortable to sleep in.  My tent that I use is the Z-Pack's Duplex a 2 person tent that only weighs about 11/2 lbs.  I use it on longer trips and where the hammock would not be practical .  Its a awesome tent and the Tent set up is about a pound lighter than the Hammock set up. If I use a hammock I also need a Tarp to go over it. I also made the one or should I say ones because I have made a few.  Depending on the weather decides which tarp I will take.  Bad weather or cold I take a tarp that has doors on it and in good weather I take one that doesn't have doors.

-Sleeping Pad- If I use my tent I use a Nemo-Tensor Insulated sleeping pad.  It's the kind that you Blow up and is comfortable and will keep you warm on cold nights.

-Quilts- No these are not like your grandmothers quilts.  These are made especially for Backpacking. I use a 20 degree Enlightened Equipment top quilt and it can be used for tents or hammocks. I could use it for summer use but the weight savings on a 50 degree Aegismax sleeping bag is too great for the summer time. It is an inexpensive Chinese made quilt that I got off of Alley express a Chinese Amazon. For my bottom quilt when I use a hammock in the summer I use a 40 degree home made quilt that I made.  For the winter I use a 20 Hammock Gear Incubator quilt.  It is awesome and very comfy cosy. 

-Pillow- Yes a luxury item! I use a Trekology Blow up Pillow and a stuff sack with clothes in it if I need another. A good night sleep is essential after a long day of backpacking.

-Cooking/Water Filtration- I will just name these off of what is in my cook kit. My Pot a 750 Toaks titanium, stove BRS Ultralight canister stove. Long handled spoon Toaks titanium, Folding Toaks titanium fork, Knife Swiss Army Knife, GSI backpacking Cup (for Coffee!) I normally use a bear bag food storage which I use a Z-packs storage DCF bag. Sometimes I have to use a bear canister then I use a Bear Vault 450 a plastic canister that is suppose to be bear proof.  My water filtration is done by a Sawyer Squeeze and a Cnock 2 liter bladder.  I also use 1 liter and a 750ml water bottles for storage. The water bladder always is dirty water and I filter to one of the smart water bottles. Water filtration is the most important thing in the cooking system you must have clean drinking and cooking water.

-Clothing- Rain Coat this is an inexpensive Frogg Toggs, Puffy Jacket I always have a puffy jacket summer or winter you never know. Fleece beanie hat, gloves, a Buff which is a brand of neck gator, Socks Darn Tuff my favorite, underwear not cotton!, I use a stuff sack made by Z-Packs when turned inside out has a fleece side for a pillow. Very comfy.

-Toilet kit- Poop Kit which will include a trowel, a back country bidet I just started using instead of toilet paper, a few Wyse-Wipes which are small tablet looking things but when you add just a little water they become a moist towelette. (these must be packed out not buried ) and biodegradable soap.

-Toiletries-include a tooth brush and tooth paste ,hand sanitizer , If I use contacts some extra ones. This kit will be kept with the food not in my pack or tent at night so not to attract critters with the smell of the toothpaste.

-First Aid kit this kit will include everything from blister care to diarrhea prevent medicine to ibuprofen (vitamin I) Mosquito repellant , sun screen and almost everything you can think of.  Try not to make this kit too big.

-Ditty Bag- This is where I have my ditty's! LOL Most of my electronic stuff goes here I have a 20000 mah battery that i use to charge everything . I have a rechargeable headlamp by Nightcore. All of my cords for recharging everything, A small fire starting kit and a kit that I can use to repair gear and earbuds.

-Extras-These are some things that I could probably do without but I want them with me. First is a Backpacking Umbrella.  This umbrella is very lightweight and has a silver outer cover.  It can be used for rain protection and sun protection if your in an exposed area.  The one I have was made by Gossamer Gear.  I also have a backpacking chair. Yes a chair.  Nothing is better than sitting in a chair after a 10ish mile day.  The support for your back is amazing! The one I have weighs about a pound and was made by REI.  My last extra is a sit pad.  This is a closed cell foam pad that you can use to sit on.  You can use it anywhere and something soft on your butt when stopping for lunch is great.

-Clothes I wear- These are things that are not in or on my pack.  I wear a fanny pack that was made by Light AF.  It is a small pack that can carry a camera or snacks it has a pouch on the outside that  can be used to hold my phone. I have my trusty Trekking poles made by Kelty which are a cheap brand but I just love mine. They are aluminum with twist locks.  Depending on the weather I either wear a pair of Gym shorts that have pockets or a pair of convertible pants that the legs zip off to make shorts.  I wear some kind of had either floppy or a baseball type of cap. I wear a shirt that is a synthetic shirt could be a button sun shirt or a pull over one that covers my arms if I will be in exposed areas. My underwear is made of synthetic material a boxer brief seems to be best for me.  My socks are Darn Tough socks .  My shoes of choice will be trail runners.  I am currently using Altra Lone Peak 3.5 but they are about worn out and will have to upgrade soon. The only other stuff I wear is my watch which I just upgraded to a Garmin Instinct but I have used a Amazon knockoff of a fit bit for a long time.  I also wear bone conducting headphones so I can listen to music or podcast while I hike and still hear all the sounds around. The ones I have are Areopex Aftershockz. 

Thats about it .  Total weight with water and food is about 20 in the summer and 22ish in the winter.  If you have any questions about any of my gear please get in touch with me and I will love to help you in any way I can.  Until Next week please stay safe and get outside!



(Max Stansell Photography) Anker blog BRS Darn-tough DIY Electronics First-Aid Gear Gossamer-Gear GSI Hammock landscape learning Lite-AF Max Stansell Photography Photography Poop-Kit REI Sawyer-Squeeze swiss army knife Toaks Water-Filtration website Z-Packs Fri, 16 Jul 2021 08:47:53 GMT
Dealing With Failure Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing well this week.  Today I wanted to talk about failures. Yes failures. Everyone has them.  If you don't then your not trying hard enough stuff. Recently I just had a backpacking failure. But I prefer not to think of it as a failure but a learning experience. What were your learning you say. Well I'm a glass half full guy so when I look at a failure I look at what went right not to drone on about what went wrong.  Now failures come in all sorts and sizes. It could be a photography failure. Maybe you were trying to shoot the milky way and it just didn't work.  You couldn't get your settings right .  You tried and tried and just got one shot that looks like it might be OK.  Well that one shot could have been what you learned. Maybe you struggled with settings on your camera and trying to set them up in the dark.  Another lesson you learned that you need to know your camera better so you and do things in the dark.  These are things to work on and try again later.  Let me tell you about a recent backpacking failure that I had.

I had planned a trip in the Uwharrie National Forest.  It was about a 7mile out and back along the Uwharrie  trail.  I would camp on top of a bald mountain.  I have a new tent that I was going to try out and a couple of new items that I haven't used yet in my pack.  I had quickly planned out this trip and it was dependent on the weather.  So at the last minute I pulled the trigger and took off to the trailhead.  Its about a 2 1/2 hour trip to get there and when I did there were only 2 other cars there!  Yay! That means that the trail would be mostly mine.  I was excited!  I grabbed my pack and trekking poles and took off down the trail. But something didn't feel right.  I looked down and I didn't have my regular hiking shoes on.  I brought them but I was so excited that I forgot to change into them. Well I wasn't far from the truck so I went back and changed shoes and started my hike again.  Something still didn't feel right .  And I remembered that I had adjusted my trekking poles down 5cm to use as tent poles with my new tent. So I adjusted them but something went wrong one of them wouldn't lock into place. I did a little panic and kept fiddling with it until I finally got it to lock into place.  Ok everything good to go and off I went.  The trail was beautiful! This is a new section of trail and it was in good shape and the inclines were not too bad. It was very humid because of the rain we had been having the last week or so and it had mist and sprinkled a few times and the leaves were wet.  I was doing some professional sweating!  Sweat was dripping off of the front of my cap. Drip , Drip , Drip.  I took some photo's along the way I was having a great time.  On the approach to King Mountain the tallest on the Uwharrie trail the inclines started being tougher.  Even though they had put some switch backs in the trail.  A switch back is a zig zag in the trail so your not going strait up the hill but at a easer incline.  I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath but I made it to the top.  This is where the fun stopped.  The section that I was just on was all new trail with the switch backs built in but the old trail didn't do that.  When I started going down King Mountain I was on Older trail and it went straight down hill at a steep decline.  If you have bad knees you know that all of the weight of you and you pack fall on your knees when going down hill.  So I went slow.  My right knee is my bad knee with the torn Meniscus and I had a couple of sharp twinges in it as I was slowly going down when all of the sudden my left knee just locked up and I had a sharp pain that went from my knee and up my inner thigh.  And I couldn't bend it either way it was frozen in place!  I freaked out a little and worked with it and finally got it to bend a little. It was still over two miles to get to a road.  That was a very long 2 miles.  As I hobbled out of the woods all kinds of things were going through my head.  When I got to the road and a trailhead I stopped and thought about my options.  I was less than a mile from my final campsite.  I could go there and camp and see how my knees were in the morning.  Then I started thinking knees are never better the day after you have tweaked them.  So what was I to do?  I thought long and hard it was 2:30 in the afternoon.  I called my son and told him the situation and I was going to have him pick me up and take me to my truck where I would drive home.  That seemed to be the smartest option.  I could have camped out but someone would have to pick me up in the morning.  I called my wife and told her what was happening. But now I had a 3ish hour wait at the trailhead.  So I pulled out my camp chair sat in the shade and played with my phone .  It was hot! and I only had a 1/2 liter of water left I would have to get more. So I packed everything up and found a stream and got some water filtered it from a very shallow stream.  I was doing some hard core sweating now even my calfs were sweating.  I made it back to the trail head sat down in the shade drank some water and ate a little and I was starting to feel better, then it started raining.  Not just a little sprinkle but a downpour. I had just started charging my phone from a battery bank my phone is water proof but the battery bank wasn't so I used my raincoat to protect it from the rain water.  The trailhead sign had a small cover over it so I made camp up under the sign why it rained. I waited for two more hours until my son showed up and took me to my truck.  

So to me this was a big fail at the time. I had never not finished a backpacking trip before.  What happened? What did I do so wrong.  Am I just too old to backpack anymore?   Maybe but here is what I learned after a day of thinking about what happened. That 2 1/2 hour drive was filled with anticipation of what was to come. How many people are going to be there. (last time I went I couldn't even find a parking place) What will the weather be.  So lesson 1 is - Don't get too excited at the trailhead before you set off.  (Trekking poles and shoes) I was doing real well before I tweaked my knee maybe should have drunk more water . I was probably dehydrated and should have added some electrolytes to my water. Lesson 2 drink plenty of water with electrolytes and eat while hiking.  I only factored in distance when planning my trip not elevation, heat and humidity. (I still did well) Lesson 3 factor in difficulty of the hike (elevation)  I also saw that  I made good decisions after I tweaked my knee.  I got to a trailhead (self extracted) Sat down and figured out all of the options and picked the safest one and called for help when I needed to. Lesson 4 keep calm cool and collected if injured getting excited will only make it worse.  Lesson 5- don't be proud call for help if you need it. So I did very well after I got injured. I made sure I was well hydrated after reaching the last trailhead by going and getting more water. I also learned that my equipment that I had with me did well.  The rain didn't get anything wet but the outside of my pack.  I was very fortunate that I had cell phone coverage and could talk to people. Although I do have a satellite communicator that I could talk via text but would have been more difficult.

Although I did not complete the trip as planned I did learn a lot about my equipment and me which was what this trip was all about.  I've learned some things that I need to improve on and some things that I did well.  I do think that if I had not tweaked my knee that I would have been able to complete the trip although I would have been warn out.  I will definitely do this trip again maybe in the fall when its not as hot and humid.  Can't wait!  So until next week get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) backpacking blog dehydration failure hiking. landscape learning Max Stansell Photography national forest Photography rain trail Uwharrie website Fri, 09 Jul 2021 20:32:13 GMT
Hiking Footwear Hey Everyone! Hope y'all are doing great this week. This week I want to talk about hiking and backpacking footwear, probably the most important gear choice you'll have to make. This is literally where the hiking meets the trail! Your whole trip depends on your footwear.  Everything that you carry through every mile will be carried by your feet, so foot care is important.  No one wants blisters or sore feet. Nothing is worse than being halfway through your backpacking trip and your feet are killing you and you know you have miles to hike to get to your car. Choosing the proper footwear and caring for your feet is one of the most important things you'll do in backpacking. First, let's choose a good hiking sock.

The sock that you choose is very important. You would think that something this small wouldn't make such a difference but it does.  Like all of your other clothing, you don't want cotton. The preferred material choice is wool. I know most people have never worn wool socks before. These wool products nowadays are not your grandfather's itchy, scratchy wool. Nowadays wool is soft and water wicking, keeping your feet dry, which is a key step in keeping blisters away. Marina wool socks can be found in all sorts of places and by all kinds of companies. Some companies specialize in hiking and backpacking. These folks really know their stuff, and some warranty their socks to last forever.  So if you get a hole in them, they will send you a new pair at no cost. So you know they are durable.  I use socks by the company Darn Tough. They are expensive socks, but they are worth every penny. I have never gotten blisters while wearing these socks. I usually take two pairs while on a multi-day hike. I wear one and take a spare and change out every day.  I'll rinse out the dirty pair and hang it on the outside of my pack to dry while hiking the next day. That keeps me in a clean pair every day.

Hiking boots or shoes? Traditionally boots were the choice.  I guess because of the Army and all of the hiking and walking they did in their boots. But nowadays boots are the exception to the rule, usually only being worn in colder climates or in the wintertime. Nowadays trail runners are the rule. Trail runners are made to be worn while trail running. They have lots of support and a very grippy and aggressive tread. They are lightweight, and you can either get them waterproof or not. I tend to not get the waterproof ones, because if you stand in water that is higher than your shoes, like when crossing a large creek, your shoes just become bowls of water that your feet are in and it takes longer for them to dry out.  I like the ones that are not waterproof because they dry out faster. Choosing shoes is a personal decision, and there are different strokes for different folks. There are many shoe companies, but here are some of them: Merrell, Altra, and Soloman. I know I always mention REI as a place to go to buy stuff, but to me it is the best place. First of all, they have specialized items like hiking shoes or boots. Second, they have a no-questions return policy. You can return anything within a year and get your money back (even if you have used them).  Third, you get a 10% dividend at the end of the year, so the more you spend the more money you get for next year. Fourth, all the things that are returned are sold in a yard sale event that happens almost monthly, and you can get great deals on items that are slightly used. So REI is my store of choice for specialized items that are hard to find anywhere else. So if I don't see it on Amazon, I go to REI to touch and feel try on, etc...

The most important thing to do when choosing shoes is to get the correct size. Getting your foot properly sized is important! Many of us have worn the same size for years, but we haven't properly been sized.  I wore size 8 1/2 shoes for all my life. Then I went to a small family shoe store and got my feet measured again and I was a 9 1/2.  It was a whole size too small! On top of getting the right size shoes, you also should upsize your hiking shoes 1/2 to a full size larger. This is why. First, you should be wearing your hiking socks as I mentioned before, and they are usually thicker than normal socks. Second, your feet swell while you hike, so a larger shoe is needed for hiking. Wearing improper shoes can cause discomfort, blistering, and loss of toenails.  Yuck! I have had the black toenails from improper shoe size. While hiking downhill my feet were sliding in my shoe and my toes were hitting the front of the shoe. My toenails were too long (trim them!) and were bending when hitting the front of the boot. My big toenail turned black and eventually fell off. Yuck Again! So please get the right shoe and socks for the hike! 

Another thing to consider is the insoles of your shoes. You want something with lots of arch support. I had plantar fasciitis, and the insoles I put in helped me get better. These should be sized also to fit the shape of your foot if you need them. The ones that come in the trail runner may be fine for you. I use the ones by Super Feet. They are stiff and support my feet and arches and are definitely worth the extra cost. So keep your feet happy, and you will have a better hike or backpacking experience.  Keep hiking and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) Altra backpacking blog boots gortex hiking learning lightweight Max Stansell Photography Merrell Photography Soloman trail runners website workshops Fri, 02 Jul 2021 09:00:00 GMT
Favorite Backpacking Accessories Hey Everyone! I hope you've had a good week and everyone is healthy and safe. This week I want to talk about some of my favorite backpacking accessories.  These come in no particular order sort except one that I will save for last as my favorite accessory. Unfortunately, we as backpackers tend to collect all sorts of things that can weigh down our packs. The things I like may not be the same things you like. We tend to pack according to our fears. If we're afraid of being too cold, we will bring too much clothing. If we are afraid of getting hurt, we will overpack our first aid kit. So be careful not to overpack, because a light pack will make you enjoy your trip more than anything. So far I have talked about the big three items that we take backpacking and my camera kit. So here are some of my favorite backpacking accessories.

Headlamp - Some sort of light is a must in the backcountry.  There are many kinds of lights, from a small flashlight to a fancy headlamp.  I have had fancy headlamps that claim to be all that and a bag of chips. LOL But your headlamp doesn't need to be extravagant. It needs to be simple to operate and simple to use. I first got the headlamp that I use through photography. I got it for night photography, and it quickly replaced my expensive headlamp that I was using. The VITCHELO V800 is a simple inexpensive headlamp.  I got mine off of Amazon for under $20.  It is simple to use with just two buttons, one for a red lamp and one for white.  I like simple. My more expensive headlamps had one button, and you had to go through a series of pushes to get this or that to operate. I love this little headlamp for its simplicity. It uses 3 AAA batteries that last a long time, so I don't have to worry about recharging it. Nice and simple. I have recently purchased a new headlamp, the Nitecore NU 25. This little headlamp is simple to use like the one explained above, but it is rechargeable and lighter in weight. It costs around $30.

Smartphone and Apps - Everyone has a phone nowadays, and they can be very versatile and do lots of things besides just being a phone. It's my backup camera if something happens to my main camera.  It's a GPS device that can get me out of a jam with offline maps downloaded to it. It can be entertainment in the form of a book or a downloaded movie or show. And of course it can hold your favorite hiking music. It can even be an extra flashlight if something happens to yours. So as you can see it is a very versatile piece of equipment. But remember that a lot of places you go you will not have cell phone coverage, so be prepared if you're using it for navigation.  And a backup battery bank will also come in handy to recharge this device.  I use GAIA maps for my hiking and exploring, and I download offline maps to make sure if I lose cell coverage I still have maps to use for hiking and driving navigation. One tip to save battery power if you know you're going to be out of cell coverage reach is to put your phone on airplane mode so it doesn't use all of its energy looking for a signal.

Portable Battery Pack - One thing electronics all have in common is that they use batteries to power them.  My camera batteries, my new headlamp, and my phone. When you're out in the wilderness there are no electrical outlets to plug into, so where do I get my power for these things? I use a portable battery bank made by ANKER.  I got this like almost everything off of Amazon. It is a 20000 MAH battery and can recharge my phone many times, my batteries for my camera, and my headlamp. It is a great resource and can supply not only battery power but also a sense of security. It also can recharge my next item. 

GPS Communication Device - My next item gives piece of mind not only to me but to my family. In the places I go when backpacking or just exploring, cell phone coverage is spotty at best. This device is a two-way satellite communicator and doesn't need cell phone coverage to work.  It uses the satellites that circle the earth to communicate. It is a Garmin Inreach Mini. This is a fancy GPS device that can pair to your phone. You can send and receive text messages and send your coordinates to your loved ones.  With a link that is sent, they can see on a map exactly where you are.  The device also has an SOS button that can be pushed in case of an accident. Say you broke your leg and can't get out of the backwoods. You can push this button, and a service will notify the rescue personnel where you are.  They can text you and check on your condition. They can come and get you and bring you to safety.  As the name implies, this is a small device that rides on the shoulder strap of my pack. This is an expensive device coming in at $350, but well worth it to keep my family and friends informed. If you plan on doing a lot of exploring where there is no cell phone coverage, a device like this is a must-have, whether you have this on your pack or in your car.

Lightweight Chair - There are all kinds of accessories that you can take with you in the backcountry.  A new addition to my backpacking lineup is a lightweight chair.  I know this sounds silly.  But I am a weekend warrior, not a through hiker, so I like my comfort especially since I've gotten older.  It comes in right at a pound but worth it. After a long day's hike when you get to your campsite, even if it's an established campsite with places to sit, there is no support for your back. You can't just lay back and eat your meal or have somewhere to sit if you're at an unestablished campsite.  I use the REI Flexlite Air.  There are many brands out there now, but this is a luxury that I give myself when I go backpacking. 

Now for my Favorite backpacking accessory.  It's my Trekking Poles. I know it sounds silly for those who have never used them, but they are my favorite accessory. Trekking poles help you walk and keep steady. They will allow you to hike farther with less effort. Instead of being two-legged, you're now four-legged. They take stress off of your knees, which is why I got them in the first place, and from the first day I was faster and more efficient hiking. For any distance past a couple of miles, I always use trekking poles. They are also the poles I use for my tent when I use a tent. I can truly say that they have let me see more scenery.  When I started using them, I noticed that I didn't have to pay so much attention to where I was walking with my head down looking for roots or where to put my feet. The trekking poles give me more stability when I hike and I am able to look up to see more of what I came out for. You can get all types of trekking poles, from very expensive carbon fiber ones to less expensive aluminum ones.  I have the latter.  I think they are more durable. I only have had two sets. The first ones I got I was coming down the stairs the first day I got them and slipped and fell on one of them and broke them. But I was so pleased with how they performed that when I got home I ordered a new pair and have had those for years. They may be one of my oldest pieces of equipment. But I couldn't go on a backpacking trip without them.

So there you have some of my favorite backpacking accessories.  Do you have any?  Drop me a line and let me know what they are.  So until next week, get outside and start exploring!


(Max Stansell Photography) Anker backpacking blog camp chair camping garmin headlamp iphone kelty landscape learning Max Stansell Photography nitecore phone Photography REI trekking poles website workshops Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:00:00 GMT
The 10 Essentials of Backpacking Hey Yall! Hope everyone is doing fine this week. This week I wanted to cover the 10 essentials of things that you need to carry when you're hiking or backpacking. It seems to me that these essentials were brought up by the Boy Scouts a long time ago but are true and tried things that you need to have with you. I will go over these 10 essentials, but keep in mind that you can go overboard on some of these items. These are things that you have to decide for yourself. 

1. Navigation - Some type of navigation, whether it be a map and compass or GPS, is needed.  This will keep you from getting lost. I also suggest that you have a backup if you're using a phone or a GPS in case the battery goes dead. The backup would be a paper map of some kind. It doesn't need to be an elaborate map, just one that can get you out of the woods if you get lost. I use my phone and a map that I have printed out and I carry a small compass just so I know where north is.

2. Sun Protection - When exposed to the elements, it is very easy to get sunburn or even heat stroke. Protecting your skin and eyes from the harsh sun is the goal. Sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat or long-sleeve sun shirt can protect these areas. I carry a small amount of sunblock in a pouch and wear a hat and long sleeves.

3. Insulation - Insulation includes a jacket, gloves, rain shell, and thermal underwear. These essentials can make the difference between getting hypothermia or being cozy at camp. You can spend a lot of money on this one, but you don't have to. There are some good items that you can substitute for jackets and gloves.

4.Illumination - Guess what? It gets dark when the sun goes down in the wilderness. So some sort of light is needed. I use a headlamp, but there are all kinds of flashlights and lanterns that can be used.

5. First Aid and Supplies - This is one area that you can go overboard on or either not take enough. You need to make your first aid kit cater to you. If you're on medication, make sure you bring it. If you're allergic to bees, make sure you have an EpiPen with you. Also bring some pain killers, band aids, and Leukotape is great for blisters. Bring what you think you will need.

6. Fire Starter - Matches or a lighter are safety items.  A fire can keep you warm and can be used to signal for help.  You should know how to start a fire in the wilderness. Some type of fire starter, like lent from your dryer, works well to get a fire started. I carry 2 Bic lighters. One is in my cook kit, and the other is in my first aid kit with Leukotape wrapped around it. I also carry some fuel tablets just for starting a fire.  After you light one they will last for 10 min. or so, enough time to get a fire going.

7. Repair Kit and tools -  For backpacking, your repair kit could be in the form of duct tape and a knife. I carry a repair kit for my sleeping pad, and duct tape is wrapped around my trekking poles. I only carry one knife with me. It's a small Swiss Army knife that has some tools built in like scissors, all very small and lightweight. If you carry dental floss and a needle, you can use that to sew up tears in packs or clothing.

8. Nutrition -  You must carry food with you if you're doing a long hike or backpacking. If you're doing a hike, a simple power bar might do. But if you're going backpacking, you must carry meals to make sure you're at your best energy level when moving around in the wilderness.

9. Hydration - You need water to survive. Getting dehydrated can make you sick, and it's dangerous to your health. Either pack enough water with you to last the hike or backpacking trip, or carry a water filter. Water is the heaviest thing in your pack while backpacking, so being able to find water sources and using a water filter will lighten the amount of water that you need to carry.

10. Shelter - This can be in the form of some sort of emergency shelter or tarp if you're hiking, or a tent or hammock if you are backpacking.  If the weather gets bad and you end up in a storm, it's great to have a place to get out of the weather. This could prevent you from getting hypothermia. I use either a small tarp if I'm doing a long hike, or my tent or hammock for backpacking.

The 10 essentials, if used correctly, could save your life or the life of others while traveling in the wilderness. These can fit into a small bag if you're just hiking or could fill up your whole pack. Choose wisely and make sure you have some version of the 10 essentials with you when you're out exploring nature.  Until next week, get outside and explore!

(Max Stansell Photography) 10essentials backpacking blog gps hiking hydration landscape learning Max Stansell Photography navigation Photography safety shelter sun protection website workshops Fri, 18 Jun 2021 09:00:00 GMT
Cooking on the Trail Hey Everyone! Hope you've had a great week. This week I'm going to be talking about cooking on the trail while backpacking.  I am very simple cook on the trail and mainly just rehydrate food to eat.  But some people can get very elaborate with their cooking on the trail.  Being more fancy on the trail with your food can mean more weight but for some people its their luxury that they bring. Today Ill cover the kind of cooking I do while on trail and the tools I use to do it with.

Meals on the trail.  While your hiking on the trail especially if your doing lots of miles.  To me lots of miles is anything over 10. You're going to burn lots of calories.  So high calorie food is what you want.  You need to feed the machine.  You're also going to need high calorie snacks.  For my main meal at night I usually have some sort of freeze dried prepackaged meal.  They usually come in two serving sizes but your usually so hungry that you'll eat the whole thing.  Mountain House meals is probably the most used and you can get them at your local Walmart.  There are many more from Backpackers Pantry and many other companies that you can find on Amazon or your local REI.  You can get all sorts of meals from Lasagna to chicken teriyaki and most of them are very tasty.  They can be a little on the expensive side.  But you could substitute Ramen Camp CoffeeCamp Coffee Noodles and some sort of meat like tuna or chicken in packets for protein.  For lunch I usually have some sort of simple wrap.  I bring some tortilla wrappers and fill with tuna or chicken in the packs if you bring in some cheese and packets of condiments that you have leftover in a drawer in your kitchen come in handy.  Some people also make peanut butter wraps. For breakfast I keep it pretty simple with oatmeal or a breakfast bar.  Something to give me some energy but won't weigh me down. Of course substitutions can be made for all of these meals.  And I always carry an extra pack of Ramen Noodles for emergencies. For snacks I usually have some sort of trail mix or protein bar. One good thing about backpacking is if you're putting in the miles you can eat about what you want. _MSP1815_MSP1815

Preparing food on the trail.  Most if not all of my cooking on the trail consist of rehydrating something . So I really only have to boil water to do that.  I use a 750ml titanium pot to boil my water in and a small propane canister stove to heat up the water. It is all very light weight and small.  Everything fits into the small pot which is really just a good sized cup with a lid.  The small canister of fuel, the stove , lighter and camp towel all fit into the pot . I made a little bag that the pot with all the contents go into for easy storage in my pack.  The water that I use is either brought with me or filtered water from a stream.  I use a Sawer Squeeze water filtering system and haven't had any problems with bacteria.  So when cooking one of the freeze dried meals I follow the instructions. Usually 2 cups of boiling water is added to the package that the meal comes in. Wait 10 min or so and you have a meal. I usually take the meals out of their packages at home and repackage them into freezer bags (they pack better).  I have made a Reflectix Pouch where  I place the zip lock bags with the freeze dried food.  I add the water to the zip lock bag and cook inside the Reflectix Pouch
. And I eat right out of the bag with a long handled spoon. when I'm done I just close the ziplock bag and put in my trash bag to be hauled out. Easy peasy for quick clean up.  If I make coffee or coco I use the pot to boil the water and either used instant coffee or I bring ground and I have a little strainer that I put the coffee in and pour the boiling water over ( I have to bring an extra cup to do this coffee method).  All the food that I bring on trail with me is kept in a Dyneema Food Bag and when at camp it is hung in a tree a few hundred feet away from the campsite.  Bears, Racons and mice want your food also and if your in an established campsite they know that humans bring food so they can be sniffing around. Some Backcountry places you have to use a Food Canister to put your food in. It is a plastic cylinder with a lockable lid it's bear proof and will keep the critters out of it.  I don't have one yet but plan on getting one this year because I will be in areas where bear activity is high.

Experimenting with different types of food to bring is an ongoing adventure for me. I'm still just a boil water rehydrate cooker in the backcountry but there are all kinds of meals to try.  You could even dehydrate your own meals. Lots of people do.  I tried and it worked but I wasn't very good at it.  For example you could dehydrate spaghetti sauce and cook the noodles at the campsite and rehydrate the sauce. Or dehydrate chili and rehydrate at your camp. My advice is to at first keep it simple after a long days hike all you want to do is eat and sleep and having to prepare a fancy meal on the trail will be hard to do.  So keep it simple boil water like me.  So until next week keep exploring and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) Alpineaire backpackers pantry blog boiling BRS cooking Hydrate landscape learning Max Stansell Photography mountain House Photography pot propane Titanium Toaks trail cooking website workshops Fri, 11 Jun 2021 08:07:20 GMT
Backpacking Camera Kit Hey everyone! Hope you are doing well today. This week I want to talk about my backpacking camera kit. Now if you have followed me for a while, you know that I commute a lot for my real job, and the camera I take with me is a Canon G7XMII point and shoot. This is the same camera that I use for backpacking.  It's a good camera that can shoot in manual mode and in RAW mode. It is a small and very versatile camera. I have actually used it and won some monthly photo contests with my camera club with this camera. Things that I look for in a backpacking camera are, first, size. How heavy is it?  If I have to carry lenses, how heavy and bulky are those? Back when I used to shoot a full-frame camera, the total weight could be 7 lbs. That was with just one lens. That's about equal to lugging around a gallon of milk on your back. So that's one of the reasons I started using a mirrorless camera years ago because I cut my weight to 3.5 lbs with multiple lenses. And now I have cut it even lower, to about 1 lb. So I have cut the weight down to almost nothing. The only time I will consider taking my larger camera is if I am going to a big photo spot, like If I go to a waterfall or special place or if I'm going to do astrophotography. But my go-to camera is the G7XMII.

Versatility is the next component that you want to look at. You want a camera that can shoot in all kinds of conditions. You can shoot wide-angle, telephoto, manual mode, and RAW.  It's almost impossible to get a camera that can do it all. Being able to be weatherproof is also something to look at. It is very hard to find one that is weather resistant. Other things that are nice are maybe wifi to transfer photos to your phone to share or edit. The G7XMII has a focal length of  24-100mm F1.8-2.8.  This gives you lots of flexibility when hiking or backpacking, especially in the woods. You can get those wide-angle shots, and 100mm is plenty when you're out and about. The aperture is open enough to isolate a subject and get a blurry background. It also has a macro mode for close-up shots. Shooting in manual can be handy, especially when shooting long exposures, like when shooting waterfalls. Wifi and the apps on my phone that connect to my camera come in handy. I can remotely trigger the shutter, which comes in handy when taking long exposures, and I can transfer photos to my phone or iPad and edit the photos there.  The only category that the camera falls short in is that it's not weatherproof. So I have to be careful when in the rain. I keep the bag in a weatherproof bag that I use as a fanny pack around my waist, and it protects it when it's wet outside. I also keep it in a neoprene wrap that protects it against shocks somewhat. This camera has a 1-inch 20 megapixel sensor that makes it much better than most point-and-shoots.

Accessories that I take with me for my camera kit are small but effective.  I use a small tripod that I also use with a GoPro I sometimes bring with me.  It's a tabletop tripod that is very small but can be used with this small camera.  I have some filters that I use with this camera too. I have an adapter that can be attached to the lens of the camera and can use 52mm filter size filters. I have a circular polarizer that I can use and a 2-stop neutral density filter I can use for long exposures. And of course, I have cleaning cloths to keep everything as dust-free as possible.  I use my phone and a Canon app to remotely trigger the shutter during long exposures.

So that's pretty much my camera kit for backpacking. I try to keep it simple and lightweight. You can check out my gear by following this link Lighter Pack. You can see my gear loadout and how much it weighs between tent and hammock and summer and winter by clicking on the list on the left. So until next week, stay safe and get outside and shoot!



(Max Stansell Photography) blog camera Canon filters G7XMII landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography tripod website workshops Zpacks Fri, 04 Jun 2021 09:00:00 GMT
Pack Third Item of the Big Three Hey everyone!  Hope you are having a great day! Today we're going to discuss the final item of the big three for backpacking, packs. Now that you have chosen your shelter and your sleep system, you can correctly choose your pack.  The pack you choose should be able to hold your sleep system and your shelter with a little space to spare. Everything else you will need is small and should be able to fit into all the nooks and crannies of the pack. If you have a super big pack, you will want to put everything including the kitchen sink in it, and it will be super heavy. Remember, weight matters. You will want an internal frame pack. Packs used to come with big aluminum racks on the outside of the pack, but now most packs with an internal frame are either made of aluminum rods or some sort of composite rods to keep the weight down. The frames help support the pack and make it more comfortable when hauling loads.  Packs are sized in liters. Common sizes are 35, 40, 50, 55, 60 and 70 liters. They even come in larger sizes, but those are for expeditions where you need the kitchen sink. In backpacking, you don't need those.  Your longest stretch out in the wilderness will only be a week or so and then you can re-supply. My suggestion is 55-liter or lower. My first pack was an old army pack that I had acquired and it was big. I put so much stuff in it that, after a mile with it on my back, I thought I would die. I made a lot of mistakes. First, I had a pack too large and thought I just had to fill it with stuff. Second, I didn't have it fitted to me, so it was uncomfortable. Besides the size of the pack, the pack fitting your body is probably the most important. The pack should fit you. There are measurements that you take. One is of your torso length from a bone just below your hair line to your lower back. You can go online to YouTube or REI, and they will show you how to get properly fitted.  You will also need your waist size. With a properly fitted pack, you can hike miles with weight and not feel it on your shoulders because all the weight goes to your hips, and your legs do all of the work, not your shoulders. I went to REI for my first properly fitted pack. The people there are trained on fitting a pack for you. I got an Osprey 70-liter pack (still too many liters) that was fitted to me. They even put some weight in it, and I walked around the store to make sure it fit well. I used this pack for a while until it was just too big for the things I was carrying. This Osprey pack came with a little weight also at 7 lbs empty. My suggestion is to get one as light as you can. The one I have now is just a little over 2 lbs. Base weight is a term that backpackers talk a lot about, especially on YouTube gear channels. Base weight is everything you're going to carry on your trip except for expendables, things like water, food, and fuel. In our last two blogs, we talked about trying to get your tent to 2 lbs and your sleep system to 2 lbs. So now,  if you get your pack at 2 lbs, you're already at 6 lbs and things add up quickly. Let's think about a basic overnight backpacking trip and what you'll bring.  Let's say you did well but didn't quite get your big three to 2 lbs. Let's say you're at 3 lbs for each, which would make 9 lbs altogether. This is just a guess at what your total will be.

Big three -  9 lb: Water, 2 liters - 4.4 lb (2.2 lb per liter); Food for one night - 1.5 lb (1.5 per day); Cooking Kit - 1 lb (includes fuel and pot stove); First-Aid Kit and accessories - 1lb (includes headlamp). So this is what I would call the essentials, and it comes to 16.9 lbs. But what have we forgotten? Clothes. It's always good to have a rain jacket or puffy jacket and extra socks. And what about a good book to read, your phone and an extra battery to charge it, camera, toiletries, matches, lighter, water filter, knife, maybe even a camp chair?  As you can see, the weight adds up quickly. My goal is to keep it to around 25 lbs total weight or less, or around 20 lbs for base weight. In the winter, it will be heavier than in the summer because you carry more layers. You can easily get up to 40 lbs if you're not careful, and there is a big difference between 20 lbs and 40 lbs!

  Many packs can be customizable so you can add a pouch on your shoulder strap to hold a phone or a bottle of water for easy access.  Most of them will accommodate a water bladder with a hose so you can drink on the fly and not have to stop. The hip belt usually has pockets so you can carry snacks or whatever in them. They usually have a big mesh pocket on the outside so when you get something wet you can put it in there and it won't get all your stuff wet inside of the pack. Pack material will vary also from heavy-duty nylon to Dyneema. Some will be water repellent, and others you will have to have a pack cover when it rains to protect your stuff.  And of course, they come in all kinds of colors. Choosing the right pack is a big choice, so do a lot of research and try on as many as you can to make sure you're sized correctly for the most comfortable hike.  As I said earlier, I started with an Osprey 70-liter bag that I got from REI. I next went to a 40-liter bag that I got off of Amazon. And now I use a Zpacks Arch Haul 50-liter bag. The one I use now is water-resistant and can be adjusted in many different ways. You can check out my gear by following this link Lighter Pack. You can see my gear loadout and how much it weighs between tent and hammock and summer and winter by clicking on the list on the left. So choose wisely, and until next week safe travels and get outside.

(Max Stansell Photography) backpacking blog Dyneema hiking landscape learning Lighter Pack Max Stansell Photography Nylon Osprey Photography REI Sizing Ultralight water proof website workshops Zpacks Fri, 28 May 2021 09:00:00 GMT
Sleep System 2nd of Big 3 Hey Everyone! Hope you had a good week! Today we're going to talk about Sleep Systems, the 2nd part of the Big Three. This can be a very personal thing to pick out because everybody is different and they sleep differently. Some sleep on their backs, some sleep on their sides, and some flip-flop all over the place when they sleep. Again, I'll emphasize that going cheap here will cause you not to get a good night's sleep making your backpacking experience not at all fun.  The big three items are where you should make a good investment. You can skimp on things like a cooking kit, but in my opinion the big three and footwear you shouldn't skimp on.

The sleep system is comprised of two items if you're a tent dweller, which most of you will be at first. One, a sleeping pad, and two, a sleeping bag or quilt. First of all, weight will factor into your decision because you have to carry what you use. Let's start with the sleeping pad. There are many versions that can work for you, especially if you're a back sleeper. Sleeping pads are a must and not an option. If you sleep right on the ground, the heat from your body will be pulled out by the ground you're laying on.  A barrier of insulation of some sort will keep the heat in your body, even in the summer. Pads also are a comfort item to cushion you as you sleep on the hard ground. Closed-cell foam pads are one of the most economical and durable choices.  A yoga mat from Walmart will work if you're willing to carry the bulkiness of it.  A popular choice in the cell foam is the Therm-A-Rest RidgeRest Classic.  This pad folds like an accordion into a neat little bundle, and it is durable. I still have the first one I bought. There are many you can choose from that are sold from different companies, and I'm sure they are all great. These pads are lightweight and weigh about a pound. The price is good at around $40. The next type is the type that you blow up. They are usually 2 to 3 inches in depth and provide a good insulation value. These work best for side sleepers. They can weigh in the pound to pound-and-a-half range. These are not as durable as the cell foam and can get leaks in them. They usually come with repair kits, and you have to be careful where you put these so as not to get leaks. These are also more expensive, running from $100 to $250 depending on what you get. If you're a back sleeper, you're good to go with a cell foam at $40. But if you sleep any other way, I would suggest one of the blow-up kinds, and you will have to put more money out. I have slept on closed-cell foam ones as a side sleeper, and my hips were sore when I woke up. But if you sleep on one and are okay with it, that's what I would use. So try the cell foam first, and if it doesn't work you can get one of the blow-up ones. You'll only be out $40, and you can use them for seat cushions after cutting them into small sections. 

Sleeping Bag or Quilt.  This is what is going to keep you warm. The insulation in these is what is going to keep you warm. There are basically two types of insulation that are used in the construction of these bags: goose down or a synthetic type of insulation.  The down is lighter and warmer, but also more expensive, and when wet doesn't work.  The synthetic is cheaper and heavier, but when wet still works. I will always pick down over synthetic for the reason that it's warmer and packs down better than the other one does. Space matters. You're not going to get this wet unless you have had some sort of accident where your pack or tent failed. Also, a factor to take into consideration is what the bag or quilt is rated. Bags and quilts are rated to the degree you can survive in them.  A 20-degree bag means you can survive in 20-degree weather, but you're not going to be comfortable at 20 degrees. However, at 30 and 40 degrees, you're going to be toasty. My first bag would be rated to a 20-degree rating.  Later on, if you decide to do a lot of winter camping, you can get a bag that is rated for colder conditions than 20 degrees. You could also go the other way and get a 50-degree bag to use in the summer. The lower the rating the heavier the bag so a 20-degree bag is heavier than a 50-degree bag. You can spend a lot of money on these bags, especially if you're getting a down bag. Up to $800 for a real fancy one.  I would try to find something in the $200 to $300 range for your first one.  The goal is to try to get a 30-degree bag at around $300. You will have a good quality bag to keep you warm and not too heavy. Quilts are like sleeping bags but have no zippers in them. They may have clips or straps that give you a place to put your feet, but you're not all around covered up.  The reasoning for using a quilt over a bag is that when you sleep in your bag the part of the insulation that you lay on is squished and has no insulation value. So if you cut that part out, you will save weight which makes it lighter. So through-hikers like to use this kind of quilt.  I have not tried one, but it's on my list.

As you can see, there are lots of considerations to make when picking out a sleep system, so choose with care. This choice can make the difference between a great trip or a bad one. You can check out my gear by following this link Lighter Pack. You can see my gear loadout and how much it weighs between tent and hammock and summer and winter by clicking on the list on the left. Until next week, get out and enjoy the outdoors.

(Max Stansell Photography) backpacking blog camping Down hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Nemo Photography Quilt sleeping Bag sleeping pad synthetic Thermorest website workshops Fri, 21 May 2021 09:00:00 GMT
Shelter First of Backpacking Big 3 Hey Everyone! Hope today fines you in good health and happy! This week I want to talk about Backpacking and the Big Three!  What is the big three you say? The big three in backpacking is your Shelter, your Sleep System, and your Backpack.  These three things will be the most costly and probably the heaviest of the things you will cary.  To me they are gear that you shouldn't skimp on. My old saying still rings true "Buy Nice or Buy Twice"  All of the other stuff that you will have in your backpack will be fairly inexpensive or you may already have. These things will be specific to Backpacking .  You don't want to use a car camping sleeping bag you got for 40 bucks at Walmart to go backpacking with. While it may be great for car camping it will be too heavy and bulky to cary on a backpacking trip. In backpacking a true hard fact exist " Ounces equal Pounds and Pounds equal Pain!"  So weight is not the most important thing when picking out something to bring backpacking its high on the list. A cheap tent you get at Costco that weighs 7 lbs is going to be heavy on your back very quickly.  Durability is also something to take into consideration when picking out your Big Three.  

Your Shelter should be the first thing on this list that you acquire.  I know a lot of people say the pack but you don't know how large a pack until you get your shelter and sleep system.  What type of shelter are you going to use?  There are two camps on this to me. Tents or Hammocks. Tents are the more traditional choice and they cover anything from a Tarp Tent to a stand alone tent.  They can be set up almost anywhere.  There are Tents that use your trekking poles for the tent poles to save weight and there are stand alone tents that pop into shape when you insert the special poles that come with them.  Then there are Hammock systems.  I say systems because these tend to be more complicated to set up and you do need trees to use them.  Hammocks themselves are light weight but you also need a tarp to cover you incase it rains and you need extra insulation underneath the hammock to prevent heat loss even in summer.  My favorite is a Hammock system but its not right for all backpacking situations. If your in the desert where there are not trees. Or if your in the mountains above the tree line you have no where to put your hammock up at. I think they sleep better than tents but maybe I haven't got the right sleep pad yet.  I actually use either or depending on where I go backpacking. If your getting a tent which will probably be the safest bet for a beginner.  I would find one that is a one or two person tent. Don't be fooled by the two person option you'll have a hard time having another person in the tent because it will be very cramped . You really need to like the second person. I would look for one that is 2 lbs or lighter.  The lighter you go the more expensive it will be. The material makes a difference also. Most tents are made out of Silnylon. This is nylon that has been impregnated with silicone to make it water proof. Then there is Dyneema fabric that is as strong as steel , lightweight and waterproof.  Tents made out of Dyneema are the most expensive ones and the lightest. There are lots of options in the 2 lb range.  I personally have a few tents that meet this criteria.  I have a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 UL that weighs in at around 2 lbs. Its a semi free standing tent that means you do have to use some stakes to make it stand up.  This tent was a standard quite a few years ago for through hikers. They still make versions of this tent at about 400 dollars .  I also have some cheaper options.  I got a backpacking tent that uses your trekking poles for tent poles off of amazon. The River Country Trekker 2 tent comes in at 2.8 lbs.  You have to stake this tent out and it takes some practice to get it down. It cost 49 dollars.  Its made of a material that feels like a plastic tarp you get from walmart. Its like the old pup tents that I used when I was in Scouts.  You crawl in through the front.  Its warm in the summer because it doesn't have much ventilation but it will work if your trying to save money.  I have one that's kind of in the middle its a Chineese tent that I got that uses trekking poles and its pretty roomy. I'd day it weighs about like the River trekking tent but its much larger and has better ventilation. Its called 3F Lanshan 2 tent and I got it off of Alliexpress the Chinesse version of Amazon. There are lots of options out there and you could spend up to 800 dollars on a good backpacking tent. This is a big purchase so I would try some tents out if you can.  If you can borrow someones tent great.  Go to REI they usually have some tents set up to look at and maybe try out. So my advice would be when getting your first backpacking tent  is to get a middle of the road one for a couple of hundred dollars .  If you decide you don't like backpacking you can still use it to car camp with.

