Max Stansell Photography: Blog en-us (C) Max Stansell Photography (Max Stansell Photography) Fri, 13 May 2022 08:03:00 GMT Fri, 13 May 2022 08:03:00 GMT Max Stansell Photography: Blog 97 120 Traveling with Camera's Wells Fargo RaleighWells Fargo Raleigh Hey Everyone! I hope this last week was a good one for you. This week I want to talk about traveling with your camera. More specifically flying with your gear. Now I am no expert and its been a wile since I've flown but I'm getting ready to take a trip and by the time this blog comes out I may have already come back. I'm taking a trip where I'll be flying and will have to go through TSA so I'll give some tips that I learned from their website.  Security , Security , Security, You'll have to go through it .  So getting prepared will make this experience more comfortable and less of a hassle. Doing a little research can make this as unpleasant as possible.

Carry on Backpack

My camera gear.  I have narrowed down what I'm going to bring so my load won't be too heavy for the airport and for me to carry. I am taking with me on the plane one body and three lenses, batteries for the camera and a Gopro and batteries. Your batteries must be on your carry on luggage and not in your checked bags.  You should have a way to separate the batteries so they will not bump into each other and make a spark of some sort. I have cases for all of my batteries both Camera and Gopro. In my checked luggage I'll have a backup body and one lens and my tripod.  I have a small travel tripod that will fit into my checked luggage barely. 

I will have in my carry on backpack also my iPad mini an external hard drive and my RAV-Power file hub. I will have an 10000mah back up battery also to charge cell phone and such. All electronics larger than a cell phone will have to be taken out of your bag and placed in a bin and go through x-ray machine separately. The way my bag is made I can take out the camera and lenses out all at once with the removable organizer and put into a bin then I just need to place my iPad and external battery in. Hopefully this will work. We'll see. Other things that you will have to separate out of your carry on is any liquids.  All liquids must fit into a Quart Zip Lock bag and cannot be over three ounces. They have a 3-1-1 rule. No more than 3oz. containers that will fit into 1 quart zip lock bag per 1 traveler. Any liquid larger will have to be in checked luggage. Then also your shoes and belt will have to Government Shutdown GenerosityGovernment Shutdown GenerosityA TSA worker helps passengers at the Salt Lake City International Airport, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in Salt Lake City. The government shutdown has generated an outpouring of generosity to TSA agents and other federal employees who are working without pay. In Salt Lake City, airport officials treated workers from the TSA, FAA and Customs and Border Protection to a free barbecue lunch as a gesture to keep their spirits up during a difficult time. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) go into the bin. 

Checked Luggage

As I said before my backup body and a lens and tripod will be in this bag.  Of course all my clothes and extra liquids.  Also extra shoes, trekking pole, hip belt strap for my camera bag, and a 2 liter water bladder. This bag is scanned and can be inspected by TSA.  If they do inspect they will leave a card in your bag saying it was inspected. Only TSA approved locks can be used that have a universal master key that they can use to open the bag and inspect.  Only about 10% of bags get inspected.

Identification-New rules about Identification were suppose to be in effect but due to the Covid pandemic this rule has been pushed back to 2023.  It would say that your ID issued by the sate like your drivers license will be The REAL ID cards. Or Federal Government ID cards will get you into places like airports and federal buildings. Me being retired military It doesn't effect me much but the next time I get my license renewed I'll get the REAL ID with it.

Whats not allowed? Well there are lot of stuff but basically nothing sharp or things that could harm someone. You can Check with TSA on exactly what you can bring or not bring. 

If you plan ahead and do some research you can avoid fumbling around and make the security screening process not too bad.  Make sure you check with the airlines your flying on what size weight of the things you are bringing on the airplane. Because there are weight and size restrictions on what you can bring. The big message here is to plan , plan , plan. So enjoy your next trip and get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camera Carry on Checked Gear learning Liquids Luggage Max Stansell Photography Photography Security TSA website workshops Fri, 13 May 2022 08:02:53 GMT
Accessories for Beginning Photographers Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is doing well this week.  This week I want to talk about what accessories I think beginning photographers should have.  Now there are thousands and thousands of photography accessories out there and they are for the most part pretty neat!  I do have GAS you know. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) I do love my gadgets.  But for the beginning photographer there are some essentials that I think they should get first before venturing out into the photography marketplace.  I think these are at a minimum of what a photographer should have when starting out.  So here goes!

1. A Tripod.  A tripod will improve your photography more than any other accessory that you can get. First of all it will make your photo’s tack sharp.  Giving a stable support for your camera especially when starting out and your just figuring out settings it will stay steady when your shutter is too slow and you have hand shake making your photo’s blurry.  It will slow you down and make you think.  The act of pulling out a tripod and setting it up will make you slow down and think about your shot settings and composition. Now don’t go out and buy the cheapest one you can find at Walmart.  You need to put a little money into this investment. A 150 dollar tripod is 3 times better than a 40 dollar one.  And really 150 is really not a lot for something that can last through many cameras.  They are usually made of Carbon Fiber or Aluminum.  The carbon ones are more expensive but are lighter.  So research and buy wisely and you’ll have a great accessory that can last for many years.

2.Cleaning Supplies.  Keep your gear clean!  A Lens Brush you can pick up for 5 bucks and is great for cleaning your lenses and getting in those nooks and crannies of your camera.  A rocket type hand blower is great in blowing off dust from your lenses and your sensor keeping them free of dust .  These are fairly inexpensive also. And Micro fiber clothes.  These cloths are cheap and great for cleaning your lenses with out scratching.  They are great for eye glasses also.  Keeping your gear clean will make it last longer and make you get cleaner shots saving time in Photoshop or Lightroom .

3. Polarizer Filter.  A polarizer filter is the only filter that cannot be duplicated in Photoshop or Lightroom. It takes the shine off of things and enhances the color of objects.  It’s like wearing polarization sun glasses for your camera.  The most popular kind of polarizer is the Circular Polarizer.  It is made to fit on the front of your lens and you can turn it an adjust the power of the polarization of the shot.  You can pick up a decent one for 40 or 50 bucks but you can pay a lot more.  This should be your first filter in your camera kit.

4. SD Cards.  You should have more than just one SD card.  It doesn’t  have to be a large card a 32 or 64 gig card will do just fine.  You should rotate your cards between shoots and its always good to have an extra.  These cards are cheap and you should have a few.

5. Lightroom or Photoshop.  If you don’t already have a photo editing software this is the best deal going . You can get Lightroom and Photoshop for 10 dollars a month subscription. This is a great deal.  You used to have to buy these programs stand alone 150ish for Lightroom and over 500 for Photoshop but when new updates came you had to either buy the update or buy the whole version again.  With 10 dollars a month you can have the latest updates and  the most powerful software available.  Photoshop is so powerful and used it has become a verb.  That was Photoshopped. 

_MSP6312_MSP6312 6.  Camera Strap.  A camera strap will help you from dropping your expensive camera you just bought.  Wether you have one that goes around your neck or your wrist .  I personally use one around my wrist but I have had the other kind also.  My preferred ones come from Peak Design and are made out of the seatbelt material which is light weight and strong at the same time.

7. Extra Battery.  Invest in a extra battery.  When your out on the go you don't want to turn on your camera and find out that you forgot to charge you're one and only battery.  Carry an extra one or two depending on how your camera eats batteries. This can be a life saver.

8. Photo Bag/Backpack.  Now you need something to put everything into.  Hi my name is Max and I have a photo bag Problem.  I love photo bags.  I have bought and sold many.  Bags and Backpacks are very personal just make sure you get something that will protect your gear and is comfortable to wear.  Gear can get heavy and a bag that is not comfortable will be miserable to carry around.

So these are just a few things I think beginning photographers should have to get started.  If I sat here longer I’m sure I could think of more but this is a good start.  So until next week get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) accessories batteries blog camera Bags filters landscape learning Lightroom Max Stansell Photography Photography Photoshop Polarizer rocket Blower SD cards Tripods website workshops Fri, 06 May 2022 09:00:00 GMT
National Parks VS State Parks Hey Everyone! Hope your week has gone well.  Today we have the battle of the parks. National VS State parks.  First of all let me say how lucky we are here in America to have so many natural resources that are available for us to recreate in. Being a Landscape photographer and Nature photographer I spend a lot of time in parks.  And to tell you the truth I like all of the camping and hiking that go along with the photography as much as the photography. To visit all of the parks is a goal that will never be reached there are so many of them. National parks in the US number  to this date 62 parks and 423 sites.  Thats a lot!  Some people make it a quest to see all 62 parks but to see them and the 423 sites would take a long time.  Now that's National Parks. State parks there are even more!  There are over 3700 state parks in the US with California having the most at 270.  North Carolina where I live has 34 which I have visited all of them.  I actually had a photography project in 2019 where I visited all of the state parks in NC in one year. So lets talk about National and State Parks.

National Parks- I am a big fan of National Parks and want to visit as many as I can.  This summer I plan on visiting 6 National Parks out west. Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872. The latest one is New River Gorge National Park which I visited last year with my photography club.  National parks are vast area's of land that are set aside to keep natural as possible and for the public to visit and recreate in Nature.  Let me tell you lots of people go the National Parks with Great Smokey Mountains being the most visited.  During the last couple of years the visitation to parks has almost doubled with people tired of being cooped up inside due to the Covid-19 outbreak.  This makes these parks very crowded with people .  Permits are required for a lot of the most popular parks and attractions to keep the wear and tear down on theses parks and for safety.  We are planning a hike in Zion National Park that is only 5 miles long but you must have a permit to go on it because of the popularity of the hike. National parks are sometimes referred to National Amusement parks because of the crowds.  But is it worth it to fight the crowds?  These are some of the most beautiful and unique places in the world like Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, or Death Valley.  They became National parks to preserve the Natural Beauty of our great nation for generations to enjoy. National Parks are usually very large in size and could take days to see only a little of them.  They have hiking, backpacking , camping, campgrounds, bike trails, and rock climbing in places. Thats just mentions a few things you can do in the National Parks not to forget photography!

State Parks- State Parks have advantages to them that the larger National Parks don't have. They are usually close by your house. I have one only 10 miles from my front door. As a matter of fact my first 10 mile backpacking adventure was from my house to this state park. I wanted to make sure I could hike 10 miles with a full pack on and if I failed I was only a phone call away from rescue. I made it . LOL These parks are usually smaller in size but may have the same features as their big brother parks.  These parks are less traveled.  People will travel to a National Park while driving right by Sandstone FallsSandstone FallsSandstone Falls located in the New River Gorge National Park in WVa. many cool and unique state parks.  These parks are getting more crowded since the outbreak  but usually not as bad as National Parks.  If you live by a big city and are going to a State Park head out early! Some of the parking lots fill up fast.  The same activities that you can do in the National Parks can be done in State Parks and the prices are usually cheaper.  Some parks are free and some you have to pay to use same as the National Parks. I prefer to camp (Car Camp) in State Parks because its cheaper and the amities are usually better.  I like to backpack in both. So when I pull my little teardrop Goose Creek GrassGoose Creek Grass camper to a campground (and its time to start again) I prefer State Park Campgrounds.