Hammocks are harder to pick out.  Most of the hammock systems that can be bought are made by garage companies.  These are companies that may work out of their garage or small business.  These are handmade items and can usually be customized to you if you ask.  The quality on theses items is superior to anything you would buy in a big store.  I use these companies as much as I can.  The hammock community is almost cult like when they start to talk about hammocks, gear and gadgets to use on your hammock.  There are all shapes and sizes with burnets like a tent to just a hammock swinging in the wind. If you think picking out a tent was hard doing so with a hammock is even harder.  You can mix and match hammocks, Tarps, Under quilts, suspension systems with different companies to make your system special to you. Or you can do like I did and make your own.  My first hammock was bought from a garage company named "Butt in a Sling" hammocks.  I bought a hammock and suspension from them and got a tarp off of Amazon made for Hammock camping.  After using this a few times I decided to make my own and I went down the rabbit hole of design and making my system just for me.  You may have seen previous blogs talking about my home made hammocks and systems. I'm thinking and designing one in  my head now.  I would watch a lot of you tube videos  and read the book " The Ultimate Hang " by Derek Hansen .  He also has a book "The Ultimate Hang 2" Which is an updated version  with some DIY stuff in it. Either book is Fantastic and shows the do's and don't to Hammock Camping. Hammocks are made out of Nylon and are lightweight in their self.  But a Hammock system , (Hammock, Tarp, Stakes, suspension system, under quilt) are not as light weight when put all together.  I would say on a average that a Hammock system is heaver than a tent system.  But I would also say that it is more comfortable than a tent system .  Especially if you are up in years as I seem to be getting. LOL

As you can see this is a big decision and has many options . Do the research, watch videos, read the recommendations, ask friends and go and try out if you can before you make your decision. Next week I'll talk about my #2 of the Big Three the Sleep System. You can check out my gear by following this link Lighter Pack. You can see my gear load out and how much it weighs between tent and hammock and summer and winter by clicking on the list on the left. So until then be safe and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) App Backpacking Big three BigAgnes Hammock lanshan Max Stansell Photography Osprey Photography Shelter Stakes Tarps Tents Trekking Trekking Poles Zpacks Fri, 14 May 2021 09:00:00 GMT
Where Can I Backpack? Hey Everyone! I hope everything is great with you today.  Today we are  continuing Backpacking theme. This weeks question "Where can I backpack at?"  This is a good question with lots of answers. I'm going to treat this series as if I'm talking to someone that is new to backpacking.  If your new to backpacking everything is going to feel strange.  If you have never camped before just setting up your tent or hammock will be a chore.  My first bit of advice is to get used to all of your equipment before you go on any backpacking trip.  You can work your way up to a bona fide backpacking trip. The first place I would start is your backyard.  Learn how to set up your tent.  Find a good spot in your backyard and practice setting up your tent. Depending on your tent learn how to stake it out how to put on the rain fly.  Do it a few times so it becomes easy for you.  You don't want to be learning how in the woods after a long hike to your campsite.  Blow up your sleeping pad and put out your sleeping bag just as you would or think you would while out in the woods.  Learn how to use your camp stove and how to make your dinner, coffee or whatever you're going to eat out there. This will be important because if you mess this up while out there there is no fridge to raid , you just get hungry.   Make sure you know how to use your water filtration system and how to refill your water bottles.  Hydration is very important. Hiking with a full pack on your back is hard work and you will sweat! Water is heavy! This is a number that you will remember each liter of water weighs 2.2 lbs. So if you have 2 liters of water 4.4 lbs.  This is on top of all of the other stuff that you will be carrying .  But you can't skimp on water it is a must have while in the wilderness so knowing how to filter it is essential.  The next thing is to sleep outside.  Learn how to get comfortable in your tent. It is a different sleeping experience than in your cosy bed.  I know all of this seems silly but it is learning that has to be done somewhere and in your backyard is a great place to start.  If you have kids they will have fun camping with you. You also have a bathroom near-by.  Using the bathroom is not a skill to learn at home your neighbors will not appreciate this. LOL  Thats a skill you will have to learn in the wilderness. After you get the backyard camping and all of your gear figured out its time to step it up.

The next place I would go to backpack is State Parks. State Parks are great resources to learn backpacking. I live near a state park and its where I try out new gear.  Practice hiking with a full pack on and have car camped several times.  Many State parks have back country camping which means that you have to hike in to a specific spot that you usually have to reserve.  I have had a ball at some of these parks and they can be a great place to learn how to backpack.  The sites can be from very sparse to sites with a picnic table and fire ring. Most of them do have some sort of pit toilet near by so using the bathroom in the woods isn't allowed here to protect the environment . (leave no trace has been discussed in a former blog).  This will seem like an big adventure the first couple of times you do it and it is!  You won't have running water many of the places don't have cell coverage so no phone.  They don't have lights so when the sun goes down lights out!  No trash cans so you haul your trash out with you. Its a very new experience.  At night there is no noise of civilization just the noise of the forest!  And its loud! Bring ear plugs.  A squirrel scampering across the forest floor sounds like an elephant to ears that haven't heard them before. But you won't hear a deer who may be sleeping 50 foot from you.  Around 2:00 am in the morning everything gets quiet.  All the animals have gone to sleep.  When you wake up in the morning its still quiet except for a couple of birds chirping.  I tell you about this because on your first night backpacking its different from car camping or in your backyard.  This is where you'll feel like you're in the wilderness.

National Parks and National Forest are the next places I would venture out to backpack. This is where I am in my backpacking.  I still like to go to some State Parks and go to places I haven't been yet but National Parks and Forest are where I do most of my backpacking.  National Parks and National Forest are larger and wide open spaces.  National Parks have rules and regulations and permitting that have to be adhered to because so many people go and we want to protect this wonderful resource and environment.  They usually have specific camping spots in the wilderness that you camp at. But these places are beautiful and have spectacular views that's why they became National Parks in the first place to protect the beauty.  There are thousands and thousands of trails in the National Parks system.   People from all over the world come to the US just to go to our parks.  In the back country there are less amenities than the state parks.  Usually no bathroom so you will have to learn how and where to poop in the woods.  Leave no Trace is a big deal in these area's because we want to leave this great resource for our grandchildren and theirs to enjoy like we do.  In some National Parks and most of the National Forrest there is what's called dispersed camping . Which means you can camp anywhere you like along the trail.  These sites will not have any amenities except maybe a man made fire ring that someone before you made from stones that they gathered.  This year I'm exploring the National Forest of North Carolina and am getting ready for my first backpacking trip of the year. It will be a small one because I still have my Covid weight on and I am out of shape but I'm looking forward to my time in the woods again.

Backpacking is a wonderful experience and way of life really.  Until next week keep exploring and keep shooting . Get Outside!


(Max Stansell Photography) back country backpacking backyard blog dispersed landscape learning Max Stansell Photography National Forest National Parks Photography state Parks website workshops Fri, 07 May 2021 09:00:00 GMT
Backpacking-More than Just Hiking! Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. This week I'm going to start a series on backpacking. What it is, why I like it, and what gear I use. I don't do nearly the backpacking that I want to.  But over the last couple of days, I have decided that I need a new goal or at least refresh some older ones.  I need to get out and do stuff while I still can. I love to backpack, but for some reason I don't.  I have decided this year that is going to change and I will start again.

Let me first talk a little about backpacking. What is it?  Well, hiking is walking through the woods.  Most people just hike.  They go to their local park and go on a trail and hike for a day.  Maybe they pack a lunch or snacks and make a day of it.  Backpackers hike the trails also, but at the end of the day they make camp, pitch a tent, cook dinner, and sleep under the stars.  In the morning they pack everything up and start all over again. There are extremes to everything.  In backpacking there are also.  On one end of the spectrum, there are through-hikers. These hikers are in it for the long haul. They hike long trails like the AT (Appalachian Trail) at 2190 miles, the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) at 2650 miles, or the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) at 3028 miles.  If they complete all three of these, they are triple crowners. There are many more shorter trails, but these people want to go from one end to the other non-stop. It may take up to 6 months of hiking to finish. These people can hike many miles in a day, but most average 20 miles a day. Then there are the section hikers.  These folks are like the through-hikers, but they don't have all the time the through-hikers have. So maybe they will hike 200 miles this year, and another 500 miles next year. They will do sections of the long trail until they have it complete. Then there are weekend warriors. This is the category that I fall into. I go out for a night or two and then it's back to work for me. I do envy the folks that can go out for longer stretches, and maybe I'll start to do more of that.  I really need to get back in shape first. The way these people think is also different. Their philosophy about hiking is different. Through-hikers are in for the miles mostly. They still love the views, but they have miles to make. They keep their pack weight down so they can travel faster and longer. The term they use is ultra-light, and they pack minimally. Section-hikers are sort of like through-hikers but probably carry a little more. Weekend warriors, like me, like to go lightweight, but it's not as important to us.  We are only going to be out for a night or so and can put up with the weight more easily.  Not to say we are stronger, but we are traveling fewer miles and only staying overnight a day or two. We are in it for the views, and breaks are welcome because we are out of breath and need them. LOL

I first started hiking when I was 50 years old.  A little late in the game. My son and I would go to state parks and start to hike.  I started watching YouTube videos of people hiking the AT (Appalachian Trail) and how they would camp out with the stuff they brought with them. The adventurer in me got excited, so we decided on a trip that we were going to backpack. It was a loop trail (one that goes in a big circle),  and we would have to do it by hiking over 10 miles a day.  We had to start training because we could only hike a couple of miles, and we had no gear.  So we started hiking and acquiring  gear. Our first 10-mile hike was from our house to the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park which is 10 miles from my doorstep. We picked this one so my wife could rescue us if we had troubles. But we made it! It only took 31/2 hours to do, and we looked homeless with our full packs on.  We made it to our campsite, and the ranger came by and asked us where our car was. When I told her what we had done, she looked at us like we were crazy. But it wasn't the first time we were looked at like that. When we went out for training hikes in state parks, we were the only ones in full packs with trekking poles. We got a lot of strange looks. But it worked. We went on our first long-distance hike in the mountains in the cold. It was so cold that the water in our water bladders froze. But we hiked our 10 miles down into the valley and back up. (up was much harder) LOL. I was hooked! I loved the views and the exercise it took to get to them. I loved taking photos in places that photos were not always taken because it was too hard to get to for most. I loved how we set up camp and made a fire to keep warm. How we cooked dinner. I loved everything about it, except for leaving.

 We did a lot of backpacking in those early years. A bunch of state parks but some of our best were in the national parks. The Smokies have lots of trails to hike and places to backpack in.  Our longest trip was 36 miles over 3 days and 2 nights on the AT.  We were there when all of the through-hikers were coming through.  We slept in a shelter with a dozen of through-hikers and a couple of dogs. We had a fire going and it was awesome. It felt great to be with these hikers who had hiked over 165 miles to get to this shelter.  It only took me 12 and I was pooped! I am looking to have many more experiences like that one in the future. I do need to get in better shape. I still have my Covid weight on and I was too big before then, so I have a lot of work in front of me. My photography goal for this year is to visit and explore all of the national forests in North Carolina, so this will be a big opportunity to get out in the woods again and do some backpacking.

So until next week please stay safe and healthy and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) backpacking blog hiking landscape learning long trails Max Stansell Photography Photography section Hikers shelters through Hikers trails website weekend warriors workshops Fri, 30 Apr 2021 09:00:00 GMT
Remote Shutter Release Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and happy! Today I want to talk about using a remote shutter release, why you should have one, and when to use it. And finally what I use as a remote shutter release.

Remote Shutter Release devices are essential equipment for a photographer as far as I am concerned.  They should be in everyone's camera bag. They are used to eliminate shake caused by your hand when pressing the shutter button. They are used for longer exposures to eliminate shake that could make your photos blurry. Using them while taking photos of waterfalls or astrophotography will make your photos sharper. They also come in handy when doing macro or close-up photography.

There are a few types of remote shutter releases. The most inexpensive is a cable shutter release. It uses a cable that hooks to your camera, and then you press a button on the other end of that cable.  You can pick these up at Amazon or any camera shop. Just make sure you get one made for your make and model of camera. The next type is an infrared shutter release. Much like a TV remote, you must have a line of sight between the remote and the camera. (This is the drawback to this one.) If you lose line of sight, your signal may be disconnected. The next type is by using an app on your phone. Many of the newer cameras have apps that can go on your phone, and you can hook your phone via WIFI or Bluetooth to your camera and control it via your smartphone. The last type, and the type I primarily use, is the radio-triggered shutter release. On these, you have a receiver and a transmitter. The receiver hooks to your camera, you hold the transmitter, and using radio signal you can trigger your camera to shoot. When using radio waves, you don't have to have a line of sight. This means you can be around the corner or have the transmitter in your pocket and still use it. This comes in handy, especially on cold nights when you want to keep your hands warm. There are cable-remote shutter releases that have timers built into them that will take multiple photos over a period of time. Very handy when doing astrophotography and taking many photos and then merging them together in Photoshop.

I use the Sony system so all of my releases are made to connect and control Sony cameras. My first shutter release is a cable release made by Sony. This release doesn't only control the shutter but can also control the zoom function Screenshot and focus when using certain lenses. It can also start and stop recording video. This is a nice remote, and it uses the battery in the camera to work. My other cable release is my primary one. It is a Korean-made device by the company SMDV. The model number is RFN-4rx. The receiver attaches to the hot shoe of my camera, and a wire then plugs into the camera. You can change the radio channel if it or another transmitter interferes with your camera. The transmitter and receiver use one AAA battery each. I found this company when I was a Nikon shooter, and they had a receiver that plugged into the 10pin connector on the front of the camera with a little antenna that I kept hooked to the camera all the time.  It Screenshot was a fantastic system and I loved it.  When I moved to Sony, I had to wait a little until the company made one that would work on Sony. And when they did I got one. I love the way it works and it is very dependable. The transmitter has a strap that can go around your wrist to keep you from dropping or losing your transmitter. This is very handy around water or waterfalls, one of my favorite things to shoot. The only drawback is that you have to make sure the batteries don't go dead in your bag over time between using the shutter release.

Using a remote shutter release will make your photographs better when doing long exposure. So until next week, please get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) astro blog bluetooth camera shake close up landscape learning long exposure Max Stansell Photography Phone Apps Photography portrait radio smart phone SMDV Sony website WIFI wired workshops Fri, 23 Apr 2021 07:47:50 GMT
Camera Bag First Aid? Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and happy.  Today I want to talk about first aid products that I cary with me in my camera bag all of the time. When your out and about taking photo's whether its in a city or hiking down a trail you still have to be prepared for the unexpected. I have a little I guess what you would call first aid kit that I have in all of my camera bags.  These stay in the bags at all times.  If I'm planning a longer hike I have a backpacking First Aid kit that I will throw in my camera bag that has more stuff in it but today I'm just going to talk about what I have in my camera bag on a daily basis. I have a sturdy zip lock bag that I got some filters in that works great for this.

Microfiber Lens Wipes- Now this might not seem like a first aid product but for me its real important.  I wear glasses and I need to keep them clean. I am a left eye dominate photographer which means that I smudge my glasses almost every time I take a photo.  So keeping my glasses clean is a full time job.  I use some pre-moistened cloths that I get from Walgreens. These are what I use everyday so I just slip a couple of these in my kit. These are also great for cleaning tough stuff of of your camera lenses too.

Sunscreen- My daytime job keeps me indoors most of the time so when I go outdoors I can burn fairly easily.  When I was younger I was outside all of the time and would burn once a year and that was it . I would tan up pretty good and didn't have to worry about the sun. But with age and my indoor job I have to be careful. I take a single pack of Banana Boat SPF 30 were ever I go.  I like taking these single packs instead of a bottle or a tube because it saves space.  I usually put on my neck , face and forearms and if I'm wearing shorts my legs also.

Insect Repellent- Here in North Carolina there are lots of insects but Mosquito's and ticks are what I'm trying to get away from me. I use a product through backpacking that I found to be very effective. I use Picaridin insect repellent lotion. I like this much better than any other repellent that I have used that has DEET in them.  What I really like about this product is that it can last up to 14 hours after applying .  Its not greasy or smelly and a little goes along way.  I buy these in single packs also. I use the packs when I go backpacking and now when ever I go to a mosquito infested area. (like my backyard sometimes) Its a little pricy but worth it.

Other Stuff- I have some other misc. things I bring. One is a couple of those toothpick Floss thingy's.  If your out and about having lunch these come in handy.  I also have an old film container that I put Tums, Ibuprofen and benadryl.  I usually have a bandaid of some sort put in my little kit also. Because stuff happens .

This might seem like a lot of first aid stuff to carry with you in your camera bag but its a very small kit and remember its not just for you but maybe a fellow photographer or hiker that could use some insect repellent or and Ibuprofen .  I have more than once given some insect repellent to a fellow photographer in need. So think about a little kit that you can customize for your camera bag.  Hey and don't forget water and food. I usually have some sort of power bar and I always carry water. You don't want to get dehydrated that's not good for you either.  Well until next week get outside and keep shooting !



(Max Stansell Photography) blog first aid Ibuprofen Insect repellent landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Picaridin sunscreen tooth pick Tums website workshops Fri, 16 Apr 2021 08:50:47 GMT
Spring is here! Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing well today! Spring is here! In North Carolina spring is in full force with pollen, springtime storms, and weather changes. Here in North Carolina the weather can change from in the 80s one day and freezing the next in springtime. Today I want to talk about the hazards associated with springtime into the summer months.

Pollen - In NC in the springtime, everything turns green! Not only the flowers and the grass but the roads, your car, your house, everything turns green. The pollen that happens here is terrible.  I never used to notice it when I was younger, but now it seems like it's everywhere. And if you're allergic, I feel for you because this stuff is everywhere. For those who haven't experienced this, it can be crazy. You can park your car in the driveway, and the next day when you drive away you can see the outline of your car on the pavement.  You can see clouds of it coming off of the trees when the wind blows and streams of green when it rains. If you're allergic, take your meds because you Farm Springtime FenceFarm Springtime Fence will need it. If you're doing photography, keep your lenses clean and cameras put away when not shooting to keep them clean.

Bee's and things that sting - With the pollen come the bees, wasps, hornets, and all types of creepy crawlers. As the temps warm up things start flying. If you're allergic to bee stings, make sure you have your Epipen close by. It's been a while since I've been stung, but I know it will happen again one day. Mosquitos are something else to deal with here in NC, especially near the coast and water. Down east they are the beast that have to be reckoned with. They can really make or break a good hike or photo shoot. Summer Tree FlareSummer Tree Flare

Reptiles - I'm not a big fan of these, but we have plenty here in NC. And when the weather starts to warm up, they start to move around. Good advice is to never put your hands or feet where you can't see them. Snakes are my biggest fear when hiking around in the woods. Copperheads and rattlers are my biggest fear, but any kind of snake can scare the bejeebies out of you if you're not looking for them. Being aware of your surroundings is the biggest thing you can do to prevent an unexpected encounter. Another reptile we have in NC is the alligator, mostly found on the eastern shores of the state. There are not a lot of them, but if you're in swampy water I would beware.

Furry Critters - Springtime is when all the moms in the forest seem to come out, whether it's bears, foxes, or rabbits. I don't really have much encounter with these animals, because compared to them I'm pretty loud in the forest and they can hear me coming from a mile away.  Beware of mothers with their young. Give all of the creatures in the forest space and respect. Don't rush up to a mamma bear with cubs saying how cute and try to take their photo. You'll certainly get an eye full. Full of Mamma Bear. So give these animals a wide space. Remember, you're their guest in the forest, not the other way around.

Springtime is a great time of year to be out in nature!  Flowers are blooming, things are turning green, trees are getting their leaves again. After being cooped up in the house for the winter, it's great to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather and all of the beautiful surroundings. Just make sure you're careful, and enjoy the outside. Get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) allergies bee's blog flowers green landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Pollen Trees website workshops Fri, 09 Apr 2021 08:46:25 GMT
My Close-Up Photography Setup GardeniaGardenia Hey Everyone! Hope all is well in your world. This week I want to talk about my close-up photography setup. When I say close up, I don't want to get people confused with the definition of macro photography, which is photography producing photographs of small items larger than life-size. Like a fly's eye where you can see all of the lenses in it. I use the same setup for both Macro and close-up and pretty much call them the same, close-up photography,  even though it may not be technically correct. Either way, my setup is the same. Close-up photography is a great subject for photography, and one can spend their whole career just shooting close-up. This can be done in your backyard or in your home photographing things Autumn NutAutumn Nut up close.  The same lighting principles apply to shooting close-up as portraits or product photography.  So if you can do either of those, you can light close-up subjects as well. Not many tools are needed:  camera, lens (macro lens ) or extension tubes, tripod, and a light source. 

Camera- Just about any camera will do. I use a crop sensor mirrorless Sony for my main camera body. Full frame will work well also and even micro 4/3rds will work. There are even some point-and-shoot cameras and  Straw CirclesStraw Circles Smartphones that will work. I prefer using a camera body that I can change the lenses on. I choose the mirrorless cameras because, for a few bucks, you can get an adapter that will let you use almost any kind of lens on it. I use what I call a vintage lens, but some just call it an old lens. LOL 

Lens- Like I just mentioned I use an older vintage lens for my close-up photography. It's a Nikor 60mm f2.8D micro lens. This version of the lens came out in the early 1990s, but you can still find them on the internet. If you get one in good condition, you have a great lens. These lenses were called the Swiss army knife of lenses because they were so versatile. They can be used as a macro at a 1:1 ratio. They are great for close-up photography and can even be used as a portrait lens, as the equivalent full-frame focal length is 90mm. On my crop sensor Sony, I use this lens with an adapter to my Sony A6500. The adapter is a $20 adapter, which will make this lens mount to my Sony and make it a  manual lens.  This is okay because focusing really close-up stuff with autofocus is really hard. The peak focusing on my Sony will tell me what is in focus and what isn't. This is a fairly small lens that isn't overbearing on my small camera body. I love this lens and will probably never get rid of it. It's the only Nikon I have left from when I was a full-time Nikon shooter. You can also use extension tubes that attach between your lens, say a 50mm lens and your camera body. This lets you get closer to your subject, keeping it in focus. This does work and I have had some success using them, although I do prefer using a dedicated lens. These extension tubes are cost-effective. You can get a set for under $50, and some have the connections in them that let you use autofocus and exposure.

Lighting- When lighting your small subject, you don't need a lot of light.  I have a few small portable LED lights that I can use from Lume Cube. These little lights work great to put some light on your subject.  When things you're taking a photo of are so small, you have to get close and your body can cast a shadow on them.  Using portable lights is a great way to fix shadows that you create. Another way is to use an inexpensive ring light that hooks to the front of your lens and then hooks to your camera, so when you press the shutter button the lights brighten up to light up your subject. These are great for shooting flowers. I have an inexpensive one that I use.  The same saying for buying equipment "buy nice or buy twice" still applies.  But I only shoot close-up every now and then, so I skimped on my ring light. But if I were doing this all of the time, I would buy a more expensive one just for the durability.

Tripod- This is something that every photographer should have.  You don't have to buy anything special, but using a tripod will help you get nice crisp sharp photos. I use my main tripod, which is a travel carbon fiber tripod that I use for everything else. There are some clips made especially for macro work for flowers that you buy to attach to the flowers to keep them still in the wind while you're trying to do close-up photography.  They attach to your tripod, and then a small arm like a pipe cleaner with an alligator clip attached lets you position the flower and keep it still. I don't have any but would like to get some because the wind is always blowing when I want to shoot close up.

Well, that's pretty much my gear setup.  It doesn't take much to do close-up photography. It does take time and imagination, like any type of photography, to make great images. So until next week keep safe and healthy and go explore the world of close-up photography.


(Max Stansell Photography) blog close-up extension tubes learning LED lens Lumecube macro max stansell photography Photography sony website Fri, 02 Apr 2021 10:32:08 GMT
Teardrop Trailer Camping What I like and dislike Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is healthy and safe today. This week I want to talk about teardrop trailers. I have been a teardrop owner for 5 years now, and I have some things I like about them and things that I don't.  Teardrop camping trailers have been around since the 1930s, and there are almost cult-like groups that love the little trailers. Some build them from scratch and are works of art, and some are mass produced like mine for those of us that aren't as handy as others. These small trailers are cute and full of neat things, like kitchens, TVs, queen-sized beds, and some have air-conditioning also.  The little tear-shaped trailers are lightweight so any vehicle can tow them, from a mini-cooper to a full-sized truck. So here goes my list.


- I love the build quality of my trailer, and most if not all are well made, sturdy, and built to last a lifetime.

- I love that my wife can come with me camping. We used to do tent camping, but as we gt older I wanted to get something nicer for her to go _DSC6464_DSC6464 camping with me. Camping in the trailer is really "glamping" or glamor camping. With everything, including the kitchen sink, it's really a comfortable camping experience.

- I love all the gadgets that come with mine. I have a TV, refrigerator, stove, sink, stereo, Blu-ray player, and even air conditioning. All of these work off of a battery, except for the AC.

- I love that it is very towable. I have towed this with my truck, Honda Pilot, and CRV.  It's very lightweight and you don't even know you're towing it.

- I love how it sleeps. Much better than a tent.  Plenty of room for me, my wife, and Forrest the wonder dog.


- The price.  These little trailers can be pricey. You can get a basic model for maybe $5,000, but they can easily get into the tens of thousands of dollars.

- The freedom I lose having to pull a trailer. When you drive pulling a trailer, you have to really pay attention to where you go, making sure you have room to turn.

- Set up of the trailer.  If it was just me, this would be an easy task. Level and done. But when my wife comes with me, we have a side tent that we set up for her to stand in to dress. We have an awning that we put on the back with a separate bug net that takes time to set up. So after driving a few hours to get somewhere, you still have to back up the trailer (I suck at this) into the spot and set up the awning and side tent.

- The attention that it draws. In the campground we always get people coming up to check us out and say how "cute" our setup is.  It's all very nice, but I still don't like it being called "cute" LOL

- Planning. With the camper, getting into campgrounds takes some planning. You just can't pull into a campground expecting to get a place to stay. You will probably get no room at the inn. With the increased popularity of camping and the outdoors, especially since the Covid outbreak last year, the campgrounds are booked and you must plan at a minimum a month to three months in advance to get a spot. The really popular places may be up to six months. 

Now don't get me wrong. I love my little camper, and now I'm starting to customize and update our little trailer. As I make customizations to the trailer, I'll keep y'all in the loop. We've just gotten back from a trip last weekend, and if it wasn't for the trailer we wouldn't have gone. It was a very windy weekend, and we just hung out in the trailer, watched a little TV, and cooked in our little side tent that kept us out of the wind. So another trip salvaged. Hope you enjoyed this blog about our teardrop trailer, and maybe you can check one out for yourself. So until next week get outside and explore!

(Max Stansell Photography) AC blog Camper camping Glamping Hiking kitchen landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography teardrop TV website Fri, 26 Mar 2021 08:35:23 GMT
Exploring Croatan National Forest Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is safe and healthy. This week I want to talk about exploring one of North Carolina's four national forests. At 159,000 acres, it's the third largest of  the NC national forests. Located in Eastern North Carolina, it has lakes, rivers, and hiking trails. Lots to explore. This may take longer to explore than I previously had planned in my yearly project, but I'm going to stick with this plan even if it takes me many years to do. I plan on doing most of  my exploration mainly in colder weather because the bugs and the heat are crazy during the spring and summer. This national forest is the closest to my home, and I plan on taking many one-day trips to explore and a few overnighters. I'll be using my trusty old truck Betsy that I have talked about in previous blogs.  She's a 21-year-old truck but in very good condition with a camper shell on it, and on top of that I have my new exploring vessel, my canoe. No name for the canoe yet, but I'm still searching. 

Last weekend I took my first exploring trip to Croatan.  I have taken a couple of look-and-see trips just to get my bearings. But the weather has slowed down my exploration. We have had a very wet end of last year and start of this year.  The ground everywhere is very saturated with water, so just a little rain floods the land.  The rivers are swollen and the currents strong, so I haven't ventured onto the rivers yet with my new canoe. Being a new paddler, I don't want to have to fight currents and such yet until I get some more experience with the canoe. Next year I plan on starting river exploration in North Carolina, but I need to get my skills better with the canoe first. My first trip was to Catfish Lake where I planned to do some paddling around this lake.  I went to this lake fairly early in the morning.  You have to go on a forestry road that is not paved to get to the lake. The main road was in good condition, and I could tell that it had been graded recently. The road to the lake off of this main road was another matter.  The rain had done its damage to the road, and large potholes were everywhere.  I had to dodge and endure the holes and probably could only do 5mph down this road. The lake is surrounded by thick overgrowth and can only be accessed in a couple of places. I came to the first place just a turn out with about a 30-foot clearing.  I decided to go farther to the main boat launch. When I got to the road, it was flooded in one place. My truck is not 4-wheel drive, so I didn't go to the main launch. I turned around and went to the first launch. I got my canoe off the truck, got my camera and all my stuff together, and went out on the lake. I was probably the only one on the lake.  As the wind started to pick up, I tried to stay close to the shore out of the wind in the protection of the trees. I really didn't see any wildlife but did see a lot of duck decoys, so I'm sure if you're here at the right time of year there would be migrating birds here. I had my camera loaded in a pelican case, and as it was my first time with my camera in the canoe, I practiced getting it out and back in the case.  I took a few photos, but just at decoys. After about an hour, the wind got too strong for my paddling skills, so I did the smart thing and got out of the water and put my boat back on old Betsy. It was now mid to late morning, and I wanted to do something else while I was in Croatan. So I found a trail to explore.

Island Creek Trail is about 2.5 miles off the trail and follows the creek. This is a black water creek where the minerals from the soil and trees make the water tea-colored, but in the creek it makes the creek turn black. I am horribly out of shape and overweight. I was already overweight when the virus started, and I just got fatter after that.  Its been a while since I did some hiking, so even this little hike was quite a workout for me. I started at the trailhead. This is a loop trail, so when I came to the fork, I took a right and went by the creek. The creek is filled with cypress trees and knees by this winding creek. This trail gets lots of traffic as the path was well worn. There are lots of side trails that can take you toward the creek.  The trail has some signage telling you what trees are what and very little in trail markings to let you know that you're on the right trail. But it's very easy not to get lost. This is a delightful trail and took me about an hour and a half to complete.

My first exploring trip to the Croatan National Forest was a success. The idea that I had taking my canoe with me was a success and there will be plenty more trips. I already have reservations to take my little teardrop to Cedar Point Recreational Area to do some more exploring with my wife. Forrest, the wonder dog, did not accompany me this time. I want to get better at paddling before I try to get him in the boat, but I hope to soon. I have another trip planned with my wife and the teardrop trailer to Cedar Point near Swansboro. So until next week keep exploring and get out and shoot.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camping Canoeing gear hiking learning Max Stansell Photography national Forrest Photography website Fri, 19 Mar 2021 09:58:22 GMT
Backpacking 5 Things I Love and Hate about It Bluff Mtn SummitBluff Mtn Summit Hey Everybody! I hope everyone is healthy and safe today.  Today's subject is about backpacking and the things I love and hate about it. Now, I'm no expert. I haven't hiked the Appalachian Trail, but I've been on it. I'm not super fit or young.  I'm just an upper-middle-aged old guy (LOL) that likes to get out into the woods every now and then. For those of you that don't really know the difference between hiking and backpacking, hiking is something that you do in a day. "I'm going to hike this trail today." Backpacking is hiking on steroids. When you backpack, you're planning to be gone for a couple of days, and you're carrying everything in your backpack to survive on the trip. Your shelter, food, clothes, everything that you think you will need for the trip. It's hiking and camping all rolled into one, and being a pack mule is part of it. So with that explained, I'll start with the things I love and the things I hate list.

Love 1 - Isolation. I love walking in the woods, and backpacking can take you deep into the woods. And the deeper you go, the less people and civilization that you see. Depending on where you are, you might not see anyone at all, or maybe one or two other people that are backpacking also. You are away from all the sounds and smells of the city, and you can really smell, feel, and taste the forest. It's a wonderful feeling.

Love 2 - I love the exercise that you get. Hiking 10 miles with a 35 or 40 lb pack doesn't seem like fun, but if your gear is dialed in and adjusted properly, you really don't feel the weight. Backpacking in the woods is much different than taking a walk in the park. The uneven ground up and down hills really gives you a workout. You really have to be careful that you don't overdo it because you can get injured if you're not careful. And deep in the woods is not the place to get hurt.

Love 3 - I really love the gear. I am a gear head and love all of the backpacking stuff I take with me. Backpacking gear needs to be lightweight, durable, and dependable. Minimal is less. So managing what you bring and what you don't bring is key to a successful experience. Weight is very important. Remember, you're carrying everything from water to your tent. There is an old saying, "Ounces = Pounds and Pounds = Pain."

Love 4 - Sleeping in the woods.  After a long 10-mile day and setting up camp doing all of the camp chores that you have to do, settling into your tent or hammock and finally resting for the night is awesome. Be warned, you might need some earplugs because of all the noises in the forest, which is all the bugs and creatures doing whatever they do. But after they have gone to bed, it's quiet.  I mean QUIET! It's fantastic.

The "AT' Grayson HighlandsThe "AT' Grayson HighlandsMax Stansell Photography Love 5 - The speed.  Traveling at 3 miles per hour or less is fantastic. Everything is not in a hurry  If you drive to work or to the grocery store, it's like a race on the roadways. Everyone is in a hurry. When you're in a hurry, you miss a lot of things. When you slow down to a walking pace, you see more. Seeing things that other people haven't seen is awesome. As a landscape photographer, it's nice to take photos that you know a lot of people will not get because they haven't traveled to get there.

Hate 1 - Carrying water. Water is the most important thing that you will carry with you. It is also the heaviest one. At 2.2lbs per liter and with all the exercise you are doing, you need a lot. It can be bulky and cumbersome to haul water.  This is where planning comes into play. Knowing when the next water source will be close by and having a water filter to purify it is key. So carry enough water to get to the next water source.

Hate 2 - Going uphill. HATE, HATE, HATE.  This is an old fat man thing. Many people enjoy going uphill, but I have to take many breaks because my heart is pounding and I'm out of breath. If you're young and fi,t this is no problem. My son cruises up these hills like they are nothing and is constantly waiting for me to catch up. 

Hate 3 - Going downhill.  Not as bad as uphill, but my knees take a pounding.  Another old fat man issue. But I do like it more than going Walking down the PathWalking down the PathWalking down the Path First edits with Luminar as a plugin to lightroom. I think I'm going to like it. #MaxStansellPhotography #funwithphotography #Getoutandshoot #awesomestuffisee #SonyA6300 #alphashooter #NorthCarolinaPhotographer #NorthCarolinaLiving #visitNC #NorthCarolina uphill.

Hate 3 - Snakes EEEEK!  I'm not a fan. I am always on the lookout. Now to be fair, I have only seen a few while hiking, but I am always looking where I put my feet and hands when out in the backcountry. If you stay on the trail, you will most likely not see any because they know that the trail is traveled by humans, and they want to stay away from you also. But when you go to the bathroom, you have to do it like the bears do and go in the woods, so you have to be careful where you step.

Hate 4 - Driving. Where I do most of my backpacking it's a good 2, 3, or even 4 hour drive to get to.  I really hate the drive to and especially back home. On the way there, driving takes so much out of you that your first day is usually a struggle. You drive a few hours there through traffic, and then you get to the trailhead and have to hike 6 to 10 miles. On the other end, you've just hiked 6 to 10 miles, then you have to drive through traffic home. It sucks.

Hate 5 - Leaving the trail. After you have backpacked for a few days, you are just getting in the groove. I once took a 36-mile backpacking trip for 3 days split into 12 miles a day, and each day I got stronger and stronger. I would love to take a week-long trip to see how I would feel after a week. But that last day getting to the car as your goal, when you get there you feel a good sense of accomplishment, but then you have to put your stuff away and drive home. It's a big change in such a short amount of time going from forest to interstate.

These are just a few of my loves and hates. There are many more, and most of them are loves. The overall experience is great. You get the sense of adventure, exploring, and seeing the world from a 3-mile-per-hour perspective instead of a 70-mile-per-hour rush to get wherever. You also get the accomplishment of planning a trip and carrying it out. Instead of using horsepower from your car, you're using human power to get somewhere. It's quite a thing.  So until next week, get outside and explore and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) backpacking backpacks blog camping hammocking hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography website Fri, 12 Mar 2021 10:00:00 GMT
My Studio Light Setup Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you safe and healthy! Today I want to talk about my studio lighting set up and the strobes, flashes, and light modifiers I use. Now if you follow me I am primarily an outdoor photographer, and usually the only light I use besides sunlight would be some kind of LED portable light, like a Lume Cube. But did you know that I used to do a lot of tabletop photography and used strobes quite a bit? I have done portraits, mainly head shots, but I have shot weddings and even a bridal shoot. Now, I hardly do any of that type of photography and have scaled down my strobes that I used to use.  Usually, I just shoot portraits for family and friends.

Metering- When using external flashes, I find that an external flash meter is a must to get perfectly exposed shots. The meter that I use is an old one that you can't even buy anymore. It's a Sekonic L-358 and I just love it. Sekonic is the brand that I would always go to.  These meters help you get the perfect exposure using incident meter reading instead of  TTL or reflective meter reading that your camera gives you. Using this meter is easy. You just dial in the settings that you want to use and adjust your lights to it. I love this type of metering using flashes or strobes.

Blue Water SplashBlue Water Splash Flashes/Strobes- Now I have to say I have a lot of flashes. When I first started with flash photography, I started with inexpensive flashes that only 20170826_untitled shoot_000120170826_untitled shoot_0001 shot in manual mode, no automatic modes and no TTL(through the lens) capabilities.  You can get these flashes for about $50 each. The ones I got were from Yongnuo, a third-party company that makes inexpensive flashes. I have made lots of amazing photos on my tabletop studio with these flashes, and they still work great.  And if they break there is no big deal because they are so inexpensive compared to a brand name flash that comes in at over $300. I probably have four or five of these and don't use them too much anymore except for fill flash on special occasions. I have other flashes also that I use that are more high-tech and use TTL. I can use these on the camera for fill flash, like if I was shooting an event. I have a Flashpoint and a Yongnuo one, and they both work great. I also have a small flash that is the Neewer brand that is small and kind of matches my small mirrorless camera that is handy to carry around. My main strobe light is a Flashpoint Evolve 200. This small flash-like strobe is about 2 1/2 times the strength of my other flashes and is what I use for my main light when doing portraits. I only have one but would love to have another. These are fantastic strobes that have many heads that can attach to Portrait WorkshopPortrait Workshop them. They are battery powered and strong enough to use outside if you wanted to overpower the sun for a special shot. They are radio-controlled, which means I can change the settings on the fly, and they also do TTL and high-speed sync. I used to have very large strobes, but these are just a little larger than a traditional flash.

Wine glass SplashWine glass Splash Triggers- You can set off your flashes or strobes in a number of ways. They can be wired to one another and then to your camera so that when you push the shutter you get a flash. You can trigger them optically when you make one flash, like on your camera, then the rest of them flash. You can trigger with IR (infrared) like the remote control of your TV, or you can use radio signals to trigger the flash or strobe. Radio triggers are the most dependable because they do not depend on the line of site like optical and IR do, and they are not physically connected to your camera so you have freedom of movement. I have two different sets of triggers. The first one is Radio Poppers, similar to Pocket Wizards that used to be the industry standard but much cheaper.  They are a simple trigger that just makes the flash pop. My other trigger is an Godox X Pro trigger, and it talks to my Flashpoint Evolve and Flashpoint Flash and to an Godox Receiver that I can hook to different flashes. I can control each of the flashes separately with this trigger. It's very high-tech and awesome and may become the new standard, but as I'm not into flashes and strobes like I used to be, I'm not up on the latest and greatest.

Stands/Modifiers- This is where you can really go crazy because these things do not cost that much for a home studio.  You can get stands, booms, and any hardware relatively cheap, especially getting them a little here and there. Before long you have quite the setup. For light stands, I use fairly inexpensive ones. I think they were $25 each, and I have accumulated more than I need over time. Modifiers can come in many shapes and sizes. From the basic shoot through umbrella (my go-to) or the more elaborate soft boxes and beauty dishes, these are all fairly inexpensive if you're getting them one at a time.  My soft boxes are made by Wescott, and they fold up like an umbrella for easy storage as do a couple of different sized beauty dish soft boxes that are hexagon in shape. You can get lots of shapes and sizes on Amazon very inexpensively. Let me squeeze in backdrops in this category. I used to have some very large backdrops and stands that I would use when doing portraits, but I sold those and have many cloth remnants that I can put behind someone's head to make a simple back drop. These are very inexpensive, and you may already have these at your house. Also, for tabletop photography, a simple black foam core board on one side and white on the other is great for backdrops for product photography. They are less than $5 at your local craft shop.

As you can see, I have accumulated quite an array of items for my home studio. One thing I didn't mention is an old table that I use for the tabletop stuff.  I actually found this in a dumpster, but its like a 4x3 foot table that sits in the corner waiting to be used.  Like every other table, it catches anything when I walk in the room, so when I use it I have to clean all the stuff off of it. 

Well, I have rambled quite a bit this week.  So until next week, get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog flashes flashpoint godox incident landscape learning Max Stansell Photography meter Photography reflective sekonic strobes triggers website wescott workshops yongnuo Fri, 05 Mar 2021 10:00:00 GMT
My GoPro Setup Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. This week I want to talk to you about my GoPro action camera setup. Now I'm no videographer, but I do like to document my travels and exploration trips. I have a YouTube channel with some of the videos that I have made. Now, I am no expert on motion photography and don't need to do anything fancy. The GoPro is the perfect camera for me. It's small and simple to use. It's waterproof, so no need to worry about rain or dropping it into a lake or creek. It can be recharged on the fly with an external battery. These little cameras tick all the boxes for me on what I need for an action camera. The cameras I have are not the latest and greatest or the top-of-the-line GoPros, but this was done on purpose. First and foremost, the older models are less expensive but still quite capable to do what I need. The other two cameras I use are my phone and of course my main camera, although I don't use my main camera much, but maybe I should. 

The first GoPro I bought was a GoPro Session 4. It's a small square camera that can be easily hooked to a coat, a hat, or a backpack.  It's easy to use.  And like all GoPros, when used with your phone, you can manipulate all of the settings. You can also use your phone as a viewfinder, which this GoPro does not have. This older GoPro is the one that I use for my truck. I have a mount on my windshield and have it running to give me road footage while going to and from different places. It shoots in 1080p, which is just fine for me because I am not interested in shooting in 4K for many reasons. One, it takes up too much computer space, and two, because the files are so large, there is a longer upload time to YouTube.  But this little camera still works for me.

My newest GoPro camera is the GoPro Hero 7 camera.  This is a very cool camera, and it is much more high-tech than the first one. It has in-body stabilization that gives the look a much smoother shot, not as much jumping around. Much like using a gimbal to stabilize your shot, but maybe not quite as good. This little camera also has a screen on it so you can see what you are shooting without using your phone. But you can still use your phone to adjust settings if you want. The touch screen on this little camera works well. It also has removable batteries which means you can take extras with you and swap them out when one gets exhausted. My GoPro Session 4 does not, so when the battery dies you have to recharge before you can continue filming. The GoPro Hero 7 comes in a black and white model. The black model shoots in 4K and the white does not. 

How much do these older GoPros cost?  I just checked Amazon, and for the GoPro Hero 7 Black, you can get it for $249, and the white you can get for $160. Pretty cheap compared to the GoPro 9 that comes in at $450.  I'm sure it's a great camera, but I like the savings I get with the GoPro 7.  The GoPro Session 4 you can't even get off of Amazon because it's so old, but maybe you can find it on eBay or used somewhere. These prices are subject to change.

I like my little cameras and have fun using them. So until next week, get out, have fun, and explore!

(Max Stansell Photography) action cameras blog exploring GoPro landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography rechargeable stabilization travel trips video waterproof website workshops Fri, 26 Feb 2021 09:51:12 GMT
What Photography Phone Apps Do I use? Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. It has been rainy and dreary here in North Carolina the last couple of months, and I haven't been on many trips to explore because of it. So today I thought I would talk about the photography phone apps that I use. Now, I'm not a big phone photography nut and use my regular camera most of the time. But there are times when the mobile phone is the best camera to use. When I take photos with my phone, I use just the camera app that came with the phone. There are apps that you can get that are supposed to be really cool, but I haven't really researched or played with any other than the ones that came with the phone. But I do have apps that I can edit my photos with and apps that help me take the photos. There are also apps that share between my computer and my phone so I have all my photography all the time. And there are apps so I can buy more stuff. Here goes a list of apps and how I use them.

Buying Gear Apps. I really use only three apps here: of course Amazon, B&H Photo, and Adorama. These are great to use when you're on the go and not at your computer. I like to use them when maybe I'm at a local camera store to compare prices or especially after I have purchased something so I can track it to my house. Three of my favorite words are "Out For Delivery!" LOL

Camera Operation Apps.  As cameras have become more high-tech, some features can be controlled by your phone, things like shutter release, lens control, and all of the settings. You can even see what your camera is seeing. I have three brands of cameras that I use to do this with: Sony, Canon, and GoPro. For the Sony I have Imaging Edge Mobile. With this, I can do all of the things listed above, but mainly I use it to connect my phone and camera together to use the GPS from my phone and transfer to my photos in my camera via Bluetooth. I can also download photos to my phone or tablet via wifi. I usually only do this if I'm out and about and want to post a photo to social media quickly. The Canon Connect app is what I use for my Canon point and shoot when I want to post quickly to social media. I can download to my phone via wifi and do a quick edit and post.   The GoPro App for my action cameras is almost essential while operating these little cameras because you can use it as a viewfinder to see what your camera is seeing to make sure it's pointing in the right place to capture the action you want. I also have one other camera-related app, and it's for my Lume Cube light. The LUME-X app lets me control the power and the color of the light from my Lume Cube. It's great if you're using it for video, and when pointed at yourself you can adjust without getting up to manually do it.

Photography Assisting Apps.  These are apps that can assist you in taking photographs. I used to have many, and now I only have a few because one app really does it all. The PhotoPills app is an app that can tell you where the Milky Way is going to be. It has a long-exposure calculator that can help when using neutral density filters for long exposures, depth-of-field tables, hyper-focal length tables, and a time-lapse calculator. It has an augmented-reality feature so you can see what your scene is going to look like in the day for night shots when it's pitch black. As you can see, it can do a lot! This app does have a price of about $10, but it is totally worth it for what you get. I also use weather apps, especially when doing night work or sunrise and sunsets. Weather Bug is my choice for weather apps. I just like it better than the Weather Channel as it seems to be a little bit more accurate for me. I also use an app called Clear Outside that will give you the percentage of low-level, mid-level, and high-level clouds in the place which will help determine the type of sunrise or sunset you will have.

Photo Editing Apps.  For me these apps are for on-the-fly editing for social media. I don't use them often, but they are handy when using my phone or tablet when on the go. The first one is the Lightroom app. This is a great app for a couple of reasons. One, you can take a photo with your phone and edit as you would pretty much on your computer and export it out the same way. But you can also sync photos from your main photo library, and they will go to your phone or tablet. This is great if you want to show off some of your photos, or you can edit on the go and your edits will sync with your mail library back home. Pretty cool! The next app is Photoshop Light. You can also make edits with this, but the main thing I use it for on my phone or tablet is to make a multi-photo collage to post to social media. It has some pre-made templates that you just plop your photos into, and it works great. The last one is the one that I  probably use the most, and that's Snapseed. It is a simple photo-editing app made just for the phone or tablet. It has tools and looks that can transform an ordinary photo into something special. Great for quick edits and posting.

Of course, there are more apps that could be classified as photo-related, like Google Earth, but I'll leave those for another day. I hope this gives you an idea of what I use as photo apps. There are hundreds of apps out there that are photo-related that I'm sure are really fun to play with, but these are the few that I use. So until next week, keep shooting and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) amazon Applications Apps blog bluetooth editing GoPro landscape learning lightroom Max Stansell Photography mobile mobile Applications Photography Photoshop posting snapseed social media website wifi workshops Fri, 19 Feb 2021 13:32:58 GMT
New Exploring Vessel Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. Most every year I usually get myself something camera or photography related. But this year I decided to add something to my exploring adventures that didn't have anything to do with photography. I wanted to expand my exploring not just to land travels but to water travels also.  I have been doing a lot of research and decided to get a canoe. I didn't want to get a boat that was on a trailer I had to haul around because it would be too much trouble. I wanted something that I could load and unload off of my truck by myself. Now, I needed something that was lightweight, because I'm not getting any younger.  I also needed something that could handle me! LOL I'm not getting any smaller. The canoe was a perfect choice. But which one?  The search started, and let me tell you, there is a lot more to canoes than you think. First is the size. I wanted something large enough to carry Forrest and me comfortably and that could haul our things. But I also wanted something small enough so I could carry it by myself. So that meant a solo canoe. I found out that a new one ran from $700 to thousands of dollars and that they can be made out of all kinds of materials, like Kevlar, Carbon Fiber, thick plastic, Royalx, and all kinds of materials. Usually the lighter the canoe, the more expensive and fragile.  I also found that the hull shape also made a difference. The flatter the hull, the more stable the canoe, and the more rounded the hull, the less stable the canoe. Rounder, more curvy hulls are for rapids and not for long cruising, which I hope to do. Then there is the length of the boat. The longer the canoe, the truer it is in the water (it will stay in a straight line longer), and the shorter the canoe, the less true. So my research for the perfect boat began, and I decided that I wanted a boat that I could handle, lightweight with a flat bottom.  I decided that I wanted to buy a used one, so I started looking on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and places on the internet that specialize in finding used canoes and kayaks.  I searched for a few months and found a few, but they got bought up before I could get a hold of them. It seems that larger and heavier canoes are easy to find and fairly cheap. But solo ones are hard to come by.  A friend of mine has an Old Town 12-foot pack canoe made out of Royalx material. It weighs 35 lbs, and Royalx is almost indestructible. And of course, they don't make Royalx anymore. These are very hard to come by and go used for over $1,000.  Brand new they only cost around $500, and you could get them at REI. But now supply and demand make them a very valued boat. Now, I have been saving for quite a while and have looked for quite a while for a boat and finally got tired of waiting for that perfect used boat to show up, so I decided to go new. I had it narrowed down to three boats: an Old Town Discovery 119 (119 is 11feet 9 inches), The Old Town Next, and the Esquif Adirondack. They ranged in length from 11-13 feet and weighed from 37 lbs to almost 70 lbs. They were all good boats, but the choice was easy after I saw them. It was the Esquif Adirondack canoe that is 12 foot long, weighs 37 lbs, and can carry over 500 lbs in cargo. So me and a buddy of mine went to Virginia to a paddle company, Appomattox River Company, and got my boat. So let me tell you a little about my new Exploring Vessel.

The Esquif Adirondack boat is made in Canada. Now, if you don't know, in Canada the canoe is what the horse was to us in discovery out west. We went out west in wagon trains and on horseback, and they went on canoes through the rivers and lakes of our northern neighbor. Now, if you remember, earlier I said that they don't make Royalx anymore, the material that is light and almost indestructible. When they quit manufacturing the material, Esquif decided to make their own material that is very similar to or even better than Royalx, and it is called T-Formex.  They even sell this material to other companies that used to make Royalx boats.  So anyway, the hull of my new boat is made from T-Formex, which is lightweight and durable.  The boat is 12-feet long and almost an exact copy of the the Old Town Pack canoe that I spoke of earlier that they don't make anymore. The Esquif pretty much replaced the void of the Old Town Pack when Old Town quit making the Pack canoe because of the lack of Royalx. The Esquif is a very basic canoe, and I have already made some adjustments to it. I added some bungee cord in the back, or stern, of the boat to hold cargo in place when I go on canoe camping trips. I put in a new seat that goes over the existing seat to give me some back support. I installed an accessory rack so I could install things like a Go-Pro camera mount or a rod holder or paddle holder. I plan on doing a few other things to customize the boat for me.  I'm sure there will be more blogs to come on the modifications and adventures I make with this new acquisition. 

Now that I have talked about the boat, let me tell you what I plan on doing with it. As you know, I am primarily a landscape photographer, backpacker, and hiker.  I love to explore and see new places and take photographs along the way to share with you. My project this year is to explore the national forests of North Carolina, and that also includes the lakes and rivers that run through them. This year my main goal with the boat is to get used to it, learn all of the ins and outs of paddling, and also do a little exploring.  In the next year or so, I may be doing a project on the rivers of North Carolina. I am looking forward to having many adventures with the new canoe and can't wait to share them with you. Until next time, please stay safe and healthy, and get outside, explore, and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) Adirondack Aqua blog boat Bound camping canoe Esquif exploring gear hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Tutorial website Fri, 12 Feb 2021 09:34:55 GMT
Trip Planning "How I Plan for a Trip" AT SignAT Sign Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. Today's topic is "Trip Planning." I love to take trips to photograph, camp, hike, or whatever. But I'm not one of those people that can just get up one morning and go. I need to have a plan, know where I'm going, and how I'm going to get there. What will I do when I get there? What will I see? I like to research all of this before I go and try to answer all of the questions I may have.  

This year my photo project is to explore all of the National Forests in North Carolina. I plan on doing them one by one, starting with Croatan Screenshot National Forest first because it's the most buggy.  I plan on doing most of my exploring in cooler weather to keep the bugs and snake activity to a minimum. So that is the first decision I made. When. My next decision to make is where in Croatan will I go? To figure this one out, I will use many resources. The first one I will use is maps. I use digital and actual maps to find out where things are. Things like trails, creeks, rivers, lakes, and campsites. Using maps lets me figure out how far things are. As I'm doing this, I'm making out lists, writing down the specific places Screenshot
that I find on the maps. Then I start the research.

Using my computer, I start to research the places that I have identified on the maps by using just a simple search on Google. It may or may not bring up stuff, and I can drill down further on stuff that it brings up.  If it's a photo trip (and most are), I'll go to one of my photo sharing sites like Instagram, Flickr, or 500PX and see what other people have seen at the places I've found. Maybe I'll try to take the same kinds of photos, or maybe I'll look just to see what others have taken so I don't do the same. Either way, I check. If it's going to be an overnight trip, I look for a place to camp. I try to look at places that I have not been to before. The type of camping accommodation is how I decide on what type of camping I do. If it's a really good campground, I might bring my teardrop camper.  But then that opens up a whole other can of worms because I have to get reservations to these campgrounds, many times months in advance because they are so popular.  Will I be backpacking into the woods? What are the trails like? What is the mileage that I will be expected to hike? Where is the parking area for my truck? Do I need to get permission to park? These are flickrflickr
all questions that I have to answer using my computer while planning my trip.

Just before I leave, after I have come up with a game plan, I need to check a few more things. First, a week or so out I start looking at the weather. Using weather apps on my phone, I look in advance to see what the weather is going to be like.  I don't want to be out backpacking and a hurricane comes that I didn't expect. But I also want to look at how hot or cold it will be.  This will help me figure out what kind of clothes to bring with me.  I don't want to be overdressed or underdressed for the weather. 

Planning on what to bring with me is one of the last things I do.  I make a packing list based on what I found out with all of the research.  Will I be backpacking, camping out of my truck, taking my teardrop, or staying in a hotel?  This and the weather will determine what I bring.  If I'm backpacking, minimal is the word of the day. This is for cameras as well. When you're backpacking, ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain when you have it on your back. You have to pack accordingly. If I'm going to be camping in my truck or camper, I can bring almost anything. But I'm a list guy and have a list of all the things that I will take with me, from raincoat to camera kit and everything in between.

As you can see, this can be a very involved process, and my process might not be right for you. But if you're like me, you will need a process. So come up with your own.  Start planning a trip today!  So until next week, stay safe and healthy, and get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camping car Flicker gear Google GPS hiking landscape learning list maps Max Stansell Photography Photography planning travel trip website workshops Fri, 05 Feb 2021 09:39:11 GMT
Exploring your Backyard Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe.  Today I want to talk about Exploring.  I think exploring is embedded into us as humans. From the beginning of the written word, tales of exploring have been told. From traveling the oceans to "head west young man" to "one step for man, one giant leap for mankind" when we went to the moon.  But now all we seem to do is explore the TV set or on the internet looking for the next best thing.  I am no stranger to TV exploring and am trying to get out of it. But it isn't easy. Today we get used to being in our routine with our nose to the grindstone to make that buck.  This year in my photo project I have pledged my year into exploring the national forests in North Carolina.  A year might not be long enough.  I love to explore and see new things.  When I see new things, my creative juices start to flow and I can really take some good photographs. But you don't have to take long exotic trips to explore.  I'm sure with a little research and a relatively short drive, you can be somewhere that you have never been before.  

Exploring new things doesn't necessarily mean looking for forests or hilltops that I like to go to.  It could be a new town or place you haven't been to before and learning about the history of it.  Or it could be taking a walk and seeing the new stuff all around you.  If you're into history, there are usually plenty of historical things you can see in any city.  Antietam National CemeteryAntietam National Cemetery Learn the culture of the town and why it became a town. Maybe there is historic battlegrounds or settlements around the town. Maybe, if you're a foodie and love food, you could try out local restaurants in the towns you're visiting.  It could be a BBQ joint or diner that serves fantastic food that you would have never found if it wasn't for exploring.  I call these little day trips, exploring your backyard seeing what's in a day's drive from where you live. For example, from where I live, in a day's drive I can see the mountains, the ocean, civil war battlefields, revolutionary war battlefields, slave plantations, cotton fields, rivers, lakes, wildlife preserves, national forests, national parks, state parks, museums, cities, and small towns.  And that's just what I could think of off the top of my head. So when someone says that they have nothing to do or nowhere to go around them, they haven't looked.  Last year, during the virus and all of the shutdowns I still managed to visit all of the state parks in North Carolina. So it's possible. I'm a planner, so I like to look up where I'm going to see what I can find on the web, like major attractions, places to eat, local history, and what kinds of photos other people have taken while they were there.  This can all be done with Google searches.  

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park WVCass Scenic Railroad State Park WV Exploring far-off places can be fun too, but to be honest I haven't done as much of this as I would like to. I haven't done a lot of traveling two or more states away from mine, mostly because of time constraints and having to have a real job to pay for everything. I just don't have the vacation time that I would need to explore the way I want to. But I do have friends that have that kind of time, and they plan trips to other countries and across our nation to do some exploring. If you have the time, this would be a way to go also. I know I would if I had the time. You can usually find a plane ticket on sale, especially if you book it in advance. I once went to Washington DC and took a train, Edenton Tea PotEdenton Tea Pot and it was pretty awesome to explore the city on foot and by the mass transit system.  It really took me out of my comfort zone which was awesome! But if you can't do any of the long-distance travel, don't stop exploring! Explore your backyard like I do and take day trips or overnighters to explore the wonders of the world. Don't just watch it on TV.  It's only a car ride away.

So until next week, please stay safe and get outside and explore around you!

(Max Stansell Photography) backyard blog canoeing city's exploring food hiking history landscape learning Max Stansell Photography new experience Photography travel website workshops Fri, 29 Jan 2021 09:20:52 GMT
Do I need all of the photo Accessories all of the time? Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe.  The holidays have passed, and I hope Santa brought you something for your stocking. We as photographers have all kinds of gadgets and accessories to go with our camera kit.  And sometimes that takes more space than the camera and lenses do. I am all about being a quick and nimble photographer. To do that, you need to get rid of all the excess, even though I love all the gadgets. But sometimes I'm messing with all the gadgets and don't take the time it takes to see what I'm photographing, and I get too technical. I sometimes long for the days when I first started taking photos and used one camera body and one lens.  All of my time was taken up with looking and exploring for that next shot. I shoot a mirrorless crop sensor camera, so my kit is pretty small. But with all the extra stuff I can get bogged down. But here lately, the last year or so, when I'm out walking around, I like to take just one camera and one lens or so and even a prime lens (without zooming capabilities) and just shoot like I used to. It's really fun and frees me up because I don't have all that stuff to think about using. I just have a camera and a spare battery.  How liberating! When I'm out walking or hiking, I either have my Canon point and shoot or my Sony with one lens on and just go.  It's lightweight, I can carry in a fanny pack or a small backpack, and I'm not loaded down with all kinds of equipment. Now if I'm going to a certain place that I'm going to stop and shoot (like a waterfall), then I will bring all of my stuff (my main camera bag) with me.

This is how I do it. For my day-to-day travels like to work or running around town, I usually have my Canon G7xMII with me. It's a point and Bell & Howell /CannonBell & Howell /CannonHere is the new addition to my film cameras . 1961 Canon Canonet 19. shoot that can be shot in manual and has RAW capabilities and a large range focally from 24-100 (full frame equivalent) and can usually shoot everything I need. I keep it in a small pack that can become a fanny pack or an over-the-shoulder bag. I'll be doing a blog about my camera bags at a later date. (Stay tuned in.) I do take my main camera Sony A6500 and just one lens attached. My favorite lenses to attach are my 24mm Rokinon (36mm full frame equivalent) and a Sony 35mm that gives me a 52mm full frame equivalent. I love just walking around with the point of view with one of these lenses. Now if this is too restrictive for you and you have a newer smartphone, especially one that has multiple lenses on it, take it with you and use it for different focal lengths you may need.  A smartphone does great on wide-angle shots and panos. You'll still be quick and nimble and have all the lenses you will need. I have an older phone, but I still take it and use it when I need to. I have a shoulder bag that I call my purse that I use when I'm out with this setup (again a blog is coming on bags).

Being light and nimble with your photography will make you enjoy the experience better. If you're like me, getting older and bigger, not lugging around lots of stuff all the time is great. There are still times I like to take all my stuff with me, and I have a great pack to use with it (blog later LOL) that fits great and doesn't pull on you to make you uncomfortable. Saves your back. Photography is supposed to be fun and not a workout carrying stuff that you don't need. There is a time for all of that photography stuff you have, but it's not "all the time." So just take what you need in the smallest bag you can so you can be quick and nimble. I see people going to shoot taking everything they own packed into a bag that is heavy and bulky. So try going small and minimalist, and you will be able to travel farther quicker, clear your head of all the technical things, and just shoot.  

So until next week, stay safe and healthy and get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) accessories blog camera gear landscape learning Max Stansell Photography minimalist Photography website Fri, 22 Jan 2021 09:52:55 GMT
My New Photo Projects for 2021 Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is healthy and safe today.  I have finally done it. I have made the decision of what my project for 2021 will be. Last year, if you're following me, you know that I was going to visit, photograph, hike, and sometimes camp at all of the state parks in North Carolina. There were 34 of them, and with the shutdowns due to the virus, it made this project more difficult than I thought it would be. But with some good luck and planning, I got the project completed and created an end-of-year book that showed off my accomplishment. I also had two other projects. Post to Instagram every day and post a blog once a week. Both were challenging, but I completed those also. I plan to keep those two projects going through 2021. 

This year I plan on (drum roll please) visiting and exploring all of the national forests in North Carolina.  There are four national forests in North Carolina, covering over 1.25 million acres of land: Croatan National Forest in the eastern part of the state, Uwharrie National Forest located in the central part of the state, and Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests located in the mountains of the state. Now you may say that there are only four forests to visit. That is true, but they are so big that to "explore" them it will take many trips to each forest to get the full experience of it.  That's the main theme of  this project is to "explore." Last year was more of a let's complete this checklist, but this one is more fluid, not set in stone. I will take as many trips as needed to feel like I have truly explored the forest that I'm in. I'm going to do one at a time. I will camp, hike, backpack, and photograph. This will be more of the experience from that of last year which was more of a checklist feeling. I plan on taking my fishing rods, maybe even get a canoe and paddle lakes and ponds, rivers and streams. Documenting the trips will also be a big part of it. I will make a couple of videos, but photography of course will be the main medium that I will use to document this project. My camera set up will not change. I have my kit pretty much dialed in. My trusty Sony A6500 will be my main camera body. I believe that it has many years left in it. My lens selection will be the ones that I have been using. Also, my little Canon G7XmII will also be with me, especially on the backpacking trips. It's small size and versatility make it a great backpacking camera. For video, my GoPro setup will be the same with a GoPro 7 being my main camera.

I will be doing a lot of camping with this project, which is something that I wanted to incorporate.  Hammock camping will be my first choice and hopefully a lot of free camping.  In most national forests, dispersed camping is free, although there are established campgrounds that I will also be visiting that charge a minimum fee. I hope to have backpacking be a big part of this project also, which means I have to get back into shape! UGGH! There are many trails to hike and explore, especially in the mountains. My truck, Ole' Betsy, will be my mode of transportation and my camping and exploring vehicle.  And of course Forrest, the Wonder Dog, will accompany me when possible.

So there, I have said it out loud. My project for 2021 will be exploring the national forests of North Carolina. So until next week, get outside and keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camping exploring hammock hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photo Photography Project website workshops yearly Fri, 15 Jan 2021 10:00:00 GMT
My Photography Bags and How I Use Them. Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. Today I want to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart. Camera bags! I have had dozens of them, and I now find myself with what I think for me is a great combo. To me, camera bags aren't just a fashion statement but must function with ease and have all the bells and whistles that I want in a camera bag. To me they are tools, and no one bag fits the bill although I do have one that is close. I use three bags and, depending on what I am doing or shooting, will decide what bag and camera setup I use. Out of the three bags I use, only one of them is actually a camera bag. I have adapted other bags to take the place of camera bags. The three bags I use are the Shimoda Action X 30 liter camera bag, the MountainSmith Daylight Lumbar Pack, and the Zpacks multi-pack. I have used all kinds of bags over my many years of photography, and these three are the best and the longest-used camera bags that I have used. I'll start from the smallest and work my way to the largest.

Zpacks multi-pack - I first acquired this pack for backpacking. It was made by Zpacks that is a leader in backpacks in the backpacking industry. They were one of the first to use Dyneema for material in their packs. Dyneema is a material that pound for pound is stronger than steel and is waterproof. This pack was made to be a chest pack on my backpack, but it can be used as an over- the-shoulder bag and as a fanny pack. I use this bag for my everyday camera use. I carry a point and shoot Canon G7XmII for my everyday use, and when I go for lunchtime walks or driving from town to town, this is the camera that I have next to me. The bag is large enough to hold my camera and a few other things.  I can throw it over my shoulder or use it as a fanny pack. I love this little bag and will keep using it.

MountainSmith Dalight Lumbar Pack - I got the idea for this pack from Chris Burkard, an adventure photographer. He uses this bag as a shooting bag. I bought this bag and got a cheap insert to put into the bag to protect camera lenses and such. I use this bag mainly if I'm shooting an event or when doing street photography. I had an extra Peak Design camera strap (another story), so I used this to make a shoulder strap which is much better than the one that comes with the bag. This bag is large enough to carry one body and up to three lenses, filters, and such.  I usually carry one body and a few prime lenses when doing street photography. It works great, and I can change lenses quickly. People who have shot with me know that I call this bag my purse. It can even tote my iPad mini with no problems, another plus when doing street photography. I can stop at a coffee shop, have some coffee, and pull out my iPad to edit or browse the net.

Shimoda Action X 30 liter Backpack - This is my landscape and hiking bag. I love this bag and have had this one for over a year. I got it off of a Kickstarter production. It's made out of a ripstop water-resistant material. It was made for action photographers who ski and mountain bike, but it is perfect for landscape photographers. I shoot a crop sensor camera, so the 30 liter is perfect for me. But they make 50 and 70 liter bags also.  Attention to detail from a photographer's standpoint is what I love about this bag, and the craftsmanship in making this bag is great. Very high quality. I won't go over all of the details of the bag, but you can look it up on Google and read all about it. It is used by modern professional landscape photographers such as Nick Page. I like that it has a roll-top to it so when I go out in the morning all layered up I can shed the layers and have room in the bag to put them with no problems. I usually carry one to two bodies and three lenses: my 10-18, 16-70, and 70-350mm. 

With these three bags, I have the tools to move quickly and protect all of my gear while out and about shooting the world around me.

Until next week please stay safe and healthy, and get out and shoot.

(Max Stansell Photography) Backpack bag Bags blog Camera fanny gear inserts landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Mountainsmith pack Photography proof Shimoda Shoulder tutorial water website workshops Zpacks Fri, 08 Jan 2021 09:20:12 GMT
Monitor Calibration - When and Why Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. Today I want to talk to you about why I think you should calibrate your monitor and how to do it. If you're a serious photographer in the modern age, calibration of your monitor is a must, and here's why. When you see colors in a scene, you want the same colors to be printed and published online. When we develop our photos on the computer, we use the screen, and we want to make sure that the colors we saw are the same colors that we have on our monitor. In other words, you want to make sure that the red ball you shot with your camera stays red throughout the process of processing your photographs to screen or to print. Your monitor must know what red is. Monitors' colors tend to drift, but with our eyes we don't really see it. So if I bring in a photo that I think was more red than I'm seeing, I can boost the color in my photo editing software. But if your monitor is seeing red, lets say more pink, then the output that you choose can be different than you saw. Have you ever printed something and the colors were wrong?  The reason is that your monitor was not calibrated and you made adjustments that you didn't need to, and then when you printed it looked wrong. When you calibrate your monitor, you are telling it that red is red, green is green, and so on. So when you edit your photos, what you see are the real colors. If you're like me, I don't see colors as well as everyone else, and I depend on the monitor being calibrated to keep me in check. And if you go further down the chain, you can also calibrate your printer, but that's a discussion for another day. Having all of your machines calibrated also helps. If you have a laptop and a desktop computer and you go between them editing photos, you want the monitors to be calibrated so that when you adjust one it looks the same as the other.  Okay, I may be rambling a little, but the point is you want your monitors to be calibrated for the best results.

How and when to calibrate. I calibrate mine monthly. You could do it more often but for me once a month seems to do the trick.  The how to this question is a little more involved. First, you'll have to get a monitor calibration tool. This tool hooks to your computer via USB, and then you place it on the screen of your computer. You start the program, and your screen will go through a sequence and show all of the different colors in the color spectrum. This device will see those colors and, when the program is finished going through its sequence, it will make adjustments to your screen so the colors are correct. Like anything else, you can spend as much as you want on calibration tools. But for about $150 you can get an entry-level one. X-Rite or Datacolor Spyder X Pro seem to be the leaders in this.  I have an older Color Monkey from X-Rite that I have been using for years, and it does okay.  

I highly recommend calibrating your monitors for accurate colors and also for the consistency that it will give to your photography. So until next week, keep shooting, get outside, explore, and have fun!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog calibration Datacolor gear landscape learning Max Stansell Photography monitor Photography website workshops X-Rite Fri, 01 Jan 2021 10:00:00 GMT
Idea Board "What is it?" Hey Everyone!  I hope today finds you healthy and safe!  This week I want to talk about coming up with ideas that can become photo or just personal projects. First of all, I think personal projects and photography projects are great, but coming up with the idea and what your project is going to be is a bear. Photography and personal projects give you something to plan for and something to really look forward to. I am a list guy. I make a list for almost everything, from daily activities to long- term goals. This past year I had a couple of goals or projects. The first one is this blog.  I wanted to post a blog every week. The biggest challenge with this goal is coming up with topics to talk about.  I get ideas from all kinds of places, when I'm driving to work, taking a shower, almost anywhere.  I get the idea and then think about how my blog will be written. But if I don't write it down, I can get distracted and lose my train of thought.  So I have a place in my home office/gear locker/laundry room where I have put up a dry erase board where I can write down all the ideas I have. I try to stay ahead and have two or three already written. Then all I have to do is put some photos with it.

Another big project this year was my state park project.  I wanted to visit all of the state parks in North Carolina in one calendar year. This took a lot of logistics and planning to do. Some of these parks were far enough away that I had to plan overnight stays, which meant camping. You know how I like to camp. There were 34 parks and 52 weekends. I should be able to handle that, right? Well, then the virus hit us, and all of the state parks closed for a few months. But I got around that and took a week of vacation and went to 9 state parks to get me back on track.  I had a printed state map with all of the state parks and a spreadsheet where I would check off each state park as the year came around. I kept track of this on the dry erase board in my room. This project gave me the drive to go out and shoot while the virus and everything associated with it tried to keep me down and out. So projects keep you going.

Another photo project I had this year was to post to Instagram each day. I wanted the photos to be better than just a bunch of iPhone shots just to fill up space. At first, when my state park project started, I had plenty of photos to choose from. But then when all of the state parks closed, the project got me back into older photographs and maybe reprocessing some of them. That was a blessing, as looking back at all of those old photos brought back memories of times past.  

Right now I am trying to come up with a big project like the state park project for next year. On my idea board (dry erase board), I have many ideas of projects. I am still thinking about and researching what project I'm going to start at the beginning of the year. I want it to be a big project, and I want camping to be a part of it also. So that's a challenge. But right now I have 6 project ideas on the board to choose from and hope I get more in the coming days.  Also on my idea board I have big "to do" items, like paint the trim on the house and clean the garage. These are items that I just want to get off of the board. I would much rather be out shooting, fishing, camping, or almost anything else, but these to-do items. LOL  I also have some special projects on the board that I want to do, like there are some modifications that I want to do to my teardrop trailer to make it more specialized/unique. My idea board helps me prioritize what projects to do and what to do next. Some people may be able to keep all of this in their head, but for me the board makes it much easier to make decisions on what to do. The idea board also helps me keep up with upcoming trips. The virus has made campsites hard to get (everyone is trying to get outside), so I have to reserve well in advance and the board helps me keep track of that.  And of course I also put all of these dates in Google Calendar to help remind me. 

Well, that's enough rambling for now.  I hope this idea will help some of you make some photography projects and get you outside to shoot. So until next week, keep safe and healthy.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Do idea's landscape learning list Max Stansell Photography Photography Priority To website workshops Fri, 25 Dec 2020 11:15:58 GMT
Shooting in Black and White "Monochrome Experience" Max Stansell Photography Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. This week I want to talk about black and white photography and why I like it. Way back when, when photography was shot on film, black and white photography was much more prominent than it is now.  At the beginning of photography, it was all black and white because there wasn't any color film available. But even after color film was invented, black and white was still the norm. In what I call the hay days of photography, from the 1920s to the 1960s, just about everything was on black-and-white film. I love looking at all of those old photos from my family and even in the National Archives from all of the famous people you think about when studying the art of photography, all shot in black and white. Majestic landscapes, news, sports, and portraits were all shot in black and white. Maybe I'm just nostalgic from the days gone past. But to me, things shot in black and white have that "timeless" feeling that I don't get with color photographs. There are lots of blogs and all kinds of tutorials that explain all of the techniques of shooting in black and white, but I'm more concerned about how a photograph makes you feel. I imagine that younger photographers who grew up with Goldsboro Fire HouseGoldsboro Fire House all-color all the time don't feel the same way that older photographers do about black and white. Don't get me wrong, there are some younger photographers that dabble in black and white. But most of the time it's color, vibrant color, that they go to. So when do I like to shoot black and white?

Max Stansell Photography Portraits - I love black-and-white portraits. To me, they seem to be sharper, show more detail in the face, and show more expression than color portraits. Think of all the black-and-white portraits of old movie stars or politicians that were taken in decades past. You see those photographs, and they just pop off the page. You get to the soul of the photograph without cluttering up the photo with all of that color.  I have a wall in my house where I have photos of my family members, but I made them all in black and white because I think they just look better. An old saying about portraits that I really like  is "If you take a portrait of someone in color, you're taking a photo of their clothes; when you take a portrait in black and white, you take a photo of their soul."

Landscapes - Big majestic landscapes are great in black and white! Ansel Adams, one of the most--if not the most--famous landscape photographers, shot in black and white. Even though in his later years color was available and he dabbled in it, he preferred black and white. I think that in some landscape photographs color just muddles up the photograph, makes it too busy. But if you change it to black and white, sometimes it just jumps off the page. Try to change some of your favorite landscapes from color to black and white. All of them won't work well, but some of them will be a lot better than the originals that you thought were great.

The MetroThe MetroCommuters waiting for the Metro in Washington DC. Street Photography -  Nothing says black-and-white photography like street photography. Capturing scenes and cityscapes in black and white is the norm. This style of photography is where I think black and white really shines and is probably where it is the most used in today's photography. I think, again, it's the timeless look of the photograph that it shows.

As you can see, I'm a big fan of black-and-white photography. Please experiment with black-and-white photography, and I'm sure you'll become a lover of the "monochrome experience" like I am. Until next week, please stay safe and healthy and get out and shoot.

(Max Stansell Photography) and Black blog film landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Monochrome Photography Portrait Street website White workshops Fri, 18 Dec 2020 08:51:45 GMT
End-of-year book? "Why I think you should" Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. This week I want to talk about making an end-of-year book. This is something I started a few years ago at the suggestion of my photography club. We were making them to share at an end-of-year holiday party. But I really think that everyone should have one. So what is an end-of-year book?

An end-of-year book is a collection of all of your best shots from your year of photography. There are all kinds of books you could make, from family books to books on your pets, but this end-of-year book would be a book of all of your best work. If you're like me, I may go on a photoshoot and shoot 500 shots. Out of those, I may only have one or two that I would like to share. And out of those, maybe only one of them is noteworthy of printing in a book. But over the course of a year, you may have 40 or 50 really great photos that you should print. An end-of-year book is a great place to put them.  

Let's talk about why I think you should print a book. The first reason is that most of us, myself included, do not print enough. We don't have shoeboxes full of things we have printed like we did in the past. Instead, we now have them on a disc or drive somewhere, and nobody will see them or pass them down when we are gone. An end-of-year book is an easy thing we can do once a year to print our great work and have something tangible for people to hold, something to pass down to our grandchildren and theirs.  I recently made a book of all of my mother's photographs. She has Alzheimer's and knew her memory was going, so she sat down and labeled and sorted all of her photographs that she had. I found all of them in boxes, took them to my house and digitized a lot of them, and made a book that she could hold onto and look at the photos. I had them labeled with the names of the people from her past so she could remember now that her memory is not good. Books are a great way to do this. I should do more of them, but I'm pretty lazy like everyone else. 

This year I had a solid photo project of photographing and visiting all of the state parks in North Carolina in one calendar year.  I've got it all done now (pat on the back), but now I have to make my end-of-year book about state parks. There are 34 state parks, so the book will be at least 34 pages long and probably double that. There are all kinds of places where you can get a book made, from Shutterfly, Blurb, Snapfish, and a lot of others.  You can even get a book made at your local drugstore, like Walgreens. They usually don't cost much, and it usually depends on how many pages and the quality of the book you're making.  The bottom line is that it's much cheaper to make the book than it would be to print all of the photographs.

I know I have rambled quite a bit here, but the bottom line is that this is a great way to share your work with something that is tangible and something that you can pass down through the ages. So until next week, take some notable photos and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog books learning max stansell photography Photo Photography Printing Sharing website Fri, 11 Dec 2020 09:09:57 GMT
Winter Photography "Dressing the Part" Hey Everyone! Hope I find you healthy and safe this week. This week I'd like to talk about winter photography and how to dress for it. Now, living in the mid-Atlantic region of the US, it doesn't get super cold like it does up north but still gets cold enough that if you're outside you need to dress for the cold. Dressing for the cold is much like dressing for a backpacking trip in the fall, the same precautions. Here are a few tips that you should consider.

Hands - Keeping your hands warm is key to photography, and our cameras in the cold are just cold hunks of metal that can suck the heat right out of your hands. Wearing gloves or mittens is the way to go. There are special photography gloves that you can get where the fingertips peel back out of the way while you are adjusting the knobs of your camera which comes in handy. I bought a pair of these special gloves a year or so ago and wish I had bought them earlier. Another thing you can do is use hand warmers. These are a must in my camera bag when it's cold outside. These are small chemical-filled bags that get warm when you shake them up. They can stay warm for hours and feel as good in your pockets as they do in your hands. They are inexpensive and great to have in your camera bag.

Head - Most of the heat in your body leaves through your head, so wearing some sort of head covering is a must in cold weather. I like to wear a stocking cap that is made out of fleece. It covers my ears and feels great. I also have one that has insulation built into it that also works great. The biggest thing is that it keeps the heat in and is comfortable and lightweight. I also like to wear a neck gator. This is a tube of cloth that is made out of fleece that you pull over your head to wear around your neck. You can also pull it up over your nose to keep it warm too. Eyes also need protection, especially when you're in the snow. The reflection can really harm your eyes, so wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Body - The key to keeping your body warm is to dress in layers. No cotton!! In hiking and backpacking, the term "cotton kills" is a popular saying.  Cotton may be comfortable, but it holds moisture. If you get it wet by sweating or by falling in a creek, cotton will hold all of that water, making you freeze. You want to wear layers of clothes that are made of a moisture-wicking type of material from your base layer (underwear) to your outer layer. Multiple layers will help you regulate your body temperature during the day. If you are hiking to your photo spot, you can take off some layers and put them in your camera bag. Then, as you heat up during the exercise of hiking, you won't sweat as much. When you get to your location, you can put on those extra layers you carried to keep you warm as your body cools off. Lightweight clothes are what you're looking for as you are layering, and heavy bulky clothes is what you want to stay away from. We want to be comfortable while we are on our adventure.

F eet - You must keep your feet happy when in the cold. Wear socks that are not cotton. Again, "Cotton Kills" in cold weather. Wool socks are a good option. They make wool socks that aren't itchy like the ones you're probably thinking about. In cold weather, I usually take an extra pair of shoes and socks and keep them in my vehicle in case I get my feet wet while out and about. A clean, dry pair of socks and shoes feel great after slogging around in wet conditions all day. Again, they do make feet warmers like the hand warmers that fit into your shoes to keep your feet warm.  I haven't used them much, but they could come in handy--or footy. LOL

As you can see, the key is to keep yourself dry and layer up to stay warm in cold weather. Now for extreme cold weather, you would have to have some heavy-duty outer wear to keep you dry and insulated. But for general cold weather, the above suggestions should help. So don't let the cold weather keep you from getting outside to do photography. Dress the part and then get outside!



(Max Stansell Photography) base blog clothes coats down elements fleece head how landscape layer layering learning Max Stansell Photography moisture Photography socks to wear website wicking winter wool Fri, 04 Dec 2020 09:21:25 GMT
The Scoop on Light Meters Hey Everyone! I  hope everyone is healthy and safe this week.  This week I want to talk about light meters. There are basically two camps on this: those who are for light meters and those who are against them. I am for light meters in certain situations. Let's talk about light and how your camera works. First, light is the basis of all we do in photography. Without light, it's just a black square. Being able to measure light accurately is important when taking photographs. 

All modern cameras have built-in light meters that measure the light coming off of your subject. Your _MSP9577_MSP9577 camera sees this and makes corrections via computer for the shot, and you have a great photo. But the reflective light can be misleading, causing your camera not to get the best exposure. When you're shooting a dark subject, the light that comes off of it will be darker than everything around it and cause your camera to lighten your photo incorrectly, creating an over-exposed shot. And if your subject is white, just the opposite will happen. Your camera can get fooled. This usually only happens in very extremes of the light spectrum, and you will have to override your camera by some sort of compensation. Your camera is set to expose all of your photos to 18% gray. So technically, if you are over or under 18% gray tones in your shot, your camera will try to get you to that 18%.  Most of the time you won't notice this except on the extremes, and you can usually fix it in post-production software. The type of metering in your camera is reflective metering, meaning it measures what is reflecting off of your subject.

A handheld light meter works in a different way. It measures what it sees. For example, if you're taking a photograph of a dark subject, you measure the light at the subject. If you measure the light before it hits and reflects off of the subject, you will get a truer reading. So if you're taking a photo of a dark subject and you set your camera manually to the readings your meter got and take the shot, you will get a perfectly metered shot. If the light stays the same, you can move a white subject into the same spot, take the shot, and the same settings will apply because the light didn't change. Take the shot and you will have a perfectly metered shot. If you're doing a landscape, measure the sun and set your camera to the meter's readings, and you will have a perfectly metered shot. Using a handheld meter is incident metering. You are measuring what hits the meter not what bounces off of the subject.

So when should you use a handheld meter? Should you use it all the time? Okay, now let's get practical.  You could use a handheld meter all the time and get great photos, but it's not practical to do so. The meter in your camera will work great for 90 percent of the photography that is done. Landscapes, sport, Portrait Workshop-6Portrait Workshop-6 wildlife, and street photography are things that can happen fairly quickly, and using a handheld meter would get in the way. The one type of photography that I always use a handheld meter for is when doing off-camera flash and/or portrait photography with strobes. I find this to be the best way to set your lights and get the metering perfect each and every time. If you have a model, go to the model's face, point the meter at the light and pop the flash, and you can set your camera to what the meter says and have a perfect exposure. If your lights and subject stay in the same place, you don't have to meter again. With your Head Shot 2Head Shot 2 camera in manual, you just shoot and everything will be properly exposed. Others will say, "Well, I only have to take a couple of test shots and adjust my camera or lights until I get it right in camera." And that is true. But to me it's sloppy, and I can meter once and have it perfect. Then I only have to think about my subject, posing, and composition. So in my humble opinion, when doing off-camera flash/strobes, it's much easier to use a meter, put everything in manual, and shoot that way. So I am in the for meters camp of thinking. There are many ways to get a light meter. And of course, the old saying "buy nice or buy twice" applies here. You can get apps on your phone that may also work. I bought one years ago, and it still works great. Sekonic is a brand name that is the industry standard for photography light meters.  

So if in these hard times you're stuck inside, do some off-camera flash and use a handheld meter and see how easy it is to use. Until next week, please stay healthy and safe and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog how landscape learning light Max Stansell Photography meters Photography portrait strobes to website when workshops Fri, 27 Nov 2020 10:00:00 GMT
Using your Mirrorless or DSLR as a WebCam. Hey Everyone! Hope today finds you healthy and safe. Today I want to talk to you about something that I just started doing myself. That's using my photography camera as a web camera or webcam for my computer for video conferencing. This is something that I had to teach myself how to do, and if I can do it anyone can. If you have a modern mirrorless, DSLR, or even an advanced point and shoot, these cameras also have video capabilities that are far better than the camera that is hooked to your computer. With a little bit of lighting that you already know about with your portrait photography, then you should be able to wow your friends and co-workers with professional-looking video when you make your video conference calls. There are two basic ways to achieve this. Software and hardware.

Software:  Depending on what brand of camera you own, you may be able to hook your camera up to the computer with no out-of-pocket expense.  Since the pandemic, many camera companies have come out with software that will make your camera act as a webcam, at no cost to you. You just download the software and follow their instructions, which is to just hook up your camera with a USB cable and you're in. Your camera works as a webcam. Audio will still be handled through your computer. There are other hacks where you can download third-party software and make your camera work also. There are many to try.   YouTube is a place where you can learn about these, and they seem to work. Working with software does have some drawbacks though. Sometimes the video and audio do not sync properly, and you may look like you're in a cheap Chinese Kung fu movie. It might not be that bad, but it may be noticeable. But if your setup works and you don't have a lag, then you're in.  All you have to do is choose what video conferencing software you are using and then go to settings and choose your camera for the webcam.  

Hardware: Instead of using software to connect to your camera, you can use hardware to do the same thing. This will cost some money but shouldn't break the bank. The things that you will need are a video capture card and an HDMI that will hook up to your camera and your computer. Most modern cameras have an HDMI cable port. You may also have this cable if your camera came with it. If not, or if you're like me and couldn't find it, you'll have to get one. Like with everything else, you can spend as much money as you want on these things, but you don't have to. I spent $22 for the video capture card and $20 for the cable to hook up between my camera and the card. I bought an inexpensive capture card that plugs into my computer via USB port (the regular port, not the USB C port). Then I plug in the HDMI cable to the card (regular full size), and the other end of the cord hooks to my camera via an HDMI MICRO/MINI connector. This is the connection that you have to make sure you get right for your camera because they can be different on different models of cameras. When all is hooked up, you go to the video conferencing app of your choice, go to settings and pick USB camera, and you're ready to go. Your camera can now be used for both video and audio. This can fix all of the audio lag that you may have gotten on the software option. You can use the onboard camera microphone, or you can attach an external mic to the camera. I have another cheap option where I use a $20 LAV mic that I bought a while ago that I can plug into my camera and improve the audio. All of the hardware I use I got off of Amazon.

Now. I'm no expert at this. As I said, I just started to do this myself. But you can really see the difference, and by using your photography skills you can really make a professional-looking video through your computer. You will be able to use a low aperture on your camera and blur out the back. Depending on what type of camera you have, you can have the autofocus follow your face so you are always in focus and the background is blurry, making it look very professional.  