So I know the title said National Parks VS State Parks.  But why does it have to be either/or why can't it be and.  National Parks and State parks are a great way to get away from work and your house and get into nature.  I have been backpacking on the AT in the Great Smokey Mountains and Car camping at most of the State Parks in North Carolina and I love them both.  Go out and investigate your National and State Parks and enjoy the outdoors.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camping hiking landscape learning Max Stansell Photography National Park Service National Parks NPS Photography State Parks website workshops Fri, 29 Apr 2022 08:54:15 GMT
My Big Trip of the Year Screenshot Hey Everyone! Hope you had a great week.  This weeks blog is about my big trip this year. I have been hinting around it but really haven’t explained it .  This will be my biggest photo adventure to date. My friend and fellow “photo nut” Robert have been planning this trip for quite a while.  And next week we will be on our way. This years big trip will be out west on a 1000 mile road trip through Utah.  This road trip will start in Las Vegas NV and end in Albuquerque NM.   We will visit 6 national parks and at least 3 state parks and some more area’s of interest. It will be a whirlwind of a trip and I might need a vacation after this one. It will be photography and seeing new things all day every day.  It will be Go! Go! Go!.  We have made an extensive itinerary which I know we won’t be able to follow .  We will have to be flexible and do things on the fly but its a good start. We have bought tickets , rented a car and have hotel rooms all payed for .  We have had to get permits for hiking  and driving in the parks.  We have done loads and loads of research.  But hopefully we have done enough.  My photo nut buddy has been on big trips like this before but for me this is something big.  I have gone on week long photography trips with my photography club but I usually wasn’t planning them out. Let me give you a small outline of our trip.

Places we’ll visit-  We will visit 6 national parks.  The Mighty 5 in Utah and one in Colorado.  The Mighty 5 in Utah are Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Arches and Canyon Lands.  You could easily spend a week in each of these parks and still would not have seen them all.  We will have about a day in each of them so we will be skimming the top of what is there.  We are trying to get a sunrise or sunset in each of them and a hike or two in each and hopefully some great photo’s. We have a big hike scheduled in Zion, In Bryce we will have a sunset an sunrise I believe and a hike through the hoodoo’s. We are doing a scenic drive through Capital Reef and stopping for Pie. In Arches we are of course shooting arches and hopefully good sunset and sunrise.  In Canyon Lands there is of course Mesa Arch and surrounding area.  The other park we’ll visit is Mesa Verde in Colorado. It has the Indian dugout houses in the side of the cliffs which should be really cool to see. The other places that we have planned are the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada which looks really cool with great landscapes and Goblin State park in Utah and Dead Horse State park in Utah and Sandia Peak in New Mexico which we are taking a tram up to.  We will also check out some cool towns while there .  Moab Utah is an outdoor  sports Mecca for all kinds of sports from rock climbing to mountain biking.  This town will be real interesting and doing some street photography will be fun.  Taos New Mexico will have the Spanish style houses and buildings which will make for some interesting photography.  

After we get back from the trip I’ll write another blog to give you an after action report. And of course show you some photo's.  I’m hoping I'll have enough photographs to be able to make a photo book out of them like I do at the end of the year.  We will also be doing shooting video as well and I'm sure an epic video is in the works.  Maybe many. Well until  next week be safe and get out and shoot.

(Max Stansell Photography) Arches blog Bryce Canyon Canyon Lands Capitol Colorado Dead Horse Goblin landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Mesa Verde National Parks Nevada New Mexico Photography Reef" road trip Sandia Peak Taos trip Utah Valley of Fire website workshops Zion Fri, 22 Apr 2022 07:48:59 GMT
Congaree NP Photography Trip Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing great today. This week I want to tell you about a weekend trip me and some other "Photo Nuts" took to South Carolina to Congaree National Park.  If you haven't heard about it don't feel bad I hadn't either.  My friend Robert a partner in Photo Crimes , had suggested the trip and he always seems to have good trips planned. So after saying yes I started a little research.  The first place I went was YouTube.  I'm a big fan of YouTube and like to see what other people say in a review of a place. Well the first couple of reviews talk about Congaree as the worst National Park in the US.  That was not what I wanted to learn about this park. Located about an half hour drive from the eastern side(right side of the map)  of Columbia SC.  It is mostly a swampy National park great for Kayaking and exploring through the swampy land.  But as a hiker it had some trails but it also has a 2.5 mile boardwalk over the swamp to the Congaree River.  Now I love National Parks and want to visit as many as I can and this summer I'll add six more parks to my been there list.  So if nothing else it will me a tic mark on my list of National Parks. We, Me and Robert and another "Photo Nut" Mike decided to leave Friday night stay in Columbia do some night photography and go to Congaree in the morning.  Robert and Myself were going to do about a 7 mile trail and Mike was going to shoot some wildlife stuff near the water.  This park is known for flooding and the forecast was for rain.  Not looking good.  But that was the Plan.  Here is what happened.

Friday- Left home about 1:30ish in the afternoon for a 31/2 to 4 hour drive to Columbia. We started our trip and it was interstate driving most of the way so kind of boring and crowded.  But we passed the time cutting up and having fun conversations as three retired Military Vets would have.  You know War stories and the such. When we got to Columbia it had started to rain.  We found our hotel for the night near Ft. Jackson and put most of our things in the room. We donned our Rain Coats and headed out to our first destination. A man made waterfall at a park.  It was really coming down now.  When we got to the park the water was cut off to the waterfall and it was raining hard. We decided to go eat and see if it would let up. We went to Quakerstate and Lube and automotive themed restaurant that was a Sports Bar theme to it. We ordered Burgers and Wings and after we finished we were stuffed.  I mean loosen the top button of your pants full. We decided that the night was a wash (literally ) and to make plans for the next day.

Saturday- We had called the park Friday and found that some of the trails were under water.  So we figured we could at least show up , get the fridge magnet, T-shirt and call it a day and head to an alternate place Santee State Park. When we got to the park there wasn't too many cars in the parking lot of the visitors center so we got out and started to explore.  We found the Boardwalk and started to see how far we could go. Let me tell you it was gorgeous , lush and green and some of the trees were enormous .  There are some champion trees here, Loblolly Pine , and Birch. Champion trees are the largest of their species.  Pretty Cool. We did come to where the water overcame the boardwalk and had to turn around.  I actually didn't think that I would get anything good here but I was happily surprised. Our last stop in the park was the visitors center where we got our National Park Passports Stamped and souvenirs. Our next stop was Santee State Park a South Carolina State Park. It was an hour or so drive there from Congaree.  When we arrived we went to the Camp Store and walked out on the dock and could look upon the Lake Marion.  We then went on a hike that was suppose to be a 1/4 mile hike but ended up to be about 4 miles or so. We got a little off course. After the unexpected hike we were hungry and tired and a little sweaty. We went to a BBQ joint called Lone Star.  It was absolutely fabulous .  A comfort food home style cooking in a Buffet.  What could get better.  We did it again and ate too much but you can't pass on Banana Pudding. We then drove home about a 4 hour drive.

The whole trip we were cutting up and having a ball.  And it goes to show you that when your going on a photography trip you have to be flexible and you might find something better than what you had planned. It was a great trip and I got some good photo's to boot.  So until next week go out and explore and take a friend you'll have a blast. Here is a link to a trip video by Robert O'Sullivan Congaree Trip Video

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camping Congaree hiking Lake Marion learning Max Stansell Photography National Park Photography Santee SC South Carolina Swampy website workshops Fri, 15 Apr 2022 07:31:52 GMT
My Mobile Workflow Revised Hey Everyone, Hope everyone is doing great in these trying times.  This week I want to talk about my mobile workflow when doing photography on the road.  My mobile situation has changed many times but I’m always trying to make it better more streamline and lightweight in the long run.  To prove my point I’m writing this blog using my iPad mini 5 and a Bluetooth travel keyboard.  Like I have said I have tried all sorts of ways to backup my photography and video files and edit while I’m on the road with the less fuss and bulk and weight.  Now this system is just the way I do stuff now I’m sure it will change again but I seem to have it pretty dialed in.  First of all it has to be light weight and versatile I’m not as young as I used to be and if it can be used for more than one thing even better. If you remember from last week I was exploring and testing out ways to back up my SD cards without an laptop. I ran some test on the Ravpower Filehub at work and it worked like a champ it is in my travel kit for this trip. I also used it as a mobile WiFi router and it also worked great. I had five computers working off of the WiFi and it handled it with no problem. So if your in a hotel that doesn't have WiFi or it is very weak and they have a wired port you can hook this device up and make a small WiFi network at 5g speed. Well enough about the File Hub here we go step by step of my workflow for mobile photography.

- First I bring at least one SD card for everyday with a few extras.  So if I go for a week I have at a minimum 7 SD cards.  I didn’t buy them all at once.  When I find them on sale I’ll buy a few.  Before you know it you have plenty.  The original SD card will be the first copy of my workflow and will not be used again on this trip.

- Second When I get back to the hotel I take the SD card out of my Camera and put a newly formatted one in my camera and charge my batteries for the next day.  I then take that SD card and back it up using a new little gadget I just got.  The RAVpower File Hub.  I can attach a SSD (solid state drive) up to 3TB to the hub and then take my SD card and insert and push a button and it will transfer all of the files to the SDD drive in a time stamped folder.  I don’t have to be hooked up to the internet or anything.  I then can take the SD card  and put in my card wallet to the same space that was left empty by the card I have just put in my camera. I put the card in upside down so I know not to use it again.  Now I have two copy’s of my photo’s or videos and I never keep them in the same place. Always in different bags.

-Now for editing. All my editing while on the road will be done with my iPad mini and an iPencil.  I don’t plan on doing a lot of editing while on the road maybe one or two for social media and I can do this easily with the iPad.  I have Lightroom and Photoshop Express which is plenty of power for these types of edits. I can see my files using the RAVpower File Hub or with an SD card reader that I can hook to my iPad via lightning port.  The file hub works great and I can hook to it via WiFi and using an App on the iPad I can access my files. This system I have tested and seems to work very well to edit and post to the internet.

So that’s my workflow and how I manage my files while traveling. Carrying a laptop and charger, mouse and all of that is quite a lot just to backup files especially if the laptop is your main computer. If something happened to it on the road what would you do? I also use my iPad for many other things also like maps, gps, etc…  and its a cellular/WiFi so connectivity is pretty good when on the go.  The iPad mini is also smaller than a normal iPad and can fit in any bag.  The file hub is about the size of a deck of cards so the footprint of this setup is much smaller than the 13 inch MacBook Air I have used in the past.  This system gives me two copy’s of my photo’s and videos and when I get home I can import them into Lightroom or any other software I may use.  When they make it on my main computer then they are backed up to the cloud via Backblaze. So as you see I like multiple copies of my files.

I have tried many systems from WiFi SSD drives that worked but clunky to an Android tablet that didn’t work at all.  My main goal is to be mobile and still do all the things I want to do on the road. If you think about it I really don’t need the iPad I could do everything with my phone but not as easily. My eyes aren’t the same as they used to be so the iPad mini works for now .  I may have to go to a regular size one in the future! LOL The iPencil works well as a editing tool and works well as a mouse too.  

This system might not work for everyone you might want your laptop but for me the ease of being more mobile and versatile is what matters the most.  Hope this helps and gives some tips for a better travel experience on photography trips.  So until next week keep shooting and get outside!


(Max Stansell Photography) backup blog editing gear learning Max Stansell Photography nimble photography Ravpower Scandisk sd cards SSD travel Tutorial website WiFi Fri, 08 Apr 2022 09:52:46 GMT
For Travel Backup SD cards without a Computer! Hey Everyone! Today I'm talking about a topic that I've been trying to perfect for the last couple of years.  Backing up my SD cards without using a computer. Why you ask? Well when traveling especially if I'm only going for a few days up to a week or so I would like to do so without my computer.  It seems the only thing I use my computer for is backing up my SD cards to an external hard drive. Especially if your Laptop is your main computer what would you do if it got stolen or damaged? I've got a large trip for me coming up in a couple of months that I am going to be so busy traveling and taking photo's and video that I won't have time to do anything but photograph eat and sleep.  Most of my trips are like this .  Go,Go,Go!  I want to see and photograph all I can and then edit when I get home.  Taking a bulky computer with me just to backup an SD card seems like a waste of time , space and weight.  So for the last couple of years I have tried different things but always come back to using my computer.  The first thing I tried was a small Windows based tablet.  I could get my cards backed up but the tablet was so weak that it couldn't do anything else except browse the web.  So I quit using it.  I tried a wireless SSD that I could plug my card into and it would backup my card and I could access my files via WIFI.  This worked but was very slow and costly.  The unit cost a few hundred dollars and it was clunky.  This year I'm going to try something new. Actually two things.  The first is that since I have been trying this ,IOS (Apple devices) have come up with a filing system.  So I can plug in a hub via lightning port and copy files from SD Card to SSD drive. The other is a small file sharing hub/server that you can transfer SD card to SSD drive without having the IOS device plugged in.  It copies everything off of the SD card into a Time Stamped folder on the SSD,  Then you can access the hub via your IOS device and edit photo's with your iPhone or iPad.  These two methods are the ones I'm going to use on my upcoming trip. Then I can choose a photo to edit if I want to to put on Social media while I'm gone using my iPad or iPhone and LightRoom the mobile version. Let me explain how I plan to employ these two methods.  

First Method.  Using iPad/IOS filing system to transfer info from SD to SSD.  First you will need a hub that contains a SD card slot and a USB slot or USB C slot so you can connect a SSD drive to your hub and plug in the SD card at the same time.  The hub I purchased from Amazon has both of these slots and some more micro SD , HDMI, and another USB slot.  It has a lightning connector because my phone I use and my iPad both use the same slot.  I have an iPad Mini 5 and a iPhone SE 2021 version.  I could uses either of these to do the transfer process.  Its real simple you connect everything to the hub ( SD card and SSD drive) and hook the hub to the IOS device.  Then you go to the file app on phone or iPad and the different drives will be shown.  You can go to the SD card and find the file that has your photos in it and copy that file.  Then you can go to the SSD drive and either copy directly to the drive or create a file and name it with the date and paste the file you copied to the SSD drive.  I did a test run last night with a SD card that had 92 raw files from my Sony A6500 and it took about 3 min.  One thing to note is that when you first hook up your hub it might take a min or so for the devices to populate depending on size.  I hooked up this 64 gig card and it populated pretty fast but a 1 TB Drive took a few min to populate.  I think the iPad was scanning the disk and it just took a while to get through the 1TB.  But after they populated it was easy to backup the SD card.  Now I shoot one card per day.  So my original SD card is one copy and the copy I put on the SSD drive is the second copy.  One copy will go on checked baggage and the other will go with me on the plane when I go home.  I put a fresh newly formatted card in my camera for the next day.  SD cards are fairly cheep and I can use one or two per day and fresh ones on the next day.

The next option is the RAV Power File Hub wireless travel Router. There are Four things you can do with this device. (1st) its is a backup battery source.(not a large one at 6700mah battery) (2nd )it can act as a wireless router from a wired ethernet cable or (3rd) it can be hooked up to wireless intent say at a hotel and be a secure WIFI with another layer of security. You don't have to subscribe to some sort of VPN service. With this device you can do many things but the main thing I want to do with it is (4th) backup my SD cards.  To use you simply Plug in your SD card and your SSD drive hold in the transfer button for 5 seconds and the device will copy everything off of your SD card to your External Drive into a Time Stamped File.  You can then access your files via WIFI and edit them on your device.  This is pretty cool .  The very cool part is that its only 60 bucks.  There are fancier devices that can do this but they can cost up to 800 dollars for a 1TB drive one that they don't even make anymore.   The draw backs are that transfer times of data are not as fast as a laptop.  But it's not terrible. Maybe only a minute or two longer from SD to SSD.  But you can choose what hard drive you want to go to by hooking up any drive you have to it. So it's versatile . The size of this device is small at 4.4 X 3 X .9 inches weighing only 7 ounces. 

I will be taking both of these devices with me on my trip. That way I will have a backup if something goes wrong with one of the devices.  But they are so small compared to Laptop and charging cord. This system of backing up my files and being to access them wirelessly to edit one or two while I travel should work great. I am testing as we speak but you never know until you use it in the field for the first time. I will let you know how it goes. So until next week Get out and shoot!







(Max Stansell Photography) blog Cards file app File hub Files IOS iPad learning max stansell photography Photography RavPower SD SSD website Fri, 01 Apr 2022 08:28:46 GMT
What's in your Camera bag? Hey Everyone! Hope you've had a good week.  This week I want to talk about what you have in your camera bag.  That's right your camera bag not mine.  This will be a guideline on what I think you should have in your camera bag. Of course this is very personal.  Everybody's needs are different.  I think that you should pack what is needed and not what is not.  Being lightweight and nimble is a key to great photography.  No matter if your a street photographer landscape wildlife or whatever.  It is said in backpacking that you pack your fears. Which means you pack a lot of "what ifs?" What if I get thirsty, More water, what if I get hungry more food. You get the idea.  All of these what if's is what makes a pack heavy.  The same goes with your camera bag.  If you take everything you own you will have a miserable time being a pack mule lugging all of your equipment around.  Being economic in what you bring will enhance the photography experience.  And we all want that.  Part of this is knowing what to take and this comes with experience.  I have 40 years of caring around a camera bag and I'm still figuring out what to bring and what to leave home but I have come to a conclusion Less is more! Sometimes One lens and one body is all you really need. ( I do like a one lens challenge.)  Especially as I get older I don't want to be a pack mule.  So here goes a few rules and some hints on what to bring in no particular order.

1. Plan you trip. Try to learn what you are going to be taking photo's of.  If your going to a museum you don't need a 500mm lens and if your _MSP6316_MSP6316 going to shoot birds in flight you don't need a super wide lens.  Bring what you need and remember the less the better.

2. Bring a bag just large enough to carry what you need.  I have found with backpacking the larger bag you bring you must fill that sucker up with things you don't need.  So if your going to do street photography you don't need a 50 liter backpack .  Your only going to carry a body and a couple of lenses so bring a small shoulder bag or a large purse to carry your extra lenses.  You will be happier with the light weight and the mobility that this serves.  I pick and choose what bag I use on the outing that I'm going on.

3. Pretty obvious from the statements before take a Camera body and the lenses you will need.  If your not going to need it take it out of your bag.  If your not going to need that macro or Large Telephoto take it out of your bag.  If your not going to do long exposure take out that remote shutter don't tote that tripod if your not going to use it.

4.  Tripods?  Are you going to need it take it.  If not don't.  A light weight carbon fiber tripod can be good to have.  I have one but I don't tote it all the time only if I think I'm going to need it.  I usually use a tripod if I'm shooting sunrise or sunset or waterfalls or maybe even macro but during the middle of the day I don't need it and I don't tote it.  If your driving keep it in the car.

5.  Flash and lighting  equipment.  Like the tripod if you need it bring it if not leave it home.  If I'm doing street photography or landscape and I won't need a flash I don't bring it.  But if I'm shooting a wedding or event where a flash is needed I might bring two.  Planning is the key.  I used to tote one all of the time and never used it so it has to be a special occasion for me to bring mine. I do carry a small LED light to help with dark spaces and I carry a Headlamp that comes in handy.

6.Non Photography Accessories.  These are personal but remember less is more.  I have a little first aid kit that I bring it has stuff like bug repellent, sun block, band aide, glass cleaner.  These are some of the things I bring but medication could be another.  Small amounts you are not going on a week trip only usually only for a couple of hours.  I have small one use pouches that I take not full tubes or bottles.

7.Batteries.  Well we need batteries but if your like me I have a lot .  I only take enough for the day.  I also take a 10000 mha external battery pack to charge my phone and camera battery in a pinch.  The extra battery pack is on the heavy side but one I like to take with me.  I'm sure it's a option that many wont use . 

8. Cleaning clothes. Small microfiber cloths are cheap I have them in every divided section of my bag.

As you can see there are many things we can do to save weight and volume in your bag.  Remember only bring what you'll need not everything you own.  Be lightweight and nimble when you shoot.  Get outside and shoot! With a lighter pack.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog camera bags camera body gear hiking landscape Lenses Lightweight. Max Stansell Photography Nimble street street Photography website wildlife photography workshops Fri, 18 Mar 2022 09:00:00 GMT
Trip to New Jersey Hey everyone! Hope you are doing well today. This week I want to talk about a trip I took with a photography explorer friend of mine Robert to New Jersey.  Yep New Jersey.  I was basically just a wingman on this trip he did all of the planning and I can't take any credit for it.  And I was like you New Jersey? But he had some family and friends that we would stay with while on our trip.  This trip ended up being almost 1000 miles round trip which would be a good condensed version of a trip we have planned for later this spring. Our trip took on a Nautical theme by accident or maybe not by accident my exploring partner Robert was a former Navy man.  So here's a day by day account of our trip.

Day 1- We left from home on Friday afternoon and headed to our first stop in Norfolk VA. We were in a hotel only a few miles from the Naval Station and we went onto the base and looked at the ships docked at the pier.  My formal Navy partner thought it would be a good idea to photograph Naval War Ships at night I wasn't too sure.  I snapped a couple of shots before the Shore Patrol informed us that it wasn't Okay.  We left and went downtown Norfolk to get our bearings and maybe some nighttime shots. After a little while we went back to the hotel.

Day 2- The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and went downtown to do some street photography. We decided to go to the Naval Museum which has the USS Wisconsin a WWII class Battleship that was used until 1991. We took some shots downtown until the Museum opened and when we went in we had the whole place to ourselves. We got lots of photo's of the battle ship.  We then headed to Delaware to stay with some Friends of Robert. We had a great meal at there house and took some Family portraits.  They were great hosts.

Day 3- This day was a cold morning start with temps in the 20's. We had an early start because we had to catch a ferry that would take us from Delaware to New Jersey .  The Ferry ride was fun and it was very windy and the water was a little choppy but we make it fine.  Then it was up the Jersey turnpike until we arrived at Roberts uncle's house in Ocean Grove NJ.  We went on a walking tour of Asbury Park which was the stomping grounds of the likes of Bon Jovi and Bruce  Springsteen.  It was very nice but cold! We had a delightful dinner.

Day 4- This was our day to travel home.  We headed out early so we wouldn't get back too late. This was going to be a almost 8 hour drive. We decided to break the drive in two and stopped in Washington DC at the Iwo Jima memorial or the (USMC Memorial) and stayed for a while taking photo's.  It was a nice break and I haven't been to this monument before.  We kept on driving out of DC until we arrived at home.

All in all it was a lot better trip than I thought it would be and of course we had lots of laughs and fun.  I think everyone should have a photo nut to go on outings with.  It can be fun and you learn a lot of photography on the side. So until Next week Have fun and get outside!

(Max Stansell Photography) Ashbury Park blog DC Iwo Jima landscape learning Max Stansell Photography New Jersey Norfolk VA Photography Washington DC website workshops Fri, 18 Mar 2022 07:21:02 GMT
Trip Planning Hey Everyone! This week is about trip planning!  I am currently in quarantine due to Covid symptoms so I have plenty of time to plan.  Don't worry I'm feeling fine just have to take a test today and I should be cleared.  But while I was at home I had plenty of time to plan for an epic photography trip ( to me anyway) out west to Utah.  There are a lot of decisions to make when planning your trip.  First when are you going?  What is the main objective for the trip?  How will you get there?  Where will you stay?  Transportation? Permits?  So many questions.  My first suggestion is to start early!  We are 4 months out of our trip and I think this is almost too late.  The earlier the better. I am making an itinerary that I know we will not be able to follow to the letter but it is a good guide line to our trip.  I know that we must be flexible when we are on our trip and some of the best photographs will come from this.   But I like to know things especially where I'm sleeping.

When are you going?  This is a big decision.  We had to make plans that would not interfere with work or family things.  All of our other decisions will depend on these dates.  Weather is another decision to consider will it be too cold or hot when you go.  Will school be in session?  The crowds will be less if school is in session. So after this time frame has been set then you can start all of the other planning.

What is the main objective of this trip?  Is it photography like ours is.  We are taking a road trip of sorts in the west where photography and hiking is the main purpose. Getting to see something that I have never seen before and a pre curser to when I retire I would like to travel and see the west more being from the east coast.