So until next week, please stay safe and healthy and explore with your cameras. Get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) 1080p blog HDMI learning Max Stansell Photography microphone Photography USB video web webcam website zoom Fri, 20 Nov 2020 09:05:34 GMT
Do You Need a Tripod? Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. Today I want to talk about the three-legged monsters known as tripods and when and if we should use them. This discussion is mainly for newer photographers, but old folks like me might benefit also. A question I sometimes get asked is, "Do I really need a tripod?" I could give you a short answer, but let's get into it a little deeper. Let me say that I have had all sorts of tripods from 7-foot tall ones to ones you can hold in the palm of your hand, so I know a little about tripods. First of all, tripods have been around since the beginning of photography by necessity. Back in the days of film, film came in lower ASA (ISO's) than modern cameras. Say you get a film of 100 ASA indoors. You would have to drop your shutter speed way down to get a properly exposed film, and that brings in camera shake. Thus, the tripod is needed to get sharp photos. This is why initially tripods were necessary to get sharp photos. Now, let's move to today with modern digital cameras. You may think that the newer digital cameras come with IBIS (In Body Camera Stabilization) or some kind of lens stabilization, and so now we can shoot at higher ISO's.  And all of that is true. But with higher ISO's comes more noise or less sharp photos. IBIS and lens stabilization is great, and I love it. But you still can't drop the shutter as low as I would want without camera shake. 6400 ISO will never be as good as 100 ISO.  It's good, but not as good. So I think the question comes down to what type of photography you shoot and will you need a tripod for that type. Some old-timers will argue that you always need a tripod and that you can use it with all types of photography, and I kind of agree. But it's not always practical. So let's go over some different types of photography and see if you need a tripod.

Portrait Workshop-6Portrait Workshop-6 Portraits - Portraits may be the one type of photography that you can get away with not having a tripod, especially if you're using strobes. Portraits can be done without a tripod, but most formal photographers still use a tripod. Here's why. It's not for camera shake or blurry photos. It's for framing and posing. If you have your camera on a tripod and your subject in front of you, it free's up your hands to position your model and move lights around without having to re-compose your subject. And I am a big fan of using a tripod in these situations. Also, if you're doing a natural light photo in low light, a tripod is a must to eliminate camera shake. So my answer on tripods for portraits is, no, you don't need them, but they are recommended. 

Sports Action/Wildlife - Photographers that shoot sports or wildlife very often use long, heavy lenses. Yes, they can hand hold them, especially on bright sunny days. But the cameras and lenses do get heavy, and most sports/wildlife photographers do use a tripod, if for nothing else, to support the weight of the lens between shots. A wildlife photographer may sit in one spot for a long time just waiting for an animal to show up, and the camera sitting on a tripod will help frame and support the lens while doing so. So my answer for sports or wildlife photographers is, yes, you need a tripod.

The MetroThe MetroCommuters waiting for the Metro in Washington DC. Street Photography - The art of being a good street photographer is being stealthy, quick, and nimble and shooting from the hip. This is where a tripod will not come in handy because it is none of those things. Street photographers usually use small cameras with a fast response to the scene in front of them. Now, for urban landscapes or architecture photography, you will need a tripod to get the photo as sharp as you can. So my answer for street photography is, no, you don't need one, but for urban landscapes, yes, you do.

Landscapes -  Good landscape photography is often shot in the early morning or late evening to get the best Curtis CreekCurtis CreekCurtis Creek in Pisgah National Forrest. light, the blue hour. Using a tripod is necessary to get the ISO down as far as possible to get clean shots with slower shutter speeds. For long exposure shots with neutral density filters like shooting waterfalls or moving clouds, it is a necessity to use a tripod. You just can't do without it. So I would say using a tripod with landscape photography is a must.

Astro Photography - Shooting the stars, whether you're shooting the milky way or using a telescope to shoot a single star, you will need a tripod to do this kind of photography. There is no way around it.

So, as you can see, for most kinds of photography, in my opinion you do need a tripod. But what kind do you get? Like I said before, there are all kinds of tripods, and I have owned a bunch of them. My best advice is to get the best one you can afford. Like most things, you get what you pay for. The old saying goes, "Buy nice or buy twice."  I am a firm believer in this. You can get cheap tripods that you will have to replace, medium-range ones, or very expensive ones. I usually go for the mid-to-expensive range. I now have a tripod that is a carbon fiber travel-sized tripod. I shoot with a small camera, so I can use a smaller tripod. People with big DSLR's will have to buy bigger, heavier, and more expensive tripods. You have to find the one that is right for you. Make sure you get one that you can lug around. Because if it's too heavy, you'll never pull it out of the car. And that's not where the best photos are.

Well, that's all for this week. Until we talk again, please stay safe and healthy, and never forget to get outside and explore!

(Max Stansell Photography) astro blog landscape learning long shutter Max Stansell Photography Photography portrait tripod website wildlife workshops Fri, 13 Nov 2020 10:00:00 GMT
Ole Betsy! How she takes me places! Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is healthy and safe today. Today I want to talk about an old friend of mine, Betsy. Ole Betsy has been a friend of mine for more than 20 years. She has taken me to places I have never been to before. She has hauled things, towed trailers, and moved children from place to place. She has helped clean my yard, and she doesn't leak or leave stains on the carport. What? Yep, Ole Betsy is my 1999 Ford F150 truck! Now, you're saying how does your truck pertain to photography or hiking? Well, without this old faithful friend, I wouldn't have made it to all of those places to hike or to photograph. She has been my transportation to get me to all of those places. I trust Ole Betsy to take me anywhere I want to go. 

Ole Betsy isn't the most sporty on the block. She's not the most powerful, but the most important thing is that she, like any good friend, is dependable. She has some nicks and dings that give her character just like anyone else. She has quirks and things that she does differently than others. Unfortunately, she has been neglected from time to time. But here lately I have been giving her a lot of attention. I try to do maintenance things that I can do, like when I changed the front bearings and brake pads. I have found a mechanic I can trust to do the things that I don't want to tackle myself to keep her running smoothly. And I can say honestly that she runs better now than she ever did when I first got her. She's a 21-year-old truck, and there are going to be some wear-and-tear  things that happen. But I'm very pleased with how she runs now and would trust her to drive across the US at a moment's notice. I am starting to do some upgrades and modifications to her to bring her up to date.

Betsy is an extended-cab, short-bed truck.  For many years, I drove her with just a tool box on the back that would hold my tools and such, and I could easily haul things I needed to work on my house. A couple of years ago, I got a camper shell to go over the back that would allow me to put stuff inside and have it protected from the weather. I recently modified the camper shell to have a bed platform inside with a pull drawer and some storage containers underneath so I could use the truck to sleep in if I had to. And I have. Maybe not my first choice because it's a small fit and I'm a large guy, but after getting in place I really slept well. I have room for all of my camping gear, and I always carry a hammock, tent, stove, and all of the accessories, including a battery to charge and run things like lights. So she has become a camping vehicle. She can easily tow our teardrop camper and was my primary tow vehicle until my wife got her new Honda Pilot a year ago. A new and fancy (to me) touch screen blue tooth stereo with a backup camera that can hook up to my iPhone for Google Maps on the screen has been a great upgrade.  I'm planning to put a roof rack on the top of the camper to haul extra things and maybe an awning to make a good quick campsite with shelter.  And I'm sure more will come.

Is Betsy my dream vehicle?  Well, no.  But a dream vehicle is just that, a dream, something that I can't afford and never will (unless I win the lottery) LOL.  But even if I won the lottery and could get my dream vehicle, I wouldn't get rid of  Ole Betsy. She has become a part of the family. Ole Betsy still gets 19mpg on the highway (flat land) and 16 or so in the mountains.  That's pretty good for a 21-year-old 8-cylinder engine, full-size truck. I'm sure with some tender loving care that she will last many more years to come. She is a very clean truck and stays under the carport most of the time, and I only drive her on the weekends. I'm a sticker guy, and the stickers of the places I have been scatter the back windshield and the camper topper windows.  The other day when I was in the mountains, I caught a guy looking at all of the stickers and places that Betsy and I have been. So she's not my dream vehicle, but she is a dream to own and drive. Without her dependability and longevity, I would have had to buy another vehicle and would not have the money to do the things I do, like investing in photo gear and traveling to different places.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, I'm sure you've seen Ole Betsy in the background at a campsite, and I'm sure you'll see more of her in the future. So until next week, please stay healthy and safe, and get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camping Dependable F150 Ford gear hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography truck website workshops Fri, 06 Nov 2020 10:00:00 GMT
Rainy Day Photoshoot How and Why? Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is healthy and safe. Today I want to talk about doing landscape photography in the rain. Yes, that's right, rain! Shooting in the rain is something that we all seem to avoid with our cameras. We don't want to get them wet with all of the electronics and all. And we certainly don't want to get all wet and deal with all the inconvenience of shooting in the rain.  Believe me, I know how you feel. I felt the same way for years. But just a few months ago, I went out shooting in the rain, and it was an eye-opening event for me. I was visiting one of my state parks, and I had to drive four hours to get there.  And of course, it was raining.  Well, I didn't drive four hours not to get some shots, and it wasn't raining hard. So I grabbed my stuff and started hiking and shooting.  And I had a ball and got some great shots. So in this blog I'm going to talk about how to shoot in the rain.

First, you need to be prepared to shoot in the rain. Some cameras are very weather-sealed and some are not. You need to know your equipment. You also need to be prepared for the rain. Using rain covers and microfiber cloths will be a must to keep your equipment dry. Lighting will be even thanks to the clouds but also dim. So you'll be shooting at higher ISO's or using a tripod with longer shutter speeds, and you'll need to be able to do this quickly. With the rain come other challenges also.  Everything is wet with a lot of shiny places and reflections that can be taken out with a polarizer filter. Yep, that's right, a polarizer filter, which will also affect the ISO and shutter speed. But it will make your colors pop and get rid of all the shine on the leaves. Let me tell you, all of the efforts you take while shooting in the rain will be worth it in the long run. Like all things, effort in getting prepared and effort in the process will produce great results. So here is a list of things that you will need to shoot in the rain. 

1. Camera - Of course you'll need a camera, and the one you have is fine.

2. Tripod - This is a must with the dim light that you will be getting. With the longer shutter speeds, you'll need the stability of a tripod.

3. Camera Cover - To keep your camera body and lens dry, a plastic or waterproof-type material can be used. They can be as cheap as five dollars or as expensive as you want. I made mine but just because I could.

4. External Light - You could use a flash, but I use a LumeCube LED light.  It's small, waterproof, and powerful. This will help light up any shadows.

5. Rain Gear for Yourself - This also doesn't have to be expensive. I have a raincoat that only cost 20 bucks, but you can spend a lot more. Don't forget head gear to keep the rain out of your eyes or off your glasses if you wear them.

6.  Micro Fiber Cloths - Or something similar to dry water drops off of your lens. The more the better because they will be getting used.

The biggest thing to do after you have everything covered above is to relax. You're going to get wet, and your gear hopefully will only get damp. So just get over it and start seeing and looking for compositions.  Slowly, after you get over being wet, they will start to jump out in front of your camera. Take your time and work the scene.  When you get home and put the photos on your computer, you will be amazed at what you've got. So until next week, get outside, don't hide from the rain, and shoot.


(Max Stansell Photography) blog gear landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography polarizer rain rain cover rain gear tripod website Fri, 30 Oct 2020 09:00:00 GMT
Visit Your State Parks Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is healthy and safe today. State parks are one of your state’s treasured resources. These hidden gems are scattered all over the United States and are sometimes overlooked for their big brother national parks. However, state parks can be as nice, or even nicer, than the national parks, and the facilities and camping amenities are sometimes better than those of the National Park System. Most of these parks are less crowded than the national parks, which makes visiting more enjoyable. Here in North Carolina, there are 34 state parks and 7 recreational areas. At these parks, the experience can be anything from walking in the sand at the beach to hiking up to the highest peak east of the Mississippi. There are trails for hiking, riding your trail bike, riding a horse, or even riding your ATV or off-road vehicle.  There are scenic overviews and wildlife viewing areas looking over the most pristine nature that you will ever see. To visit the parks is mostly free. You may have to pay to visit an exhibit or to camp, but other than that it's free. Your taxes have paid for the upkeep and management of these areas, and hopefully, it will last. I would love to see my grandchildren and their grandchildren able to enjoy the wilderness as I have.

_DSC6464_DSC6464 The list of activities that you can do at these state parks is endless. There are too many to list them all, but some include hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, bird watching, a day at the beach, and hang gliding, just to mention a few. The state rangers at these facilities are well-trained and motivated to help assist and teach the public as much as they can while keeping the parks safe and fun to visit. Backpacking and camping are available to enjoy at most parks, from car camping with showers and all the luxuries of home to primitive camping and backpacking in the backcountry. Have an RV? Most parks are equipped to handle some of the largest RV’s around, with or without electrical hookups. If you don't have a tent, some of the parks have cabins to rent that are even heated and air-conditioned.

Carolina Beach SunsetCarolina Beach Sunset State parks are spread throughout the United States, and you probably have one near you. You might not even know it. I lived near one for years before I first visited the park. I visit it dozens of times a year now if for nothing more than just to exercise and have a quick hike in nature. So far this year, I have visited 32 of North Carolina’s state parks and plan to visit the last 2 before the year's end.  I have also visited parks in neighboring states and states that I have lived in in the past. If you’re a photographer like I am, it is a great resource for landscape and nature photography. So get out and enjoy your local state park and keep exploring!


(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camping hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography website workshops Fri, 23 Oct 2020 08:16:30 GMT
iPad Mini for Photos and Camping? Screenshot Hey, everyone! I hope everyone is healthy and safe. Today I want to talk about something new that I have added to my camera bag and camping backpack. It's the iPad Mini. I have been looking for something that I could use on the go to edit photos, use for navigation, and of course, consume media. Now, of course, everyone has a phone in their pocket, and they are great but small. Our phones are also doing a lot of things like storing maps and photos, and this really bogs them down and fills them up.  I needed something that could be used for photo editing on the go and something that I could also use for map storage that would not fill up my phone. I have an iPad Pro that is provided by my employer, and it works great for doing all of these things; however, with the attached cover and keyboard, it weighs more than my MacBook Air that I use when I go on trips. I am getting older, and weight in my pack matters, especially with camera gear weighing it down. I have an older iPad (not sure what version it is) that is so old that the operating system can't be upgraded, and it will not run the programs that I want to run on the iPad like Lightroom or Gaia GPS, a mapping program. I needed something new, so Screenshot I decided on the iPad Mini. It is small in form with a 7.9 inch screen. It is also lightweight, maybe twice the weight of my iPhone. I am heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, so it was the choice for me. There are some Android choices that I could have gone to that were cheaper, but I'm an Apple guy and wanted to stick with what I knew. One of the features I like so much about my work iPad Pro is that it is cellular + Wifi.  This means that almost anywhere I go I will have the internet at my fingertips.  It also means that it has a GPS chip that I can use for maps when I'm camping or off-grid. I also wanted as much storage as I Screenshot could get to store maps, movies, and things like that. I do like watching a good movie while I'm snug as a bug in my hammock. So I opted for the largest storage that is available for the iPad, which is 256 gig of storage. So how will I use this big, bad little iPad?

Let's talk photography first. The iPad Mini will never be my main way of editing photographs. That will always be my 27" iMac at home. But for those on-the-go "let's edit this one and post to Instagram or Facebook" moments, the iPad Mini will do nicely.  It's small enough that I can carry it easily with any photo bag Screenshot I choose, from my Shimodo backpack that I use for doing landscape photography when I'm hiking to my over-the-shoulder Mountainsmith bag that I use for street photography, the bag I like to call my purse. It will fit in either of these bags. It's perfect for a morning walk around a new town, stopping at a coffee shop, or sitting on a park bench and transferring a photo from my camera using the wifi and doing a quick edit in Lightroom. Sure, I could do this on my phone, but it's much easier on a larger screen. Another advantage to the iPad Mini is that I can use my Apple pencil and make precise edits that would be hard just using my finger. I can also just jot down a note or draw something, that is if I were talented enough to draw. LOL. The iPad Mini is also just the right size to share photographs with people. If you're like me, I have my winners from Lightroom Classic synced with my mobile devices via the Cloud. They are all on my phone and now my iPad Mini. So that's the photography part of the iPad Mini. What about camping and hiking?

Screenshot When camping or hiking, one of the most important things to do is, as the Scouts say, "Be prepared." And one of the most important ways to be prepared for hiking is to have a map. I use Gaia GPS, which is a mapping program that uses all of the known nationally provided maps, and you can layer them to fit your needs. If you're looking for trails, it can find the trails for you. If you're looking for forest service roads, it can find those also. It can also give you all of the topographical areas of a place you're going to. It's a big, powerful program that will allow you to plan and route your trips in advance. The trouble is when you lose the internet or it quits working, unless you download online maps and use some sort of GPS, whether it's an external GPS like a Garmin or the internal one like what is on the iPad Mini cellular version. When you have the GPS and the downloaded maps, then you can see where you are in realtime. I was going to get a WiFi-only version of the Screenshot  iPad Mini that would have been cheaper, but the GPS with Bluetooth capabilities would have been between 100 and 400 dollars depending on what I got, and then I would have two things to worry about - losing it and keeping it charged up with fresh batteries. So I opted for the cellular version that comes with a GPS chip. I have gone ahead and added the iPad Mini to my cellular plan at less than 20 bucks a month for unlimited data, but I could still have used the GPS part of it without activating the cellular portion of the iPad. Like I said before, it is also great for media consumption, so I have some movies, TV shows, and podcasts downloaded to the iPad in case I get bored at the campsite and don't have cellular reception. If I do have cell reception, I can watch regular TV, Netflix, or any other type of media by camp firelight. I can also edit photos while backpacking.

Here are a few specs of the iPad Mini version 5.  The screen is a 7.9-inch retina display with a resolution of over 330 ppl. So it's sharp! You can use the Apple pencil, but only the first version of the pencil. It works great and is cheaper than the newer versions. It is rated at a 10-hour battery life, which is a long time using this without a charge. It can be either WiFi only or WiFi+cellular. With the cellular version, a GPS chip is included. Storage capacity is either 64 gigabytes or 256 gigabytes, nothing in between. It has the A12 Bionic micro-processing chip, so it is very fast and snappy.  

The iPad Mini is sometimes referred to as the iPad Pro Mini because it can do just about anything that the iPad Pro can do.  But because of its size, it's just called the iPad Mini. It's a great little device that I think will enhance my photography and camping experience, and I highly recommend it. So until next week, be creative, explore, and get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camping GAIA GPA gear hiking iPad iPad Mini 5 landscape learning maps Max Stansell Photography Navigation Photography Review Snapseed website Fri, 16 Oct 2020 09:00:00 GMT
Under-Rated Car Camping? Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is healthy and safe today. Today I want to talk about car camping. First, let's describe what I mean about car camping. There are all kinds of camping. There is backpacking where you carry all of your possessions on your back into the woods to a campsite. There is RV camping where you either drive or pull behind your vehicle an RV (Recreation Vehicle) or camper. But today we're going to talk about car camping where you load up the car and the kids, go to a campground, park right beside where you'll be camping, and then set up camp. Now, I have been camping for almost 40 years, and if you count Boy Scouts even longer. But most recently, since I turned 50, I have been camping quite a lot. I do all of the camping mentioned above, but I probably look down my nose at car camping the most.  I don't know why. I actually do it the most out of all the other kinds of camping. But I usually say something like, "I was just car camping" when someone asks me about camping. Last weekend my son and my travel companion Forrest came with me to the mountains of North Carolina, and we did some car camping.  And it was great! We camped at a National Park Service campground. It's an older campground with old-growth trees and large campsites, over 100 campsites at this location even though it doesn't seem like it. This weekend the campground was full. This was my first trip to this campground, so I don't know if it's full like this all of the time or if it is because of the COVID virus and everyone just wants to get out of the house. We camped very simply. My son and Forrest put up a tent to sleep in, and I slept in the back of my truck in the bed that I had made in it. This was my maiden voyage in the truck, and it went okay.  I slept well, but getting in and out was a pain. We cooked on an almost 40-year-old camp stove that we use for car camping. We cooked steaks and veggies, and we made fresh ground coffee with a French press we brought. The temps were cool and the weather was great. While I was sitting in my camp chair looking around at the campground, I got a great feeling. I could see all of the campfires going with people huddled around enjoying each other's company, children playing, and people cooking. It was a beautiful sight to see all of these people from all walks of life, rich to poor, all races young and old, and everyone was enjoying themselves and being very polite while doing it. What a contrast it was to the nightly news of riots in the streets, politicians calling each other names, and of course all of the death from the COVID virus. It was how life is supposed to be, everyone getting along.

Soon it was time for bed. And as old men do, I had to get up in the middle of the night to relieve myself.  While I was by that tree I looked up and saw all of the stars. There were thousands of them! I have taken photos of the night sky before, but tonight it was chilly and I wanted to get back into that warm bed in my truck. So I got in and went back to sleep.  Now, people that know me know that I am a morning person and a very early riser. So about 4:30-ish I got up and as quietly as I could made some coffee on the camp stove.  It was still dark and I didn't want to make any noises, because dogs go crazy when they hear noises and I didn't want to wake all of the dogs in the campground. I got my coffee without much commotion and noise and also got my sleeping bag and sat in my camp chair and watched all of the stars. As I sat there and as the night slowly turned into day, the stars slowly went away. The weaker ones first, and then finally the strong ones just went away when enough light was in the sky. I have to say, this is the first time I have ever looked at the stars that way and it was fantastic, maybe the best part of the trip.

After my son and Forrest got up, we made some breakfast burritos, and they were great. We decided to take an almost 3-mile hike around the lake which was nice, and it was like we were the only ones out there. Forrest had fun exploring new things and smells. When we got back to camp, we packed up everything, cleaned the site, and stacked the wood that we didn't use by the fire pit. Then we departed. This was a fantastic little trip, and I could talk about it for quite some time. The bottom line is, I'm not going to look down my nose at car camping anymore. Although I enjoy the other types of camping, I still enjoy car camping, and I think you will too. So get to your local campground and do some camping. You'll meet some great people and have a great time in nature. So until next week, get outside and make some memories.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camping car camping Cars cooking hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Tents website workshops Fri, 09 Oct 2020 08:23:51 GMT
Homemade Hammocks and Camping Gear Hey everyone! Hope everyone is healthy, safe, and inspired. This week I'm going to talk about something I thought I would never talk about. It's something that I really enjoy and is practical at the same time. Sewing! Yeah, I know, a 50+-year-old man who likes to hike and backpack and do all sorts of camping liking to sew. Well, really it's not too far fetched. I got into sewing to save a few pennies on camping gear by making it myself. So like everything I do, I threw myself into this full on. And now I have my own sewing kit (separate from my wife's), and I love to make things for camping and hiking.  

Some of my first projects were very simple, like making storage bags or stuff sacks to put things in, like sleeping bags, tents, and smaller bags for small loose stuff. I'm an organizational freak and love to have everything separated and in its proper place.  I was surprised at the quality I got and how with just a little training (YouTube) I got quite good. I even made Christmas gifts for all of my family by making toiletry bags or cosmetic bags for everyone in the family. They were all customized for each person with different colors and patterns. They had waterproof zippers and really turned out well. Everyone was surprised that I had made them myself. I even made some bags for my camera gear also, and everything turned out great.

My first big project was a backpacking tarp made for my hammock setup. It was made out of silnylon and waterproof.  If you have watched any of my videos, it's an orange tarp and it works great! I have been through a few rainstorms in it, and it's held up great. I even made doors for it so when it rains the mist doesn't waft in. The sewing on the first big item did have some mistakes. But it has been a good functional tarp for a few years, and my son has been using it lately.

My next big project was an Under Quilt for my hammock. An under quilt provides insulation underneath the hammock to keep you from getting a cold butt.  The wind or air that goes under a hammock can pull all of the heat off of your body and make you cold. Even in summer.  So I made an adjustable underquilt with insulation inside and all of the attachments to hook it to the hammock. It's good for about 50 degrees. I wouldn't go much colder than that without getting a bigger underquilt. This one works great and is the underquilt that I use in the summer.

Making a hammock and a separate bug net was my next project. The hammock was simple enough to make, and my sewing had gotten much better.  The bug net, which is actually a big sock that encases the hammock to keep the bugs out, wasn't too bad either. This particular hammock is the one my son uses now with the bug net, and it keeps the bugs away and works great. There are also other parts of the hammock that are not the cloth part that have to be made too, like tree straps, the ridgeline, and a storage bag. Tree straps are the straps that go around the tree and should be webbing that is at least an inch wide so as not to harm the tree that you are anchored to.  Whoopie slings are adjustable cord made out of kevlar and are very strong. They hook to the hammock and to the tree straps to hold the hammock in place. And then there is the ridgeline, which goes from one end of the hammock to the other to keep the hammock in a good "hang" if you will no matter what the distance is between the trees. I also make the bag that all of these things fit into and then can also be used as an organizer to put your phone, wallet, water, and what not on the ridgeline. I make all of these items.

My biggest and toughest project was making a hammock with a zippered bug net that could be zipped off and on. It took me some time to make it, but what was neat was I could customize it to fit my needs. I call this hammock the red canoe because it looks like one when hanging alone. It works great, and I can zip the bug net on or off as needed. It has clips to help keep an underquilt in place and can be staked out for more comfort if needed.  This is my personal hammock, and I do have plans for making another one with some more modifications. I have since made a winter tarp with built-in doors for privacy and to keep the wind out. I used it last weekend for the first time, and it was great.

All of these projects would not have been possible without the help of YouTube and Ripstop by the Roll, a company out of Durham, North Carolina, where I get my materials for all of the projects, from the fabric, cordage, and accessories. They are a great company and have lots of projects you can do, and they even make kits with all of the materials that you need for a very good price. Now with the time I put in and the cost of the materials, I could probably get a hammock cheaper, but I don't think I could get one that is customized to me.  And it's just fun and a good feeling seeing the finished product in use.  While camping the other weekend, someone asked me where I got my hammock setup.  I just looked and smiled and said, "I made it."

Well, that's about it for this week.  Remember, keep shooting and get outside and enjoy life!

(Max Stansell Photography) backpacking bags blog bug nets camping hammock hiking learning Max Stansell Photography organization Photography sew stuff sacks tarps under quilt waterproof website Zippers Fri, 02 Oct 2020 09:00:00 GMT
A Little Backpacking and Two State Parks IMG_0470-EditIMG_0470-Edit Hey everyone! Hope everyone is healthy and safe. Last weekend my son and I took a trip to the mountains for a little backpacking and to visit some waterfalls. While out, we visited two North Carolina State Parks, Gorges State Park, which is the farthest from our house, and Crowders Mountain State Park. The main theme for the trip was people and crowds. It was Labor Day, one of the busiest weekends of the year.  And with the COVID virus keeping people home and hungry to get out, the crowds were heavy. Both parks were IMG_2014IMG_2014 managed very well, especially Gorges. We had a young female ranger who we came in contact with throughout the weekend, and she was professional, courteous, and informative. Very professional! We weren't in Crowders Mountain long enough to come into contact with many rangers, and they all seemed to be busy directing traffic.

We left the house in Eastern North Carolina at 7:00 in the morning for a six-hour drive to Gorges. We left on a Friday and the traffic wasn't too bad. We arrived at Gorges and went to the Visitors' Center, which was closed. I IMG_0434IMG_0434 would like to come back when it is open because it is a beautiful, very modern-looking building with a waterfall coming down one of the walls. We got back to the parking lot at the trail head and hiked into a primitive campground. It was only a 3/4 mile hike and very manageable. My son and I have taken backpacking trips in the past where we hiked 10 miles or more in, but I was healthier then. I'm trying to get back into hiking shape. OFG is what I call myself, "Old Fat Guy."  We set up our campsite, which had a small creek just behind us and a small lake nearby. We used hammocks to sleep in which are lightweight, but more importantly, they are comfortable. After setting up, we decided to hike to Rainbow Falls, which is a 1.5-mile hike to get to. The trail is MSP04650MSP04650 ranked by the park as a strenuous hike, and for a non-hiker, I would say that is accurate. My son, who works at a job where he's on his feet all day and probably puts in 25,000 steps a day, thought it was a breeze. I, however, who sit for most of the day and am out of shape, thought it was a good strenuous hike. It was a nice small waterfall, and we had a good time photographing and hanging out there. After that we hiked back and chilled out at camp, cooked dinner, and had a good night's sleep.

MSP04604_Luminar4-edit_0MSP04604_Luminar4-edit_0 Saturday we woke up, and I had figured out that White Water Falls and Dry Falls weren't too far a way. So we hiked out after some coffee and drove to Dry Falls. This is a waterfall that you can walk behind and mostly stay dry.  This was my son's first visit, and he had a blast going behind and filming the falls.  We saw Bridal Veil falls on the way.  Then we traveled to White Water Falls to see the largest waterfall in North Carolina. After that we decided to travel to Brevard and get us some lunch and then went to a local park to eat. We headed back to the campsite to relax a little, and when we got there about 2:00 the park was closed. We told the ranger that we already had our stuff at a campsite, and she told us to come back in an hour. So we went to the local country store and hung out, ate ice cream, and looked at all of the traffic. And there was a lot of traffic. After an hour, just like the ranger had said, the park was back open and we got into the park and hiked back to our site, slid into our hammocks, and took a good nap. We IMG_0473IMG_0473 decided to get up early the next morning and head to Crowders Mountain State Park.

I really slept good that night, even though the ranger had told us of a momma bear and four cubs in the area! We got up early, packed up in the dark, and hiked out under the light of a headlight. We got to the car and went to the Visitors Center to take photos of the sunrise from the observation deck. We then headed out for a 2.5-hour drive to Crowders Mountain.  But first we stopped at the country store and got ourselves a breakfast sandwich (sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit ). Best Biscuit Ever! When we arrived at Crowders Mountain, I had my son pull over so I could get a photo of the welcome sign. We had 15 or more cars pass us as I took the photo. We thought maybe there was some type of event happening since there were so many people. There were two IMG_0502IMG_0502 parking lots that were full and an overflow parking lot. We got lucky and slipped into a spot. Having never been to the park before, we just followed the crowd into the park to the Visitors Center that was closed. We hiked to a fork in the trail with two trails that go to mountain peaks. We took the shorter of the two, the Pinnacle Trail. It was a four-mile hike to the top and back, and I do mean up to the top. But if you look closely you can see the Charlotte, North Carolina skyline. After we made it back, it was a ride home.

Overall it was a great trip, and we had a ball and can't wait till the next trip, which is soon! I've got 29 of the 34 state parks visited this year, so I've got 5 to go before I reach my goal of visiting all of the North Carolina state parks in one year. We got to see some wildlife too, from a heard of buffalo, deer, snakes, and I even got to see a white squirrel. So until next time stay safe and get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) backpacking blog camping Crowders Mountain State Park dry falls Gorges State Park hammock hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography rainbow falls state parks waterfalls website white water falls Fri, 25 Sep 2020 08:07:18 GMT
Lume Cube Panel Mini Review _MSP6434-Edit_MSP6434-Edit Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is healthy and safe today.  This week's blog is a review of the Lume Cube Mini bi-color light. This is a small but powerful LED light that helps you control the color of your photos. This light is perfect for video conferencing and small lighting projects. It's about the same form factor of a business card and about 1/2 inch thick. I originally bought the Lume Cube 2.0 light and have it in my camera bag. I wanted a companion to it and almost bought another Lume Cube 2.0, but when I saw this light I thought it would be perfect. This light is great for video conferencing and for macro and tabletop photography. It can be used for video work and fill light. It is not a waterproof light like the Lume Cube, so I wouldn't recommend it for use in inclement weather. What's neat about this light is that you can control the color of the light from 3200 kelvin to 5500 kelvin to match the light that you are shooting in. Very cool! It cannot be controlled via Bluetooth like the Lume Cube, but it has a digital readout on the back of the light to tell you what your light is set at and how long much longer the battery will last. Here are the specs for the light:


Mount Type - 1/4"-20 Female _MSP6437_MSP6437

Dimensions - 3.6 x 2.2 x .5 "

Weight - 3 oz

Power Input Connector - USB Type-C

Power Source - Integrated Battery

Battery Runtime - 1.2 hours Full Power

Color Temperature - 3200 to 5600 K

Number of LEDs - 60

_MSP6453_MSP6453 I really like this light. It comes with a built-in white semi-diffused panel and an external flexible diffuser that will go over the light. Like the Lume Cube, it can be adapted to fit all sorts of mounts to include GoPro mounts, tripod traditional 1/4-20 thread. This means there are all kinds of mounts you can connect this to, and most of it you already own. I can see all kinds of situations that this little light could be used for. At around 60 bucks these little lights are affordable and could really come in handy as portable lights to use for your photography and video needs. 

So until next week get out and shoot!


(Max Stansell Photography) bi-color blog learning LED light Lume Cube macro Max Stansell Photography Photography tabletop video website Fri, 18 Sep 2020 08:20:30 GMT
Inexpensive Things to Spark Your Photography Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing fine today and are safe, healthy, and inspired. As you all know I sometimes have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), the act of buying expensive gear to take photos with. This blog is about inexpensive things that can spark your creativity instead of buying a new body or lens. I got this idea from a podcast that I listen to, "The Digital Story," by Derrick Story who gave his ideas of inexpensive things, so I'll  use some of his ideas and some of mine also. It only takes something different to spark creativity, and you can think of these ideas as anti-GAS items. Most of these things are less than 100 dollars, or at least in that ballpark, and can spark some kind of creativity. We all can get in a rut sometimes where we seem to take the same kinds of photos that we always do, or we just get bored and don't even pick up the camera. This could be for weeks or months on end, but we must recognize it and do something to correct it. Sometimes it's big gear that we need, like a lens or a new body, but it can be something small too to get those creative juices going again. So let's start with the list. This list is in no particular order, just what popped up into my head first.

1. A new LED light. I have just done a blog on the Lume Cube 2.0, but there is also the Mini from them also. Any brand will do.  These lights are portable and can be used in all kinds of situations, like tabletop photography if you're worried about going outside or for extra lighting when you're out in the woods for fill lighting.  They can also be used for light painting while doing astrophotography. It's just something to get you thinking more creatively.

2. How about a new camera strap or attachment system? I am not a camera strap guy. I don't like the camera hanging around my neck or shoulder, but sometimes its more convenient to wear one. I use the Peak Design system for all of my straps. Personally, I use a wrist strap 99 percent of the time, but what I like about the Peak Design system is the ease of changing or taking the straps off with their unique attachment system. When I'm using a tripod, I don't like to have the strap dangling from my camera giving me movement if the wind is blowing, so I can easily detach it from the camera in a second. They also make easily-detachable and secure clips to put the camera on a backpack strap or your belt, which makes hiking or whatever else you're doing hands-free and allows you to easily get into different locations.  I think a new camera strap or system or even a case, like a leather half case, can get you looking at the camera differently and taking it with you more, thus taking more photographs and being more creative.

3. Neutral Density Filter, A ND Filter can be a very creative tool, used to slow down the shutter to create motion blur. It's commonly used on running water but can be used on all kinds of things like clouds and other moving subjects. This tool, which can be commonly found for $100 or less, comes in different degrees of density measured in stops. 10 stops is darker than 3 stops. I carry 3 with me a 2, 6, 8 stop filter. Usually, the more expensive the better the filter.  I use Breakthrough Photography filters, but there are others that will work fine. A ND filter can make a ho-hum scene, like a barn with puffy clouds, look mysterious with streaking clouds coming over the barn. It can even make people disappear. If you're at a busy crowded scene, you can put on a 10 stop filter and let it go for 20 seconds or more, and the people that are moving just disappear. It's a magical tool and every photographer should have one.

4. Small tripod or stand. I have a platypod plate that I got, and it's like a small tripod that will easily fit into your bag and will give you a stable platform on the fly.  You could also get a Jobo tripod that is small and will do the trick. Small tripods come in handy, and when used usually give you a different perspective of what you're shooting, usually from down low. Go out and try to take only tripod shots from a little tripod and you'll discover a whole new world that you've just been passing by. You can easily get one of these devices for 100 bucks or less.  Make sure to size it to your camera size.  If you have a large DSLR, you will need a larger one than if you're shooting a mirrorless camera that is smaller.

5. New Software. Try getting some new software to add to whatever you're already doing in your editing software now.  I am a Lightroom and Photoshop user, but I purchased Luminar editing software and run it as a plugin in Lightroom. It has features that Lightroom doesn't, and I can easily go back and forth between Lightroom and Luminar. It has lots of AI (Artificial Intelligence), so it can do stuff like replace skies, make fog, make sunbursts, and lots of stuff for portraits also. It runs about 80 bucks and is worth every penny.  It can super charge your creative mojo while you're editing.

6. How about a vintage lens?  Maybe an old lens from the system you're using or another company. Manual focus is a plus. If you're using a mirrorless camera, you can get an adapter for 20 or so bucks and put almost anything on your camera and use it. You can easily pick up one of these from a pawn shop or yard sale or eBay and really cheap also. I use a vintage Nikon macro lens for my macro work on my Sony. I have a cheap adapter that I got for under 20 bucks and it works great. So I have a macro set up for about 150 bucks that has a max aperture of f2.8. These old lenses can really make shooting fun. Everything is manual so everything slows down. These are film lenses and may not be as sharp as the newer ones, but they have character that newer lenses don't have. _MSP9732_MSP9732

7. 5x7 Picture Frames.  Simple, cheap black picture frames are a great way to get you started taking photos again. I have about 10 or so in my little office/studio/gear closet/laundry room. LOL This is a room I took over after my daughter moved out of the house.  It's what I call "my room."  I have a little photo gallery, and I change the photos every couple of months. I'm way behind on this. But photos look good in a plain black frame. Everyone has some sort of printer that they can print a 5x7 on. And while I'm talking about printing, there are all sorts of different types of paper you can print on, and different papers will give you different looks. These plain frames are cheap, and printing your best work from the last month or so and displaying it (even if it's only for you) is kind of cool. So this one you got a two for one - frames and papers.

As you can see, there are all kinds of things that you can do to get your photography jump started.  I've listed a few, but I'll bet you have a few more that could help someone or yourself. Most of all of these things can be purchased from Amazon or any of the photography sites like B&H or Adorama. So get your creative MOJO going again and get out and start shooting. Until next week stay safe, healthy, and creative. 




(Max Stansell Photography) Astro blog clips Creativity driven Frames gear inexpensive learning LED lenses Lights LumeCube Max Stansell Photography MOJO ND Filters passionate peak design Photography platypus printing paper rut straps tripod vintage website Fri, 11 Sep 2020 09:00:00 GMT
Sony 70-350 Lens Review Hey Everyone. I hope everybody is healthy and safe today. Today I want to talk about my newest lens that I got a couple of months ago. It's the Sony 70-350mm f4.5-6.5 G lens, and its effective focal distance as compared to a full frame is 100-525mm. Most of the time, three zoom lenses for landscape and travel photography. This one replaces one I used to carry, a Canon 70-200 f4 L lens.  I used the Canon with an adapter so it would fit my Sony camera. It is a fantastic lens in itself with pin-sharp images and great contrast. I have some great photos with it, but I also lost some photos because of it. With an adapted lens, the focusing becomes slower and not as accurate as it will sometimes "hunt" back and forth before it finds focus.  With an effective full-frame focal range of 100-300mm, it was too short for any wildlife I might happen to come upon unless it was in a controlled environment like a zoo. So I wanted something that would be faster and with a little bit longer reach that wouldn't kill me in the wallet. Sony has some full-frame stuff, but they are more expensive and heavier than crop sensor lenses that are made just for a crop sensor camera like mine. But a little while ago Sony came out with this lens, and I was waiting for the right time to get it.  Let me give you some of the specs of the Sony 70-350 lens.

Key Features:

  • E-Mount Lens/APS-C Format
  • 105-525mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Aperture Range: f/4.5 to f/32
  • One Aspherical Element
  • Three Extra-Low Dispersion Elements
  • XD Linear Motor AF System
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • 7-Blade Diaphragm

As you can see, it is a "G" series lens which means the build quality is very good. It feels solid in the hand. Sony's highest quality is "G Master," but that is only for lenses for full-frame cameras at the moment. It has built-in image stabilization, so if I'm using it with my Sony A6300 that doesn't have stabilization, it will be stabilized.  And if I'm using it with my Sony A6500 that is stabilized, it will work in conjunction with that camera also. It has an XD linear motor for autofocusing, which is the fastest you can get, and it works well with my Sony A6500 which is a few years old.  However, when I upgrade to a newer body it will be even faster. This lens is smaller, lighter, and has a farther reach than the Canon that I was using. The only maybe negative that it has is the f4.5-6.5 minimum focusing aperture. With cameras that can handle higher ISO's like all of the cameras in the last couple of years, I really don't see this as being a problem with getting enough light in. I have used it for a couple of months and have not lost a shot because of this.

Shooting this lens is a dream. It's lighter weight makes it more manageable than physically larger and heavier lenses, and its reach is about all I can handle or want. It has a lens lock on the side that keeps it from creeping open like some larger lenses do.  Out of the box it doesn't creep at all, but later in life it might. It has three other buttons on it:  a  manual/autofocus switch and a switch to turn on OSS (optical steady shot) or turn it off, and a third button is a focus lock button that I think you can program to do other things also. I really haven't used it yet or seen a use for it, but maybe later I will. I always like the saying, "Better to have and not need than to need and not have."  It also comes with a lens hood.  This lens is sharp and fast focusing, and if you're a Sony crop sensor shooter like me, it's a must-have. I highly recommend this lens.

So until next week please stay safe and get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) 70-350 blog Camera crop landscape learning lens Max Stansell Photography Optical OSS Photography sensor Shot Sony Steady telephoto website wildlife zoom Fri, 04 Sep 2020 09:00:00 GMT
Where's Your Gallery? Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. Where's your gallery? What a question. I thought of this at my virtual camera club meeting when we were discussing a local exhibit that we were going to put our photos in.  And I got to thinking, why would I go to the effort of printing a large print of something, frame it, and get it ready to hang?  I'm not trying to sell it. The local Arts Council, although nice, is small and doesn't get that much traffic. So I started wondering about galleries and the purpose of showing off your art there. I guess most of us dream of being a professional photographer, traveling the world, and living off of our art like the people we see on YouTube or Instagram. But the truth is 99.9 % of us are never going to make this into a profession. I know I'm not and really don't want to.  I love taking photographs, the act of it. The photo is the byproduct of the shoot to me. The experience of traveling or seeing something new is what I treasure. I am and always will be an amateur. And I'm okay with that. I'm also okay with people that want to be professional or semi-professional or just do it on the side for a few bucks. Well, I see I've gotten off on a tangent. Back to galleries.  

My galleries, I guess, are Instagram, Flickr, and occasionally Facebook. I also consider my house a gallery,  and I like to hang my work around the house as well as photos of family and friends.  Within the last couple of years, I've been making a Year in Review book of my work that I hope will be handed down through the generations of my family.

Instagram- If you follow me you know that I post to Instagram daily or at least try to. If you want to keep up with my work, it is here that you should go. I like the interaction and all of the great photos you can see there. But it has been acquired by Facebook, my least favorite place to post photographs. I don't like the way that they compress the photos, and sometimes they look blurry when they are not blurry. But for right now Instagram is doing fine, so I'll keep posting for now.

Facebook- I used to post most of my stuff to Facebook, but then I don't like the compression, like I mentioned before.  I do like all of the social interaction that you get with everyone, but there is a lot of negativity happening on Facebook that I don't like.  I usually check Facebook once in the morning and once in the evening. Other than that I try not to look at Facebook too much.

Flickr- In the early-2000s I started posting to Flickr. I don't post much anymore because it has changed hands a couple of times. However, in the last year or so it has been bought by SmugMug, which is a great photography company.  I've got a feeling that this will become my next daily-post platform. I love the way my photos look on Flickr and all of the groups that you can join.

500 PX - Another platform that I have occasionally posted to but not in a while, and I don't know why.  Your photos look great and there is a lot to look at. When I go to a new place, this is one of the sites I go to so I can see what other people have posted and what's already out there.

I do think that you should share your work, but formal galleries may not be the place to go for most of us. I do think it is important to print your best work. But for most of us, I think that an online gallery is the best choice and maybe the best way to get others to see our work.  Social media is big in our culture now, and photography is a big part of it. So sites like Flickr, 500 Px, Instagram, and even Facebook are some places to have your online gallery. Being a photographer is more than what you can do to make money, and formal galleries, to me, are geared toward making money in some form or fashion. So I will not be submitting photos to be hung in a gallery this time with our club. To tell you the truth, I don't think I have anything that is formal gallery worthy. For those who want to see their art hung in a formal gallery, I think that's great, and it is fun the first time you see your work on a wall. Well, that's my two cents on that subject. Until next week keep shooting and get outside.