How will you get there?  If its not too far a way a car might be your best bet.  Or even a train oh how I like a train to travel.  But for us going to Utah a plane is our choice.  Its cheap (especially with the price of gas) and  its quick.  Quick is really a big deal.  The less time you take traveling the more time you'll have on your adventures.  For our trip we will be flying into Las Vegas NV. and leaving from Albuquerque NM.

Where will you stay?  Another hard choice.  Can you stay in one spot and take day trips to everywhere?  Thats a great choice.  This won't work for us as we are taking over a 1000 mile road trip.  We will be staying at 4 strategic locations.  Being that these places are such a popular places booking in advance is a must! Share a room if you can to cut cost!  A 200 dollar a night room sounds expensive but if you have two paying its not as bad.  Remember that you will be just sleeping and showering there if you're like us.  We will be exploring all day so you don't have to get a lavish place to stay.  Simple and Clean is what you want.  These can be Air B&B type places or hotels.  We went the hotel route just for simplicity and location.  For where we were going it was the right choice but in other situations Air B&B might be right one.

Transportation?  How will you get from point A to B?  Some trips I have use public transportation like the subway or trains.  For this trip its a car .  We will be traveling over 1000 miles in remote places so we will need transportation to get there.  So we have to rent a car.  What type?  Economy car will be small and not as comfortable as a larger one but it will be less expensive and take less gas to operate.  Terrain also makes a difference if you are going off road you might need something with clearance that a small car wouldn't do. Then there is where you pick it up from and drop it off at.  We will be doing the Airports that we use.

Permits?  If you are traveling to National Parks as we are you might need permits for things you do.  Don't wait till the last minute or you might be too late. One of the hikes that we want to do you have to have a permit to do it with and to get one you have to enter a lottery.  If you wait too long you might miss the time to get permits.  We will also need a car permit for a small National Park to keep it from over crowding.  These are things that you must think of in advance.

As you can see there is a lot that goes into planning a trip whether it is a short over the weekend trip or a long trip that can last a week or more.  I used apps like Expedia and to help me with reservations. I used to secure permits.  Plan ahead and be flexible when you get there and you are assured to have a great time on your trip.  Explore and plan for your next Adventure!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog landscape learning Max Stansell Photography paying for it permits Photography transportation travel trip trip planning website workshops Fri, 11 Mar 2022 09:26:57 GMT
Roadside Photography Hey Everyone! I hope that you are doing well and are healthy today.  This weeks topic is Roadside Photography.  What is Roadside Photography? Well its pretty simple your driving and see something you pull off of the road and take a photo.  Sounds pretty simple.  As a landscape and travel photographer most of my photography is just on the side of the road.  You don't have to be the big explorer to get great landscape or travel photo's.  You don't have to trudge through the woods or forest for miles to get that great landscape composition.  Although it is a great way to get something unique.  I would say that 90% of all of my photo's are taken a 5 min. walk from the roadside.  If you go to National Parks most of the most iconic scenes are right beside the road on some sort of overlook or pullout just so you can get that photo.  Sometimes these shots are just 5 min. from your house.  Let me give you some helpful hints on how to get _MSP8206-Edit_MSP8206-Edit some great Roadside Photography shots.

-Stop the car.  One of the biggest mistakes is just not to stop for that photo.  In my experience not stopping for whatever reason is the biggest mistake you can make.  If I see something that I think will be a great photo and I pass it maybe I saw it at the last min. I will immediately do a U-turn and go back.  I don't know how many times I have seen something and I say to myself I'll come back to that later.  And I never do. Or if I do come back its not the same , the light has changed or something just isn't right.  So first tip is _MSP8101-Edit-Edit_MSP8101-Edit-Edit to stop the car.

-Add Time to your trip for photography.  This kind of goes hand in hand with the tip stop the car.  If you are in a hurry to go somewhere you will more than likely not stop you will pass by a great shot because you don't want to be late for something.  If you know your going to be on a scenic highway like the Blue Ridge Parkway plan extra time into your trip because you know you want to pull over and take some photographs.

-Keep Camera Gear Handy and Ready.  This tip can be useful in many photography situations.  But in Cades Cove TreeCades Cove Tree Roadside Photography it is extra handy.  You want your gear at the ready to take that photography.  I usually have my camera and lenses combo's ready to go and set up.  So if I see a deer on the side of the road I don't have to fumble for camera gear and lens they are already set up and I can grab them.  If I have two bodies with me I will have a long and a wide lens set up so I can grab what is needed for the shot.  This also includes having filters and tripod ready.  You might not know when a waterfall might pop up.

Lake Wackena Sunrise HDRLake Wackena Sunrise HDR -Plan and Prepare.  If your going on a planned trip to a park do some research. Maybe there is a scenic road that you can take to your destination.  Get on the Google Machine and see what photo's others have taken on the trip you're going on.  I'm planning a trip right now and that's what I'm doing to get ready for that trip.

The whole point of this blog is to let you know that you don't have to be a world class explorer to get great landscape and travel photography photo's .  Most of them are just a drive away.  So get out and do some roadside exploring and get some great photo's just a few feet from your car. And get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Camera Gear landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography Prepare Roadside Travel website workshops Fri, 04 Mar 2022 10:00:00 GMT
How Things Change But One Thing Stays the Same Price LandingPrice Landing Hey Everyone! Hope today finds you well and safe.  Today is another soap box day.  Just an old guy griping about days gone by.  I know, I know you've heard it before.  But here we go.  Things are much different now than they were for my Father or Grandfather.  We are overwhelmed with information.  We get it from our big screen TV's, Computers, Laptops, Tablets and phones.  Information coming from everywhere.  The news is not news anymore now it what you choose to listen or believe.  We pick our own news depending on how our beliefs are.  If your on the Right side of politics you watch Fox News if your on the Left of things you watch CNN.   And who knows what is in between. Life was much easier when you only had 3 channels to pick from and they all had the same stories. When Richard Nixon got in trouble everyone agreed.  It didn't matter what side of the isle you were on. But not now a days?  And don't worry I'm not going to get political.  I'm more worried about the system we have now not the _MSP2011_Luminar2018-edit_MSP2011_Luminar2018-edit politicians.  New papers and most magazines are gone.  The print news is a thing of the past. The internet has taken over most print things from books, to Newspapers.  Applications like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter shape the way we think.  Because we are still used to believing what we read or what we see in the news we think its real. And its not.  What we read on the internet and what we see on the news is formed and shaped by the Sponsors of the shows or the show's audience.  And don't get me wrong I am as addicted to screens and the internet as much as anyone.  My job keeps me in a laptop all day.  Right now I have six screens with in arms reach. There seems to be no time that I don't have a screen with me.  And of course the same story that my dad would talk about is how much things cost.  And Sunrise KayakSunrise Kayak of course the prices do go up and never come down.  That's just life.  Things are just expensive.  I could go on and on about things that I don't like but you get the idea.  But one thing has stayed the same from when I started playing around with camera's.

When I'm out and about taking photo's everything shuts off.  I get tunnel vision and all of my worries and things that were bothering me go away.  I just look for photo's and concentrate on what I'm doing and of course it has a screen on it. LOL  But when I'm doing a sunset and I get there just in time for blue hour and wait for the sun to come up I am so relaxed.  The same can be said for sunsets and waterfalls I just get wrapped up in the moment.  I don't think too much about settings just enough to get it right in camera.  I try out new techniques like focus stacking and that has me consumed.  That's why I love photography so much I get lost in it.  Of course I love the gear and I do have GAS. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome.)  But I love learning new things that might make my photography better.  Be it from a new noise removing app to a new version of Lightroom.  Photography excites me like no other hobby has.  I have had many and just should have stayed with photography.  I have done everything from Bass Fishing including having a Bass Boat. Skeet shooting to include reloading my own shotgun shells.  To playing golf where I had my handicap down to a 4 at one point.  But nothing gives Wine glass SplashWine glass Splash me the peace that photography has.  I have tried all sorts of photography from Wedding , Portraits , Street , Landscape, Astro, to Travel.  The ones I keep going back too are Landscape , Street, Travel. I do like to take portraits of my family and friends.  (Mainly because I can play with strobes) LOL  So when I'm out on a trail or by a waterfall I am in my own little world of photography.  If I'm walking down the street I'm looking for angles and shots that will be interesting.  I'm thinking about anything but screens, news and all of the injustices there are in the world because I'm in my little world. Even when I'm not doing photography I think about it but its nothing like doing it.  I have gone from old manual 35mm film cameras to the mirrorless age of photography and everything in between.  I have even dabbled in video. 

Well I'm going to jump off of my Soap Box and say how much I love to get lost in Photography. So until next week get outside and get lost too!

(Max Stansell Photography) away blog from get landscape learning Max Stansell Photography media out Photography Relax screens website workshops zoning Fri, 25 Feb 2022 08:48:12 GMT
Shoot with Purpose! MSP05063_Luminar4-editMSP05063_Luminar4-edit Hey Everyone! Hope you're having a great day! This week I want to talk about how you shoot.  When you either go out on a photo walk or have a planned shoot of some kind whether it be a portrait shoot or a travel destination.  Remember when we first got into photography and we saved up for that camera that was going to do it all for us.  It was shiny and new and all of the pro's were using it and if I use it I will shoot like a pro?  Then remember going out and shooting everything.  Hey look a bird, snap, Hey look a tree, snap.  Hey look a pretty girl, snap.  Then you got home and put these photo's on your big screen and noticed that the photo's were just as bad as they were with your cheep camera.  There is a reason for that. You can buy the best hammer but that doesn't make you a great carpenter.  It just makes you a guy with a great hammer.  The difference between great photographers and us mere mortals is preparation.  These "professional" photographers all do one thing better than we do and that is shoot with a purpose.  When they leave the house they already know what type of photograph that they want to get what it will look like.  In their minds eye they know what the light is going to be where the sun in coming from.  They know what look they want from a Linville RiverLinville RiverLooking down from Chimney outlook. model.  They have done the research.  They have google mapped the area and looked at simular photo's of what they will shoot.  Or they have looked at thousands of photo's of models .  Or they have got direction from who they are working for on what they want.  They Shoot with Purpose!  Think about some of your best photo's you have taken.  If your like me they were after doing some research maybe looking or googling the place you are visiting.

Brownie MemoriesBrownie Memories The thing is you don't have to have the final photo in your minds eye either.  Lets say your going on a photo walk of a town that you have photographed before.  You know the area and in the back of your mind you already have the shot that you want to get.  While your on that quest you may even see something else that you like better.  And get a great shot.  But you still left the house with a purpose.  It could be something as small as only using one lens. Or trying out some new technique like focus stacking or shooting in brackets to merge into Dynamic Range Photo. Maybe the subject is your purpose.  Maybe your only going out to shoot barns, waterfalls or street portraits.  But your going with a purpose. I have shot the little town I live in maybe 50 or more times but I always find something new and interesting to shoot and its usually when I go out on some mission.  I'm trying out a new body or lens and I'm looking for interesting angles and views I don't usually see.  Maybe I go out t shoot long exposures at night and catch the tail lights of cars making interesting Fayetteville Station Bridge (Old)Fayetteville Station Bridge (Old)The old Bridge at New River Gorge National Park. patterns as I shoot.  But I always come home with something interesting. Not only will this improve your photography shots it will improve your skills as a photographer.  Shooting with purpose will make you more focused and take all of the confusion of everything around you and you can concentrate more on what ever purpose you have chosen to shoot that day.  When I go on workshops with my photography club I don't just blindly follow the crowd.  I usually have researched what photo's were taken at a particular spot or techniques we are using that day. If I am using new equipment like say a flash I get it out of the box before I get there and play with it learn how it works how it syncs to my camera, how to adjust it .  I do this all before I get to the workshop so I can concentrate on the workshop.  Say it was a one light portrait.  I don't have to fumble around with my equipment because I already know how to use and I can concentrate on the purpose. Creating a good portrait with one light.