(Max Stansell Photography) 500PX blog facebook Flickr gallery instagram learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Printing Prints sharing website workshops Fri, 28 Aug 2020 08:20:34 GMT
My Landscape Lens Setup Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. This week's blog is about my landscaping lens setup and what I think a good setup is. I am primarily a landscape/travel photographer. I like getting out in the woods, setting up my tripod, and waiting for the shot; or at a sunset or waterfall and setting up my composure; and going to town and trying all kinds of different things to get that perfect shot. The lens setup that I have might not be right for you. My landscaping lens setup is an ongoing evolution and will change in the future as I try to get that perfect lens setup. Now some landscape photographers shoot wide, wide, wide and that's all they shoot. So a 16-35 mm lens might be all they carry. Some might carry a wide-angle and a telephoto to get both ends of the focal ranges. I'm not that way. I like taking wide as well as telephoto for tight detail shots and in-between shots too. I shoot a Sony crop sensor camera, so my specific lens choice might not be right for you. But the focal range should be able to be matched up with what you may have. Another choice I have made is to keep my minimum aperture at f4. I do this for a couple of reasons. First of all, as a landscape photographer, I don't need the wide-open apertures like a portrait photographer would. The f2.8 lenses are great for portraits, but most of my photography is shot at f8 or smaller like f11. I usually want the biggest depth of field (what's in focus) that I can get. The f4 lenses are also lighter than the larger aperture lenses. The second reason is that I shoot a crop sensor camera and I try to use crop sensor lenses which make them smaller in size.  And the really big reason is that there were not any large aperture lenses made especially for crop sensors until recently for the Sony that I shoot. I also shoot zoom lenses for the flexibility that they provide. Primes are great, but you don't always have the chance to use your feet to zoom in the woods. So let's get to the lenses.

My first lens is the wide-angle lens. A Sony 10-18mm f4, a 15 to 27mm full-frame equivalent.  This is a small and sharp lens. I use this lens a lot! I use it for waterfalls and wide-open shots when I want to show the vastness of a scene. This type of lens is the staple of any landscape photographer's bag of tricks. What I like about this lens is that I can get really close up to subjects like a flower and get that distorted look that only a wide-angle lens can give you. This lens is also great in tight spaces. Some trails can be small and tight, and this lens will give you the room to shoot. So it's great for hiking.

My next lens is my middle-range lens.  It's the Sony/Zeiss 16-70 f4, a 24-105mm full-frame equivalent. This is a super walking-around lens. This is an older lens, but mine is very sharp and still works well.  I use it for waterfalls, for small detail shots, and just general shots. When you're hiking and come to a clearing with maybe an overlook, this is the lens to use. You can get the wide shots at the 16mm range and a small telephoto with the 70mm range. This is also a great lens for walking around your favorite trail town. The size is small to medium and is easy to handle all day walking around. I do have my eye out for a larger aperture lens that Sony just came out with that will give me a 2.8 aperture. But for now, this lens gets the job done and that's the important part.

My last lens is my long lens. It's a Sony 70-350mm f4.5-6.5, which is a 100-525mm full-frame equivalent. This is my newest lens and I plan to have a blog to review it later on. The long lens I used to have was a Canon 70-200 f4L lens, but I wanted some more reach for those times when wildlife happens. So far I have fallen in love with this lens. It is sharp and quick to focus. I use it for isolation shots at long range. It is a larger lens, especially for my crop sensor, but it isn't really long. It's shorter than the 70-200 lens that I had before and much lighter. It's not the brightest lens with its smaller aperture range. But with the newer cameras capable of shooting at higher ISO's, this is not as much of a problem.

I do have one other accessory lens only used for a specific purpose. When I do astrophotography I use a Rokinon 12mm f2.0 manual focus lens. This is a fantastic lens and almost became my all-around wide angle but was edged out by the Sony. This lens is great for astrophotography.  It's sharp, small, and bright. At f2.0 it lets in lots of light which is needed when shooting in the dark. It is a manual focusing lens that works well for astrophotography. It is an inexpensive lens also coming in at just a couple hundred bucks. If you don't have a wide-angle lens and are on a budget, this is the lens for you. It comes in all kinds of mounts for any camera. Of course, I have it in the Sony E Mount.

Lenses are the eyes of our cameras and to me the most important. If you have to invest in your kit, this is the place to do it.  A good lens can last for decades. So get out and shoot some landscapes and have some fun in nature. Until next week get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) aperture Astro-Photography blog brightness Canon focal point Focusing Hiking Landscape learning lens Max Stansell Photography Photography Rokinon Sharpness Sony Telephoto website wide angle workshops Fri, 21 Aug 2020 09:00:00 GMT
One Week -- Nine State Parks Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is healthy and safe today! This week's blog is about a trip I took a few weeks ago to get to as many state parks as I could in one week. I have a personal project to visit all of the state parks in North Carolina in one year. I have visited a lot of them already, but I wanted to visit all of them in one calendar year. There are 34 state parks and 7 recreation areas that I had planned to visit on weekend trips.  Shouldn't be a problem until Covid-19 showed up and shut down the parks for a few months. Well actually here in North Carolina everything shut down for a couple of months and some stuff is still shut down.  At my work all vacations were canceled, like we would have somewhere to go, so I had some extra vacation. So when the parks opened back up for camping, I configured a week-long camping trip that would take me to 10 state parks to make up for the ones that I missed during the lockdown. My wife, Forrest, and myself took our teardrop trailer for our trip and had four different camping spots reserved.

The first leg of our trip we headed out "on time," which never happens.  We drove to Haw River State Park for our first state park. There we took a lovely walk around the lake and had lunch there. After lunch we went to Mayo River State Park where we actually did the same thing hiking around a lake.  Of course we were taking photos during the whole time. Our last stop was to Hanging Rock State Park where we were scheduled to be for two nights camping. While there we hiked and enjoyed ourselves camping. I got to use a new solar panel kit to try to keep my teardrop battery charged and it worked well. We did not have electric power at this campsite.

The second leg of our trip we left on time again, a really great job to my wife. When we headed out we went to Pilot Mountain State Park where we went to the observation deck and had great views. After that we went to Stone Mountain State Park where we had lunch and hiked to a historic farm site at the base of Stone Mountain. We then took off to New River State Park the furthest point of our trip. This is one of the parks that I haven't visited yet, and I was really surprised at how nice the campground was and the park in general. The trails were nice and well-maintained. We stayed there for two nights where we had an electric hookup and were able to enjoy the A/C in our little trailer, although this was the coolest spot on our trip. While we were there we took a trip to Elk Knob State Park where again I was pleasantly surprised by the small trail that we hiked and how well it was maintained. On our way back to New River State Park, we stopped at Mount Jefferson Recreation Area at one of the lookouts overlooking Jefferson, North Carolina. I can easily say that this was my favorite leg of this trip with cooler temps, and weather matters when you're camping.

The third leg of our trip started out not so good. We actually left on time, filled our trailer up with water, and were on our way. But the fog was going to be a problem. We were scheduled to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Aquaduct by Grandfather Mountain State Park. But when we got up on the Parkway, it was fogged in and we drove for about 20 minutes on winding, foggy roads with no views. So we canned that part of the trip and went straight to Lake Norman State Park where we were scheduled to be for two nights. We had a nice spot but the temp was hot, hot. We had no electric hookup so no A/C, but we did have a battery-powered fan that we ran off of our RV that helped a little. We did a 2.5-mile hike on the morning of the first day and saw lots of deer. The lake was pretty, but it was hot. We drove into Statesville to cool off in the car and went to Walmart and got some supplies and water. Back at our trailer we did have lots of TV channels on our TV, so we could do that and we had a pretty good cell signal.

The last leg of our trip was to Morrow Mountain State Park. This is a park that we had visited and camped at in the past and had fond memories of. We were scheduled to be here only one night. But the difference was that when we visited before it was in cooler weather. When we arrived at Morrow Mountain, the heat index was 105 and very hot and sticky. The campground was half empty. When we arrived we partly set up, as we were only going to be there one night, and tried to stay cool. It was too hot to hike and even Forrest got under the trailer to try to hide from the heat. After a few hours of this, my wife and I figured that we were only three hours from home and A/C,  so we decided to leave and go home. So we packed up all of our stuff and headed home. This was maybe the best decision that we made because the extra day of rest before going to work was really needed.

So that's how we went to nine state parks in one week. We had a good time and enjoyed the sites. I have visited 25 parks so far and have 9 more to go.  It will take me four or five three-day weekends to reach the parks that I haven't gotten to, but hopefully I'll meet my goal. Please go out and visit your local state park. You might be surprised like I was of all the things there to do. So until next week, get out and shoot!


(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camping gear heat hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography personal Project Photography state Parks website Fri, 14 Aug 2020 08:13:47 GMT
Gear Review Lume Cube 2.0 Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing well. Today is a review of a new addition to my camera bag -- the Lume Cube 2.0. This is an LED-controllable light that can be described in two words -- small and powerful! This is a small, rugged, waterproof, and powerful light that is perfect for the landscape photographer. But to tell you the truth, I really didn't buy it at first for my bag or landscape photography. I bought it for video. With the way our society is now with the Covid-19 social distancing rules, video meetings are starting to be the norm. So I initially got it to shine on me when I was video conferencing. But when I got it I quickly figured out how versatile this light was. It quickly found a place in my bag. It comes with a 1/4 20 thread tripod mount that will go right to the hotshot of your camera for fill light in darker places. And with a cheap adapter you can make this light fit on all of your GoPro mounts and tripods. I rigged a suction cup mount to fit on the back of my monitor, and the light fits right to it to shine on me as I video conference. Let me go over what you get when you get this neat package.

In the package you get the cube light in, you get a USB-C adapter cord to charge the battery. You also get an adapter to fit on the front of the cube that is magnetized. It comes with two gels. One is a white defuser and the other is a warming gel.They use magnets and just stick on the front of the light. You can buy other gels and accessories for the light like a barn door or a shoot-through snoot. Here are a few of the specs of the Lume Cube.

  • 1.6" x 1.6" size (approx. the size of a golf ball)
  • True Daylight Balanced 5600K Color Temp & 95+ CRI
  • Custom Lens /w 80º Beam Angle and ZERO Hot Spots
  • USB-C Charging
  • Durable Aluminum Body & Water to 30 feet
  • 750 LUX @ 1M
  • 1.5 Hour Run Time @ 100% Output
  • 2 Button Control System (increase & decrease brightness manually)
  • Wirelessly Control via Lume-X iPhone/Android App from 60 feet away
  • 360º Optical Sensor for Slave Flash Capability
  • Built-in 1/4" 20 for Tripod Mounting
  • Low Light Mode (adjust in 1% increments) for Night Photography
  • Accessories Included (Shoe Mount, Warming Gel, Diffuser, etc) 

To wirelessly hook up to the light with your phone is easy using Bluetooth, and you can control the intensity of the light with a slider. You can choose if it's for video or photo. It also has an optical trigger for using with flash for fill flash. So if you have an onboard flash on your camera, you could control the trigger with your camera. You could also use this light with small light painting projects for foreground interest in astro photography.  I've always wanted to take a small flash in my bag, but it was too cumbersome with batteries and triggering the flash if its off-camera. But with this little light the size of a golfball, I now have extra light that I can control with a slider on my phone. It can hook up to any tripod or GoPro mount I have that makes it very easy to use in the field. Being waterproof is another plus for the landscape photographer. It is built like a tank. I have been talking about all of the uses for landscape photography, but it could also be awesome for tabletop photography.  I'm thinking about getting another one and doing all of my tabletop photography with them. As you can tell, I am very excited about this little light and I think you should be too. It would be a great addition to any photographer's kit, no matter what type of photography you do.

As you can tell, I highly recommend this small LED light to expand your photography kit to make you a better photographer. So until next week stay safe, keep shooting, and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) 2.0 blog bluetooth Camera Cube gels kit Landscape learning LED Lume Max Stansell Photography Off Camera Light Photography table top USB-C waterproof website wireless workshops Fri, 07 Aug 2020 08:06:52 GMT
What Camera Mode to Shoot In Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. Today's topic is what camera mode should you shoot in? Let's go back in time a bit. When I started using an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera, it was a manual camera that you had to kind of figure out how to shoot. This was before digital so you had to shoot a roll of film, send it off to get developed, and then see what worked and what didn't. You also had to take notes because there was nothing to tell you on the film negative what your settings were. But I learned and became pretty good at getting a properly exposed photo. I shot like this for years. When I finally went digital Technology had flown past me and I had to learn the other modes like aperture priority, shutter priority, and all of the camera settings that you can get now. It is actually overwhelming how many camera modes there are now. But what is right for you? I am a firm believer that you, as a photographer, should know how your camera works. How a photograph is exposed and the exposure triangle. That said, I don't shoot in manual all of the time now, but it is because I know how I can revert back to it when I need it.

So what do I shoot in? Ninety percent of the time I'm shooting in aperture priority. I set the aperture and the camera does the rest. I set the depth of field for the shot I want, and I let the camera make the decisions on what my ISO and shutter speed are going to be.  We pay a lot for our cameras and they have powerful computers on board to make decisions to get a properly-exposed photograph. And 80 to 90 percent of the time they get it dead on. It's that other 20 percent that we have to take over and fix what the computer is fooled by. That's why I think when you're a beginner you should shoot in manual all the time until you fully understand what you are doing. Then you can change to one of the other modes on your camera and not worry about what setting you have. You can just shoot and compose your shots. The other 10 percent of the time I'm shooting in manual mode, usually when I'm using a tripod and working slowly and methodically or when I'm using studio lights. Other than that I'm in aperture priority. But that's just me. There are tons of other shooting modes that can be found on almost any camera from a point and shoot to a DSLR. So let's talk about some of these.

The MetroThe MetroCommuters waiting for the Metro in Washington DC. Shutter priority is when you set your shutter speed and let your camera make all of the other decisions like aperture and ISO.  This mode would be good to use if you're trying to show motion, like a car passing by and blurring out. Or just the opposite, it could be set really high so you don't get the blur, maybe for shooting flying birds. Now shooting in manual, aperture priority, or shutter priority you still shoot in raw, but most of the other modes your camera puts you into shooting JPEGs. So you might want to take that into consideration before you use them. But some of them are great. For instance, fireworks, soft focus, underwater, background de-focus, water painting effect, fish eye effect, handheld night scene, stars, portrait, panning, panorama, self-portrait. These are just ones I pulled off of my Canon G7XII. They are all self-explanatory, like for shooting fireworks you use the firework mode. For nighttime, you use the hand-held mode. ISO for shooting dark night scenes that are handheld, not on a tripod. Some of these modes will take multiple shots and combine them to give you the best photo. All of these modes are found under the scene setting on my camera and should be under something similar on your camera. So out of all of these, what is the best mode to shoot with? Well, it just depends. It depends on what kind of photographer you are, it depends on what you're shooting, it depends on your experience as a photographer. It just depends on lots of things. But one thing is for sure. You should know the basics first and then experiment with the other ones. So figure out what is best for you and get out there and shoot. So until next time, get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) Aperture blog fireworks learning Manual Max Stansell Photography mode Photography Scene shooting Mode Shutter sports website workshops Fri, 31 Jul 2020 08:15:56 GMT
Photographer’s Are the Ultimate Scavenger Hunters Max Stansell Photography Hey everyone! Hope ya'll are doing well and are healthy and safe. What's up with the title this week, "Photographers Are the Ultimate Scavenger Hunters"? Well this again might just be a me thing.  But I think that to be a good photographer you need to be able to pick out subjects or scenes out of your larger field of view.  In my real job I commute to a lot to different towns and places and do quite a bit of driving.  But while I'm doing that I'm framing different shots as I go with my eyes. And it's not just when I'm driving. I do it all of the time. Looking for leading lines, putting the subject of whatever I'm looking at on the 1/3 line. I think photographers as a whole tend to see in photographs. At least I do. I think it's a lot like a scavenger hunt, looking for different things in everyday scenes to pick out and shoot.

Have you ever done a photographic scavenger hunt?  It's pretty fun. You and some friends or maybe your camera club can do this. You don't need fancy equipment or a camera. A phone will do. Then make a list of things to find or shoot. Maybe a portrait of a stranger, shoot through Goldsboro Fire HouseGoldsboro Fire House something, a pair of something, you get the picture. LOL  Then just set up a time frame, maybe a couple of hours, and the location it will be shot like downtown. Then everyone goes off in a different direction looking for the items on the list. After everyone is done you can get together and compare, and you will be surprised of all of the different photos you will have for the same subject. It's pretty fun and you can see how other people see things also.

When you're taking a trip with the family and you have a long car ride, look around and see what kind of  photos you can take with just your eyes. It doesn't have to be a grand photo, but maybe an opening through a fence or maybe a horse grazing in a field. Work the scene with your eyes and your mind's eye on how you would frame up the subject and how it would look in the end. You can do this in a split second. Then move to the next thing, a farm house sitting on a hill. Man on a bicycle. Just keep going. What your are doing is getting your photographic eye in shape, putting it through a workout if you will. So the next time you're out with your camera, your photographic eye takes over and you only see in pictures and photographs. And you can quickly pick out the important things in a scene without struggling for a composition. Like anything it takes lots of practice, but it will help you in the long run. You might even see something that you just can't pass up and have to stop that car and make the shot that you've seen.

Cotton Sail HotelCotton Sail HotelCotton Sail Hotel, Savannah Ga on River St. Another way to develop your photographic eye is to look at others' photographs. Looking at sites like Flickr, 500px, and Instagram can help you improve your mind's eye. Other people post photographs that are their best ones or they wouldn't have posted them, and looking at these over and over again will help you develop the way you look at things and the way that you want to see things. So be a scavenger and look at as many things as you can as a photographer to develop your photographic eye. Try to pick other photographers' photographs apart, try to see what they saw and how they took the photograph to improve your own.

Well that's enough for this topic. Until next week keep shooting and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog learning Max Stansell Photography photographers eye photographs Photography website workshops Fri, 24 Jul 2020 08:25:19 GMT
Landscape Photographers "Leave No Trace" Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is healthy and safe. Photographers are tearing up the landscapes we love. With the growing popularity of photography and landscape photography, new photographers are going to the places we love to get their selfies, tearing up the landscape as they go. The popularity of social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and such are having people in hoards going to our national and state parks, and that's a good thing if they follow the simple rule to take only photos and leave only footprints. But many are wandering off of the beaten trail and leaving behind trash, and the sheer number of people can trample our beloved special places, all to get likes or followers on social media! There is a right way and a wrong way to do things when you're out in nature, and this blog will cover some of the basic principles of "Leave No Trace."

Leave No Trace has been around for years and isn't just a politically correct statement that is popular. I was taught this in Scouts 50 years ago. Outdoor enthusiasts have been practicing this for years, but with the onslaught of the internet, we have brought new people to the wilderness that haven't ever strayed from their local Starbucks. But now, because they saw a post on Instagram, they just had to have a selfie at Mesa Arch. According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, there are seven principles to Leave No Trace. They are: 

1. Plan ahead and prepare.

2. Travel on durable surfaces.

3. Dispose of waste properly.

4. Leave what you find.

5. Minimize campfire impacts.

6. Respect wildlife.

7. Be considerate of others.

Do all of these really relate to a day photography trip? Most of them do. We were given a great gift with the national parks and forests and the state parks and nature reserves. We need to be stewards of the land that was given to us so we can give it and its natural beauty to the ones that follow us in the future.  If we don't they could be gone forever, and our grandchildren and their grandchildren will never know the beauty of our great nation.  Forest rangers aren't there to pick up after us like we are at a hotel. That's not their job. It's yours and mine! So let's go through the principles from a photographer's perspective.

1. Plan and prepare ahead of time. If you're going to the wilderness, look for trail maps and find out the rules of the place you're going to. There may be special rules in the area to protect some species of plant or wildlife that you don't know about.  2. Travel on durable surfaces.  That means stay on the trail making the least amount of impact as possible to the environment. With the amount of people going into the wilderness areas now, this is especially  important.  We don't want to trample the area like a herd of elephants. This is a big one. 3. Dispose of waste properly!  I have been five miles off the beaten path in the middle of the Smokeys and found a gum wrapper! Haul all of your trash with you out of an area. If you eat a power bar, take the wrapper with you when you leave. I won't even get into what backpackers do when they have to use the bathroom in the wilderness. Just take your trash out, please.  4. Leave what you find. Don't take anything natural out of the park for a souvenir.  By doing so you're stealing the beauty from the park. Leave it for someone else. Don't take plants out of the parks. You could be spreading diseased plants and accidentally spread it to your house. Leave them, please. 5. Respect wildlife.  Give them plenty of space. Bears, elk, moose, snakes, and all kinds of critters need their space. Remember, you're in their house, so respect their house. Give them the distance they deserve and they will most likely leave you alone.  6. Be considerate of others. We all want to see the beauty of the forest or natural wildlife scene.  Don't ruin it for others by carving your initials into a tree for everyone to see. Nobody wants to see it. Remember, the place that you are in is fragile and must be cared for so others will enjoy it also.  7. And lastly I don't think there is any reason to talk about campfires, but if you do have one, follow all of the rules where you are at.  You don't want to start a forest fire.

Common sense is what's needed here. Do unto others and all of that. I know of a lot of famous photographers who do not give the location of where they got the great shots and scenes from just for the reason that the masses will come and destroy them. Nick Page, a pretty popular photographer, puts Mesa Arch on all of his photographs just so people won't go to where he photographed them. Not because he wants to keep the place for himself, but because he wants to protect them. I don't go to that extreme. However, if I'm at a tourist location, I'll give the name, say, the Wright Brothers Memorial. But if I'm not and I think that the place is fragile, I'll just put North Carolina for the location. Not that I'm popular and people are looking, but just in case someone wants to go to that place they will have to do the research to find it and maybe that will keep them from trashing it.

Well, that's pretty much it for this topic. Please take care of the land. There isn't any really being made at the moment, so we must take care of what we have. Until next week, keep shooting and get outside!


(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camping conservation hiking Landscape learning leave no trace lightroom Max Stansell Photography Nature Photography website workshops Fri, 17 Jul 2020 09:00:00 GMT
How to "Slowly" upgrade your Photo Equipment Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is healthy and safe.  As you know photography is an expensive hobby. Unless you're one of the lucky ones and have a disposable income, acquiring good gear may take a while. That is a good thing, because if you just went out and got what everyone else says is the best gear, you might be disappointed because it might not be right for you. Gear is personal because I think that photography is art, and the gear we use is just the tools we use to make that art. And artists use all kinds of tools to make their art.

Photography gear has changed in recent years and is more complicated than it used to be. Back in the film days you got a camera body and you used it for 20 years.  There was really no upgrade to do. It was all mechanical. But since the digital age has come there are upgrades every year, and people are upgrading (in my opinion too soon) every couple of years. That's expensive and maybe not as mush needed as it used to be in the early days of digital. My advice is to take your time, be patient, and research before you make the decision.  Slowly upgrade your equipment one piece at a time. Here's what I mean.

_MSP6316_MSP6316 Most of us invest in a first camera in some kind of kit where they give you a cheap lens along with your camera body. My advice is to use that cheap lens until you can save enough money to upgrade the kit lens. Take your time and research which lens you want to upgrade to. Learn to use that cheap lens until you think it's causing you to not be able to get the shots you want to get. The same can be said for camera bodies.  Use the body until you think it is hurting your photography. The camera bodies that I am using are about four camera body versions behind the newest versions. But I'm sticking with the one I have until I think it's not doing the job for me and I need an upgrade. Sure, the newest ones do all kinds of neat things with all of their bells and whistles, but for the type of photography I do (landscape/travel), I really don't need that animal eye detection or that 4K video mode or so many frames per second. And when you upgrade a body or lens, it doesn't have to be a brand new one. You can upgrade to a used lens or body. In my kit, for example, the main body I use was purchased used, and two out of my three main lenses were bought used. I did just upgrade my long telephoto lens, only for one reason. I wasn't getting the shots I 11-sony-a630011-sony-a6300 wanted because the reach on the one I had was too short in my opinion to get that occasional wildlife or long-range shot. So I put away a little cash each week, and when I got enough and did all of the research, I purchased a new one. I will probably sell my old one before too long to offset the cost of maybe something else. Tip, when buying from a local camera shop, you may be able to trade in old camera gear for store credit to help you upgrade to newer systems. You might not get what you would if you sold it outright, but sometimes it's hard to sell on eBay or to friends. When I switched from Nikon to Sony, it took a while to sell all of my Nikon gear, but I eventually did and used that money to upgrade kit lenses I had with my Sony gear. The point I'm getting to is that upgrading is a slow and ongoing process that never ends. I have a great kit now, but it took me a long time to get there. I will be upgrading in the future, but it will be slow and methodical, which will save me money and frustration in the future.

Well, that's enough for this time. Slow and steady is the course for upgrading camera and photography gear. So get out and use that gear, and keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camera gear invest kit learning lens Max Stansell Photography money Photography upgrade website workshops Fri, 10 Jul 2020 07:56:13 GMT
Do I need to upgrade to full frame? Hey everyone!  Hope everyone is healthy and safe. This week's topic is about upgrading your camera kit to a full frame sensor camera set up.  Is the grass always greener on the other side?  As photographers we are always looking for an advantage or something to make our photographs better.  Buying new gear is something we think will improve our photography.  I am no different than any of you.  I love gear and do have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome).  Nowadays, I try to do it smarter and research instead of emotionally making decisions about gear.  Almost every YouTube video by your favorite photographers praise the advantages of full frame cameras over smaller sensor cameras.  But they are all professionals or professional-want-to-be's and make their living from photography.  I am not.  I am a hobbyist and do photography just for me. So do I need to go by the same standards that professionals go by?  I have owned and used both full frame and crop sensor cameras and will give you my take on this subject.  Today we're going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of full frame cameras and the questions you should ask yourself before you buy one.

Advantages of Full Frame.  There are lots of advantages of full frame cameras, especially if you make your Living as a professional Photographer and depend on your equipment to put food on your table.  Full frame cameras tend to be built better than their smaller sensor counterparts.  They are heavy duty and sometimes built like a tank.  They tend to be better weather sealed in most cases to keep dust and moisture out in rugged weather conditions.  Larger sensor cameras collect more light than smaller sensors, so they are better in low-light conditions.  They can have more resolution with massive amounts of megapixels, and you can print larger prints.  Depth of field (the amount of what is in focus in the frame) is shallower.  They are great cameras and perform well under many circumstances.

My Camera'sMy Camera's Disadvantages of Full Frame.  There are some disadvantages of full frame also that aren't talked about as much as advantages are on YouTube videos.  Full frame cameras have large files.  The files take up lots of space on your computer, and your computer needs to be pretty fast to edit them.  So if you get a new full frame camera, you better upgrade your computer system also.  Full frame cameras are big and bulky and heavy, whether they are mirrorless or DSLR.  Although the mirrorless camera body may be smaller, the lenses are the same size.  A 70-200mm f2.8 lens is heavy!  Shallow depth of field was mentioned in the advantages, but can also be a disadvantage.  If you're doing landscape or architecture photography, you want depth of field, not shallow depth of field.  And of course the elephant in the room is price.  On average, full frame cameras are at least twice the cost of smaller sensor ones.  Lenses are much more expensive also. 

Questions you should ask yourself.  There are many questions you should ask yourself before going to a full frame sensor camera.  The first question is what type of photography do I do, and do I need full frame to do it?  If you are a professional, I think the answer may be yes, but many professionals do use smaller sensor cameras with lots of success.  If you are a portrait photographer and that's all you do, the answer may be yes.  If you are a landscape photographer, the answer may be no.  In landscapes you want the largest depth of field in your subject, not mentioning the weight of the equipment you'll have to carry to get to those subjects.  If you are a street photographer, I would say no.  The small size and being able to conceal your camera is an advantage over the large sensor.  If you shoot sports, the answer may be no.  Many sports photographers shoot crop sensor cameras in JPEG to make the files smaller because they shoot so many photographs at one time, like a machine gun.  The same may be said for wildlife photography.  If I am a hobbyist and only shoot for myself and my photos go to Instagram and Facebook and only print occasionally, then the answer is, no, I don't need a full frame camera.  If you're a gear head and really enjoy spending lots of money on new gadgets and must have the newest, then knock yourself out and buy that full frame.

My Two Cents.  As a former full frame Nikon shooter and now a crop sensor Sony shooter, I can see both sides of the argument.  For me it kind of happened full circle.  I started with a crop sensor Nikon and had to have that full frame and all of the gadgets that went with it to big fast glass.  And the photos I was getting were great.  Then I got a mirrorless camera for hiking because the full frame with a 24-70mm lens was over seven pounds and heavy and the mirrorless was much lighter.  I started using the mirrorless more and more.  And before I knew it I was grabbing the crop sensor 90 percent of the time over the full frame.  Finally, after a couple of years, I went on a workshop where my crop sensor camera was my main camera, and my full frame I used as my backup.  I go to this workshop every year, and the photos are similar year after year.  I compared shots from the crop sensor and from the full frame from the year before and really had to pixel peep (zoom in really far) to tell the difference.  To the naked eye I couldn't tell.  I had over $15,000 invested in the full frame set up and only a few thousand for the crop sensor.  That's when I made the choice to go to crop sensor and sell all of my full frame stuff.  I took a beating on selling everything, but in the long run I'm really happy with the kit I have now and feel confident that my photos are of the best quality.  I shoot as a hobby.  I don't need all of the megapixels, and I'm not printing a lot.  Most of my photos go on Instagram or Facebook.  When I go on photoshoots with my friends, I have the smallest kit, and I love it.  It doesn't weigh me down, and I have more energy to go exploring and find new things to shoot.  It is totally the best decision I have made in my photography journey, and I wish I had asked these questions before I jumped into full frame in the beginning.  Those are my thoughts on the subject.  Please think long and hard before you commit to full frame. If it's right for you, great.

Until next week keep shooting, stay safe, and go outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camera camera body camera equipment Crop Sensor Full Frame gear Kit learning Lenses Max Stansell Photography Photography sensor Upgrading website workshops Fri, 03 Jul 2020 09:00:00 GMT
Basic Tips to Astro Photography Hey Everyone!  Hope everyone is doing well and is healthy and safe.  This topic is a spur of the moment one that just occurred to me that I haven't talked about astrophotography before.  While attending a Zoom meeting with my camera club, a lady gave a great presentation on astrophotography, and I just wanted to jump in and give my 2 cents worth.  But I didn't want to be that guy, you know, Mister Know It All.  So this morning I figured I would just send a link to our group of one of my blogs about the subject and there wasn't one.  So this one is going to be it.  Now, I'm no expert on shooting at night, but I have done it a couple of times with both successes and some failures and wanted to share the little that I know with y'all.  When trying to get the exposure right on a very bright moon against a dark black sky, you just end up with a white dot if you let your camera do the work.  You need to go into manual to take this shot. Let's think a little about what shooting a full moon is anyway.  You're shooting the reflecting light of the sun.  So you can leave your white balance on "auto" if you're shooting in RAW, which you should be, or you can place it on "daylight" because that is what it is.  The best rule of thumb for me is to use the sunny 16 rule.  This is an old rule developed by Kodak when they were trying to teach people how to use a camera back in the beginning of the consumer camera.  The rule states "put your aperture on 16 then match your ASA(ISO) and shutter speed and the photograph will be properly exposed in sunlight." This rule works great for shooting the moon.  Now, you will need a tripod and a telephoto lens, and I would suggest using a remote trigger to keep the camera shaking down to a minimum.  This should give you a properly exposed moon. The gear I used for this shot was a Sony A6500 (a crop sensor camera) and my Sony 70-350 mm lens.  There are all kinds of moon phases, and you can just google and find out when the full moon, half moon, etc. will appear.  So good luck with shooting the moon! LOL  No, not that kind. LOL Taking a photo of the full moon can be a challenge.  

Shooting Stars. Shooting stars is a whole different thing to shooting the moon. The moon is very bright and shining, but stars are far away and have very little light.  So capturing that light is the trick.  I break shooting stars into two categories:  pinpoint stars where the stars are focused and are points of light (shooting the Milky Way also falls into this category) and star trails where the light of the stars makes a trail across the frame of your camera. 

For both types of shooting of the stars in these categories, place your camera in RAW and your white balance to AUTO, and that will take care of these settings and can be adjusted in post production very easily.  We will be shooting in manual mode and will be focusing in manual also.  Auto focusing has a hard time picking out stars to focus on, and manual will be much easier.  A large aperture wide angel lens will be needed.  Remember, we want to catch as much light as possible, so the larger aperture will come in handy.  An "F-stop" of 2.8 to 1.4 is recommended, the largest one you have; a sturdy tripod with a remote release; a head lamp or flashlight with a RED setting is best for working in the dark to preserve your night vision; and of course getting away from light pollution, sources from a town, street lights, or anything that produces light.  Really the farther away from civilization the better.  Shooting in a new moon, which means "no moon or moonlight," is better for this type of photography.  Let's start with star trail since this is the easier of the two.

Star Trails.  The example that I have put here is of what not to do.  Notice the light pollution on the right,  and the composition sucks.  But I did get some trials.  This was a single shot long exposure.  The first thing to remember when shooting stars is that they are not a stationary subject.  The stars move, or really the earth moves.  To get trails the exposures need to be 30 seconds or longer.  Now, you can take some longer exposures of
the stars and get small star trails, say a minute or so, you have to play with the times to get what you like.  Set up your scene with your camera and wide angel lens.  Put your aperture one click from wide open.  If you have it wide open, you could have trouble focusing because of diffraction.  Focusing is one of the hardest things about astro-photography.  This is what I've done.  During the day get your lens that you're going to use and focus on something at infinity and slowly get it as sharp as you can.  I mark this on my lens with a sharpie.  You'll notice that the infinity mark on your lens might not be the actual spot that it's in focus.  When you have this at night when you're back in the field, put your lens at this mark for starters.  Using live view you should be able to magnify what the screen is seeing and pinpoint one star and try to get it in focus as much as you can.  Then have your live view, go back to normal, and you'll be pretty sharp.  My starting points for star settings are aperture is one click from wide open, Shutter 25 sec ISO 3200 take a shot and see what you get.  Make adjustments and trial and error until you get what you Carolina Beach 2020Carolina Beach 2020 want.  If you want trails, make the shutter longer until you get the length you want.  Not too long because you'll be grabbing more light.  Then if your camera has a time lapse feature, use that so your camera will automatically take a photo just past your shutter speed time. You'll have to figure out how many shots you want to take.  Let your camera do the work.  When you get them in post production like Photoshop, you can stack the images together, and you will have very long light trails and sharp ones also.  This is something that takes lots of practice and experimenting, but don't forget the basics of photography like composing a good scene.  Try to have something in the foreground to give interest and contrast to your image. An intervalometer could be useful if your camera cannot do time lapse.  You can get these on Amazon for not too much, but make sure they are for your model of camera.  

Star scenes and the Milky Way.   Just about all of the settings are the same with this type of shooting stars as Max Stansell Photography with the star trails, except we want our shutter to be 25 seconds or shorter because we don't want the blurry stars; we want pinpoint stars.  Focusing will be the same as above, and the starting point settings are the same.  Remember, unless your are really out in the middle of nowhere, you will have trouble seeing the Milky Way with the naked eye.  Finding the Milky Way and certain stars and constellations will be the hardest part because the earth is rotating and the subjects are constantly moving.  Using an app on your phone can be very useful.  Shooting during the new moon (NO MOON)  will also be very useful.  I use the app Photo Pills, and it is a fantastic app for seeing where and when the moon, sun, and Milky Way will be moving through your scene.  It has a virtual horizon that you can use with your camera, and it will show you where the Milky Way will be while you're scouting during the day.  And then when it's the best time to shoot at night, you can go and set up and not have to struggle with location of the Milky Way or stars.  Setting up your scene is still very important with foreground interest and experimenting with shutter speeds and ISO settings.  Remember, the lower the ISO setting, the less noise.  The higher the setting, the more sensitive it is to light.  So there is a balancing act you will have to do to get this right for your camera.  Full frame sensor cameras tend to have better light gathering capabilities, but you can use smaller sensors also.  I use a crop sensor camera and do just fine.  My equipment for shooting night skies is a Sony A6300 or A6500 (Crop Sensor Camera) and a Rokinon 12mm f 2.0 manual lens.(18 mm full frame equivalent).  In lenses, use what you have, the widest aperture.  Maybe a 35 or 24 or even a 50 mm with a 1.4 to 2.8 f-stop will work fine.  Use what you have at first, but wide would be better.

This is a fun type of photography that some photographers really specialize in.  There are all types of gizmos and things you can get to help you with your star photography.  I just covered some of the basics.  You can get devices that track the stars and move while you're taking a long exposure to keep your stars sharp.  There are telescopes and all kinds of things.  You can have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) overload or you can be like me and just dabble a bit.  Either way it's great fun.  So until next week, get outside and shoot some stars!

(Max Stansell Photography) Astrophotography blog learning Max Stansell Photography Milky Way Milkyway Photo Pills Star Trails Stars Startrails Tips website workshops Fri, 26 Jun 2020 08:27:52 GMT
I’m all in, are you? Hey, everyone!  I hope everyone is doing well and is healthy.  I'm all in, are you?  What does the title of this blog mean?  I heard a saying a while ago that you only get what you put into something, whether it's photography, a hobby, or a project.  If you don't put in the hard work, you won't get the results you're looking for.  We are surrounded by great photography, whether it's in a magazine, Instagram, Flickr, 500PX, or Facebook.  These photographs are impressive, and we think that ours aren't compared to them. But what we forget is that these are the contributors' best photos.  They probably took hundreds of photos to get the one that you're freaking out about.  That said, they put in the effort by shooting hundreds of photos to get that great one.

Putting in the work.  In photography, like most things, you must put in the work.  When I learn a new photography technique or editing procedure, I do a lot of research and practice, practice, practice.  But I'm all in!  I make mistakes and fail.  But I keep going.  I have an addictive personality, and I can't stop until I can do whatever I was trying to learn.  As photographers, we never know it all and are, or should be, constantly learning.  That's one of the things that I love about photography.  You never stop learning and can experiment with all kinds of stuff.  When I'm in, I'm in!  In life you must put in the work if you want it to turn out great.  Nothing ever happens without trying and putting forth the effort.

Pushn' up DasiesPushn' up Dasies Failing.  Failing is a part of life.  Everyone fails at something and fails many times.  When you fail to do something, you have just learned a way not to do it.  Those who do not try are the only ones who won't fail. By trial and error do we learn the best in my opinion.  I can read about it all day long.  But if I actually try to do it and I fail a couple of times before succeeding, then I will have it forever.  Because I didn't only learn how to do it, but I also learned how not to do it.  And sometimes that is just as important as learning how to do something.  I just had a big fail that is and isn't photography related.  I lost a camera!  I have, or had, a Canon G7XMII point and shoot camera.  (Because I always want a camera that is better than my phone with me).  What I think happened was that it was very hot one day at work so I took the camera out of my car and brought it inside where it was cool.  When I USA PeaseUSA Pease went to leave, I think I placed the camera on the roof of my car while loading up and left it there.  Then I drove off.  I didn't notice it for a day or so.  I have searched everywhere for it with no luck.  I'm going to get with the security at the place I'm working and see if anyone found it and turned it in.  This was a big fail!  And it's not the first time I've done it either.  When I was in high school, I placed a lens on top of my car and drove off.  Luckily I found the lens in the gutter by the street unharmed.  Hopefully I'll find this camera.  If not, I will have learned a big lesson and will have to replace it costing more money than I want to spend.  We all have fails.

What I'm trying to say is you can't sit on your couch watching TV then go to a pretty place, pull out your camera, press the shutter button and expect to have a masterpiece.  It just doesn't work that way.  You have to learn by trial and error how to compose shots, how to set up your camera, and how to post process your images to get that masterpiece.  You have to learn all of the things to do and not do to get that shot that people will "ooh and ahh" over.  It's just not one click.  Thanks for listening to me on my soapbox for a while.  Hope everyone has a great week, and until next time be safe and get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) all in attitude blog learning Max Stansell Photography persistence Photography projects techniques website workshops Fri, 19 Jun 2020 08:26:47 GMT
Camera Bag Extra Items! Hey Everyone!  Hope y'all are healthy and happy.  Last week we talked about the pre-shoot checklist, and this week I want to talk about the extra stuff you should have in your camera bag.  Last week it was all about the essentials that you need to have with you when you go on a photo shoot.  This week it's about the extra things that I think you should have with you when you go out shooting.  First of all, this is just things that I think you should carry, but you can modify or customize it to your specific needs. So let's get on with the list.

1. Emergency rain poncho.  Have you ever gotten caught in the rain?  Well I have.  I hiked in a couple of miles to get to a waterfall that I wanted to photograph.  When I got there it started to look a little stormy, and I was thinking, great, this will make my photos better with the stormy mood.  But then the bottom fell out.  I was two miles from the car or any shelter standing in the pouring rain with my expensive camera equipment getting soaked! Luckily, I did have a trash bag with me that I could cover my camera bag with to keep my gear from getting too wet. But I was soaked. From that day on I always have an emergency poncho with me.  They are cheap and don't weigh much.  You can get them for five bucks or so.  And if you're careful you can reuse them.  I have used mine a couple of times in the last few years.  I should replace it. LOL

2. Cold weather gear.  When it's cold outside and you're holding a metal camera, your hands get cold quickly!  In the wintertime bring some sort of gloves, head gear, and something to go around your neck.  You will stay so much warmer and get better shots because of it.  Hand warmers are a must in wintertime.  They are cheap and last for hours, and one in your pocket or jammed into a glove is great!  There are all kinds of gloves you can get.  I would suggest one that you can handle your gear with.  They make special gloves for photography, but you don't need to get those expensive ones (although I just got a pair last year and love them).  Any glove will do to protect your hands.

3. Hot weather gear.  When it's hot outside, you need to protect yourself also.  Wearing cool, non-cotton clothes is a first step.  A hat that can protect you from the sun is also good.  But what happens when it gets warm? Bugs!  Bring some sort of bug protection. You can get it in small bottles or packets.  I bring packets of bug protection with me always.  Sunburn sucks!  Bring sunblock and use it.  I also have these in packets that go in my bag all the time.  They take up little space and are lightweight.  There are all kinds of advances in cool-wear technologies.  They make bandanas that you can get wet and put around your neck to keep you cool.  When it's super hot outside, that's what I use.  They are very lightweight when dry and don't take up much space.

4. External battery.  It goes without saying that everyone will have their phone with them when they are out and about taking photos.  We will use them for navigation, sending photos, and all sorts of things.  But when they are dead, they are useless.  The same is true for our cameras.  When the battery is dead, they are useless.  The small external battery can be used to charge my phone when it gets weak.  I could recharge my battery in my camera (most cameras can do this now), or I could recharge my GoPros.  I use a 5200ma/h, and it's always in my bag.  Just remember, the bigger the battery, the heaver and bulkier it is.  It takes about 2000 ma/h to completely charge your phone and, depending on your camera battery, maybe a little bit more.  (But you should already have fresh batteries.)  It has come in handy on long trips recharging my phone or a photo buddy's phone.

5. Light.  Now, I'm not talking about a photography flash, although some people do carry one with them all the time.  I'm talking about a flashlight or headlamp of some kind.  Headlamps will come in handy when doing sunsets or sunrises. Being able to get to or come back from a photo location, safely is a must.  And they free up your hands.  They don't have to be expensive or bulky either.  I have gone through several over the years, and now I have a headlamp that is in my main bag (I think it cost 15 bucks) that works like a champ.  I have had more expensive ones, and usually they are more complicated to use and don't work as well for me, at least as the cheaper ones.  I also have one that will clip onto a hat like a baseball cap, and it's very small. ( I keep that one in my street shoulder bag.)  But any kind of small, mini flashlight will do.  They can also come in handy for light painting small subjects.

6. Rain Covers. These are the rain covers for your lenses and camera bodies while shooting in the rain.  Shooting in the rain can be very cool, and you can get some great shots.  But water and electronics don't mix well. You can get lens rain covers that are not more than clear plastic for five bucks or so, and again they are lightweight and don't take up much room.  I shoot with a small camera, so I made a rain cover out of an old pair of rain pants that I cut up and customized to my camera.  I have used the five dollar ones, and they work great.  Just make sure you get one that will cover your camera and lens and also make sure it's not too big.  They make covers that will fit over like a 500mm lens and camera, and if you're shooting small like me, that's just too big.

7.  Business Cards.  I know this sounds silly, especially if you're not a professional, but hear me out.  Business cards are cheap! You can get 250 for about 10 bucks.  You can have your name and your email address on them and website if you have one. When you meet someone who is interested in what you're doing or ask if you're a professional, you can pull out a card and have them check out your website.  Or if you took someone's photo and you can offer them a copy, give them a card and they can email you so you can send them the photo.  It's an easy way to share your info, and kind of cool.  I carry a couple in my bag and have a couple in my wallet if someone asks about my photography.

8. Pen/small pad.  I always carry a pen with me.  If I'm talking to someone, I can get their info or email address and write it on the back of one of my cards or a small note pad.  I can also take notes of places I've been.  I know this is old school and most people use their phones for this now, but this is my list. LOL

9. Microfiber cloths.  I have lots of these in my bag.  I put one in every compartment of my bag so they are always handy.  They are under every lens and camera body in the bag.  I always have one in my pocket for my glasses or in case someone else needs one quickly.  If you are out and it's misty or water for some reason gets on the lens, you can wipe quickly and clean/dry.  These are cheap and come with lots of things you buy.  I try to use brightly-colored ones so they don't get lost in the bag. (I can see them better.)

10. Personal things.  In this section, I'm talking about things that are personal to you.  I have glasses cleaners that come in the little pouches for my glasses because I smudge them when taking photos.  I bring a couple of the tooth pick/dental floss things with me for after I eat.  I bring toilet paper and/or wipes for emergencies.  And don't forget the hand sanitizer and I guess mask would be appropriate now.  I also put my car keys and wallet in my bag and secure them when on a hike so they won't fall out of my pockets and I lose them. 

Extra Extras. Here are a few others I thought about:  a lens pen to clean/brush lenses of dust; a hand blower ( a must - should have been one of the 10); an allen wrench that fits your tripod and quick connect plates; sensor swabs to clean your sensor; a rain cover for your pack; silica gel packs that you get in everything - throw one into your pack; sunglasses/case to protect your eyes from harsh sunlight; and I'm sure you can think of more.

All of these things I mentioned above are extra.  I assume that you're bringing cameras, lenses, batteries, and SD cards.  These are extra things that I have in all of my camera bags when I go out and about.  Being prepared like the Scouts is always good advice.  I hope this list helps or has given you an idea of what to carry when you go out shooting.  So get out there and start shooting!  So until next week stay safe and healthy.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camera Bag hiking learning Max Stansell Photography Photography photography gear website Fri, 12 Jun 2020 08:50:57 GMT
Pre-Photoshoot Checklist Hey Everyone!  Hope y'all are healthy and safe this week.  I've got a question for you.  Have you ever gone to a photoshoot or location with your camera and gone to use it and your battery was dead or you forgot to put your SD card in?  This week I will be talking about things to to before you go on that photoshoot, a pre-shoot checklist if you will.  And hopefully this will keep you from making a mistake that will keep you from getting that shot.  

First, before we talk about the checklist, I would like to talk about organization.  I am an organized freak.  I like to have a place for my things and things to be in their place.  That includes my camera bag.  I like to have my bag organized so when I look in it I can tell immediately if something is missing.  I know that some people just open their bag and chunk it in, kinda like my wife does with her purse.  And they can never find anything and spend a lot of time digging through their bag instead of taking photos.  I have two main bags.  I have a 30-liter Shimoda backpack that has become my main bag when doing long hikes for landscapes and can carry all the gear I'll need.  Then I have my what I call my "purse" that is an over-the-shoulder bag that is great for street photography and just walking around when I don't need all of my gear.  In each bag I have a certain place for everything.  My batteries go in a certain place, my shutter release in another, lenses go in certain places... you get the idea.  That way at first glance I can tell if anything is missing.  Like I said, I'm an organization freak.

Now for the checklist.  I have heard about professional photographers who have a printed checklist that they keep in their camera bags so when they get ready to go on an assignment they can quickly go through the checklist and make sure they have everything they will need before they leave the house.  I'm not asking you to do this, but it wouldn't hurt.  This is a generic checklist that you can customize for yourself and the type of photography that you do.  Different types of photography may require different types of gear.  I got the idea for this checklist from a podcast "Master Photography Podcast," and his list was geared more toward portrait photographers.  Most of the people I know don't shoot people but more landscape, street, and wildlife, so I will make more of a generic list that you can customize for yourself.

1.  Batteries.  Of course this was going to be one of the first things on the list.  But not only batteries, but charged-up batteries. This is something that you may have to think ahead on because you can't start charging when you're ready to go out the door.  I shoot mirrorless camera, and they are notorious for sucking the juice out of batteries.  So I carry quite a few.  When I get home from a shoot, one of the first things I do is put batteries on the charger, even before I take my SD card out of the camera.  When they are charged they go back in my bag, and I know they are fully charged. Another thing to think about is not just your main camera, but also any other ones like GoPros, infra red cameras, or point and shoots.  I carry GoPros with me sometimes, so that means those batteries also.  Just something to think about.

2.  SD Cards.  Always, and I mean always, have extra SD cards in your bag.  If you were editing the night before and you forgot to take the card out of the computer and you get to your location and no card, no photos.  I always carry extra cards with me.  Not many, just one or two.  I rarely fill up a card, like almost never fill one up, but if one failed I have an extra.  If you're a landscape or sports photographer, you could fill a couple of them up pretty easily in a day.  One thing to remember when it comes to SD cards is they only have so many times that they can be formatted and reused.  It's a good idea to rotate you cards so you're not using the same one every time.  I have a bad habit of doing this, and I'm going to start rotating more.  SD cards are fairly cheap.  And unless you're shooting sports or wildlife where you shoot a lot with one shutter release or video, you don't need the fastest cards.  The ones that are 95mb write speed are fast enough for just normal photography.

3.  Check Camera Settings.  Sit down and go through your camera settings.  I know this sounds silly, but if you were trying something that you don't normally do or have a new camera, this is really an important step.  I got a new camera a few years ago, and my wife and I went to a bluegrass festival.  Lots of people and lots of things to shoot.  I was excited to get that new camera going.  Then I started to take photos and the shutter wouldn't work!  I got frustrated trying to figure out what was happening to my camera, my wife tapping her foot waiting on me and I'm missing shots.  What had happened is that I had the shutter on a time delay and had not put it back to normal.  So every time I hit the shutter nothing would happen, but it was counting down the time.  Check settings like ISO, what mode you're in, how your meter is set up.  Get all these things dialed in before you leave and you won't miss the first shot because your camera wasn't ready.

4.  Specialized "Gear."  This is the section that looks at what type of photographer you are: portrait, street, landscape, wildlife, sports, or macro. Each kind of photography might need special things. For portrait photographers, it might be flashes or lights and all that goes with it, especially batteries for those flashes.  Make sure you have all of those batteries recharged and ready to go beforehand.  For a street photographer, maybe it's a special lens like a 35mm that you might not have with you all of the time, maybe model releases also.  For landscape, maybe filters and a tripod. Wildlife and sports, those big lenses cleaned and ready to go.  As you can see, there are all kinds of items that can go in this section of the checklist and must be customized by your individual needs.  One good item for all of us is some sort of flashlight or headlamp.  It sucks going for a sunset and the sun goes down and you're in the dark and can't see.

22730511_10210704932196387_7018311079726609722_n22730511_10210704932196387_7018311079726609722_n 5.  Confidence and Excitement.  Now that you have all of your things in order, you can have the confidence that you have all you need and can start taking photos when you get to wherever you're going to take photos.  You can now concentrate on the photograph and be excited about being out doing photography, knowing that you have done your best to keep those bad misfortunate "Oh, I don't have an SD card!" or "Oh, my battery is dead!" moments.

Well, this has gotten a little long-winded, but I hope this will help you in your photography outings. Next week we'll talk about extras I carry in my camera bag.  Until next week, be safe, keep shooting, and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camping Checklist hiking learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Prepared website workshops Fri, 05 Jun 2020 08:41:54 GMT
The Importance of Setting Goals and Personal Projects Hey Everyone!  Hope everyone is safe and healthy.  Today I'm going to talk about setting goals and creating personal projects.  Now, like all of these blogs, this is just my personal opinion and how I feel about the subject.  I am a goal person.  I have to set a goal to do almost anything.  That includes making a list.  I make a lot of lists.  And usually if it's not on a list, I'm probably not going to do it.  I'm pretty lazy that way.  For me, setting goals and making a list to get me to that goal is essential to growing as a photographer or in any part of my life.  I have set a lot of goals in my life and have failed in reaching them too.  For instance, I had failed for years to quit smoking until I finally did 13 years ago.  I have failed in keeping my weight under control, although I have lost lots of weight and have gained lots too.  I'm still working on that one.  But in photography I have basically kept improving by setting and reaching goals, from learning how to do something like using off camera flash, shooting in manual, the use of a light meter, developing film, shooting portraits. These were all IMG_1114IMG_1114 goals that I had set for myself, and I don't think I would have reached them just by picking up my camera every now and then and trying to do it.  I had to study and form some kind of plan to really learn how to do them.  And then practice.  One of the goals I have set for myself this year is to visit and photograph all of the state parks in North Carolina.  I had plans and was well under way when the coronavirus started, and that put a halt to my goal and really put the goal in jeopardy.  This weekend I set up a trip that I plan to take this summer to visit 10 state parks in a week-long camping trip to make up for all of the "Stay at Home" time while the parks were closed.  I still think I can make my goal, and it gives me something to look forward to.  And that's another point that comes from making goals.  It gives me something to look forward to, and that's important for motivating me to get ready to do something.  My yearly trips with my photography club are something that I really look forward to each year.  I like _MSP2238_MSP2238 knowing well in advance of the trip where and what kind photography we'll be doing.  Say, maybe landscape, waterfalls, or street photography.  It gives me time to plan for getting more equipment or learning a new skill before we go on our trip.  That way I can concentrate on the trip and not the mechanics of learning a new skill or how to use a new piece of equipment.  I think that my photographs become better because I have planned and learned my equipment or skill and can concentrate on composition and light, and the camera and/or skill become second nature because I have taken the time beforehand to learn it.  Taking some big goal and breaking it up into smaller sections is the best way to do any goal no matter what it is.  The old saying--how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time--really rings true in setting goals and planning.

Setting goals is a personal thing.  Everyone is different, and there is no one rule that fits all.  Set goals that you're interested in.  Make a personal project in photography.  Maybe if you like barns, make a project of barns.  Set a goal to maybe make a book.  Books are easy to make, but first you need the material.  In my state parks goal, I plan on making a book (just for me ) on photos from each state park.  You could make a book on barns from different regions of your state, say the mountains, the coast, or the Piedmont region, and show the differences of the barns from each region.

So this was just a small talk about goals and personal projects.  Pick a small personal project and try it out, maybe to take more portraits. While you are trying to reach your goal, your photography will improve, and you will learn a lot about yourself and what you like.  Maybe you'll find some type of photography that you like more than what you're doing now.  So until next time, keep shooting and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog goals hiking landscape learning list Max Stansell Photography personal Projects Photography planning website Fri, 29 May 2020 08:49:49 GMT
Merchants Millpond State Park NC Hey Everyone!  I hope everyone is safe and healthy.  Last week I took a little day trip to Merchants Millpond State Park in North Carolina.  This is a trip that I had planned a couple of weeks ago, but the coronavirus put a stop to the trip as the parks closed in North Carolina.  The parks opened to trails only and no camping yet last week and should re-open to campers in a week or so.  This park is located in the northeastern part of North Carolina, not too far from the Virginia border.  The park offers hiking trails, biking trails, camping, kayaking, and canoeing.  Some of the campsites you can kayak to. The Millpond offers fishing and kayaking and is really beautiful with cypress trees in abundance.

Our trip started early in the morning with an over-two-hour drive to get there. The trip I had planned earlier was an overnight trip because of the distance.  As a side note, when the parks were closed a representative of the parks called me promptly to give me a refund of my money for the camping!  I find that the staff at most of the state parks are very helpful and courteous.  My wife and my travel companion Forrest were traveling with me.  They both needed a break away from being cooped up in the house.  After arriving, we went to the Millpond and started with the photography and hiking.  The pond is really beautiful and calming.  We saw some kayakers put their boats in the water and start gliding through the trees on the way to finding some fish.  There were not a lot of people at the park, and it could be because of the virus or because it was Sunday morning.  But either way it was nice not to have people everywhere.  We took a two-mile hike on one of the trails there and went to the bridge over the pond to take some photos. We also planned on going to visit Dismal Swamp State Park which was only a 30-minute drive away.  When I'm on these trips, the way I like to do my photography is by myself.  I can take my time looking at stuff and don't feel that I'm being rushed to do something.  Forrest is getting better at stopping when I stop and sitting by patiently while I'm shooting. My wife waits patiently too.  But she always wants a photo of her wherever we go, so I have to stop what I'm doing to take a photo of her.  But it's still nice to have her along.  Here is a link to a short video that I made of this trip. Merchants Millpond Video So after the photography we took a short drive to Dismal Swamp State Park.  This park is very close to the Virginia border on US 17.  It is mainly a kayaking and canoeing park as well, but they do have some hiking trails that are really dirt roads and are also for bike riding.  We really didn't stay here long because we wanted to visit Edenton, North Carolina, a small little town that I grew up in that we visit a few times a year.  When we arrived, the streets that are usually full of people downtown were mainly empty, I guess because of the virus, which gave its a eerie feeling.  We went to a local park to have lunch and look over Edenton Bay.  The view was great, and we had a good lunch.  After lunch, we rode around town as we always do to check out the old house that I grew up in and check out other things that have changed.  We then started on our way home.  It was overall a great trip, and we knocked two more state parks off of my list.  Maybe next weekend we'll go to another.  Until then, stay safe and healthy and get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Day Trip Ducks landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Merchants Millpond NC Photography Road Trip State Park Video website Fri, 22 May 2020 08:29:01 GMT
What New Have You Learned? Hey Everyone!  I hope y'all are doing well and are healthy.  At the time of this writing, most if not all of the states have some kind of partial opening.  Now, I'm not going to get into the discussion for or against reopening and if it's too soon or not.  That's not what this is about.  But what this blog is about is what have you learned during this Stay at Home Order?  What new thing or activity had you forgotten and have relearned, or have you just learned something new? I have been very lucky that I have been able to work the whole time, and I have been able to do it remotely from home.  I know that a lot of you have had to stay home without pay, and I do know how you feel.  I was out of work for five months before, and I know what it's like not to have a paycheck coming in.  Today I'm going to go over a few things that I have learned while staying at home.

1. I have learned how to cut my own hair!  I don't mean my wife has learned how.  I mean I have learned how.  I would never let my wife cut my hair.  Not because I don't think she could do it, but if she messed up I would do or say something that I would regret.  And I must say, I've done a good job at it so much that I won't be getting regular hair cuts at the barber shop anymore.  Unless I really screw it up! LOL  So I've learned a new skill and a way to save some money.

2. I have learned that I really do miss going places and camping.  I'm pretty much a loner and don't go out much to socialize any except for my camera club.  So the Stay at Home Order hasn't really affected me much in that sense.  I do most of my shopping online, so going to a store wasn't my thing to start with.  But not being able to go camping or hiking in my favorite parks, now that's killing me.  I even had a campout in my backyard as you could tell by my last blog.  I plan on going somewhere this weekend to go for a day hike because the campgrounds haven't opened yet, but I can't wait.  I don't think I will meet my goal of visiting all of the state parks in NC in a single year this year.  Might have to try again next year.

3.  I am relearning how to play the guitar.  I have had my guitar put away in the closet for almost 10 years.  I used to play quite a few songs.  Easy ones.  I really wasn't that good when I played.  But now I'm taking an online guitar course that is 14 weeks long for beginners.  I had forgotten how much the tips of your fingers hurt at the beginning.  But I'm starting to relearn some of the old songs I knew, as well as some new ones.  I'm having fun with it, and I plan to practice every day if I can.  Don't worry, this isn't going to become a Guitar Blog.

4. I also learned that I'm set in my ways and I like what I like.  I like to watch the same TV series over and over again.  Shows like "The West Wing," "Grey's Anatomy," "Game of Thrones," "Downton Abbey," "Heartland," and I could name a few more.  I have watched all of these shows many times and still like watching them.  I like a salad at night with grilled chicken for supper, and I have that every day during the week.  You would think that I would be smaller than I am with all of that salad, but I also like my sweets and savories to eat.  I like wearing the same jeans for many days in a row, and they just seem to get more comfortable every day.  I like going to bed early and waking up early.  I tend to get most of my work done before noon.  So, yes, I'm set in my ways.

Hopefully you have learned something about yourself that you didn't know or had forgotten.  Maybe a new skill with editing your photos or a new skill with your camera.  I hope that you have made this time at home an adventure instead of a burden.  I know I said that I wasn't going to write about the coronavirus anymore. OOPS!  Anyway, I hope that your days get easier and that you get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog COVID19 cutting Hair Guitar hiking learning Max Stansell Photography music Photography tutorial TV website Sat, 16 May 2020 12:22:56 GMT
Backyard Camping Hey everyone!  Today's topic is about camping in your backyard.  Yes, your backyard.  I know a lot of you haven't slept in the backyard since you were a kid.  But it can be fun and a good time to try out new equipment and work out all of the bugs that camping can bring.  This weekend had fantastic weather with highs in the 70's on Saturday and 80's on Sunday. The stay-at-home order is still in effect, and the state and national parks are closed for camping.  I've been itching to get out and do some camping and exploring, so I got in my truck and drove to the exotic place of my backyard.  Not too far so I saved on gas! LOL  I started to do some work on my teardrop camper (install a new battery), and I had to wire a separate light to my truck camper and go through the things that I really need in my camper and the things I don't. Then it was time to set up camp.  A hammock is my preferred way to sleep when I'm camping.  It's so comfortable, and I don't have to get on the ground to go to bed.  I'm getting older, and getting into a tent after a long day of hiking is harder to do than when I was younger.  So I got my car-camping hammock.  I have many hammocks. The one for backpacking that I made has a built-in, zippered bug net.  My other hammocks have bug nets that just drape over for protection from those pesky flying pests in the summer time.  For rain and sun protection, I placed a tarp over my hammock.  Again, I have many tarps:  two that can be used for summer use and two for winter with doors attached to keep out the wind and rain.  The one that I decided to use for my car camping is one of my winter tarps.  I can fold the doors out of the way to let the breeze blow through in the summer time, and if I need some privacy or to protection from the weather, I can use the doors.  I've got camp all set up!  Now the fun stuff starts.

My wife and I had planned to have a fire in our little fire pit, so I had to get some wood together and get our grill together for the first grill of the warm weather.  So now that all of the camp chores and setup are done, it's time for the fun stuff.  Well, there is nothing better than taking it easy in a hammock in the summertime under a shade tree with a slight breeze blowing.  You talk about good sleep!  It's awesome!  I had just dozed off when something startled me, a tap on my shoulder from underneath my hammock.  Forrest!  He wanted some attention and wanted to get in with me.  So I picked him up and got him in the hammock, and we both took a nap until some squirrels started chasing each other in the tree above us.  Of course Forrest freaked out and I let him out of the hammock.  Later, we grilled some burgers on the grill and they were great!  I don't know what it is about burgers on the grill that make them so good, but the grill does really make them taste great!  After cleanup, it was time to start the fire.  To tell you the truth, I'm not really good at doing fires, and when I go camping I rarely start a fire if I have to do it myself.  There is just a lot of work to do with fire wood collection, starting the fire, and feeding the fire through the night.  But this night it was my turn to tend to the fire. Starting the fire is the hard part.  I got some small twigs and stuff and tried to start the fire with some crunched-up paper, but no luck.  I remembered my Boy Scout training and got some cotton balls and some Vaseline and soaked the cotton balls in it.  I lit the balls and they burned for about 10 minutes, plenty of time to get the fire started.  Then it was just feeding the fire.  It turned out great and we had a good time sitting around the camp fire.  Finally it was bed time.  I haven't slept in the truck camper since I built it.  So tonight was the night.  Forrest and I went to bed in the back of the truck.  And it went okay.  I would have been more comfortable in my hammock, but I did get some sleep.  We woke up early like always and had breakfast.  

We had a good time camping out in the backyard.  The weather was great and a fun time was had by all.  So get out in nature and have some fun!  Keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camp fire camping cook out equipment gear Hammocks learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Tents truck camper website workshops Fri, 08 May 2020 08:28:11 GMT
It's Prime Time "List of My Favorite Prime Lenses" Hey Everyone! Today I'm going to talk about using prime lenses and my favorite ones.  Now this is not an original topic.  As a matter of fact, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, "The Digital Story" by Derrick Story, and his topic was Prime Time.  Here's the link Digital Story "Break out the Fast Glass"  And I kind  of just piggybacked off of it.  Fantastic podcast by the way if you're looking for some interesting camera topics.  

Prime lenses.  Well, I mostly shoot zooms for what I do with all the focal lengths in one neat package, but sometimes I just love a prime.  A long time ago, in the film days when you got an SLR camera, it always came with a 50mm prime lens on it and it was a good lens.  Prime lenses have many advantages to them. They have very sharp focusing, they usually have a wider aperture than zoom lenses do, and they are less expensive.  What's not to like?  Well, they are a little old school and not as convenient as zooms as you have to use your feet to fill up the frame by getting closer.  But I think zooms are fantastic.  And if you're in a stay-at-home situation, what better time to pull out those old primes and see things through new eyes.  Here is a list of my favorite prime lenses I have from shortest focal length to longest.  Now I have a crop sensor camera, so I will give the equivalent full frame focal distance also.

Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens.  This little lens is a fantastic lens with very sharp results. This is the lens that I use mainly for astro photography and some wide-angle shots.  Its full frame equivalent would be 18mm.  This is a manual focus lens with manual aperture ring on lens.  Its action when focusing is very smooth and a dream to work with.  And to boot it is an inexpensive lens coming in at between $250 and $300.

Rokinon 24mm f2.8 lens.  This is another Rokinon lens made in Korea.  This is one of the lenses that I use for street photography with a full frame equivalent of 35mm.  This is a good lens for close quarters with a decent aperture. This lens is very light and the construction is good, but it does have a plastic feel to it.  This inexpensive lens is sharp, auto focusing and aperture is okay, and it comes in at $300.

Sony 35 f1.8 lens.  This is one of my favorite lenses and travels with me often along side my zooms as a lone prime in the bag.  This lens is super sharp and quick focusing, and auto aperture makes it great for street photography and general photography.  The build quality of this lens is great with a metal construction, but it's still lightweight.  It is a full frame equivalent of a 50mm.  Maybe that's why I like it, because the film cameras used to come with 50s on them.  This is a nifty 50 and comes in at $475.

The MetroThe MetroCommuters waiting for the Metro in Washington DC. Sony 50mm 1.8.  This is probably one of my least used lenses, but it's great for portraits with a full frame equivalent of 75mm.  This lens has auto focusing and auto aperture and is sharp.  Its construction has more of a plastic feel to it, but for what I use it for it does great.  Coming in at $250, it's one of the cheapest lenses on the list.

Nikon 60mm f2.8D AF Micro Lens.  This is my macro lens.  This is a fantastic old lens that I've had for a while.  It's a full frame equivalent of 90mm, which makes it great for my crop sensor camera.  I have to use a Nikon to Sony Adapter and lose all of my auto focus and aperture.  It focuses smoothly with the focusing ring, and it has an aperture ring where I can dial in the aperture from 2.8 to 32.  You can still buy these new in the box for a little over $500, but I got mine used when I shot Nikon and just can't get rid of it. KiwiKiwi

Notible Mentions- I do have a couple of lenses that I have used in the past that I want to give a quick shout out to, some from the film days and some from my Nikon days. 

Nikon 105mm 2.8 Macro lens. If you have Nikon cameras, you must have this lens for your macro work.  Just a stunning lens and sharp and built like a tank.

Nikon 75mm 1.8 Lens.  Super sharp and inexpensive.  I have shot some great shots with this lens, and when I sold it the person that bought it fell in love with it.  

Pentax 50mm 1.4 lens.  I got this lens on a Pentax MX 35mm film camera, and it's a great lens.  I still use it when I shoot film with my Pentax, and I have shot it with my Sony with an adapter. 

Chinion 135mm 2.8 lens.  This was the first lens I ever used besides the 50mm that came on my camera.  I got it from a friend and never got rid of it.  It's so old that it has a screw mount on it, and I have to use an adapter to make it into Pentax and then an adapter to put on a Sony.  I've only used it once or twice on digital cameras but truly loved  the quality I got out of it, and it was built like a tank.

So those are some of my favorite prime lenses, and I hope you can get excited about primes like I can and put one on and get out and shoot.

(Max Stansell Photography) 12mm 35mm blog Camera Film focal Length learning Lens Max Stansell Photography Nikon Photography Primes Rokinon Sony website Fri, 01 May 2020 19:45:51 GMT
Luminar 4 Review Hi Everyone!  This is a review of Luminar 4 and the editing possibilities that it brings.  As you know, I have been a true believer of Luminar from Skylum software for quite a while. I used Luminar 3 a lot for the AI (Artificial Intelligence) features and as sort of a mix between Lightroom and Photoshop.  With Luminar 4 even more AI is available with Sky Replacement and AI augmentation where you can insert objects like the moon or mountains or an airplane.  All of these adjustments can be done very easily with the click of a button and moving a slider to make adjustments.  I'm mainly a landscape photographer, but the portrait photographer uses lots of AI features also.  I use Luminar 4 instead of Photoshop mainly because of the ease of use.  I'm basically lazy, and Photoshop is a very powerful and complicated program.  You can do all of the things you can do in Luminar in Photoshop, but it's very complicated, very hard to do, and time consuming.  So I use Luminar.  Let me go over some features of Luminar 4.

Basic Editing-  Luminar 4 can do all of the basic editing that Luminar 3 can do from crop to basic light adjustments, all done with sliders.  There are also AI sliders that will analyze your photo and correct mistakes such as contrast, exposure, etc.  Presets are also available to help edit your photographs.  With the touch of a button, you can add the preset to your photo, and if you don't like it you can make adjustments to the preset to make it stronger or weaker.  Landscape enhancer - you can enhance the color of foliage and really make them pop.  All of these adjustments can be made under the Essentials tab that is on the right of the editing panel.

Creative Tab- This tab is where most of the landscape editing is done. This is where the AI Sky Replacement is done.  This is a fantastic feature!  You can take a ho-hum photo with a blank sky and replace it with a more interesting sky.  Luminar 4 has some to choose from, and you can use your own and make custom skies.  Luminar does a good job of replacing the skies and masking out all the other things that are not skies. Also, AI Augmentation is under this tab.  You can insert objects into the photograph with this feature -- clouds, birds, airplanes, mountains, or almost anything.  Of course Luminar has some ready for you to use, but you can use your own objects also.  This is a very cool feature.  You can be very creative, and it usually just takes a click and a swipe of the slider and you're golden.

Portrait- This tab has lots of editing tools to help the portrait photographer.  First, there is the AI Skin Cecille Head Shot 2Cecille Head Shot 2 Enhancer where you can smooth out skin, and only the skin, but not take away the texture of the skin so it doesn't look like plastic or fake.  Under the AI Portrait Enhancer you can lighten the face to make it stand out, use red eye removal, eye whitening, eye enhancer, dark circles remover, slim face, enlarge eyes, improve eyebrows, teeth whitening, and lip enhancements.  All of these can be done with the click of a button and the swipe of a slider to make them the way that you want them to look.  I haven't used these too much, but I did use them on some older portraits and they worked great!  I was very impressed and am looking forward to taking some more portraits.

Professional Tab- In the Professional Tab you can use Advance Contrast to enhance the highlights, mid-tones, and shadow contrast separately.  You can use the Adjustable Gradient like you would in Lightroom.  With the Dodge and Burn you can use a brush and paint to dodge and burn.  Color Enhancer can make the photo warmer or cooler.  I haven't used this tab too much, but it looks like it will work very well.

You can start in Lightroom, export a copy of your photos with Lightroom adjustments to Luminar 4, and when you're done you can apply all of your changes and they will show up in Lightroom beside the original photograph.  Then you can export to whatever program or Facebook just like you usually do from Lightroom.  I really do like this program, and it makes some very interesting images.  So check it out.  It's a one-time buy just like Luminar 3, and it's under $100.  This is great software with lots of value and bang for your buck.  If you like creating, Luminar 4 is a great choice for photo editing.  So get out and shoot and have some fun!




(Max Stansell Photography) AI Artificial Intelligence Augmented blog Editing learning luminar Luminar 4 Max Stansell Photography Photography Sky Replacement Software website workshops Fri, 24 Apr 2020 09:16:37 GMT
What About After the Coronavirus is Gone? Hey Everyone!  I hope everyone is safe and healthy.  This will be my last blog about the Coronavirus.  But this one is about what to do after the virus has subsided and the Stay at Home orders have lifted.  If you're like me, the virus and everything associated with it did disrupt my plans.  Staying at home has made many people very bored, me included.  As you know, I like to get out on the weekends and get into nature in some way or another.  Camping, backpacking, and of course photography is what I love to do. Swansboro Pier ReflectionSwansboro Pier Reflection The virus has put a halt to this, and I've been compensating by putting my hammocks and tarps up in the backyard and taking naps on the weekend.  I've also been getting my truck ready for travel.  Once the order has lifted to stay at home, I will be traveling again.  But what can we do to be ready to explore once the order has lifted?

First of all, get ready.  Get all of the things that will be keeping you from doing your hobbies done while you're at home.  For me it's clean out the garage.  It has accumulated all kinds of things over the year, and it is overgrown.  I will be cleaning and getting rid of all of the things that we don't need, downsizing if you will.  I have lots of boxes of old things that I haven't or will never use, old clothes that I will never fit into, and old books and electronics that are never going to be used again. So I'm going to get rid of them. So mainly get all of those honey do's done! 

Next Plan!  For me it's getting back to my personal project of visiting, camping, and photographing in all of the State Parks in North Carolina.  I had 13 of them completed when the Stay at Home order went into effect.  For now the project is at a halt because all of the parks are either partially closed or completely closed, and of course non-essential travel is prohibited. So what I can do is plan for when the order is lifted.  I can plan where I go and how I will stay if I do stay overnight. Will I be backpacking, or will I be car camping if I do stay overnight?  Will I try to visit two parks in one weekend if they are close to each other?  I can figure out what kind of photographs have been taken there before by other photographers by looking at Google, Flickr, and 500Px, doing the same research that I would normally do the day or so before but doing it now so when the time comes I can just pack and go.

I know that there is a lot going on now, and who knows what the future will bring?  Hopefully this will pass soon and we can get back to normal.  But will it ever be normal again?  Will social distancing become the new normal?  Will handshakes be something of the past?  Will working from home become the new normal and working in a brick-and-mortar store the exception?  We are living in a strange time, and we can only do what we can to get through it.  And we will get through it.  So this is the last of my Coronavirus series unless something really strange comes up.  I hope everyone stays safe and healthy, and until next time keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Coronavirus getting out hiking hobbies learning Max Stansell Photography new normal Photography Travel website Sun, 19 Apr 2020 10:47:01 GMT
10 At Home Photography Ideas To Try While You're Stuck At Home Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is healthy and safe. During the Coronavirus situation that we have going on now, a lot of us are stuck at home. My last two blogs have been related on how to maximize the time you have at home.  Now that you know how to maximize your time, let's talk about different projects or ideas that you can do to try and experiment with.  Try one of the 10 ideas that you haven't done before, and of course, if you don't know how to do one of these ideas, you can always go on YouTube and search on how to do them if you can't figure them out.  So let's get started.

1. Selfies- Take selfies to document this time that you're at home. Experiment with light from natural to man made.  Maybe a gobo (Go Between) the KiwiKiwi light source and the subject to make unique shadows.

2.  Table Top Macro- Break out that Macro lens that is collecting dust and really start using it by taking Macro shots of things and details of your house.

Stupid BlackberryStupid BlackberryThis is an old Blackberry I used to have. 3.  Splash Shots- If you have an old aquarium laying around not being used, they are great for splash photography.  Dropping items like bell peppers, fruit, and other items and catching them in mid-splash really makes great photos.

4.  Bokeh- Break out those old Christmas lights, open up that aperture, and take some really cool images. You can put them up for backgrounds for portraits or behind things for unique images. USA PeaseUSA Pease

5.  Shoot Through- Find interesting things to use to shoot through to make interesting photos, looking through a cubbyhole or through things onto everyday life to make it interesting.

6.  Portraits- Take portraits of family members in different situations, family portraits of your family, and don't forget those pets that we love so dearly.

7.  Food Photography- I've been looking at Facebook and a lot of people are cooking.  Use your camera skills and take awesome photos of this food.

8.  Double Exposure- You can take double exposures of yourself with your camera.  You'll have to look into your camera manual of how to do this with your brand.  You can also do this in Photoshop.

Ava MLK Day10Ava MLK Day10 9.  Textures- Look around the house for different textures to take photos of while you're in the house.  From silk to woodgrain to granite table tops.

10.  Oil and Water Photography- Oil and water don't mix and can make very interesting photographs with a macro lens, and using colorful backgrounds can make some crazy images.


So get out in that backyard or on that tabletop and start creating some great images and cure that Netflix binging that you've been doing!

(Max Stansell Photography) backyard blog coronavirus learning lightroom macro's Max Stansell Photography Photography photoshop portraits splash stay at home tutorial website workshops Fri, 10 Apr 2020 10:17:21 GMT
Routine, Routine, Routine Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is doing well and is healthy.  In my last blog I told you to look for that silver lining in being home because of the coronavirus, but I didn't tell you about one of the most important ways to do this.  It's Routine!  Now that we are home from work or school, we don't have to get up and take showers and do this or do that to get ready for work or school, and we just lay around wasting time.  I have two examples that I will tell you about that will hopefully encourage you to make a routine and stick to it.

During the first Gulf war "Desert Shield and Desert Storm,"  I was deployed to the desert very early on just a few days after the invasion of Kuwait.  When we arrived everything was chaotic and unorganized.  Our routine had been interrupted.  And in a big way!  Nowhere to sleep, eating MRE's, and trying to set up operations in a foreign land  in the middle of nowhere.  While doing our jobs fueling jets, we did away with our paperwork, safety checks, and a lot of other routines.  Guess what happened?  We started having accidents.  People were doing dumb stuff that they normally wouldn't do back here in the States at our base.  I don't know if it was that there were no rules or what was in the back of our minds or what, but we were making mistakes that we normally wouldn't make.  So our boss put his foot down and said operations would be just like at home.  We had to go through all of the motions, safety checks, and paperwork that we would have to do in the States even though it wasn't needed in a war time situation.  Guess what happened?  Suddenly no more accidents, no more mistakes.  We became very efficient.  Other sections on base started doing the same, and before long the whole base was working like well-oiled machinery just as we had been in the States.   So what is the lesson?  Try to keep the routine that you may have had before all of this Coronavirus stuff.  It will help you stay focused and be more productive.  Set hours to get up and go to bed just as you would if you had to go to work in the morning.  Take a shower and get dressed in the morning just as you would if you were going to work.  You don't have to dress in your dress clothes, but get out of those PJ's.  Make a list of things to do or things that you want to do, and everyday at home you can work on those during working hours.  After your daily working hours, then you can relax and get into those PJ's.

My second example was when I got laid off a couple of years ago.  When I was first let go, I freaked out!  I had never been without a job before.  I have worked since I was 15 and now I had nothing.  I went into emergency mode and started doing resumes and emailing and all of the stuff you do when you're out of work.  But after a week or so of pure panic and working on my problem all of my waking hours, I found that I could do the job hunting in a hour or two a day and then what?  I remembered the story above and set myself some goals and routine things that I wanted to do.  So I set wake-up times and go-to-bed times.  I got up, showered, got dressed, and did my hour or so of job hunting.  I made a list of things to do.  I decided to teach myself Photoshop, so I set aside so many hours a day to do that.  I also set aside time to do some hiking at my local State Park, and my dog and I would take a hike.  I had to live as cheaply as I could (no money coming in) and look for ways to be productive.  This was a five-month ordeal that worked out great.  I did finally get a job without too much of a pay cut.  I learned more about Photoshop (still lots to learn), enough that in a few weeks I'll be giving a talk to my Camera Club on Composite Photography, and we'll be social distancing with an online meeting.  So my big advice is to set a routine and stick to it.  Set goals and write them down and don't forget exercise.

As I'm watching the news, most of it is not good.  So turn this Coronavirus bad news around and use the time that it has given you to the fullest by setting routines and goals.  There are lots of things that you can do at home.  So stay safe, and when this is over get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog coronavirus hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography routine website Fri, 03 Apr 2020 09:01:43 GMT
Finding the Silver Lining to Self-Quarantine Hi Everyone!  I hope that all of my friends and followers are safe and healthy.  The last week or so the Coronavirus has been on everyone's minds and in the news with things happening very quickly and changing every day.  As of now 16 states are on some sort of lockdown.  Many Americans are at home, and if you look at social media, people are bored and it's only been a week or so.  I say find the silver lining in being in self-quarantine. Use this time to work on your photography, your editing skills, and of course getting honey do's done while you have the time to. LOL These are some of the things that I will be doing.

First of all I am very lucky that I can do some of my work remotely, at least for a while until that work runs Red HeartRed Heart out.  I usually commute 1 to 1-1/2 hours one way each day, so even working from home gives me 2 to 3 extra hours a day to get stuff done.  Now the first couple of days you're probably going to just veg out in front of the TV, and I understand everyone needs a break.  But after that's done we need to set goals and use this time well.  As you may know, a few years ago I got laid off and had lots of time on my hands.  Besides looking for a job, I decided to teach myself how to work in Photoshop, well at least a little.  I learned how to composite a little and found out how hard it really was to do and how much time it takes to do one image.  I've got some new software now, Luminar 4.2, and maybe I can play with it and learn some new stuff.  My advice to you is to get started if you're self-quarantined.  Get online and find some kind of program to help you learn whatever software you're trying to learn.  A good program to follow for Photoshop is by Aaron Nace.  It's a 30-day tutorial, and you can find it free on Youtube.  Just google "Phlearn 30 days of Photoshop."  This is a great place to start.

Blue Water SplashBlue Water Splash Right now there is not a travel restriction in my state "YET," but I'm sure it's coming before too long.  But when it does, or if you're just scared to go out and about, do photography in your backyard. The spring flowers are starting to bloom, and I have a ring flash that I haven't used hardly at all.  I think I will get out in the backyard and do some Macro work.  Or maybe you can take some shots of your kids or pets.  I'm in the process of watching a tutorial of pet photography, so maybe I'll get out and take some photos of my dog Forrest.  Maybe you can learn how to use that flash that you have but only know how to use it in TTL mode.  Learn how to use it in manual mode.  And the same with your camera.  If you only know how to use your camera in auto mode, learn how to use it in manual.  It will make you a better photographer understanding how your camera works.  After you're good at manual, then you can go to some of the auto modes, but you'll be a much better photographer for doing the manual first.

Start new projects.  For me I have many projects.  One is getting my truck and camper ready for camping, customizing  my truck or making tarps and hammocks to meet any situation I can.  I'm really a gear head whether its camping, hiking, or photography, so I can stay busy all day working on these projects.  I also like writing these blogs.  So maybe I'll get writing and get ahead of the curve.  I was just about two weeks ahead on my writing, but now I'm writing the week that I post them and feel like I'm being rushed.  I like to put out a blog every week or so.

Honey Do's!  There are so many projects that I need to do around the house.  Some of them require money, which if you're not working we can't do.  But some of them don't take any money.  My big one is to clean out my garage.  It has become so cluttered that when my small camper is in it you can barley walk around.  So I need to organize my garage and get rid of old stuff that I don't need.  That is my biggest project, and I'm sure your spouse can find lots of projects for you to do. LOL  My biggest point is to do all these things around your house so when the all clear is sounded we can get out and take photos, go camping , hiking, and get outside and keep shooting.  Until next week please keep safe and healthy.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Coronavirus learning lighting lightroom Macro Max Stansell Photography Photography photoshop projects self quarantine website workshops Fri, 27 Mar 2020 09:30:00 GMT
Backpacking - My Social Distancing Callaway PeakCallaway Peak Hey Everyone!  This week I want to talk about my favorite social distancing technique.  Backpacking!  No, not the kind of backpacking that college students do in Europe.  But the kind where you pack all of your gear on your back and go into the woods.  You have your tent, sleeping bag, food, and everything else with you.  I love traveling at the speed of what your feet can take you.  It gives you time to see nature and experience all that is around you.  I am a late bloomer and didn't start hiking until I was 50,  My camera brought me outside.  I was taking studio shots, then to my backyard, and eventually to a state park that is near me.  Then exploring other state parks.  My travel companion then was my son, and we started hiking the trails of the parks we were going to.  Then we got interested in backpacking, but it's a big leap from day hiking to a multiple-day hike.  So we started training moving our miles up and up until we could hike 10 miles with a full pack and do it in about three-and-a-half hours.  We had a trip all planned out in the mountains at Doughton Park, a national park.  The trip was about 10 miles in and out.  We took smaller trips trying to work up to the Doughton trip.  Then we did it!  We started doing more trips, and our longest was a 3-day trip in the Smoky Mountains that we hiked 12+ miles a day and crossed waist-high rushing water many times.  It was an epic trip, getting out in nature and away from hustle and bustle and screens.  Most of the places we go there is no cell service, so phones can really only be used for GPS.

This is a story about my first solo backpacking trip all by myself, in the woods, with no one else to depend on.  It sounds kind of scary, but it really isn't.  My first solo backpacking trip was to Grandfather Mountain State Park in North Carolina.  I packed up the car and drove to Grandfather Mountain.  I left very early and got to the parking spot at the trail head as the sun was coming up.  I had my maps, backpack, camera, and everything else so I headed out.  After about 15 minutes I figured I was going the wrong way and had to backtrack. LOL Today's hiking was going to be all uphill!  A very big workout.  But even more of a workout than I expected.  There were ladders involved and rock scrambling, which I had done none of.  On the way up there was a landmark of a wrecked airplane which I stopped and took some photos of.  I only saw one group of people all day, and they were day hikers on the way down as I was going up.  I had lunch on the top of the mountain with a fantastic view as I ate my tuna wrap. Then it was down the other side of the mountain to my camp site.  It was a very rocky and uneven site, and they had built a platform for tents.  But since I was using my hammock, terrain didn't mater.  I used the platform to cook my food on and make a video on how I cook in the wild. YouTube Link  After setting up camp and fetching some more water (which was a 1/2 mile away), I did the cooking as you can see in the video.  After that, it was just relaxing and waiting for the sun to go down.  Now there are no lights and no electricity, so if you want to get around at night you need a flashlight or a head lamp of some sort.  But usually after a day of struggling and working hard, when the sun goes down you're ready for sleep.  Hikers, midnight comes right after the sun goes down and a great  night sleep happens.  Or should.  In the middle of the night I had to get up and go to the bathroom as most men my age have to.  So I stumbled out of the hammock and went to a tree out of the way.  While I was doing my business, I noticed some eyes looking at me.  It startled me at first, but as I kept looking I noticed it was a big rabbit. Not a bunny, a big rabbit, and it was watching me pee.  After I was through it scurried off, and I went back to the hammock.  Then in the distance I started hearing some chanting or singing, I couldn't really tell, and it kept getting closer and closer.  Something or someone was coming up the trail.  I don't know who they were, but it was after 12 midnight and these guys were hiking along the trail singing.  I don't know if it was a college fraternity or what, but it was strange.  I could barely hike the trail in daytime, and they were doing it at night and singing.  After they had left I went back to sleep and I slept well. When I got up in the morning, I noticed that one of my trekking poles that I had leaned against a tree had fallen over.  When I picked it up, I noticed that the cork grip on it had been chewed and gnawed on.  By that pesky rabbit I suspect!  I still use the trekking poles, and the grip always reminds me of the rabbit.  After a breakfast and cleaning up my campsite, I was ready to head back to my car.  Today should be easer than yesterday, right?  I'm going mostly downhill.  Well, I've learned that, for someone of my age and worn knees, downhill is worse than uphill.  Going uphill makes your chest beat hard, and going downhill makes your knees throb.  And the places that I had to scramble up the first day I had to go down today.  So basically I had to sit on my butt and slide down, which of course made my pants rip.  Well, I finally made it down the mountain and back to my car and was pretty worn out.  Now only a four-hour drive home. LOL  

This trip was only a small out-and-back trip, but as you can tell it has left an impression on me.  I had great views, a brush with wildlife (rabbit), saw a wrecked plane, and really got a workout.  But most of all I got away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  So I really was doing social distancing five years ago.   Just me my backpack and a map traveling at the speed of walking, taking in the scenes, smells, and sounds of the forest and mountain.  I hope everyone stays healthy.  While I'm writing this blog, I'm also watching the news and it's all about the virus that is affecting the world with sickness and death.  I'm hoping that you and your family can get through this with no big changes to your life.  And hopefully you can get back outside and enjoy some social distancing of the outdoors and wilderness.  Until next time be safe, get outside, and keep shooting.


(Max Stansell Photography) backpacking blog camping coved-19 grandfather mountain hiking learning Max Stansell Photography Photography social distancing Solo Virus website Fri, 20 Mar 2020 08:45:53 GMT
Why Are Photographers Emotionally Connected to Their Gear? Hey everyone! This week we'll talk about why photographers are emotionally connected to their gear.  You have all heard the chants "I'm a Nikon guy" or "I'm a Canon guy," along with boos and hisses for the other company, especially when you're with a group of photographers.  Now I know that a lot of this is only just playing around, but is it?  I think as photographers that we get a emotional connection with our gear.  We have favorite lenses, lights, bodies, and it's usually the same brand.  And I think it actually makes good sense.  As someone who has switched from full frame Nikon to crop sensor Sony, I have some insight on why we are emotionally connected to our equipment.  So here goes a list.