Shooting with a purpose will separate you from the folks with a nice camera to a photographer who has a goal.  The photographer with a goal or Purpose will always have the better shot.  So until next week get outside and shoot! With a Purpose. LOL

(Max Stansell Photography) blog eye goals intent landscape learning Max Stansell Photography minds Photography purpose website workshops Fri, 18 Feb 2022 10:00:00 GMT
What Plug-ins I use in Lightroom _DSC4702_DSC4702 Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing fantastic today.  This week I want to talk about plug-in's and what I use with Lightroom Classic and Photoshop.  First of all, what are plug-ins?  For our purposes, a plug-in is a separate program that works in conjunction with Lightroom or Photoshop. Usually they do a specific job, like color enhancement.  There have been many plug-ins in the past that, as Photoshop and Lightroom have gotten better, make the plug-in obsolete.  For example, HDR.  I used to have a couple of HDR plug-ins before Lightroom could do an HDR, and now that Lightroom has that capability, the plug-in is no longer needed.  So I use plug-ins for things that Lightroom Classic doesn't do very well.  

Working with plug-ins from Lightroom Classic is very easy.  You right-click and go to "Edit In" and then go to the plug-in that you want to use.  You can also go to Photoshop from here also.  When you finish your edits in whatever plug-in you are using, when you save the photo or a copy of the photo, it comes up in Lightroom.  This is called Round Tripping.  It's very easy to do, and this is how I access my plug-ins.

ON1 No Noise AI.  ON1 No Noise AI intelligently removes all the image noise while intelligently recovering and enhancing the details. Even Arrows and blocksArrows and blocksArrows and blocks. Correlation of the parts. Relations. though we have great cameras now with low-light capabilities and being able to shoot at high ISOs, noise can still creep in, especially if you're using a higher megapixel camera and really crop in. You're going to get noise.  Now Lightroom Classic does have a noise reduction feature in it, and I haven't really had much luck with it.  A couple of weeks ago a member of my camera club told me about this plug-in and how it was rated #1 of all the noise reduction plug-ins, and it was on sale!  So I went ahead and bought it on the spot.  I haven't used it much on newer photos, but I have played with it in older photos that I had a lot of noise in, and it on1-no-noise-ai Logoon1-no-noise-ai LogoON1 NoNoise AI worked really good.  I think the regular price is around $70 and well worth it if it can make my shots look better.

Topaz Sharpen AI.  This is another new plug-in for me, and I caught it on sale also.  It also runs about $70.  I have lots of photos that need this, especially ones that were shot with cheaper lenses that weren't as sharp as I would like them to be.  There are all kinds of adjustments you can make with this plug-in, and it also has a masking feature that lets you mask the main subject.  That way your whole photo doesn't get sharp, just your main subject.  Nailing focus on moving subjects or in low light is sometimes hard to do even with modern cameras.  Its nice to know that I can go in and fix the focus with this plug-in.

Other plug-in's I have used that I really liked were Silver Effects Pro. This is a black-and-white program that really gives pop to your monochrome photos.  This company has changed hands a couple of times, but it is a fantastic plug-in if you can get your hands on it.  I did use Luminar 4 at the time, mainly for sky replacements. But now there is a sky replacement feature in Photoshop that I like, so I don't use Luminar anymore.  It has been updated a few time since I've used it, so it's probably a pretty good one to try.  Nik Tools has an array of plug-ins that have been great in the past.  They are a whole suite of tools from the Silver Effects Pro to all kinds of tools.  They have been bought and sold a couple of times and are owned by DXO, I believe, now.  

Plug-ins are a special way to put your touch on a photograph that maybe someone that is not using them can't.  They are a great way to improve your art and keep your creativity going.  So until next time, be creative and get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Collection landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Nik No Noise ON1 Photography Plugin Sharpen Topaz website workshops Fri, 11 Feb 2022 10:00:00 GMT
Using Old Tools with New Cameras Bell & Howell /CannonBell & Howell /CannonHere is the new addition to my film cameras . 1961 Canon Canonet 19. Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing great today! This week I want to talk about old camera tools that still work today with our newer cameras that have all the technical advantages.  These two tools will help you get your settings right quickly and focus quicker.  These tools were made many years ago, almost 100 years.  The first tool or rule was invented by the Kodak company.  When they first started making consumer cameras, they wanted the everyday man to be able to use the camera without fumbling with settings on the camera. They spent millions of dollars back then on research to figure out this rule.  It's called the "Sunny 16" rule.  It tells you what settings to set your camera on when it's sunny or when it's cloudy, and it works! All of the time it works!  The rule states if it's sunny outside, you set your f stop to f16.  You then set your shutter speed to the same number as your ISO.  So if it's a sunny day and you set your camera to f16 and have an ISO of 400 and set your shutter to 400, your exposure will be correct.  So how does this old rule help you?  If you are in a hurry to shoot something and you're shooting in manual, you can set your camera to the sunny 16 rule and, bang, exposure is set, no thinking.  Then you could adjust from there. If you're riding in a car and come up on some elk, if your _MSP9733_MSP9733 camera is already set, all you have to do is focus and shoot.  There are some rules for when it's slightly overcast: use F11; heavy overcast: F5.6; shadow: f4.  Everything else stays the same.  So you could see back in the day that this was very useful, especially if you didn't have a light meter, which most people didn't.  When else?  How about shooting the moon.  Nothing is more frustrating than trying to shoot the full moon and your shot is overexposed and you can't see any detail on the moon.  But if you use the sunny 16 rule and remember the moon is just a reflection of the sun, you should have perfect exposure.  Pretty neat for a 100-year-old rule or tool.

The next 100-year-old rule will also help you when focusing.  You say, well I have the newest Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji camera, and it focuses super fast. And I would say, yes, it does in good light. But what about poor light?  Say you're shooting a wedding reception or a banquet of some sort, and the lights are turned down.  Your fancy camera (no matter what the make) will hunt and look for something to contrast against and then, depending on your aperture that you probably have set to 2.8, you will have a hard time getting anything in focus.  There is a rule or tool that is called Zone Focusing.  Everyone has seen it used before in photos that are famous by Ansel Adams.   This is where everything in the frame is in focus.  This is well before Photoshop where you can focus stack now and get the same result.  This was done during the time of manual focus lenses.  It deals with two things: depth of field and aperture.  Depth of field is the part of the photograph that is in focus.  Like I mentioned before, you have seen photographs where everything is in focus.  But you have also seen portraits where only the eyes are in focus.  The tip of the nose is out, and the ears and everything else is out of focus.  To do zone focusing, you have to know where that depth of field is. To do that, we must use a depth of field calculator.  They can be found anywhere. Just google "DOF calculator," and you'll get a bunch.  I have one on my phone.  You plug in the focal length of the lens you are using. I picked 35mm the fstop you're using. I picked 8 and it tells you where to set your lens at and then put it in manual. For me it was 5 meters or a little over 15 feet. So if you have an old lens that has all of the markings on it, you could just dial that into 15 feet or 5 meters.  Then everything from 2.5 meters to 162 meters will be in focus. If I don't have an older lens with the markings, I can find something that is about 15ish feet away, focus, and then put the lens in manual and shoot.  Everything 2.5 meters away and beyond will be in focus.  If I needed a fill flash, I could put that on and it would work great.  So if I am on the dance floor at a reception, I just have to make sure that the subject  2.5 meters away.  and shoot, shoot, shoot.  I can do it quickly because my camera will not have to focus.  Now the lens matters also and the size of the sensor.  The depth _MSP9571_MSP9571 of field calculator usually asks for what camera, lens, fstop, and it will tell you the rest. I use the one that comes with PhotoPills App. Changing the aperture will also affect the minimum distance that will be in focus.  A larger fstop number will make the minimum distance closer, and a smaller one will make the minimum distance further.  So I would say, in any event where the light is poor, this will help that big fancy camera take better photos.

So there you are, a couple of old tricks that can help your new camera work better.  So until next week Keep Shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) 16 blog Focusing landscape learning light low Max Stansell Photography Photo Photography Pills Sunny website workshops Zone Fri, 04 Feb 2022 10:00:00 GMT
What Digital Photography Has Given Us IMG_1114IMG_1114 Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing fine this week.  Today I want to get on a soap box a little and  Reminiscing of film days gone by.  I was listening to a podcast that had a National Geographic photographer with almost 40 years experience as a guest.  I really enjoyed listening to him talk and he brought up some differences between now and then.  As a younger teenager when I started photography I dreamed of being a top photographer working for National Geographic or Look or Life magazines.  How glamorous it looked when you look at the works of famous photographers during the depression taking photo's of life in the US back then just to document it.  How their camera's were mechanical wonder machines with precision workings inside. How the black and white photo's they took were sharp and clear and made time stand still.  But some things I had forgot.  How the film had limits to them and you could only do so much with the low ISO or back then ASA film. Like you could only shoot  1/2 hour before sunrise and 1 1/2 hours after and 1 1/2 hours before sunset and 1/2 hour after.  Everything else was useless grainy shots. Not to mention Night time photography.  If you look back at older issues of National Geographic you'll never see anything shot at night because they couldn't. And how the learning curve for a new photographer to really be able to shoot and produce good prints from film.  Because the learning curve was so long.  Think about it.  You had to Bodie Island MilkywayBodie Island MilkywayMax Stansell Photography shoot your shot ( in manual of course) then you had to develop your film.  Then you had to enlarge it or at least make a contact sheet and then you could see if your photo was ok.  Its not like now you take a photo and look at the back of your camera and say " oh that was over exposed let me make an adjustment"  Then shoot again and see it.  So now the learning curve is much less than it was back then.  According to the guest it would take one or two years before a young photographer would be good enough to trust to take a shot for a publication.  Now it could take only and couple of months to be as the same level as back then because of the short learning curve. What about quality of work?

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

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

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

(Max Stansell Photography) astro blog composite composition landscape learning Max Stansell Photography media nighttime Photography website workshops Fri, 28 Jan 2022 10:00:00 GMT
New "New Years Tradition" _MSP8201-Edit_MSP8201-Edit Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing well so far this New Year! Back in 2020, my photo buddy, Robert, and I went to the coast of North Carolina for a photo of the New Year.  We had a great time and it was a great start to the new year that actually turned out great considering that Covid started.  Speaking of Covid, we didn't do anything in 2021 because of it.  So this year we decided to make a go at it again.  So we went from sea level in 2020 to the highest peak east of the Mississippi in 2022. 

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

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

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

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

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Blue Carolina landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Mitchell Mount Mountains NC new North Parks Parkway Photography Ridge State Tradition website Western workshops years Fri, 21 Jan 2022 10:00:00 GMT
What My Filters Do Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing well this week. This week's topic came from one of my camera club members that read an earlier post about what filters I use.  She wanted a description of when I use particular filters. So this is for you, Patricia. This is a list of the filters that I have and use, what they do, and when I would use them.  And there are really only 3 types of filters I use.  Polarizer, Neutral Density, and Graduated Neutral Density.  I will list them in order of importance in my opinion. 