1. Investment.  As someone who has GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), I have invested a lot of money into gear.  When you buy into a system say like Nikon or Canon, you tend to buy all of their lenses that go with that system.  You slowly build up your arsenal of lenses, and before you know it you've got $15,000 of stuff that you need to insure in case you drop one.  It just gets crazy how much money we invest on gear, and to replace or switch to another brand would be very expensive.  Believe me I've been there, done that.  We would have to sell all of our gear at a loss and then buy new gear of the other system.  We get protective of this gear like they're our babies.  So if we have Canon system, it's the best thing ever and anything else is inferior. So that's one reason that we are so committed to one brand. My Camera'sMy Camera's

2. Experiences.  With our cameras we get to go places and take pretty photos of whatever we specialize in.  Maybe it's pretty landscapes or portraits or wildlife.  And our cameras got us to these places.  We've made such a big investment in these small machines that we must take them to different places and use them.  And its great!  I think my camera is my passport to everywhere.  It's taken me to places and I've done things that I never would have done if it wasn't for my camera.  It's like a travel companion that I take with me everywhere.  It has seen and done the same things that I have, so you have the shared experiences together.  And the photos really do look great!  And you look at them, and they bring you back to the time you took them.  So you think it's because of the camera that you got to have that experience.  And maybe it was.

AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2Photographer: Anthony Thurston 3. What other people think and say.  "Wow, that's a pretty picture! You must have a good camera."  Have you ever heard that?  And you probably said something like, "Well, I have a Nikon camera" -- blobby, blob, blob -- and you started going on with the specs and your shoulders went back and your chest started to stick out and you started to feel proud.  I don't care what you say, other people's opinions do matter, even if they are wrong.  Because you're a photographer, and you could have taken the same photo with an iPhone and they wouldn't know the difference, but you would.  And I get it.  I've shown up at local events with a big camera taking photos, and people would stop and ask if I worked for the local paper.  Or people have stopped while I was in the woods photographing something and asked if I was a professional photographer just because of my gear.  It's like being mistaken for a movie star or something, I guess (never has happened to me LOL).  But it makes you feel good inside, and you think that your new gear has given you a new persona.  And maybe it has.  When you're without your camera (which you should never be), you're just an everyday Joe.  But when you don your camera you're now a professional camera guy/gal on assignment for whatever your mind can conjure up. _MSP6316_MSP6316

Confession.  I love my cameras!  I'm a proud Sony shooter!  And I don't think that it is wrong to be emotionally attached to our gear.  I have the first lens that I ever bought for a Pentax camera.  It's so old that it has a screw mount.  But I will never get rid of it.  I have memories with that lens.  One memory is from when I was in high school and set the lens on top of the car while I was unlocking my car.  Yep, you guessed it.  I got in and drove off to work.  I got there and noticed it was missing.  I panicked, and I backtracked and found it in the gutter by my school.  Not a scratch on it.  So yes, we as photographers are emotionally attached to our equipment.  What camera gear are you attached to?  Think about it.  And until next time, keep shooting and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camera Canon emotional equipment gear landscape learning lenses loyal Max Stansell Photography Nikon Photography portrait Sony website wildlife Fri, 13 Mar 2020 08:51:00 GMT
How I Camp / My Different Camping Setups When I Camp Hi Everyone!  This week I'm going to talk about all of my camping systems and when I use them.  You would think that you would only use one, a tent, but I have several.  The ones I choose depend on what I'm doing, where I'm going, and who I'm with.  If I'm with my wife, I camp in a certain way, and if it's just me and Forrest (my dog), I will camp another.  There are two types of campers.  There are those where the campsite is the main attraction.  What I mean by that is that they are more interested in the camping at the campsite. They are into setting up the campsite, making the fire, cooking, drinking, the whole campsite experience.  Where they are camping is secondary to the campsite.  The other type of camper is what I am.  I'm just looking for a place to sleep and eat, and I'm ready to go the next morning.  Where I am is more important to me than the campsite.  With that said the people that I camp with can be the first type of camper, so compromise on my part is always happening.  So what about the different systems I use?  Well, there are many.  First, tents.  I have several tents, and this is what I probably started camping in.  They are versatile and all you need is a flat piece of ground to put them on.  They come in many sizes and shapes.  Second, hammocks.  I have discovered hammock camping in the last couple of years and found them to be very comfortable.  I have made some myself.  Third, sometimes I camp out in my truck.  I have a bed topper and have made a bed platform so I can sleep in the bed of my truck.  And last but not least I have my Teardrop trailer that my wife and I purchased a couple of years ago.  So I have all these different types of camping systems.  When and why do I use them?  Well, here you go.

Tents.  Tents are one of the most versatile camping systems.  I used a pup tent when I was a Cub Scout.  I keep a tent in my truck for emergencies if I get stranded somewhere.  But to tell you the truth, I don't use tents often because I'm getting older, and sleeping on the ground isn't as comfortable as it used to be.  I mainly use them when I'm backpacking somewhere and I don't know the terrain were I'll be sleeping.  I have many tents and they serve different purpose .  I have one that's a dome tent (the one I keep in my truck) that's a durable tent, and it weighs about 5 lbs.  This is not the tent that I backpack with though because it's too heavy.  I have another that is very lightweight, just under 2 lbs., and that's my backpacking tent if I'm by myself.  But if Forrest is with me, then I have another tent that's a little larger and weighs about 2.5 lbs. so he can sleep with me in the tent.  So different tents for different situations.  

My hammock.  This is my preferred way to sleep when I'm camping.  It's very comfortable, cheap, and easy.  When I'm backpacking this is what I want to use.  If I know there are going to be trees (and that's almost anywhere in the Southeast), the hammock is what I will be using.  I have made a couple, and they have integrated bug nets with tarps for cover from rain and sun.  They are fairly lightweight so they are good for backpacking.  But if Forrest is with me, there is no room for him.  So if Forrest goes backpacking with me, no hammock.  But I'm trying to make him something that he can sleep in while I'm in the hammock.

The truck camper.  This is my newest way to camp.  I built a platform to sleep on and a drawer that holds all of the camping supplies.  I've only used it a couple of times.  This is mainly used to car camp.  While doing my project of visiting all of the state parks in North Carolina, Forrest and I will be doing a lot of car camping, so I guess this type of camping we will be using more of.  I can still use my hammock when we car camp, and Forrest can stay in the truck.  We've done this once before and it worked out well.

My teardrop camper.  My wife and I used to do a lot of tent camping when we were younger.  But I just couldn't see my wife sleeping in a tent when we got older, so we bought a Teardrop Camper.  It is pretty neat but is definitely Glamping (glamour camping).  When my wife and I go camping now, this is the type of camping we do.  It has all the perks.  Stove, sink, TV, AC, DVD player, just about everything.  My wife and I will set up an awning in the back where the kitchen is and we play cards and relax.  We don't use it as much as I would like to.  The problem with using the camper is that you usually have to make reservations way in advance, and the weather or other things can come up that messes up your trip. Last year we had six camping trips set up for the camper and only made one.  Bad weather or other things messed up all the other trips. Hopefully this year will be better.  We have a trip planned for two weeks from now.

So those are all my types of camping.  I hope you get a chance to get out into the wilderness and do some camping.  Until then get out and shoot!


(Max Stansell Photography) Backpacking blog camping car camping hammocks learning Max Stansell Photography Photography tarp teardrop tents Trucks website Fri, 06 Mar 2020 09:14:39 GMT
What About Video for Digital Storytelling? Hey Everyone! This week I want to discuss video.  Now I'm not an expert at all and really don't know a lot about shooting moving pictures.  I have been a still photographer for most of my life and have only recently started shooting video, mostly for my own personal use.  I do have a YouTube channel with 30 or so short videos.  They are mostly of hiking and camping with some photography and photo editing thrown in for good measure.  But I do admire those who can tell a story through video.  There is a lot of forethought that goes into a small movie or video.  You have to have a story and a timeline in your head, and then there is audio that goes along with it.  That is a whole other world that I'm not familiar with.  A couple of my photography friends in my camera club shoot great video, and I'm inspired by what they do to try and do something similar. But it's hard to concentrate on still photography and video at the same time.  It's either one or the other, or you just do both poorly.  I'm still working on that one.

One of my personal projects for the year is to visit all of North Carolina's state parks.  This project is to, one, get me out of the house;  two, make more photography; and, three, do some hiking and camping.  While I'm doing this project, I had an idea to record my adventures with short clips of the adventure with my dog Forrest.  So I will have some "Forrest Goes to..." adventures.  Here's a link to the latest one I did, Forrest Goes to Fort Macon.  Hope you enjoyed the video.  What were the tools that I used to make this?  I currently have two Gopro cameras:  one older Gopro Session 4 and a newer Gopro7.  But I also use my phone, my Sony A6500, and my Canon G7XII.  On this particular video, I used all of the above in one form or another.  They all came in handy at different times.  The Gopros are great for action-type scenes, like Forrest hiking or the camera mounted to my truck to show us traveling.  I might even mount the camera to Forrest one day to get his eye's view of what's going on.  I haven't quite figured that one out yet.  The Sony A6500 and the Canon G7XII are great for still shots, like on a tripod for an interview.  And my iPhone, well, it's just always with me so it's great just to pull out when something happens and I don't have the other cameras with me.  I do have mounts for the GoPros and mini-tripods to mount all of these cameras on.  I have a cheap microphone that I can hook up to my iPhone to use as an audio recorder, but honestly I haven't done much talking in my videos yet.  All of these things fit into a little bag that I can take with me when I go out.

For video-editing software I use iMovie.  It's not the most advanced, but that's why I like it.  It's simple and I can do quite a bit with it.  I can export straight to YouTube from the software or export a file from my computer files.  I shoot in 1080 right now and don't see the need to shoot in 4K video for a couple of reasons.  One is storage.  4k takes up a lot of space on my computer and computing power for rendering the video, which might be too much for my current computer.  I am only putting the videos on YouTube and Facebook, and the quality doesn't need to be 4K.  The other reason is that all of my cameras, from phone to oldest GoPro, will shoot in 1080, and not all of them will shoot in 4K.  I get licensed free music from YouTube that you can download and use for free for the background music.  This music sets the mood of the video and helps me create the clip.

And all of that is the easy part.  The storytelling is the hard part.  You have to have a story in mind of how you will shoot it, camera angles and such in mind before you start videoing.  When you have all of your raw footage, then the editing begins and that's where the story starts to unfold.  Do you go in chronological oder, or do you just tell the story with maybe even flash back moments?  All of this is done in the editing.

I could go on and on about the powers of moving pictures, but you know the power.  You see it every day in television, movies,  and almost anywhere.  And you have a camera with you all the time.  That's how I started, with my phone on hiking trips.  So pull out your phone and start shooting video.  Have fun with it.  Shoot your cat or dog (not literally! LOL), put those shots to music, and you'll have your first movie.  That's all for now.  So until next time, get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog gopro7 goprosession iphone learning max stansell photography photography story telling video videography website Fri, 28 Feb 2020 09:55:09 GMT
Into the Future of Photography Hey Everyone! This week I'm going to don my cape and turban and pull out my crystal ball and look into the future of photography.  What will camera technology be like in the future?  Will we all be cyborgs with cameras built into our heads?  Well, I don't think so, and you don't need a crystal ball to see into the future.  You just need to pull your phone out of your back pocket to see what the next technology will be for your camera.  This little camera that is disguised as a phone with the little tiny sensor that takes such good snapshots that are good enough to be blown up to a billboard-sized photo is the future.  Computational photography will be the future.  Computational photography is software that fixes or alters a photo in camera, like the portrait feature on newer phones that blur out the background like a f1.4 aperture lens would.  Like being able to put your camera in a mode "Nighttime" that allows you to handhold your camera at night and get great photos without blur. These things are being done now in phones and soon will be, if not already, in your camera by using super powerful on board computers.  So this brings up the question about larger sensor professional cameras.  Will they still be made?  If I can take the same quality photo with a small sensor camera that I can with a larger expensive $4,000 camera body and a $2,000 lens, why would I buy the more expensive?  I'm sure there will always be the people that have the money and the high-end professionals that will need these cameras, but what about the ordinary Joe like you and me?  I think that they will start buying  (every day Joes) the less-expensive ones.  Now if you're using smaller sensor-sized cameras and lenses made for these smaller cameras, the whole package will be smaller and more portable and great for the everyday photographer, travel photographer, and nature photographer.  There will be things that will be built into the cameras that we can't even think of yet.  And with cameras using computational photography, instead of upgrading hardware every couple of years, you could just do a software upgrade to make your camera as up to date as the guy buying a new camera.  I believe that we have about topped out the megapixel bubble, and more megapixel cameras just take up more storage on your computer and not necessarily better quality phot's.  We have 100 MP cameras now, and for most of us who take photography seriously, the only way we could tell the difference between it and a 24MP camera would be to Pixel Peep on a computer.  But to the naked eye not so much.  So far we've been talking about what our cameras will be able to do in camera, but what about software?

Post processing is very advanced now.  Just think about what it will be able to do in the future.  The newest trend right now is AI (artificial intelligence), that we can enhance the photographs, shadows, contrast, and many more items by just sliding a slider. There are sky enhancers, foliage enhancers, and sky replacements.  All of these can be done in Photoshop, but newer programs are going to make these easier to do without having to be a Photoshop skilled editor.  I can only see AI getting better, and along with the computational photography, I only see stunning, eye popping photographs coming in the future.

Photographers EyePhotographers Eye Now, did I come up with this all by myself?  No, not really.  I listen to a lot of podcasts on photography.  One of them is the "Future of Photography."  The one that gave me the idea of this blog is "The Digital Story." The Digital Story Podcast #725  Click on this link to listen to the podcast by Derrick Story that gave me this idea.  I think that the future of photography is bright, and I can't wait, although I will be an old timer and will probably stick to what works for me. So until next time, keep shooting and get outside! 

(Max Stansell Photography) blog computational crop sensor editing full frame in camera iphone learning max stansell photography micro4/3 photography post processing sensors software website Fri, 21 Feb 2020 10:37:03 GMT
What’s in My Photography “Editing” Toolbox? _DSC4702_DSC4702 Hey Everyone! This week I thought I would talk about what’s in my photography editing toolbox.  If you have someone build you a house, the contractor has more than just a hammer in his toolbox.  He has saws, drills, levels, and all sorts of tools at his disposal, each with a unique task to perform.  Much like the contractor, as photographers we should have more than one tool in our photo editing toolbox because, like the contractor with the hammer, we cannot edit our photos with just one tool and expect great photos.  I’m going to break this down into hardware and software.  I’m assuming that we all have a lot invested in both, and I’m going to show you what I have in my toolbox.


Hardware is easy to explain.  It's your computer or computers.  But it can go 2563e370f98e53afa59b4ddfed93f6212563e370f98e53afa59b4ddfed93f621 much further than that.  It can extend to your tablet of choice and even your phone.  My main editing computer is a 2015 27-inch IMac, and I just upgraded the mechanical hard drive to a Solid State Drive.  It’s maxed out on RAM and is still pretty snappy to be five years old. This is the computer that I really do all of my editing on unless I’m traveling somewhere.  Attached to it I have external hard drives:  one for miscellaneous stuff and one for photo archives that my software accesses.  I use a temporary 250 GB SSD drive that I use as a buffer.  I was doing this when I just had a mechanical drive to make the process quicker.  I really don’t need to do this anymore now that I have the SSD hard drive, but it's just part of my process.  I leave photos on this temp SSD drive until I’ve finished editing to make it quicker.  Then I send the photos to the archive.  My mobile computer is a 2017 MacBook Air, and I recently upgraded the hard drive in it also.  I went from a smaller SSD to a quicker and larger 1TB NVME SSD drive that is twice the speed as the old one.  It has brought new life into this computer and made it very snappy.  I still only have 8GB RAM, but it seems to run the programs that I have on here pretty well.  Like I said, this computer is only used for editing when I’m mobile.  It's used mostly for browsing the web and stuff like that.  I have a 250 GB SSD that I keep all of my photos on for my mobile computing as a buffer also.  After I arrive home, I transfer all of my photos to my main computer.  I have an IPad Pro that I tried on my last big outing for my mobile computer, and it worked but was a little cumbersome to use.  With keyboard cover I have on it, it seems just as heavy as my MacBook Air.  And of course there is my IPhone.  I do occasionally edit iPhone photos on it and can access my photos from my main computer.  I do have an older MacBook Pro, a 2011 model that has been souped up and is my backup in case my main computer dies.  It is strong enough to run all my programs on it that I would need.  But it's older and newer software doesn’t like to run on it, so it stays put away most of the time.  As you can tell, I am pretty invested into the Apple/Mac ecosystem and have been for quite a while.  For me the durability of these machines and how they interact with each other is a great asset.  My main computer is backed up to a cloud service Backblaze.  All of my external hard drives that are hooked to it are also backed up.  The other machines are backed up using Time Machine.  Please back up your computers so if something happens you can restore a new computer and everything is as it was.


I use lots of different software to edit my photos, but my main software is Lightroom.  Lightroom is the hub where everything takes place.  It’s where I import my photos, do basic editing, and can send photos to different software to have specific things done.  Then the photo comes back to Lightroom where I can export it to the web or print.  It is the heart of all of my photo editing.  I have over 50,000 images in its catalog, and I will stay a Lightroom user.  Now there are two flavors of Lightroom.  There is Lightroom Classic, which is what I use the most, and then there is Lightroom CC (mobile) where I can sync photos to other computers like my mobile computer, IPad, and IPhone.  I only sync rated photos.  I can edit from a mobile device, and it automatically syncs to the main computer Lightroom Classic.  The mobile flavor of Lightroom is a stripped down version, but it still does a lot.

luminar_sq_logo_500luminar_sq_logo_500 Photoshop is another software that I use and is the industry standard in photo editing and graphic design.  It is a monster of a program and will do almost anything.  It can be very frustrating to use, and I only use it on occasion when I need to do something specific like add text or something creative like I mentioned in my last blog doing composite photography.  It uses a layering system of editing your photographs.  Like I said before, it can be complicated to use, and I usually have to watch a tutorial somewhere to relearn how to do something in Photoshop.  Photoshop to me is very time consuming because of all of the re-learning going on, but still it comes in handy and can handle any job you throw at it.

Luminar 4 is a recent addition to my toolbox and is also a very powerful tool.  It uses AI (artificial inteligence) to do some of its work.  It can do things like sky replacement where you just pick a sky and it puts it in the right place in your photo.  Or sky enhancement where you just slide a slider and it knows where the sky is and only adjusts it.  It has some portrait AI also that I haven’t gotten time to play with yet but will.  It’s a vey cool software, and I had Luminar 3 which was great.  But when Luminar 4 came out, the user interface was changed quite a bit and it freaked me out, so it took a while before I switched to Luminar 4.  I can send a photo from Lightroom, and it will go to Luminar.  I make my corrections, hit apply, and it sends the photo back to Lightroom so I can do what I want with it.

The Nik Collection of tools is an older software that has tools like HDR, Color, Sharpening, B/W tools in it.  You can export to one of these tools, and after you save it, it brings it back to Lightroom.  The tool that I used the most is Silver Effects Pro that lets you edit black and white photographs and make them look like some of the old films.  It can emulate lots of different films from the day and really make your photos pop!

Photo Editing Accessories.

Yes, just a couple of accessories.  One is a Color Monitor Calibrator.  I use one from Exrite, a company that specializes in color calibration from monitors to printers to projectors.  I calibrate all of my computers once a month to make sure all of my colors are the same with all of my computers.  So red looks like red on my IMac and MacBook.  I am a mouse guy.  There, I’ve said it.  I’m not a trackpad person.  I love using a mouse, and my mouse of preference is the Magic Mouse used with IMac and MacBooks.  It’s nothing special, but it's made especially for Mac.  The last accessory is a Wacom Pen and Tablet.  I’m a late adopter into the Wacom world, but I really like the way I can control my brushes when I’m burning and dodging.  It seems to work better than the mouse.  I don’t use it all the time, but when I’ve got to use the brush tool for any amount of time, this is the tool of choice for me.

So that’s what’s in my toolbox.  Seems like a lot, but most of this was purchased over time and learned over time, so it wasn’t such a big impact.  What are your tools of editing?  Let me know.  Until next time, keep shooting and get outside!


(Max Stansell Photography) blog iMac learning Lightroom Luminar MacBook Max Stansell Photography photo editing Photography photoshop software Wacom website Fri, 14 Feb 2020 10:02:48 GMT
Composite Photography/ Fake News? Hey Everyone!  What a title.  I thought of this subject while at my photography club's meeting the other night.  We were going over the next year's activities, and I saw composite photography as one of the topics and hoped that they didn't want me to teach it because I've just done a few of them.  So then I started thinking of a title, "Composite Photography/Fake News."  What I wanted you to think about is do you think that composite photography (taking two or more photos and merging them in Photoshop) is art or just Fake News?  Are you a purest?  Do you think that no photo should be manipulated like this, or do you think that making an image out of many photos is art?  I'm sure there are some strong arguments on both sides.  On one hand, if you're a photo journalist or a sports photographer, the answer may be, yes, it is fake and not allowed.   And I can understand that in those circumstances.  But for the 99% of hobby and enthusiast photographers that most of us are, I think it is another way to show our creativity.  I am by no means an expert at composite photography.  But I have dabbled in it a little, and it is very challenging.  For those who don't know, a few years back I was between jobs for quite a few months, so I was at home with a lot of time but with no money.  (I never seem to have enough time and money at the same time. I usually have one or the other.)  So I decided to learn some Photoshop.  I followed tutorials on YouTube, starting small and working my way up to more elaborate composites, still following step by step.  I even inserted some of my own photographs of myself in some of the photos.  Then I started making some of my own with all the photos that I had.  Maybe replacing a sky, inserting birds or a plane in the photo.  Maybe adding a milky way into the shot when there wasn't one.  When I post those photos, I always say that they are composites and try not to say they were originals.  So in my mind Wells Fargo RaleighWells Fargo Raleigh compositing is an art in itself.  I think a photograph like a landscape isn't journalism.  I think it should try to convey the feeling that you saw when you were there, and if a little compositing helps to do that, I'm all for it.  

Composite photography can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.  Simple composites could be maybe adding a bird to the sky or changing the sky altogether.  Maybe you had a blue bird on a sunny day and you wanted a moody, cloudy sky.  You could take one sky out and replace it with another.  Maybe you wanted to insert people into the photo.  Or maybe you're a portrait photographer and you're shooting a group photo and one person has their eyes closed.  You can composite their head from another photo where the eyes were open.  Maybe you have a person who wears glasses and you take one photo with and one without glasses; then you can composite the eyes into the frames of the glasses to get rid of glare that was in them so it looks like a perfect lit shot with no glare.  But that's just simple stuff.  You can create completely different worlds with composite photography by combining many photographs and parts of photographs from different sources.  I have one photo here where I did that.  The photo looks like there was a war zone.  I took the buildings from a photo of bombed out buildings in the Middle East, a couple of wrecked cars, a cop on a Segway from a Christmas Parade, and a photo of me hiking.  So in the photo here it looks like I'm hiking through a futuristic war zone.  This photo took many hours of work and thought, but it turned out pretty good, I think. 

There are some things to remember when compositing. Light matters.  The direction and the intensity of it.  It should be the same throughout the whole photo.   NC Marsh LandsNC Marsh LandsMax Stansell Photography You have to be mindful of shadows and that they all go the correct way and are where they should be.  You should pay attention to edges of the parts of photos that you're bringing in and try to blend them so they don't look sharp and cut out but smooth, like when you're looking at a lot of objects.  Things should look fairly natural.  All of this is very hard to do, especially if you're struggling with the tools of Photoshop.  That's where I struggle the most.  I can see the photo in my mind's eye but struggle with Photoshop.  The only way to stay good at Photoshop is to do it a lot, which I don't.  So when I start to do something in Photoshop, I have to relearn how to use and do things, and that takes up most of my time and everyone else's, I guess.  If you had a good command of all the tools and how to's in Photoshop, it might not be so difficult to do these composites, and there would be a lot more of them I bet.  I have put some examples of some composites that I have done with the blog.  If you want to learn and follow step by step with a tutorial, go to YouTube and type in "photoshop composite" and there will be many videos of composites being made.  Most of them don't have any talking, but you can go step by step and stop and start and rewind the videos as you go until you have a completed image. After you do a couple of these, it will become easier and you can start making your own.  Then when you go shooting you can look for cool things to shoot that you can composite later.  Maybe skies or textures or all kinds of things.  So until next time, stay creative and keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) Artistic blog Composite Creative Fake News learning lightroom Max Stansell Photography Photography Photoshop website workshops Fri, 07 Feb 2020 10:01:46 GMT
What to Do With Old Photos Lightbulb Water LighthouseLightbulb Water Lighthouse Hey Everyone!  Hope you're doing well. While on the way to work the other day (I always have a long commute and time to think), I was thinking about all the photographers and all of the photos that we've taken and what are we doing with them?  Well, I've got a few suggestions and things that I do that will take advantage of that big cash of photos that you have hanging out on your hard drive doing nothing but taking up space.  If you're like me, you're not doing photography for profit, but just doing it for fun. Sometimes I think that the act of taking the photos and the experiences that I had while taking the photos is what I love the best, and the end result doesn't matter that much for me.  I delete a lot of photos, but after 20 years of digital photography, I still have over 40,000.  Now a lot of them are of family and friends, and some are of places I've been.  So here's some suggestions on what to do with them.

One thing to do is reprocess some of your favorites from the past.  Post processing has changed and you have grown as a editor, and you might be The MetroThe MetroCommuters waiting for the Metro in Washington DC. surprised on how good some of these photos will turn out after you put your years of experience of processing on to older photos.  Editing programs have come and gone, and maybe you were processing with a different program than you use now.  Maybe that program doesn't even exist now.  While finding these photos to edit, your memories will start to remember the where and how you took these photos.  Maybe a trip you took or a place you visited will start to be fresh in your mind again.  Isn't that what photos are supposed to do, stir up memories from the past?  After you have them reprocessed, now what?  

Print them!  I think printing is the one thing that will let your photographs, your art, live for decades.  When you're long and gone, your printed photos will still be here and can be passed down to other generations to keep your memory and your art alive.  Who knows what can happen to a hard drive or if even the format that we use now will be able to be seen on a screen in decades of the future?  But a print in someone's hand will always be able to be seen.  Now you can print them yourself, a whole new art, or you can send them off to get printed.  Either way you will have prints.  And what to do with the prints?  I've created a love-me wall at the house where I have maybe 10 5x7 prints that I change out every so often.  You can have larger prints made, frame them, and use them for wall art around your house and, of course, for gifts to family and friends for art in their houses.  It's kind of neat to go to someone else's house and see your art on their walls.  You can have canvases made for pretty cheap, and they look nice also.  So what else can you do with the photos that you've brought new life into?

Well, this is the controversial idea.  Share them.  There are many ways to share your photos, and when I say share I mean put them out for the world to see.  There are many outlets that you can use.  Flickr and 500PX are a couple of photo sharing sites, and you can have people from all over the world look at your work.  Facebook and Instagram are others.  I used to post my photos on Facebook, but I have quit and now try to post to Instagram once a day.  So I have a folder on my desktop that I fill with photos that I want to put on Instagram.  When I have new photos from a photo trip or outing, I use them.  But when I run out of recent stuff, I'll go to the folder on my desktop and use one.  I like Instagram because I can tell a little about the photograph and I get likes and comments from all over the world which is pretty neat.  I use low resolution photos, and I'm not too worried about someone taking my photo and using it for something else.  I'm just happy that someone is seeing the photos that have been hiding on my hard drive.  It's a part of my daily routine.  I get up, get some coffee, and post to Instagram.  For those who know me, I get up real early.  So when I post, most people in the US aren't up yet.  So if I get a like real quick, I know it's someone from another country which is cool.

One benefit from going back in time and playing with these old photos is that it stirs up your creative juices and gets you into that artsy groove.  And that's just a great place to be.  Follow me on Instagram at maxstansellphotography.  So keep shooting and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Create learning Max Stansell Photography Photography social media tutorial website Fri, 31 Jan 2020 09:15:15 GMT
Day Hikes for Photographers Hey Everyone!  Today I want to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart and that's taking a hike. Taking a hike has many benefits.  You get outside and breath in the fresh air.  You get to see great and different scenery.  You get to travel at a walking pace, not a jump in your car and see how fast you can get to work or to the store or to wherever everyone is in so much of a hurry to get to these days.  As photographers, we have the unique opportunity to take great photos of these places and bring them home to share with our friends and loved ones.  These walks or hikes do not need to be long-drawn-out 10 mile hikes.  They can be short and sweet by a lake or by a river.  Here I will try to give some hints on day hiking for photographers.

First is where to go?  Well, the list is endless.  Many towns and cities have greenways that were built for hikers, joggers, and bicycles to travel on and can go through parks and wooded areas.  There are many city and state parks that have all kinds of trail systems at all levels of physical ability.  And there are national parks with all kinds of trail systems.  My advice to begin with is to look at Google maps or any kind of map and make a circle, say and hour or hour and a half from where you live, and start looking for places.  Let Google be your friend and help you find places.  You will be surprised at how many there are and how close they are to you.  Some places like state parks will have guided hikes on different occasions.  One of my goals this year is to visit and hike in every state park in North Carolina.  There are 34 of them.

What should I bring?  I'm going to break this up and start with photography gear.  Don't bring everything you own.  Remember, if you are hiking you're going to carry your hiking gear, so less photography gear is better.  I would first ask myself, what will I be shooting and what kind of trail am I going to be on?  Is it a wooded trail with trees surrounding me?  If so a long telephoto lens will not be needed.  But a wide angel might come in handy or a medium range zoom.  Will I need a tripod? Think about this in the same way.  What am I shooting?  Waterfalls, then I would need one.  Low light, then I would need one.  But if it's a sunny day then maybe not.  You have to assess what you will need to take and less is better.  I commute to different towns for my job, and at lunch when I get a chance I go into the town for a photowalk or a park for a small hike.  My camera of choice for this is a point and shoot.  It's a nice one, but a point and shoot just the same, and I can get some really nice photos without lugging a whole bunch of camera gear with me.  So that is an option for a day hike also.

What else should I bring?  Common sense should be the rule here.  If you're making a day of it, I would suggest a little food and a lot of water.  If you're in the summer sun, remember you will be sweating and you need to replace that fluid, so hydrate!  But always have some water with you.  One thing I always bring is some sort of rain protection.  I always have one of those $5 emergency rain ponchos.  They are made out of real thin plastic and are good for one use but they are a life saver.  The reason I do this is because I went on a hike once and was about 5 miles in when I got caught in a downpour.  Luckily I had a large trash bag with me, and that became my raincoat and protector of my camera gear.  But from that day on, I always carry that little emergency rain poncho.  Don't forget your smart phone.  If you're taking a longer hike and one where you could get turned around, they come in handy for the GPS.  Even if you lose signal they can help get you in the right direction.  And they are a backup camera also.  Don't forget about sun protection, a hat, sunscreen, or a long-sleeved shirt to protect you from the sun.  There are lots of new materials that are lightweight and cool but will still protect you from the sun.  Sunglasses are also a must if you are going to be in exposed areas where there's a lot of sun and no shade to protect your eyes.  Also a must in the snow!  Bug protection can be a must, especially if you're in mosquito-infested areas.  There are sprays and creams you can use, but the bugs will drive you crazy if you are not using them.

What about clothing?  For summer I would say lightweight, non-cotton clothing.  Cotton is not what you want to wear hiking because it will absorb the water or sweat from you and stay wet, which could make you cold or just weigh you down.  So no blue jeans or 100% cotton T-shirts.  Wear blends and polyester-type clothing.  It will wick the moisture away from you and dry quickly.  In the winter dress in layers.  A good base layer (long johns), shirts, coats, etc.  With lots of layers, when you're hiking and getting hot, you can take some off.  And when you stop for a while and get cold, you can put more on.  What about shoes? Shoes must be comfortable and supportive.  Walking, hiking, trail, and running shoes will work.  I would stay away from boots unless you have really broken them in well.  They can give you blisters very quickly if you're not used to walking a lot in them.

What do I carry all of this in?  A small bag or backpack that is lightweight and comfortable.  You probably already have some sort of backpack or bag you can use.  It doesn't  have to be fancy, just something that can carry all of your stuff if need be. Remember to always take all of your trash with you when you leave.  As photographers we should only take photographs and leave footprints.  So take care of our parks and trails and keep them clean.

Now that you have somewhere to go and you know what to wear and are dressed for comfort and safety, go out and enjoy nature.  Take a hike and really enjoy the world.  There is always something new to see and investigate, and I usually don't have to go very far for a nature adventure.  Me I love to go out with my hiking buddy Forrest (my canine friend) and explore different places.  I get exercise, I get outside, and I get photos that are not like everyone else's because they stay at home.  So get out and shoot!  And take a hike!



(Max Stansell Photography) blog hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography outdoors Photography safety website Fri, 24 Jan 2020 10:29:20 GMT
Finding the Sweet Spot of Your Lenses _MSP9571_MSP9571 What does it mean to find the sweet spot of a lens?  All lenses are not the same.  And even at different apertures on the same lens, you can see a difference of sharpness.  Lenses tend to lose sharpness because of diffraction.  This is a very technical term that means the light tends to split-up at either end of the aperture range.  Lenses tend to be sharper in the middle of the aperture range.  Say f 8 or so.  But that's just a rule of thumb.  How do you know exactly what the sweet spot is on your lens?  I know some people will say that my lens is sharp all the time in all apertures, but after the sweet spot test you'll see that it isn't.  All lenses are not the same even if th ey are the same brand and make.  If you have a Kit lens, this is a great way to figure out how to get the sharpest image out of it.  Here is an easy way to test your lens and find out what the sweet spot is on your lens.  First, you'll need a few things.  A tripod, a wall that has a lot of texture in it so you can see if it's sharp or not (like a brick wall or a wall that has lots of details in it), and some sort of photo editing software like Lightroom.  Set your tripod up and get your lens focused on the wall.  Put your ISO on say 100 or your native ISO for your camera and put your camera on aperture priority shooting mode.  Open up to your widest aperture, say f2.8 or whatever your widest aperture is, and take a shot.  Then go through all of your apertures to the most closed down ones.  After you've taken all of your photos, put them into Lightroom or some other software and start to compare the sharpness of the different shots.  Then before long you'll come up with a clear winner, or at least a couple that are almost identical in sharpness.  I'm not a big supporter of pixel peeking, but in this case it's what you want to do.  Make sure you look in the corners and all across the frame.  When you have your winner, you'll know what your sweet spot is.  You can do this to all of your lenses, and the sweet spot will be different on those lenses.  You can record the results or just remember them for future reference.  Now why is all of this important?  Knowing what aperture your lens is the sharpest can come in handy.  For me, when I know what the sharpest is, I tend to leave that lens at that point for general photography like just walking around.  And when sharpness really matters I know where to put my lens.  Knowing your gear and how it works, from your camera to your lenses, will save you money in the long run.  22730511_10210704932196387_7018311079726609722_n22730511_10210704932196387_7018311079726609722_n You won't have to spend that extra money to buy the more expensive lens because it's supposed to be sharper.  You can stick with your old lens because you know how to make it sharp.  The same can be said with our camera bodies.  We probably only use 10% of our camera's potential just exploring the menus and reading the manual can help you become a better photographer and utilize the camera that you have, not the one that you lust over.  And I am as guilty of this as anyone else.  Always wanting the next best thing.  So save yourself some money and find the sweet spot of your lenses for sharp photos.  And as always keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) Aperture blog learning Lenses Max Stansell Photography Photography website Fri, 17 Jan 2020 09:34:02 GMT
Setting Goals and Planning Trips for the New Year Brownie MemoriesBrownie Memories Hey Everybody!  The first of the year is a busy one for me, planning the upcoming year and setting goals, both photography and personal goals.  This year has been no exception.  I believe setting goals is one of the most important things you can do.  First of all, it puts a plan in motion.  Gets you looking forward or to something.  It gets the gears spinning in your head on what you want to do.  This year one of my goals, or maybe you could say a personal project, is going to visit all of the state parks in North Carolina where I live.  There are 34 official parks and 7 recreational areas.  I'm sticking with the parks for now.  Since most of my shooting is on the weekend, there are just so many weekends in a year.  But this project will do a few things.  It will get me out of the house both for photography and camping, which I love to do.  I have visited all of the parks before, but not in one year.  I even have an end-of-the-year photo in mind.  A collage of all the welcome signs of all the parks I have visited.  So that is my personal project for the year. Live Oak PondLive Oak Pond

Another goal of mine is to do more printing.  To be honest that is always a goal of mine that always gets put aside.  I hope this year is an exception and I can print more and become a better printer.  I think that printing will keep your legacy alive long after you're gone.  If you're like me, you have thousands of images on your hard drive and probably less than half a percent of them printed.  After you're gone, those images on your hard drive will disappear, but printed images last a long time.  I just recently got all of my mother's photos from the past, and I have some from the 1800's that will be handed down to my children and theirs I hope.  So print more photos.

Another goal this year for me is not to buy so much camera gear.  I have a pretty good kit now and am happy with my gear.  We, and I mean me, always buy too much gear and are focused on gear more than we need to be.  If we spend less time thinking about the next best thing in gear and spend more time thinking about using the gear we have to the fullest, we will take better photos and concentrate more on what's in front of us instead of what's in our hands.  I've just done a blog of my camera gear for 2020 that you can check out. X Marks the SpotX Marks the Spot What I am going to concentrate on gear wise is my computers.  I currently have a 2015 iMac that I do most of my editing on and a 2017 MacBook Air that is my travel watch TV computer.  I have in the last week just updated both to the latest operating system Catalina and have upgraded both of the hard drives. On the MacBook that already had a Solid State Drive (SSD) in it I upgraded it to a faster and larger drive, from a 128gb drive to a 1TB drive.  This made the computer more snappy and works well in Lightroom CC and Luminar.  I also just upgraded my iMac from a 1TB hard drive (spinning drive) to a 1TB SSD drive which doubled the speed for this computer which is my main computer.  I did all the upgrades myself, and it has saved me from buying new machines.  My backup main computer is a 2011 MacBook Pro that I have kept pretty much up to date and snappy and which will run Lightroom Classic and full Photoshop with no problems if need be.

The next goal is to stay active in my local camera club.  I think being able to share and learn from others is a great way to advance you art as a photographer.  I believe that I have grown and have definitely gone to and seen places with my photography club that I wouldn't have done by myself.  Being able to try out new types of photography and see things from others' points of view has broadened my horizons and made me a better photographer.  So please, if you haven't already, join a photography club or go to a meet up and intermingle with others who have the same passion that you have about photography. Wormsloe TreesWormsloe Trees

Finally, one of my personal goals is to eat healthy and exercise more.  I started this last year and lost 30 pounds but have slipped lately and need to get back on the wagon.   The healthier you are the more places you can go and see.  Being healthy will make you a better photographer and a long-living one as well.  I'm not going to preach on this subject too much because I'm not the best example, but if you're like me, over 50, you've got to quit eating like you're 20.  Your body can't handle it.

So those are my goals for the year.  What are yours?  If you don't have some, sit down and make some.  Keep Shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog goals learning Max Stansell Photography new year personal projects Photography website Sat, 11 Jan 2020 14:37:19 GMT
What's in My Bag for 2020? Carolina Beach 2020Carolina Beach 2020 Hey Everyone!  Everybody loves gear talk, and I thought I would do a what's in my bag blog to tell you what I'm toting around this year.  I don't plan on making any changes to my gear this year.  My kit is pretty solid.  I'm trying to tame my gear down so I can concentrate on the photo and not the gear this year, although it might not seem like it in this blog because of all of the gear.  My gear is pretty much the same as last year except for a few items, so let's get started.  The bag that I'm using this year for my backpack camera bag is new.  It's a Shimodo Action X 30 liter.  I am super excited about this bag.  I was using for a backpack a regular backpack with an insert in it, and it worked but wasn't designed for photographers.  This bag is designed for photographers and action photographers, those who are climbing mountains, biking, hiking, and even skiing.  Although I'm just a landscape/travel photographer, this bag fits me like a glove and is just the right size for all of my needs.  I got it through a Kickstarter program, and I could be a spokesman for the company and this bag.  For my just walking around and in town city stuff, I'm still using my  Mountainsmith Daylight Lumbar pack with a Peak Design strap for the shoulder strap.  I have an insert for it, and it's fantastic for carrying around what I need for street photography.

Camera Bodies.  I'm still using the Sony A6500 for my main body and a Sony A6300 for my backup camera.  I still love these cameras.  I know updated versions of these cameras have come out, but for what I shoot I couldn't justify upgrading to a newer camera when mine works great. Maybe in the future they will come out with something that I must have, but right now they haven't.  For my everyday camera that I take with me when I go to work for the OH LOOK AT THAT photo, I carry a Cannon G7xMII point and shoot.  It's a great little camera, and I also use it for video and time lapse.  I have an older Lumix point and shoot that was converted to infra red that I can now carry because of the new bag for those shots that gives a different look.  Something that everyone else isn't doing.  It's not a great camera by today's standards but still gives good photos.  The only other camera bodies that I have are film and a GoPro Session 4 that I use for video when I'm hiking.

Lenses.  The lenses that I carry in my backpack for typical landscape or travel photography are a Sony 10-18 f4 lens for wide angle.  I almost got rid of this lens and then fell in love with it again  It was my favorite for some of the shots of my fall trip this year.  My work horse lens is the Sony/Zeiss 16-70 f4 lens.  It is on my camera 90 percent of the time and covers a full frame range of 24-105.  This is a super sharp lens, and I love the focal range.  The next lens that's in my backpack is the Cannon 70-200 L f4 lens.  This is a great lens, kind of old and slow (like me), but this is my least used focal length and it works great for me.  I use the Metabones adapter for it and any other Canon EF lenses that I may acquire.  Would love to get like a Canon 50L f1.4 but haven't come across one yet, but I'm still on the lookout.  My prime lens is a Rokinon 12mm f2.0 and is what I use for astro photography.  It is a super sharp manual focus lens.  My next lens is a Rokinon 23mm f2.8 which gives me that 35mm full frame range and is good for street.  Not real fast but sharp.  My next one is a Sony 35mm f1.8, and this is my favorite prime lens.  It gives you that classic 50mm full frame range, and it it great.  Fast and sharp!  I also have a Sony 50mm f1.8 and it's okay.  I use it for portraits.  It's not a very fast focus, but it is sharp when in focus.  The prime lenses go in and out of my camera bags when needed and usually only one at a time.

Tripods.  My main tripod is the ProMaster XC-M 525C carbon fiber tripod.  It's a small tripod and can support 17lbs, which with my small camera kit works just great.  I got it last year from my favorite camera shop, ASAP Photography in Greenville, NC.  I did buy a short extension tube for it so it will get lower down to the ground.  I have Peak Design camera buttons on it so I can use a camera strap to haul it if I'm going light with just camera and tripod.  I can throw the strap across my shoulders and go.  I just got a platapod tripod plate mainly to use when I'm in an urban environment.  It's small and sturdy, but I haven't used it much.  I'll let you know if I like it or not.  And then a Jobe tripod for smaller cameras and GoPros.  

Filters. This year will be the first year that I go completely to small screw on filters.  The filters that I'm using are the Breakthrough Photography filters.  I have the circular polarizor and neutral density 3stop, 6stop, and 10stop filters.  They are all at 72mm, and I use step-up rings to fit different lenses.  I have a Lee filter system, but it's just overkill for the small cameras and lenses that I use now and is too bulky to carry.  I do have separate circular polarizers that I use in my "Purse," the Mountainsmith cary bag, that fit different sized lenses that I carry.  I usually don't need neutral density filters when I'm using that bag to shoot in the city.

Accessories.  I carry an assortment of things with me when I go to shoot.  Remote shutter releases - I have two one cabled from Sony and another Radio from SMDV, a Korean company.  I had one on my Nikon when I shot which was fantastic, so I got one for my Sony.  A small hand-held blower to clean lenses and blow out stuff.  Lens clothes - You can't have enough.  I have them in every compartment and pouch.  I stick them everywhere so I always have one handy.  A lens pen with a soft brush to clean lenses.  Desiccant 20171102_untitled shoot_000120171102_untitled shoot_0001 Pouches - Whenever I buy something that has these little pouches inside, I take them and throw them in my bag.  You can get rechargeable ones that I've been thinking about getting, and you can put them in your microwave to dry them out.  I also make little personal packs that have sunscreen, insect repellent, glass cleaner (for my glasses), tooth picks, antacid, hand warmers.  I get all the contents in little one-use pouches and they all fit into a little ziplock that I keep in my bag.  I always carry an emergency poncho that you can get from Walmart for just a few bucks.  I got caught in the rain one time and had a trash bag that I used, but from then on I have that emergency poncho.  I also have a rain cover for my camera that I made, but you can get these cheap also.  I have a little battery and tool pouch that I made from one of my dad's blood testing machines that I use to hold spare batteries, small tools, and small quick-release plates used on the Peak Design quick clip that I have on my camera bag.  A ProMaster SD card case that is hard, water proof, small, and only has place for a couple of cards.  This was a promotional that one of my photo buddies gave me years ago, and it goes with me everywhere.  I have a Think Tank wallet that I always keep in a separate bag when I travel.

Well, that's pretty much what's in my bag or bags.  If I'm traveling overnight, I usually take a 13-inch MacBook Air that I got just for travel.  It's lightweight and lets me back up my cards cull and look at my photos and process a couple.  I have Lightroom CC on it with photos synced from my main Lightroom catalog at home.  I also have Luminar 3 on it if I have to do something a little special.  I usually don't edit on my laptop, only on my iMac at home.  If you have any questions about any of the gear listed, please contact me and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.  Keep shooting!


(Max Stansell Photography) bags blog cameras gear learning lenses Max Stansell Photography Photography website Sat, 04 Jan 2020 16:28:42 GMT
The Scoop on Lenses Carolina Beach SunsetCarolina Beach Sunset Hey Everyone!  Last blog we discussed camera bodies and when and if you should upgrade.  This blog we'll be talking lenses and the scoop on them.  Kit lenses, primes, and zooms. So some of the big questions are: What lenses do I need? What is a kit lens?  What is a prime lens?  Zooms? These are all very big and difficult questions and can be overwhelming for a new photographer looking to upgrade lenses.  The answer to these questions are all from me, not necessarily the industry standard but my opinion.  And in my opinion, investing in good-quality lenses is way more important than what camera body you have.  Lenses last a lot longer than camera bodies and can be used for decades.  I still use on occasion vintage lenses from the 60’s and still get good quality results from them.  So buying the best quality lens you can afford to me is more important than buying the latest and greatest gadget body you could buy.

What are kit lenses? Kit lenses are usually cheaper-made lenses that come with your camera, and you usually buy them as a kit, hence the name.  They are usually not as sharp as more expensive lenses, but sharp enough for everyday.  The focal range varies by manufacturer.  The quality control on these lenses is not as precise as a more expensive lens might be, so you could get a copy that may not be too sharp.  But you could also get lucky and get a good copy that is extremely sharp.  I have a kit 55-210 lens that is very sharp and works well.

Primes vs Zooms: What are prime lenses?  Prime lenses have just one focal length.  A 50mm, 35mm, and 85mm.  So if you want the subject to be closer, you walk closer.  And if you want the subject farther away, you back up.  Primes are great for a few reasons.  They are usually cheaper, and you can get a larger aperture like f1.4 that can make great background blur for portraits or for separating the subject.  They used to be considerably sharper than zooms, but zooms have caught up to them as far as I’m concerned. They are smaller and lighter if that is a concern for you. What are zoom lenses?  Zooms have ranged focal distance like 16-35mm, 24-70mm, or 70-200mm.  If you want the subject closer, you just turn a ring on the lens and, zoom, they get closer, hence the name.  Zooms' advantage is that they are easy to compose a subject by zooming.  You can cover a number of focal lengths with one lens.  They are larger and heavier than primes if that is a consideration for you.

What lenses do I need?  First you have to decide what kind of photographer or photography you’ll be doing because the choices a landscape photographer may make compaired to a portrait or a wildlife photographer would be different.  What type of photo you are looking to get will determine what type of lenses you will be wanting to purchase.  Let’s break it down into categories.

Everyday shooter.  If you're just getting into photography and you shoot primarily when you take vacations and events your family and kids have, I would suggest the kit lens that came with your camera kit.  They usually have a large focal range from say 55-200ish.  It varies by brand.  But these lenses are versatile and can do a lot and are not specialized.  A good carry-around lens.

Landscape:  Landscape photographers like to shoot very wide or long.  So a 16-35mm and say a 70-300mm lens would work great, the greater the maximum The MetroThe MetroCommuters waiting for the Metro in Washington DC. aperture you can afford.  F4 is fine.  2.8 is good also, especially for the 16-35 that would give you the option of shooting astro photography with the 16-35 when you have the 2.8 model.  For landscape photography, weight is also a thing to consider since you usually have to haul your gear maybe miles to the location you're going to shoot.  So the smaller aperture f4, especially in the 70-300, would make that lens considerably lighter and just as sharp because you would rarely need to shoot at F4 or smaller with that lens.

Portraits: Portraits can be shot with a wide range of lenses, but usually 75mm and longer give the best results, especially for head and shoulder shots.  And the bigger the aperture the better, so f2.8, 1.8, or even as low a 1.2 is desired to give that creamy blurred background.  Here is where primes really shine.  Primes seem to be cheaper and tac sharp compared to zooms with large constant aperture. When portrait photographers find a lens that they really love, they will shoot it forever.

Wildlife/Sports:  Wildlife photographers like it long, so 200mm plus up to 600mm.  These are large, expensive lenses to buy, up to $10,000, but there are some cheaper versions that work great for $2,500 or less.  They just have  smaller apertures.  Sports photography also falls in this category, but they use all ranges of lenses from wide to super telephoto.

Street:  Street photographers like 50mm and smaller.  Small concealed lenses on small bodies are great for street.  As s street photographer, you want to blend in with the environment, and a large camera with a big lens is just the opposite.  35mm seems to be the sweet spot for street photographers.

Wine glass SplashWine glass Splash So did I answer any questions?  Probably not.  You have heard or seen on YouTube about the holy trinity of lenses that every photographer should have.  They are a wide zoom, medium zoom, and a telephoto zoom and usually cover a distance focal length of say 16-200 and usually at f2.8 aperture.  Don’t get me wrong.  These are great lenses no matter what manufacturer makes them, but they are heavy and expensive.  And depending on what you shoot you may not need them.  My advice is to start with a focal length range that you seem to shoot a lot.  For me, a 24-70 range is where 90 percent of my photos are taken.  Rent that lens and use it awhile to see if it fits you.  If it does, great.  Buy it and shoot it a lot while you're saving for the next one.  By doing this you can invest in a good quality lens and take your time, save up some money, and get another good quality lens.  To me, one good-quality lens is better than three low-quality lenses.

So you're probably wondering, "Well, Max, what do you have?"  Well, I am a gear hound and have had a lot of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) in the past, but I’m trying to make my gear smaller in quantity and larger in quality.  So when I shoot landscape photography, I carry three lenses:  a 10-18mm f4(16-25mm full frame equivalent) for wide angel stuff, a Ziess Sony 16-70mm f4 (24-105mm full frame equivalent), a Canon 70-200 f4L (105-300mm full-frame equivalent), and a Metabones adapter for the Canon lens to my Sony.  For street photography I use primes, mostly a 23mm f2.8 Rokinon (35mm full frame equivalent), a Sony 35mm f1.8 (50mm full frame equivalent), and then a Sony 55-210mm f3.5-56 (70-300mm full-frame equivalent).  I do have a specialty lens, a Rokinon 12mm f2.0, that I use for astro photography and extension tube that I use with my Sony 35mm for macro closeup work.  I also have a cheap 50mm f1.8 lens that I use for portraits.  I have some vintage lenses that I also use, but these are my main lenses that I use.

I hope this has helped you.  Deciding on what to get can be confusing and a big investment.  Take your time and get what’s right for you.  Next time I think I will talk about finding the sweet spot of your lens, what aperture and focal length is the sharpest. Until then, keep shooting!



(Max Stansell Photography) blog buying learning lens lenses Max Stansell Photography Photography website Thu, 28 Nov 2019 15:58:44 GMT
When Should I Upgrade? Hey everyone!  The holidays are almost upon us and spending is rampant with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Everything is on sale and you're thinking to yourself, I sure could use that brand new so-and-so gadget. This is a blog that is going to be the beginning of a gear series. This blog will be focused on camera bodies, what you need and what you think you need.  As photographers we are all afflicted with GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), some of us more than others.  I have had severe cases of GAS in the past and have spent more money than I should have because I just needed the newest gadget or lens or camera body.  But did I?  In most cases, I could have saved thousands of dollars and just kept the camera I had.  I should have invested in better lenses and not more lenses.  So this blog is going to be about camera bodies and when to invest in newer equipment.  There are some questions you need to ask yourself and be honest with yourself when doing so.  I will go through my thought process when I was last considering upgrading my camera body.

Question #1.  Will upgrading to a newer body improve my photography?  Although we all think it will, most of the time it won't.  Just because it's newer doesn't mean that it will improve your photography.  A lot of the time the newer camera is so advanced that we have a hard time just figuring out how to use it.  We all have been there.  The learning curve can be so frustrating that when we get the new camera we don't use it to its full ability and it is no better than the one that we upgraded from.  Most of us don't use our current camera to the fullest.  We know just enough to get by.  But if we learned our current camera and all the features, we might find that we don't need a new camera at all.  If you have a camera that was built in the last six or seven years, you have a good enough camera to do most of what you need.  Now, if you're a professional and you earn money from your cameras, an upgrade might come earlier.  But if you are a hobbyist like I am, most of your work is on the web and a few prints, and any camera that was built recently will be fine. 

AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2Photographer: Anthony Thurston Question #2.  Is the upgrade you're considering worth the money that you're going to fork out for it?  This is a personal question.  Some folks have lots of money at their disposal and can upgrade every year and more power to them.  But if you're like me money matters.  Recently, I had been waiting for the newest Sony upgrade in the Crop Señor line that I shoot with.  The rumors were rampant on what this new camera would have.  When it finally came out over a year later, I was under whelmed.  Don't get me wrong.  It's a great camera.  But for the type of photography I do, I didn't need all of the upgrades that this camera made.  I don't do video, so 4k anything doesn't mean that much to me.  Super fast focusing although is great.  I'm a landscape and travel type of photographer, so the speed really didn't mean much.  It had the same sensor that I have, so I didn't upgrade to the newest model.  Instead, I bought a used camera that was one version better than the one I had, and I saved more than half the price of a new body.

Question 3.  What can you do with the new body that you can't do with your current one?  When I wanted an upgrade, one of the biggest features I was looking for was in-camera stabilization.  The camera I had didn't have it, but the next model did.  With my old body, in lower light I had to put it on a tripod, and I can go lower with my newer camera. My newer camera was released in 2016, but it does stuff that my older camera didn't.  It has in-body camera stabilization.  It has bluetooth.  It has a larger buffer.  But other than that, it's virtually the same as my older camera.  They operate almost the same, so my backup and my main camera are set up the same.  I can go from one to the other seamlessly, which I would not have been able to do with the latest and greatest that came out this year in 2019.

Question 4.  What type of photography do you do and does the newer camera body improve it?  If you are a sports photographer or a wildlife photographer, a fast focusing, fast shutter, high buffering camera is what you need to do the job.  If you are a portrait photographer, those qualities really don't matter.  If you're a stills photographer, all the video features really don't matter.  If you are a portrait photographer, a full frame sensor might make sense to create those shallow depth-of-field portraits.  If you are an astro photographer, a full-frame sensor might make more sense for the low-light capabilities.   Photographers EyePhotographers Eye

Question 5.  Do I need a full-frame sensor or will a crop sensor do?  When I switched from a full-frame Nikon D800, one of the concerns I had was would I lose image quality.  I can say that, for the type of photography I do, I didn't.  The Nikon I was using was a 36mp camera, and it was an awesome camera.  I went to a smaller 24mp camera, and I really couldn't see the difference.  It did take a long time for me to make the decision to do it, but I put photos side by side and, other than size, there was no difference in quality for me.  I believe that for most people sensor size doesn't matter, and you can create great photos with smaller sensors.  If you specialize in something that a larger sensor might matter, like astro photography or portrait photography or plan on printing really large, you might need a full-frame sensor.  But if you're a hobbiest like I am, the crop sensor works.  I can still do astro photography and portraits and have no problem doing them with a crop sensor.

If you ask yourself these questions and are honest, you can save yourself some money and you can put that extra money that you saved into lenses!  I believe that lenses are where you should invest your money.  Buy the best lenses that you can afford.  The next blog will be about lenses and how I have mine set up.  Yes, a little GAS is in my lenses also.  Keep shooting!






(Max Stansell Photography) blog camera body learning Max Stansell Photography Photography website Sat, 23 Nov 2019 20:43:35 GMT
What Photography Does for Me Carolina Beach SunsetCarolina Beach Sunset Photography is more than just a hobby for me.  Photography got me out.  It got me out of the house.  It got me out of my shell and got me to be more creative.  Photography and I have been dancing partners for quite a while. When I was a teenager in the mid-70s, I got my first real camera, a Pentax K1000 35mm film camera.  I was self-taught, which means I made lots of mistakes and ruined lots of film.  We didn't have any YouTube then or videos to learn from, so I had to learn from books and magazines.  I mainly took photos of friends and family and some scenic stuff and would send the film out and wait a week to see what I got.   DiceDice When I joined the military, my camera came with me, but I didn't use it that much and actually sold it at one point and was without a camera for a time until I bought another Pentax that I still have to this day and use from time to time.  But again, it was family and friends, and holidays was the only time I used it.  I dabbled in black-and-white photography and even had a dark room rig that I set up in the bathroom.  Then something happened. Digital came out!  My first digital camera was a Kodak point and shoot, only a couple of megapixel, and I kept upgrading and experimenting with photography.  A lot of table top photography, lighting, and the occasional family portrait. When my daughter got pregnant, that was all the excuse I needed to get a DSLR, and then my photography world blossomed.  I started shooting all over the house doing macro work and then out to the local State Park.  Before I knew it, I had AvaAva gotten a map and started my journey to the outside, outside of my house and the comfortable environment that I was used to.  I started with festivals.  There are all kinds of festivals that you can visit, especially in the spring and fall, and they got me traveling every weekend going here and there.  This also got my wife going with me which was a plus.  Then I started a quest to visit every state park in NC.  I had a map and marked them off as I got to them.  My photography started to change then also.  I started doing more landscapes, more trails, and started hiking at age 50.  What a time to start.

My hiking started as a way to get there.  To get to the photographs that other photographers were not going the extra mile to get to.  But then I started to enjoy the hike almost as much as the photography, but not quite.  As the hikes got longer and more frequent, my son and I started thinking about hiking and staying overnight, and we started car camping (camping where you drive to the spot, pitch a tent, and camp) and then we could hike from there.   Goose Creek GrassGoose Creek Grass That made the farther places easier to go to; because of the longer drive, spending the night just made sense. We would go to places like Pilot Mountain State Park that is about a four-hour drive from the house.  Then we got the idea, why don't we go somewhere and backpack in (all your food, tent, clothes in a backpack) and then backpack out?  So we started training.  It's much more difficult to hike with a heavy pack on your back.  Our goal was a 10-mile in and out loop at Doughton Park, a national park in the mountains.  So we started hiking and increasing our mileage and weight on our packs until we were ready.  And we did it!  We drove up on a cold night, slept in the parking lot, and hiked out at first light.  It was colder than expected (our water froze).  But we had a great time, and I got some photos that I wouldn't have gotten if I had just stopped by the road and took a shot.  That's how I got into backpacking; it was photography that got me out.

Wine glass SplashWine glass Splash During all the hiking and photography from the start of digital I found the local photography club.  I had been living in this town for almost 15 years when, while I was on Facebook, I found a former troop of mine from when I was in the military.  I was looking at his Facebook page and noticed that he was one of the officers of the club.  I didn't even know a club existed.  So I got in touch with him and went to the next meeting.  And a new world opened up.  I could talk about photography and people's eyes wouldn't roll back in their heads.  We could talk about photography for an hour or so, and it was great!  I really got into the club, went on all the outings and workshops, and really enjoyed it.  The first Help Portrait I went to they had me take some of the portraits.  I had never used lights before, but they kinda set me up and then I was taking portraits.  Not very good ones, but I was doing it.  I was talking and taking photos of people I din't know.    The club got me out. Photography got me out of my shell.  It has gotten me to do this blog, this website, and post photos online.  Now, my gear has changed over the years and what I shoot has changed a little, but my love for photography has never changed, even when I let it go for a while.  Now I'm closer to 60 than I am 50, and I still get excited when going out on a photo shoot, whether it's to a festival or a waterfall, sunrise or sunset. Whether I'm in a big city or a secluded bay, I get excited and still feel creative.  Now, I don't really make any money.  Every now and then I sell something.  But photography has given me more than money; it has given me a way out!  So be like me and get out!  Keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography website Fri, 25 Oct 2019 15:00:00 GMT
After Workshop Report - "What Worked and What Didn't" Well, I went on my camera club's annual fall colors workshop. I didn't get to go to the full week-long workshop, but I did get to go for a few days and had a blast taking photos and fellowshipping with good photography friends. We stayed in a log cabin house that was very large and nice where the dozen of us stayed.  We had an itinerary of places to go all week long rising up early in the morning and coming home late.  These workshops are really "work," but they are fun also.  Waterfalls and fall colors are our goal, but we try to do new things also.  This year we did light painting with waterfalls which was a new adventure for us, but it turned out well.  I always try new things while on the workshop and really decided to go fully to mirrorless and to a crop ASP-C sensor on one of these workshops.  Every year I have failures and successes and really learn a lot from both.  I had no real hard failures but had a couple of surprise successes.

The first was my lens arrangement that I was to take and use while there.  My main lens, a Sony-Zeiss 16-70 f4 lens, didn't change.  It was wonderful and I got some great shots with it.  It had a polarizer on it most of the time because of shooting around water and we had some rain that would have produced a lot of glare.  I probably used this lens 80-90% of the time, and it was sharp and quick.  My long or telephoto lens was a 70-200mm f4 Canon L lens, a great lens, and it really worked well.  I am using a Metabones adapter to fit it to my camera and it works well.  Maybe not as fast as a native lens, but it works well for me and it's sharp.  I brought a Sony 35mm f1.8 and I never took it out of the bag.  Then it comes to my real dilemma, which wide angel to use.  I originally intended to use only a Rokinon 12 mm f2 lens but then thought about the Sony 10-18mm f4.  I went back and forth many times, packing one to go on the trip and then the other.  I finally decided to take both since I was driving and storage space was not a priority.  I did take both but only used one, the Sony 10-18 f4.  It was sharp, fast, and made beautiful photographs.  I was very pleased.  This is a lens that I haven't used too much before and was actually thinking of selling it.  But no more.  It will be in my bag for a long time.  It gave me some of my best photographs of the whole trip.  The Rokinon is a great lens, and I will keep it for astro photography because of its wide aperture. 

My next biggest experiment was to go without a laptop and only use an iPad.  This was not the success that I thought it would be.  I was using a 10.5 inch iPad Pro 2018 model.  It worked well enough but wasn't the laptop that I enjoy using.  I also like to use Luminar 3 photo editing software in conjunction with Lightroom, and I couldn't use it with my iPad.  I was also using Lightroom or the mobile version of Adobe Lightroom Classic, which is not as strong of a program as the classic version.  I joined the iPad with a WD Passport SSD Pro which is a Wifi enabled SSD hard drive that I could hook up the iPad with.  The drive worked well.  The only problem I had was operator error, but I learn quickly.  The iPad did work okay, but I much prefer editing on a laptop.  My travel laptop is a MacBook Air and, although not as powerful as a MacBook Pro, it does work well and is lighter.  So on my next big outing the MacBook Air will be the computer of choice for my editing of images.

My next experiment was to use screw-on filters instead of the 100mm Lee filter system I have used in the past.  These filters are a smaller and more compact choice and match up well with my Sony mirrorless system.  The brand that I used was Breakthrough Photography Circular Polarizer and Neutral Density filters.  I got one set of polarizer and a 3 stop Neutral Density at 72mm, the largest size of any lens I have, and use step-up rings to attach to different lenses.  I only used this combination one time as it was cloudy or overcast, and I only needed my polarizer most of the time.  It worked very well and will be my system of choice for my small mirrorless system.

My last experiment was letting my camera sync with my phone via bluetooth to get GPS information.  This was the biggest success of all of my photo experiments.  It worked flawlessly, and all of the photos that I took with my Sony A6500 I can go to the map section of Lightroom and see where I took them.  This is a very useful tool to have in my toolbox. As a landscape photographer, I can easily forget where I took a photograph.  But with the GPS info embedded into the metadata, I won't have this problem again.

The only thing that didn't work well was that I had to leave early and couldn't stay the whole week long.  It was a sad day when I had to drive home the last day knowing all of my photo buddies were still there having a photo adventure. One of the best things I ever did was to join a photography club.  If you ever have the chance, please do so.  If you live in eastern NC, come visit GAPC (Goldsboro Area Photography Club).  We meet once a month and have workshops and outings every month.  We have one big trip per year (week long), and we participate in Help Portrait, a program where photographers give back to their community.  Well, that's enough for now. Get out and shoot!


(Max Stansell Photography) blog landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography website Sat, 19 Oct 2019 22:16:21 GMT
I'm Back! What I've Been up To Wow!  It's been a long time since my last posted blog.  I've had a lot of family things going on and really haven't had the time or the motivation to do a blog.  It's been kind of a ho-hum year, but I did just get back a couple of weeks ago from a trip to Washington DC where my wife and I spent the week. I took a little point and shoot with me, a Canon G7X Mark II, a 20 megapixel one-inch sensor camera that did well for most of my snapshots, and I only missed my Sony a couple of times.  This coming weekend I'm going to the mountains with my camera club and am really looking forward to shooting again.  Really the DC trip got me out of my funk and got me motivated to shoot again.  I did add a camera to my photography kit, a Sony A6500 that I bought used from a club member that upgraded to the full sensor Sony. I have been shooting the Sony A6300 which has the same sensor as the A6500, but the newer camera has a couple of other features that I was looking for.  The first was the in-body stabilization (IBS).  I have been wanting this for a while.  Also, it has a touch screen, but it's only used for moving the focus point around.  I got spoiled using the Canon point and shoot because the touch screen is very nice and versatile on it, unlike the Sony.  It also has bluetooth, something I didn't know I wanted.  Seems I can use this feature to pair to my phone and send the GPS coordinates to my camera so they can be recorded in the metadata of the photo.  Very cool.  The newer Sony can
also buffer more shots than the 6300 can that could be helpful.  So anyway back to the trip to the mountains.  Here are some of the things that I will be trying out while there.

The GPS function that I mentioned before I will try, and hopefully it will work seamlessly.  On my test today it worked well.  So I hope to have GPS on all of my photos in the future to help me figure out where I took that shot.  My lens selection is a little strange this year.  I'm taking four lenses, and all of them are by different manufactures. Here is a list of them, from smallest to largest focal length:  The Rokinon 12mm - This is a very sharp lens with a 2.8 maximum aperture. It is an inexpensive lens but very sharp when in focus, and it is a manual-focus lens.  The Sony 35mm - This is
the equivalent to a 50mm lens in full frame and is very sharp.  I'll use this when I really need a wide aperture.  The next is my favorite lens.  The Sony-Zeiss 16-70mm lens with an 4.0 maximum aperture - Probably 80-90 percent of all of my photos fall in this 24-105mm full-frame range.  This is a very sharp lens, small and compact.  My longest lens is the Canon 70-200f4 L lens.  This is the only Canon lens with the "L" markings that is not f2.8 or wider.  This is an excellent lens and gives me a full-frame focal length of 100-300.  I got this lens on a sale, but it's awesome.  I use the Metabones adapter with this lens.  It's not as fast as the Sony, but I don't shoot a lot at these longer focal lengths. Which brings me to the next thing.  I'll have a true backup camera in the A6300 and may shoot both of them while out with a telephoto on one and my 16-70 on the other.

Another thing I'll be doing different this year is that I'm not going to take a laptop with me.  That's right, no laptop on a photography trip.  This year I'll be taking an iPad pro with Lightroom CC Mobile on it to make edits.  I'll be using a Western Digital SSD drive that has WiFi to back up all of my photos from my SD cards.  I can view them on my iPad and transfer and edit the ones I want in Lightroom CC for Instagram and such.  Then when I get home I can Import all of the photos into my Lightroom Classic Catalog and go through them.  This will be a big change for me this year and is still just a trial.  I have a MacBook Air where I can do the same thing with Lightroom CC Mobile, but I wanted to try the iPad this year and see how it works. 

Other than photography news, I have been doing some hiking and camping this year and have taken a couple of backpacking trips.  I took a couple of solo trips, one with my dog Forrest to Raven Rock State Park and one to Uwharrie National Forest.  I took a couple of other backpacking trips with my son Mark, one to South Mountain State Park and one to Uwharrie National Forest.  I have lost 30 pounds this year so far, and my knee has been doing well.  I have been making a lot of our camping equipment like hammocks, bags, stuff sacks, and even made a tent for Forrest to sleep in, so I have been busy sewing. Yes, I know it sounds funny, a 50ish-year-old man sewing, but I'm pretty good at doing this kind of sewing.  I have some more projects for this year.  I plan on making a winter tarp for my hammock and maybe a hiking fanny pack.  Yep, I said it, fanny pack.  I had six trips planned and places reserved to take my little teardrop trailer camping, but we only got to take it on one trip to Cedar Point National Recreation Area down on the coast.  All of our other trips either got rained out or something else got in the way of us going.  I need to start planning for next year's trips.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog learning max stansell photography photography website workshops Sun, 06 Oct 2019 22:36:31 GMT
Luminar 3 with Libraries First Look Hey Everyone!  I hope everyone's new year is starting out good.  In this blog post I want to talk about the new Luminar 3 with Libraries and if it is an alternative to Lightroom.  I have been using Lightroom from almost the beginning of the software and watched as it has turned into the main photo editing and digital asset manager for almost everyone.  It is the true standard that all other softwares are compared to.  When it started being a subscription service, many did not like the monthly payment scheme.  I didn't mind too much because it was the price of a couple of Big Mac meals, and I remember the price of a full Photoshop or Lightroom for that matter.  Photoshop was $600-$800, and Lightroom was $150.  So the $120 a year was a small price to pay to get the most current versions of both.  But others didn't like this at all.  There were some other contenders at the time like Corral and Aperture, but they didn't have the power of Lightroom and Photoshop.  Lightroom and Adobe have had a monopoly on the image editing software business.  But new contenders are starting to come in, like Capture One and Luminar with DAM (digital asset managers) of their own, giving Lightroom a little cause for concern.  I currently have used Capture One 12 on a trial basis and did like what I got with it.  If I were a studio portrait shooter, it would be the perfect choice for me.  Its tethering capabilities are unmatched as far as I'm concerned, and its RAW conversions are beautiful.  You can see my last blog here Capture One 12 first look  luminar_sq_logo_500luminar_sq_logo_500

I purchased Luminar last year and have been experimenting with it as a kind of go-between of Lightroom and Photoshop.  I use it as a plugin, and it works great with beautiful colors and tools that are not easily done with Lightroom or Photoshop.  And I'm all about easy.  But how does it work as a digital asset manager?

First, let me say that it is not as advanced as Lightroom as an asset manager.  You can rate your photographs and use the star system.  You can organize from within Luminar and from the outside of Luminar which can be confusing.  You basically tell Luminar what folder you're going to put photographs in, and it will look there.  It does keep a catalog with all of your changes much like Lightroom does, but not as robust as Lightroom, which can be good or bad. To me Lightroom has become a sluggish program over the years, and with the more features they put into it, the slower it becomes.  But as many of you, I have been using Lightroom for so long that almost all of my photographs are in a Lightroom catalog, and to switch to a new system now isn't really where I want to go.  But as a photo editor I think that Luminar is almost as good, and better at some things, as Lightroom is.

Who do I think that Luminar 3 is for?  I think that Luminar 3 is for new photographers who are just getting started and don't have large Lightroom catalogs already established, for people who are still using Bridge or some Finder or Windows Explorer based program.  I believe that in the future Luminar will make its digital asset manager better and better and at some point I will say now is the time to move, but now is not that time for me.  I will still use it as a plugin to Lightroom and as a go-between of Lightroom and Photoshop.  I recently went on a photo outing, and all of the photos I shot I brought into Lightroom, did my culling thing, and for the winners I did a quick edit and then sent them to Luminar to really make them look the way I wanted.  It worked out great for me, and I'll bet it could for you too.  On my travel laptop, a MacBook Air, I have taken Lightroom off of the computer and only use Luminar 3.  When I travel I only want to process a few photos and then send them to Instagram or Facebook, and the rest I can upload into Lightroom when I get home.  You can purchase it for $69, so it's fairly inexpensive.  Give it a try.  I believe after a while you will enjoy it as I do.  Here is a link to a podcast from The Digital Story that talks about Luminar 3.

The Digital Story Luminar 3 with Libraries Podcast


(Max Stansell Photography) 3 blog Editing learning Luminar Max Stansell Photography Photo Photography Software website workshops Sun, 13 Jan 2019 15:00:50 GMT
Capture One Editing Software First Thoughts Hey Everyone!  This blog I'm going over my first thoughts on Capture One 12 as an alternative to Adobe Lightroom. First a disclaimer.  I am no Capture One expert nor am I thinking of changing to Capture One, but I wanted to research the program to see what all the fuss was about.  A lot of YouTube-famous people have switched from Lightroom to Capture One, and I am curious about it.  So I downloaded the free one-month trial, which was painless.  No credit card needed.  I loaded it onto an older MacBook Pro, a 2011 model, to see what it could do.  This machine has been upgraded to a SSD hard drive and 16 gig of memory.  This is an okay machine but by no means top of the line.  So that's where I've started.  In bullet form, I'll list what I've found so far.


-Download and install was easy.  I logged into Capture One and got the free 30-day trial. Thumbs up!

-After doing a lot of tutorial watching online, I imported my Lightroom Catalog from my DC trip into Capture One, over 2,000 photos, and it took about 40 minutes.  This was the Lightroom catalog, and it had all of my edits that I had made in Lightroom.  This catalog I had on an external drive with all of the photos that I had taken on the trip.  It then made smart previews of all the images.  This is a default in Capture One and makes the program snappy!  You can edit your photos without having the photos present.  Thumbs Up!

-The interface was all in one page.  I didn't have to go to a different module to edit my photos.  The interface is totally customizable. You can even arrange things so it almost looks like Lightroom.  And, like I said before, everything is snappy!  You can make it anything you like and then save the settings.  So if you had more than one person working on the same computer, they could have their settings and you could have yours.

-Capture One 12 creates catalogs similar to Lightroom.  You can have the catalog on one computer and copy and paste it onto another computer that has Capture One, and you can edit your photos there even without your photos because of the smart previews it created on import.  Moving of folders and photos to and fro must be done within the Capture One catalog just as you do with Lightroom.  Capture One also has Sessions.  These are smaller shoots that have everything contained in the session.  They are smaller than the Catalogs and can be copied and pasted onto another computer and worked on separately without bothering the Catalog database.  When you're all through, you can import the session into the Capture One Catalog database.

- Tethering is where this program really shines.  Tethering is simple.  Just hook up your camera to your computer, open a session, and start shooting.  The photos come in very quickly, and you can edit on the fly and apply all the edits to incoming photographs.  For example, if you wanted to crop a certain way and make the photos black and white, you would just edit the first photo and tell the program that you wanted to make those edits to all incoming photos the same way and it will.  You could lay layout templates on top of the photos coming in, like if you were shooting for a magazine and you could have the magazine cover layout put on top of the photos coming in to see how it will look as a final shot.  We probably will never need this, but it's cool.  You can also shoot live view and see the setup that you are making live before you take a photo, say for example a food shot.   You could take your time and get it right before you ever take a shot and know what the composition will look like.  Tethering is what this program was made for with Phase One Cameras, which are mainly studio cameras, and it shows.

These are just a few of my first thoughts.  I think this would be a great program if you were only doing studio work.  I'm not quite sold yet on all of the other things that it offers.  But if you're only doing studio work, this would be the program for you. Luminar 3 is another program that I think is a good replacement for Lightroom.  Formerly, Luminar 2018 had added a DAM (digital asset manager) to its program, and I will go through it in another blog soon.  


(Max Stansell Photography) blog Editing learning Max Stansell Photography Photo Photography Software website Tue, 25 Dec 2018 21:12:58 GMT
Keeping Photography Sharp During Holidays Hey Everyone!  The holidays are upon us and everyone is hustling and bustling to get things done before the family comes to visit or you go to someone else's house.  And now that winter is here the weather isn't as photogenic as in the spring and fall.  How do we keep our photographic edge when we don't go out as much to shoot?  For me, it has become sort of a pattern that I've done the last couple of years, and it seems to help even though I don't get to shoot as much as I want.  The trick is keeping your mind photography active.  Thinking, learning something new, stepping out of your comfort zone.

This time of year I'm winding down from the biggest photo event of the year for me, which is my photo club's fall trip.  This is usually a week full of photography-rich shooting situations, and the senses are alive with what to take next.   This year we went to Washington DC for our fall trip (DC Fall Trip Blog Link), so I started early in the year getting geared up and experimenting with different camera and gear combos trying to figure out what to take with me and also researching the DC area and what photos look like that have been taken there before.  Last year it was a big change for me, because I'm mostly a landscape and travel photographer, and street photography in DC was a new and exciting thing to get ready for.  So there were lots of things to keep my mind photography active.  This time of year we also have our Help Portrait event that you can read about in my last blog. Help Portrait Blog Link This year I was helping a young lady with her lights, and it really got my portrait juices flowing again.  I used to do lots of portraits, but I have slowly gotten away from that.  I enjoy taking the photos, but it's all of the other stuff I don't enjoy, like dealing with people.  LOL...  But this year I really enjoyed it.  I sold all of my studio lights over the last couple of years, and all I had left were some manual flashes.   I've heard a lot about the Godox/Flashpoint line of flashes and strobes that you can control all of your lights from your controller on camera.  Big plus!  Since I've gotten my Sony I haven't really done any flash photography.  So I purchased some of the lights so I could play and take some portraits of the family during the holidays and also expand my photography knowledge.

logopodcastlogopodcast Okay, I've wandered off subject a little.  The point I was getting at is that you don't always have to be out taking photos to keep your edge.  As long as your mind is actively thinking and learning about photography, you can keep from getting too rusty.  So this time of the year I start preparing for next year and start learning new techniques.  Yesterday, I downloaded the free trial version of Capture One editing software as an alternative to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.  I've heard a lot about it, and I'm going to try to learn all I can about it and play with the program for my free month.  Every day while I commute to work I listen to podcasts about photography and learn about all kinds of things that I would never even have thought about if it were not for the podcast.  I have written a blog that you can go to to see what I listen to. Podcast Blog Link I also look at YouTube and watch lots of webinars and video tutorials about different things instead of watching regular TV.  This is a great way to learn stuff, and it's free!  You can also go to CreativeLive website.  They have all kinds of tutorial programing, and if you watch it live it's free.

So this time of the year is the time to plan for next year.  Set goals, learn something new, and get out of your comfort zone.  Last year I wanted to do some astro photography, so I did all the research, got geared up, planned a trip, and got some shots of the Milky Way.  I'm looking forward to new gear that will come out next year, especially camera gear that is supposed to come out.  My camera is a couple of years old, and there are rumors that a new one will come out this coming year.  So I'm looking to see if it will be worth upgrading to.  The same can be said about new lenses coming out this year also.  I don't know where the next fall workshop will be, so I haven't started planning yet.  This is also the time to get my camping trips soft scheduled for next year that my wife and I will be taking that I look forward to.  Maybe I'll sneak in a festival or two and a backpacking trip or two.  But now is the time to plan.  Because if you're like me and wait until the last minute, you won't go.  You'll find some sort of reason not to. 

I hope this holiday season brings you much joy and happiness with family and friends and please always be safe.  Take lots of holiday portraits and document your family's history!  Keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Holidays learning Max Stansell Photography Photography website workshops Sun, 16 Dec 2018 13:09:58 GMT
Help Portrait "Photographers Giving Back" The first Saturday in December since 2008 has been Help Portrait day.  All over the world on this day photographers get together to give back to the community.  For one day a year it's not about us.  Not about our lighting systems, gear, or how many likes we can get on Instagram.  It's about giving back to the community that we live in and helping those in need with a photograph.  You may say, "How does a photograph help anyone?"  For the less fortunate this might be the only time they can have a family or self-portrait done of themselves.  They can't afford to go to a photo studio and pay the prices that we charge.  It builds self-esteem for them, because for one day they are very special to the photographers who are taking their photo.  People who may not be noticed any other time as we just pass them by.  But on this day we can give them a portrait that makes them smile at how good they look.   Maybe they will make them gifts for loved ones.  At any rate the first Saturday in December is their day.  This project was started by Jeremy Cowart in Nashville, a celebrity photographer, when he and his friends had an idea, a very simple idea.  First, find someone in need.  Then take their photo and give it to them.  That's pretty much the idea.  We as photographers do not post the final portrait on the internet, no logos or watermarks, no advertising of any kind.





My photography club does this event every year and treats it almost as a workshop, because we are amateur photographers and this is a chance to pull out our studio lights and shoot and learn.  This year we had three photo stations set up.  I was mentoring a young lady who is getting her photography degree, and she had to get some equipment for her classes but hadn't used them much.  So I helped her with setup of the lights and made sure that they were set so she would get good exposure, the nerdy stuff.  She didn't need any help with arranging the clients and taking the photos.  She was a natural at that.  Some Help Portrait locations give food, clothes, toys for the kids, and do hair and makeup.  We did not have hair and makeup this year but have in the past.  This year we supplied refreshments and I think coloring books for the kids and books to take home, I believe.  There are many jobs to be done at the Help Portrait, not just photography.  There is manning the registration desk, refreshments, editing and printing, framing of the photograph, makeup artists, runners for the photographers, and people to help the clients. All very important jobs.  My job for the last couple of years is to be the documentary photographer and photograph the event.  I set up time lapses, take photos, and do some small short videos to create a small video that we can put on our website for others to see.  So you don't need to be a photographer to do Help Portrait.

It's the holiday season.  Let's think of those less fortunate than ourselves and give back.  Next year, Help Portrait will be on the first Saturday again, so start planning now.  If there is a photo club or organization in your area, look them up and see if you can help.  Here's a link to the video that I created this year.  Please check it out.

Help Portrait 2018 GAPC Goldsboro NC

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Help learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Portrait Portraits website workshops Sat, 08 Dec 2018 19:59:35 GMT
Photography Trip Packing _MSP0311_MSP0311 Hi Photo Buddies!  My last blog was about my photo trip I took to Washington DC with my camera club on our annual Fall Workshop.  This was a different trip in that we were dependent on public transportation and would be carrying all of our stuff that we were bringing for the trip, so packing and planning was a must.  There are many ways to plan and pack for a trip, and this is just my version. 

I know after years of backpacking that weight matters!  So one of the first considerations was how heavy were my bags going to be and how many of them would there be.  So I decided on my backpack with photo gear and another bag that would have my clothes.  I decided early on that I wanted a backpack that was not a camera bag looking kind of bag. IMG_1534IMG_1534  I didn't want the traditional bag like a black LowPro bag that looks like a camera bag.  One reason for this is security.  A big guy with a regular backpack is not as an appealing of a target as a big guy with a camera backpack with thousands of potential dollars in it is.  The other reason is that photography backpacks are designed to carry only gear, and there is not much room for extra stuff like coats, sweaters, and souvenirs. So I got a 25-liter smallish bag to carry my camera gear in with an insert that I got off of Amazon to keep my gear safe, much like I do with a MountainSmith bag that I use for a shoulder bag with an insert.  So with this, my camera gear in this took up about one-third of the space, which left enough room for other things that I would need to carry on a daily basis like rain gear, umbrella, water, and a coat.  Also I wanted a small backpack because I learned if you get a large bag you will fill it up!  So keeping a smaller bag keeps the weight down.  My other bag that I was going to use is a roller bag that you would use as overhead luggage.  But one of the days we had to wear a sports coat and there wasn't enough room for the sports coat, extra slacks, and shoes for that day, so I got a larger roller bag to accommodate those items. But, as with larger bags, I did fill it up!  So those were my two bags: my backpack and a roller bag.

_MSP1594_MSP1594 Now that I have the bags, what to put it them.  Let's start with my camera gear.  If you have read my blogs, I used to shoot full frame Nikon with all the fast glass.  And don't get me wrong, it was excellent quality gear but heavy.  I started using a Sony mirrorless system for hiking and backpacking and eventually switched completely to a Sony crop sensor system.  My first thought was to bring camera body and three lenses:  one for wide angle shots, one for midrange shots, and a telephoto for long-range shots and that would be my kit.  My wide would be a Sony 10-18mm f4 (full frame equivalent 15-25mm) and that's what I took.  My telephoto would be a Sony 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 kit lens (full frame 80-320mm).  I chose this one because of size, and I have a good copy that is sharp so that's what I took. IMG_1558IMG_1558  My midrange is where I had my problems making a decision.  I have a Sony 18-105mm f4 (full frame equivalent 24-150ish mm) that is a good lens, but it's large and heavy.  It's bigger than the 55-210mm that I'm bringing for my telephoto shots.  So I decided not to bring that one.  I decided to take a Sony 35mm f1.8 (full frame equivalent 52mm) as my midrange and then I bought a Rokinon 24mm f2.8 (full frame equivalent 35mm), so I decided to bring that.  Now I'm at four lenses and a body.  And I stuck with this for a couple of months shooting with this combo.  I went to Savannah, Georgia and this is what I took and got great photos.  I took this combo to all of our monthly workshops, and they worked great.  But in the back of my mind, I'm thinking I sure am changing lenses a lot.  I would love to just have one mid-range zoom lens.  I considered buying another zoom, a 16-70mm Sony/Ziess lens. But it's an expensive lens, and I couldn't make myself buy another midrange zoom just for this trip.  So I had my setup: the Sony A6300, Sony 10-80mm for wide shots, Rokinon 24mm, Sony35mm for midrange shots, and Sony 55-210mm for telephoto shots.  Well, until I started packing.  Remember I said if you get a larger bag you will fill it up?  My large roller bag was really bigger than I needed, so at the last minute I stuck the Sony 18-105mm in just in case shooting and changing lenses from a backpack got really cumbersome.  So that was my camera IMG_1459IMG_1459 gear:  all the lenses mentioned above, my trusty Sony A6300, some filters that I never used on the trip (but would still bring), a small Jobe table top tripod, and a travel-sized tripod.  I carried the Jobe tripod all the time, and the other travel tripod I brought just for nighttime photography.  I just went into Lightroom to see the lens breakdown of my winner/rated shots from our trip, and out of 309 photos that I considered my best, my 10-18mm took 21shots, 16-70mm (yes, a member let me use his for part of the day) 5 shots, 35mm another 30 shots, 55-210mm 82 shots, 18-105mm 26 shots, and the most was the Rokinon 24mm (35mm full frame equivalent ) at 145 shots. So well over half of my shots came from the mid-range primes and not the zoom.  To be fair, on our museum day I did only take one body and one lens, the 24mm, and shot that all day because of the security at IMG_1562IMG_1562 the museums.  It was just easier.  And to tell you the truth, I really didn't notice while I was shooting that day that I didn't have the other lenses with me and I did just fine.  Another piece of kit I took was a GoPro Session, which I used it once and it never came out of the bag again.  We had a guy that was videoing the whole workshop.  I was just too lazy to do video and stills at the same time, so I stuck to stills and took the GoPro out of my backpack the first day, put it the suitcase, and it never saw the light of day again.

Now for the clothes I took with me.  Let me start by saying I'm not a fashion type of guy and I like what I like.  I want it to be comfortable, lightweight, and an earth tone color so I can mix and match anything in my bag and it looks okay.  I like to take clothing that is quick drying material so if I do get wet it dries quickly, and when washing it dries quickly too.  The clothes I take are the same if I'm camping or doing a street shoot.  Pants are hiking convertible pants, ones that the bottom part of the leg zips off when it's hot and you have shorts. They are lightweight, usually cargo pants with lots of pockets but can also be plain.  Shirts are hiking or fishing shirts that are made out of the quick drying material as well.  They may be long or short sleeve, but most of mine are long sleeve and they can be rolled up if it gets hot.  Undershirts and pants are made out of stretchy, quick-drying material.  T-shirts can be many colors so if I get hot I can take off the outer shirt and still look okay.  Now you know the type of clothes I take and how many.  For this week  Eastern MarketEastern MarketEastern Market in Washington DC, A good place to photograph. -long trip, I had planned on taking three pants and three shirts I could wear more than once or wash one daily and could mix and match so I don't look like I'm wearing the same thing every day.  Well, that didn't quite work out the way I had planned because of the larger bag (you know where I'm going with this).  I packed more stuff.  I had planned on washing clothes while on the trip, but I had enough room that I just took extra socks and underwear and just wore pants and shirts a couple of times so I didn't have to wash.  But normally I wouldn't and would wash clothes.  I usually have a hat of some kind to keep the sun out of my eyes.  I wear glasses and have a hard time without a hat or sunglasses.  I carried a puffy jacket that packs down small and a fleece type of sweater.  I took gloves, a wool cap, and a neck scarf that I never used on this trip but always goes with me even in summer camping when it gets chilly at night.  I also had a rain coat that I think I used once.  I took one pair of comfortable hiking shoes that I already have broken in well with good inserts in them.  I had no foot problems at all, and we walked 50 miles that week.

_MSP2507_Luminar2018-edit_Luminar2018-edit_MSP2507_Luminar2018-edit_Luminar2018-edit Now my computer that I took I discussed in detail in an earlier blog, the 13-inch MacBook Air.  I took a 250gb SSD drive with me that I put all of my photos on and my Lightroom catalog made special for the DC trip that I merged into my large catalog when I got home.  I had cables and chargers for all of my gadgets like phone, camera batteries, external battery (to charge my phone while out and about), and of course a laptop.  I took a little surge protector plug so I could plug all of my things in without taking up all of the