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

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

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

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

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

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Density Filters Graduated learning Max Stansell Photography ND Neutral Photography Polarizer website workshops Fri, 14 Jan 2022 10:00:00 GMT
Off Camera Lighting. Settings TTL vs Manual 414BFcFy2sL414BFcFy2sL Hey Everyone!  Hope you had a super week!  This week is a continuation of last weeks blog. Off camera lighting.  If you haven't read that one please go and read.  This week I want to talk about camera and flash settings for Off camera Flash.  This can be kind of tricky so I'll try to keep it simple.  As always when you're in doubt pull out the manual. The first thing you'll have to decide is TTL or Manual metering.  This can be a simple answer if you only have manual strobes.  But if your strobes can do both then you have to figure out which one you want to do. You can't really mix and match its either one or the other and I'll explain why later but first lets talk about TTL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Max Stansell Photography) blog landscape learning Manual Max Stansell Photography off camera lighting Photography ttl website workshops Fri, 07 Jan 2022 09:56:18 GMT
Updating Firmware on Everything! Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is well and healthy today.  This week I want to discuss something I don't think I have talked about in my blog. Firmware.  Back in the film days we really didn't have to worry about firmware because everything was mechanical but now in the electronic and computer age everything seems to have some sort of program in them.  And for some reason there is always an update to be had.  Firmware ( in simple terms) is the program that electronics use to do whatever they do. When you update your firmware you are altering the program that was in the device that your updating. Usually fixing some sort of bug or adding some sort of feature.  Much like Lightroom or Windows updates they correct bugs or improve stuff. In your camera this could mean better focusing or faster focus.  Maybe they add some sort of new software to make your camera like new.  As long as the hardware can handle the upgrade the possibilities are endless.  Some company's put out lots of firmware updates and some do not.  Making sure your camera has the latest and greatest update can make the camera perform like brand new saving you from having to upgrade or buy a new one. If you haven't checked your firmware you should. If you  have never updated the firmware you may tell a big difference in the way that it works.  Installing the firmware is easy and all of the camera companies will have a step by step procedure for you to follow to make sure you have the latest and greatest.  This usually involves installing on your computer some sort of program that when your camera is connected to your computer the program updates the firmware.  On older cameras it was _DSC6277_DSC6277 installing the firmware on a SD card and inserting it into your camera and going through a series of procedures to update the firmware. In any case it's fairly easy to do .

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

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

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

(Max Stansell Photography) blog family holidays learning lighting Max Stansell Photography Photography portraits prints umbrella website workshops Fri, 31 Dec 2021 10:11:46 GMT
2021 Help Portrait Recap Hey Everyone!  Hope everyone is doing well this week.  This week I want to talk about the way I do community service as a photographer.  As a photographer it seems all about us whether we're taking photo's of Landscapes or Wildlife its what we can get!  As portrait or wedding photographers its how we want it to look our creative vision.  Its always what we can get out of our craft. Now I'm not saying that's a bad thing we want what we want.  But just giving! We don't do that too much.  The Help Portrait Project is all about giving! So what is Help Portrait?

Help-Portrait was founded by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart in 2008While doing some street photography as a personal project he found a homeless person.  He asked if he could take his photo and  he agreed. He told the person that he would bring a print for him.  The person said Okay but really didn't believe it .  When Jeremy came back and gave him the photo he was so happy and appreciated the jester. Jeremy got the Idea of why cant we do this on a larger scale.  So he set up the 1st event in Nashville TN.  The event grew each year and is a world wide event held on the first Saturday of December each year. Help-Portrait is about GIVING the pictures, not taking them. These portraits aren’t for a portfolio, website, or sale. It’s about giving people who otherwise couldn’t afford photography, a chance to capture a moment, a memory…and a whole lot more. Photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists all around the world will find people in need, take their picture, print their picture and then deliver it—free of charge.  Here is a link to the Help Portrait website for more info.  I did get some of my info for this directly from this website. Help Portrait Website Link

My Camera Club has been doing this event for quite a while 8 or 9 years.  It started very slow.  The first year or so we only got a few customers. I think in 2019 we had almost 60 portraits done.  We were on a roll but then came COVID. We had to skip a year.  So when we decided to do it this year we were hopeful that we would get a lot of customers but in reality we really didn't expect much.  The last year we sponsored it  we had three photo stations set up with two editors and printers and we stayed busy all day.  This year we had only two stations but that seemed to be enough. The final count was 22 family's portraits were made.  Not too bad after a year off.  We had to practice social distancing and wearing of mask. After photo's were taken we had the customers wait in their cars if they had them and delivered the Photo to them.  We supplied a 8X10 photo in a photo sleeve and offered an email digital copy also if they had an email address. Overall it was a great day and we got to GIVE back to the community. Next year I hope it is bugger and better than this or any year.

So if you're a member of a camera club and the club is not doing this talk them into to it.  Its a great event and all kinds of jobs for everyone to do.  There are editors  and printers.  Someone to cut and put the photo's in the Sleeve's .  There are of course the Photographers.  Runners take the people through the process from registration to the hair and make up if you have them to the  photographer and to a waiting area.  You may have snacks and food so someone has to take care of that.  The registration has all the forms to fill out from release forms etc... My job most of the time is shooting the event.  I use still photo's, video and time lapse and make a short video of the event to put on our Facebook website.  Here is a link to the video that I created.  2021 Goldsboro Help Portrait Video Link

As you can see there is lots to do and learn.  If you haven't taken many portraits before this is a great place to learn.  Maybe help one of the photographers and have them teach you along the way.  Its a great way to learn especially how the photographer interacts with the customers. So until next week be safe and think about next years Help Portrait.  Get outside and shoot!


(Max Stansell Photography) Area blog Club Community Family GAPC Goldsboro Help hope learning NC Photography Portrait portraits service website workshops Fri, 24 Dec 2021 09:49:24 GMT
Using Camera's as Tools Hey Everyone! I hope this week finds you healthy and excited about photography! This and every week I give you my thoughts on photography and the different aspects of it as I see it .  This week will be no different. If you have followed my blogs you have heard me say that photographers get emotional about the equipment they use.  And that is understandable we spend a lot of money and time and effort in the purchase of this equipment. Then we take it to some of our most  memorable places.  So I can see the connect to emotion.  So we try to use one camera for every situation because we just love our camera's.  But I have  approach.  I think of them as tools and try to match the best camera to the specific job its going to do.  I actually have 4 camera systems to do this with .  I know it sounds crazy but just hear me out.

My with me all the time camera. Of course we all have this its my smart phone.  I use the camera on this _MSP9570_MSP9570 mostly for reference photo's.  Maybe I'm out shopping for my wife and I need to know if I'm buying the right thing I'll take a photo of it and send it to her " is this the right thing?". Or maybe I'm working on something and I need the model number instead of writing it down I'll just take a photo of it.  We've all done this.  On occasion I'll take a photo of where I am just so I can share it easily to the web.  But thats pretty much the extent of my first camera the smart phone.

My second season is the camera that goes with me.  When I go to work this camera is in my truck. It travels everywhere I go and it also goes with me when I'm out with my wife and I don't want the camera to be a distraction.  For example my wife and I went to Washington DC a couple of years ago and this is the camera that I took with me.  It is a point and shoot and has a 1 inch sensor much better than a smart phone.  I even have filters that I can put on the lens to polarize it or do a longer exposure.  It can shoot in manual and raw.  Its a Canon G7XII.  Its a great little point and shoot.  It takes great photo's and is easy to use and small. It has a 20MP 1inch  sensor.

My next camera is my newest one. It is used for street, portrait photography.  Things that a shallow depth of field my come in handy.  It is a full frame sensor.  It is a older camera that I bought used but is great for photography.  Its the Sony A7II full frame.  I plan and have been using only primes on this camera to keep the weight and size down.  It does great in low light and a shallow depth of field which works great for street and portrait work where everything in focus can be distracting. This camera is mostly handheld and it has a stabilized sensor that works great. I'm really having a good time with this camera and its working great. It has a 24mp full frame sensor.

My main Camera.  This is the camera that I shoot almost everything else with from Landscape , wildlife to travel photography.  It is a crop sensor camera that has a larger depth of field which is great for landscape photography.  I have three great zoom lenses that I use with this camera  that give me a range from 15mm to 525mm.  It shoots at 11 frames per second and has a image stabilized sensor.  This is what I call my main camera because I use it most of the time.  Its the Sony A6500 crop sensor Camera . I have had this type of camera from when I went mirrorless and love the form factor .  Its small and the lenses are small compared to their big brother the full frame sensor cameras and for landscape and travel they are great!

So there are my 4 cameras (tools) that I use for different jobs. Smart Phone I use for reference type of photo's. My Point and shoot I use when I'm on the go at work and when I don't want photography to be a distraction to our trip.   My full frame camera is my street and portrait camera because of the shallow depth of field it works great and the combo of prime lenses makes this a great kit and fun to use.  My main camera for all of my Landscape, wildlife and travel is my crop sensor camera and its large depth of field makes this work great.  The right tool for the specific job really works for me.  Might not work for you but for me its great. So until next week take lots of photo's with the right camera!     

(Max Stansell Photography) 1 inch sensor camera's crop sensor full frame gear landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography point and shoot smart phone website workshops Fri, 17 Dec 2021 10:00:00 GMT
What Lens is best for Street Photography? The MetroThe MetroCommuters waiting for the Metro in Washington DC. Hey Everybody! I hope this day finds you well and Happy!  Today's subject on what lens is best for street photography is one that I'm struggling with myself.  First I'll start with a disclaimer that I am not a street photographer but very envious of the ones I see on YouTube or have studied. This will just be my thoughts on the subject and I welcome you to comment and give me your thoughts on the subject.  Now all of that said I'd like to let you know my setup.  Normally for all of my landscape and travel photography I use a crop sensor camera and 3 zooms that will take me from 15mm to 525mm relative focal length to full frame.  So why don't I use this set up.  First when I think of street photography I think of dark corners of some city and using bokeh (blurring of the background) to separate a subject from the chaos of a busy street scene.  A crop or small sensor is not best for this I think of a full frame sensor will best suit this.  So I use a full frame camera.  Its an older one that is smallish and lightweight and has sensor stabilization. Stabilization is one of my must in any camera I'm getting older and a steady hand is not always available. LOL. And when I think of Bokeh I think of prime lenses.  These lenses are usually small, lightweight and not as  _MSP2682_MSP2682 intimidating to someone as a large zoom would be. Of course a zoom lens would pretty much solve the problem of what lens for street you could carry a 24-70mm and it would cover the range that you need but to get good bokeh you would need a maximum aperture of 2.8.  A full frame 2.8 lens is large and heavy two things that I don't want to mess with. I think that maximum aperture of 1.8 is the sweet spot for bokeh and not being too heavy of a lens.  You can get larger apertures of 1.4 or even 1.2 but these are very expensive and large and heavy.  So I have a full frame camera and 4 prime lenses to go with it.  I know , I know 4 lenses isn't that heavy? Actually the 4 lenses I have if I decide to carry all of them would be lighter than a 24-70 f2.8 lens would be and I only plan on taking 2 of them at any given time one long and one wide and let my feet make up the distance in-between. So let me take you though the lenses I  have.

24mm f1.8-  This is my widest of the Prime lenses I have.  It is great for tight places where I'm really up close to my subject. I imagine a busy market in some Asian country where your elbow to elbow.  Let's face it I'm probably not going to see this again although I have been there in my younger years in the service. But I recently took this lens to a Eastern MarketEastern MarketEastern Market in Washington DC, A good place to photograph. transportation museum and I ended up using this lens more than any other of my lenses because it gave me perspective of everything in the scene.  It worked out great.

35mm f1.8- This lens is a little tighter and is probably the most popular for street photography.  I think this is great for normal ordinary streets and for street portraits and environmental portraits where you have the subject and what they are doing in the same scene.  This is a fantastic lens and would be a great choice for anyone.

55mm f1.8- This is almost like the 35mm but a little tighter and great for street portraits.  You can never go wrong with a 50ish lens.  35mm and 50mm is considered the normal focal length as how we see as humans.

85mm f1.8 - Probably the least used but really great as a small telephoto length lens it can compress the scene and draw your subject closer to the background.  This lens is the smoothest of my lenses.  When it take photo's its like butter!  Thats the only way I know how to explain it. I really love this lens.

So which lens is the best for street.  Well your not going to like my answer. It depends.  I think it depends on the situation you're in.  And how you see things.  We are all individuals and we see things different.  Maybe you like to look at things wide with everything in the photo or maybe you Isolate subjects and like to see only one thing without any clutter.  I think to truly know what lens to use takes a lot of shooting with different focal lengths , so much that when you see a scene you can see what it would look like without the camera.  You see in 24mm or 35mm or whatever focal length.  Then you minds eye will let you know what lens is best for the situation you're in.  Shooting in Seatle would be different than shooting in New York or Chicago. Or your local city or town.  This is where I'm at at street photography.  Learning how my lenses see the scene and then deciding which ones to take with me.

So there is my answer or at least my thoughts on the subject.  I hope this helps.  So until next week get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) landscape learning lens Max Stansell Photography Photography Primes street Photography Telephoto website wide angel workshops Fri, 10 Dec 2021 09:15:22 GMT
Filters I Use for Photography FiltersFilters Hey Everyone! I hope ya'll are doing fine this week.  This week I'm going to talk about filters and how I use them.  I wrote a blog in 2015 and my setup has changed so I thought I would update it.  Back then I was using a full frame camera and all of the big lenses that go with it and my filters had to match the size. I was using a Lee filter system the 100mm square filters.  And they worked great I liked everything about the system.  But when I switched to mirrorless crop sensor camera's  the filter's were just too big.  I mean the filter kit almost weighed more than my camera did.  I did get adapter rings so I could use the filters but it was pretty silly with the so large filters on front of my camera and the size to carry them was just too much.  So I still have them they just take up a portion of my Pelican camera case I keep all of my stuff in at home. LOL  So there were certain filters I had to have right away and as you may know I think that the polarizer filter is the most important filter in your bag.  So I started getting screw on type filters for my different lenses for this purpose.  They ended up being a mixed match of filters.  I had some B&W to HOYA to all sorts of brands.  So these were Okay for my everyday walk around and polarize something.  But I wanted something more consistent for when I was shooting on a tripod.  Serious work!  For some reason I think its serious when I pull out my tripod.  Anyway, I wanted something that was lightweight,  something that wouldn't break the bank and something that I could have all of the ND filters I needed.  Now do I get screw on or ones like I used to have but smaller? I decided to go with the screw on type for a couple of reasons.  Size is one reason.  With the square ones you need a holder for them and thus this took up more space.  With one holder  you needed adapter rings to fit the holder then to fit your lens filter size for each lens that you had different.  That was more cost for special adapter rings to fit your holder and the lenses you have. So cost and size came into play and one more item came into play. Durability.  The square filters are great but if you get really good ones they are made out of glass and can break.  I had gone through a couple of filters with my Lee set because I dropped them.  Now no filter needs to be dropped but if your around a water fall everything gets a little wet and wet glass is slippery.  I think I have gone through a couple of polarizers in the past because of dropping.  The screw on filters are a little more sturdy.  By no means am I suggesting that you should drop them but they are more shock resistant than that of the square ones.  So Screw ones were the winner.  Now which brand?

Now there are many great filters out there and I don't have the means to buy one of each and try them out.  I had tried a few brands of Lee Filter HolderLee Filter Holder polarizers but that was about the extent of it.  So I did what I always do and went to Youtube to try to find the answer.  I went to all of the big names trying to come up with an answer and the most popular filters among my Youtube hero's were Breakthrough Photography.  So I got a polarizer from them in the largest lens thread size that I had at the time witch was 72mm. I decided that I could get that size and buy inexpensive step down rings (you can get a whole set for 20-30 bucks) and just step down to my smaller lenses.  I slowly accumulated a 3 stop ND filter then I got a 6 stop one and finally a 10 stop ND.  So now I have a set of 4 breakthrough photography filters.  I bought a small case that will hold all 4 of them and the adapter rings I may have.  I keep these in the side pouch of my Shimado Action X camera bag and they are lightweight and out of the way until I need them.

I think filters are a very important part of photography.  It helps spur on the creative juices especially when it comes to long shutter drag photo's. Polarizers can do what nothing can do post processing .  Taking the sheen or reflection off of objects or water so you can see to the bottom of the lake or turn the sky blue.  So what filters do you use?  Until next week get outside and keep shooting.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Breakthrough Density filters landscape learning LEE Max Stansell Photography Neutral Photography polarizer Shutter Slow website Fri, 03 Dec 2021 09:10:49 GMT
Troubleshooting , Its what we do! Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing great today! This week I wanted to talk about the act of capturing your image. What we do.  And how we adjust to changing conditions. Its called troubleshooting or problem solving.  In real life that's what I do every day.  I go to a site and try to figure out what is happening with the customers system.  It is a constant of my work.  Always troubleshooting.  Finding out what is wrong and trying to find a way to fix it.  Well in photography its the same thing. We look at a scene and have the picture in our minds eye of how it should look.  We bring up our camera and  "snap" we look at the photo or "chimp" and it doesn't look like what was in our minds eye.  Why is that?  Well our camera's just aren't as smart as our minds eye.  No matter how fancy or advanced your camera is and all of the gear you have the first shot is never what your minds eye sees.  So then you have to say to yourself what's not right.  And the troubleshooting begins.  But what I think is the better troubleshooter you are the better photographer you are.  And this like many things will come with time and experience.  And the more you shoot and know your equipment (oops there it is again me talking about knowing your equipment) the better photographer and quality images you will produce.

What makes a good problem solver?  Well that's hard to say.  Do you know how some people are great organizers and some are great with Stupid LightsStupid Lights mechanical things and some people can plan great trips.  I think troubleshooting is one of those things that is a part of your personality.  Maybe not something your born with but something you grow into.  Being able to troubleshoot something you first must know how that something works or in our case is suppose to look like.  Then its just figuring out what is right with it and what is wrong with it.  For example maybe your taking a photo of a dark scene and you have your camera on some automatic setting.  Well your camera is going to try to put the scene at 18% gray witch will brighten up your scene in camera so you would have to be smarter than your camera and make adjustments to make it look like its suppose to.  Maybe you want to take a photo of a person riding a bicycle  with the person in focus and the background blurred .   The first shot you took everything was blurred.  So you figured out that you need to pan with the rider to keep them sharp but let the background blur.  The whole art of photography is troubleshooting.

Editing your photo's.  Editing photo's for the most part is subjective.  What I think is properly exposed may be under exposed to someone else. So you have to compare what you have to what your minds eye sees.  Do I need to brighten up the scene.  Do I need to get rid of some spots.  Do I need to increase this or that to make the photo look like what's in my minds eye.  When your done you should have what you saw in your minds eye.  This is the art part of photography. Taking what is in your minds eye and making it come to life. Just like a painter would.  The painter may look at a scene for hours before picking up a paint brush and start painting what is in his minds eye.  We as photographers can do the same thing looking at a scene and then seeing it in your minds eye of how you saw it.  We take the photo and then get it into editing and the finial product should be what your minds eye saw just like the painter.

Well I hope I have made a little sense about what I think we as photographers always Troubleshoot.  So until next week get outside and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) analyzing blog landscape learning Max Stansell Photography Photography troubleshooting Tutorial website workshops Fri, 26 Nov 2021 09:15:53 GMT
Family Portraits over the Holidays Me and the EvansMe and the Evans Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing great! The holidays are coming up and its a really good time to get your camera out with all the lights and festive activities. But today I want to talk about taking family portraits.  This is the time of year that I like to take family portraits.  Everyone is home and its one of the few times a year when you can get everyone together.  I have a wall in my house that has all of the family in 8X10 headshots that I update every so often.  And they are due! My grandchildren are growing like weeds and other members of the family are aging gracefully. I had to get PC for a second! LOL We're just getting old. Its a great time to take photo's of the older people in your family because you never know when the portrait might be the last one. Taking the portraits and making prints from them are essential.  That way the people that are important to you will live forever not just on a hard drive somewhere.  As all of you Mommy and MeMommy and Me know I am a big supporter of printing although I don't do enough myself and need to get on the ball.  I do make a End of Year book each year and have my best photo's from the year in it.  Thats one way I try to have prints of my photo's although I do need to print my best larger than what's in the book. Well let's talk about portraits.

Making portraits can be as simple as using your cell phone or a point and shoot both can be good options but if your printing larger photo's this might not be the best option.  Of course the photographer in us wants us to break out the gear and really do it right.  If you're like me Evans 1Evans 1 you have practiced on your family so much that they are really tired of having their photo taken and its a struggle to get them in front of the camera especially if you shoot in a style that they don't like.  I am a more traditionalist and like to shoot head shots and small groups.  But the newer run and gun photographers now a days want to be outside and shoot by a tree or a bush and try to make it look natural like a Instagram photo.  Those are nice but when I think of family photo portraits I'm more into the head shot and I like to use my lights and all of the equipment.  But sometimes this can be overwhelming for your family so I try to keep it as simple as possible. I try to use umbrellas instead of soft boxes that and I shoot in TTL instead of manual like I like to shoot in.  I used to set up a back drop , reflectors and all kinds of stuff which is fun for me but in a small house like I have and when you have a house full of people its not as fun to everyone else.

This time of the year we tend to have our house decorated maybe with fall colors or even Christmas decorations if you wait until Christmas to do your portraits. These decorations can be a great backdrop to family shots especially if you can blur them out a little to make them less busy.  I have to hold my wife back every year not to put up the Christmas tree after Halloween.  I personally don't think it should go up until after Thanksgiving. But that's me.  What ever your family does is fine. I use shoot through umbrellas Ava Christmas ChairAva Christmas Chair to soften up the light .  For Single portraits I use one as my main and one as a fill light an for groups I have one on ether side of the group at a 45 degree angle and try to make the light as even as possible.  Be creative as possible and try not to take a lot of the same photo's over and over again your subjects will get board.  Try to make it as fun as you can after you've got your keeper.  Have them make silly faces! Have fun!  If you're doing the shooting at Thanksgiving make sure to make Christmas Card shots.  And don't forget the group shot of the whole family.  Set up your tripod and put a self timer on for 10 seconds get everyone grouped together and do some regular ones and some silly ones to make everyone laugh.  Sometimes those are the best ones.  Have fun and make memories!

So until next week get that camera out and start shooting!  Lots of things happening in your community to shoot during the holidays.

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Family family portraits learning Max Stansell Photography memories off camera flash photography portraits printing umbrella website workshops Wed, 24 Nov 2021 23:37:03 GMT
GAPC (Goldsboro Area Photography Club) West Virginia Trip Spruce Knob WVa.Spruce Knob WVa.The Highest point in West Virginia. Hey Everyone! Hope Everybody is doing great.  This week I wanted to tell you about my photography club's trip we took to West Virginia for a fall colors workshop.  The GAPC (Goldsboro Area Photography Club) is a very active club in North Carolina. We have monthly workshops and monthly meetings. The meetings have been Zoom meetings since the pandemic started, and the workshops are held with safety for social distancing in full force.  We usually hold a week-long trip for fall colors.  Usually, it's to the NC mountains to photograph waterfalls and wildlife.  We have once gone to Washington DC and took the train to get there.  We have previously gone to West Virginia.  Covid killed all our trips in 2020, so when I heard that we were having our annual Fall Colors workshop, it really got me excited.  I was in a photographic funk, and the most I did in photography was this blog.  This year's trip was not a week long.  We only went for five days and four nights, and of course two of the days were really travel days. But we had it jam-packed with things to do as we usually do.  They don't call it a workshop for nothing.  We work!  But we really have a good time doing it.  To me it's almost like old folks summer camp! LOL We have a couple of folks that set up our itinerary and make the arrangements for our lodging.  We usually use some sort of Air B&B house or cabin that will house all of us,  and when you split the cost it's not much per night.  We also split the gas money and any food or drink that we buy for the house.  For example, if the lodging was $1,000 for the week, split up by 10 people that's only $100 for a week of lodging.  So at the end of the week, depending on how many people are going, you might only spend a few hundred dollars on gas and the house, and we usually eat out unless we order in a pizza or something.  Of course we split the house up into boy and girl rooms and bathrooms and try to accommodate everyone's needs. So here goes a day-by-day account of our trip.

New River Gorge BridgeNew River Gorge BridgeNew River Gorge Bridge at Fayetteville Station in New River Gorge National Park. Day 1 - Early start 4:30ish and we drove to Mabry Mill in Virginia, where we took photos of the Mill and had breakfast in the restaurant.  It was very chilly and I may have seen some frost on the ground. The breakfast was awesome, but there was quite a wait.  The next stop was the New River Gorge National Park Visitor Center.  We went to the center and took photos of the bridge.  We tool the road down to the old bridge and around to the other side.  We stopped and took photos at the bridge.  After that we headed to our first house and met a member of our team that was meeting us there.  Our house was in Fayetteville, West Virginia.  It was a nice house with plenty of room for us.  We went to a local bar and grill for supper (I can't remember the name).  Then we headed to Beauty Mountain to take sunset photos.  It's a really nice place for sunset CurvesCurvesShot from Turkey Spur in the New River Gorge National Park. The curves of the Railroad Track the New River and the Clouds caught my eye. photos and kind of off the beaten path, literally on a dirt road.  After that we headed to the house to edit photos and get ready for the next day.

Day 2 - This may have been our busiest day.  First we went to Grand View, which is in the NRG National Park after making a drive through the local McDonald's.  There we waited for the sun to rise over a foggy scene.  There was a little jockeying around for position with other photographers that were there.  After getting our shots there, we went to Turkey Spur, also in the park.  Here you had to climb some stairs to get Sandstone FallsSandstone FallsSandstone Falls located in the New River Gorge National Park in WVa. you pretty high above the New River.  We had some good shots here also.  Next stop was Sandstone Falls and it was about a 30 to 45-minute ride to get there, and it was also part of the National Park.  We spread out and all seemed to get different shots here where we spent a few hours.  Then it was time for lunch.  We went to a local eatery in, I believe, Hinson, West Virginia.  Very good food!  Or either we were just hungry.  Our next stop was to the town of Thurman.  This was another 30 to 45 minute ride back toward our house.  This is a deserted town.  It may have a population of five.  We walked around there for about an hour.  On our way out we stopped at a beautiful waterfall -- I don't even know if it had a name -- and it was a steep climb down but well worth it for the photos we got. We had planned a sunset shot, but by this time we were worn out. Thurman Road FallsThurman Road FallsDon't know the name of the this falls but it was on the road to Thurman which is located in the New River Gorge National Park.  We went back to our house and ordered a pizza from a local pizza place.  May have been the best pizza I ever had or I was just really hungry, but it was good.

Day 3 - This day we were to move out of the house we were in and go to Davis, WV, which is in the northern part of the state.  So we got up early, cleaned up the house, and headed to a biscuit breakfast place where we did another drive through. Really good. I had the breakfast burrito. We then headed to Babcock State Park to take photos of the Glades Creek Mill.  This is a very popular spot.  Two years ago when we Glade Creek MillGlade Creek MillThe Famous Glade Creek Mill in Babcock State Park in WVa. went there wasn't hardly anyone there, but this year after Covid it was packed with folks. Photographers jockeying for position to take the photo. Luckily I had been there before and had some good photos, so I was able to take my time and get the shots I wanted away from the crowd. The colors were wonderful there.  We then went to an overlook and got some great color shots also. We then started our trip north to Davis, and we stoped at Hawks Nest State Park.  They had a great overlook, and we had lunch at a restaurant on site. Our next destination was Dolly Sods. We had visited this spot on our last visit, and it was pretty awesome.  There is a 10-mile dirt road that takes you to the top.  As we got closer the clouds increased and the rain started. The top of the mountain was under clouds, so we decided on the way up to stop and turn Seneca RockSeneca RockCheck out the people on the top of the rock! around and just forget about that shoot.  We headed to the house and got settled in and made sandwiches for supper.

Day 4 - It rained all night, and it was still raining when we got up.  So we decided to go out for a sit-down breakfast and see how the weather was going to be.  It was raining and 40 degrees, not a great combo.  After breakfast we decided to go back to the house and maybe get out in the afternoon.  The weather was supposed to clear.  We went to the local state park, Blackwater Falls State Park, and it was packed with people.  We couldn't even park, so we decided to go to Seneca Rocks.  We went there on our previous trip and there was no one there and it was a so-so shot.  When we went this year, the place was packed and the colors were popping!  We stayed there a little and went to Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia.  The views were spectacular, but it was cold and very windy.  We stayed for maybe an hour and headed back to Blackwater Falls to catch a sunset.  It was a race to get there before the sun set, and as we rounded the bend we saw a big white tent.  Someone was having a wedding at our sunset spot.  So we turned around and started back to the cabin where there were lots of deer grazing. So we got some photos of them and headed to the house.

Day 5 - Our last day.  We woke up and cleaned the house and headed to Blackwater Falls to take photos of the waterfall.  We timed it right because there was no one there.  We got out and pretty much had the falls to ourself except for a guy and a drone that was annoying, but he left.  After our time here at Blackwater Falls, we went to a local place to have breakfast and it was great! After that big meal we headed home to Goldsboro, a six-hour drive.   Blackwater Falls DownstreamBlackwater Falls DownstreamI was taking photo's of the falls and just turned around

All in all it was a great trip and I wish it had lasted longer. Can't wait until next year's trip.  So until next week, get out and explore and keep shooting!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Fall Color GAPC landscape learning Max Stansell Photography New River Gorge National Park Photography Waterfalls website West Virginia workshops Fri, 19 Nov 2021 09:40:06 GMT
Buy New or Used? Hey Everyone! I hope ya'll are doing well today.  This weeks topic is a big one for me.  New or Used? For most of us money is a rare commodity these days and dropping a load of cash on a new body or lens can be disheartening. Especially when most of us don't do photography for a living and only shoot part time.  I looked at my gear recently and notice that about half or more I bought used.  For example my main camera I bought used my wide angle zoom used.  So lets talk about what you get when you buy something new.  First you know that no one else has taken photo's with it.  You get the latest and greatest gismo's and technology. And some sort of warranty. In latter years it seems all of the advances is with quick focus , auto focus and video resolution.  Sure sensor resolution too but how many megapixels do you really need?  I mean really.  I remember when you could do all you wanted with 10.  Now its above 60.  The video part started when your camera could do 720,  then 1080, 4k, 5K.  And the frames per second.  But if your just a photographer like me does all that matter?  You need to ask yourself the questions.  First of all do you really need a new camera?  Or do you need a different or newer than you have?  When I bought the camera I have used I asked myself did I need to buy the latest and newest or would a used older model do?  And for me it was the latter.  I still got all of the things that I wanted at a very cheaper price and I got a lot of extras from the seller that he didn't need anymore.  I mean a lot!  I got a deal.  But even if I didn't get all of the extras it was still a deal.  The camera was almost like new.  I just did a shutter count on it and it was around 17000.  The shutter has been rated for 200,000.  So its practically new.  But what about you?  I say if you shoot a lot of video the latest and greatest might be for you and you should consider buying new.  But if you do photo only maybe used might be for you.  Of course if you have the budget to buy all new stuff I say go ahead and knock yourself out.  But if your like me Used sounds pretty good especially if its in good shape. Now I've been talking about camera bodies but what about lenses?  Lenses last forever if they are taken care of.  Glass Last!  Used is a good way to go also.  But if you prefer new used body will save you money so you can buy that new lens. I have bought a few used lenses and have not been disappointed.

How to buy used?  Well everyone knows how to buy new but what about buying used?  Is there a risk?  I think there is a risk when you buy anything used. Whether it be a car a boat or camera equipment.  There must be some faith in the seller if your a buyer.  I have purchased used items from friends (the best way) and you usually get a good deal.  They want to get rid of equipment and normally won't do you wrong.  But buying off of the internet can be a little scary.  Especially if your spending hundreds of dollars on something.  I have bought off of Ebay and Amazon and felt much better from Amazon than I did from Ebay.  Maybe because its such a big business and on Ebay your buying from one individual .  But I have been on the other side because I have sold on Ebay also and had a good experience.  But its all on good faith.  This week I'm trying something new.  I'm going to trade some lenses on a camera body though a company that specializes in buying, selling and trading camera equipment.  The company is called MPB.  Its an international company.  There is also another company that I'm going to try out KEH which does the same type of business as MPB.  I'm going to buy a used lens from them that will save me about 150 dollars on a lens that is suppose to be excellent +.  Each of the company's have a rating system that they use to rate the condition of the equipment.  So you could buy something that is rated "Like New"  maybe it was a demo in a store somewhere and hasn't been used by anyone.  We'll see how that goes I'm trading old lenses from MPB for a camera body that is rated "Like New"  and the lens I'm getting from KEH is Rated "Excellent +" (Update: Just got the Lens (KEH) and it is like new in the box! I'm very Pleased) I'm sure there will be a blog on the experience and how the company's did.  You can also buy used from B&H photo and video and from Adorama Camera. Also with MPB and KEH you get a 180 day warranty which really takes a load off of your shoulders.

So anyway there is more than one way to buy used equipment.  And I think its a great way to get equipment for your photographic needs.  Because really any camera made lately are great and you won't have any problems making great images with them.  So until next week get outside and shoot.

(Max Stansell Photography) Amazon blog Body camera Ebay. Gear KEH landscape learning Lenses Max Stansell Photography MPB New Photography purchase Used website workshops Fri, 12 Nov 2021 09:07:32 GMT
Off Camera Lighting Hey Everyone! I hope your week has been great!  This week I want to talk about a subject that I truly love but is scary for a lot of beginning photographers.  Thats is "Off the Camera Flash."  Its one thing to put a flash on your camera and take a photo with your camera doing all of the work but it's another thing all together using triggers and how to set up your camera.  No matter whether your taking portraits or doing food photography learning how to manipulate the light is key to fantastic photo's.  Being in full control can be scary and exhilarating  at the same time. First let's talk about the different kinds of Strobes you may use.

The first light most of you probably already have is a speed light.  This is a light that you can connect to the top of your camera via the hot shoe.  They run off of batteries usually 4 AA. This is probably the same 41zl9yX4ltL41zl9yX4ltL brand as your camera because you didn't know what to get so you got the same brand. Been There!  These are fairly expensive lights but they don't have to be.  You can get third party flashes that work just as well as the expensive name brands.  Remember Light is Light and a cheap speed light can produce the same light as an expensive one.  You can get these speed lights that can only shoot manual or lights that have all of the bells and whistles on them like TTL (through the lens metering)  I have lots of flashes and that is what I used to learn off camera flash on.  Most of them are inexpensive manual flashes that only cost 50 bucks a piece.  I think I only have two that are TTL. 

Mono-lights.  These lights are larger and can be battery powered or AC powered.  They are the most popular for studio's now.  They are stronger than speed lights and can light up a larger space.  So if your photographing large groups of people this would be the better choice.  Although you could do it with speed lights you would have to use multiple of them.  Theses lights can come with all the bells and whistles also like TTL but you can get them in the Manual only pretty cheep.  And used ones you can come by cheap.  I bought 2 of them for 100 bucks many years ago and sold them for what I almost paid for them.  These can also be very expensive depending on the brand.  Usually the price you pay for theses lights are for the consistency of the light.  One exposure  not different from the next.  Which if you're making your living from these lights this is important.  But for amateurs like us not so much.

Pack and Head Lights.  These lights are not common anymore and have mostly been replaced by  mono-lights.  These lights have two parts the head is the portion with the bulb and a wire goes to the pack part that has all the electronics that make the flash go boom.   I won't even discuss theses because I have no experience in them and they are not practical for the most of us.

Triggers.  With off camera flash you must have something that hooks your camera to the lights.  This is done with a trigger.  Like everything else they can be complicated or simple.  Some triggers you get will have two parts .  The trigger and receiver. The trigger is on your camera and the receiver is on the light.  They usually talk via radio waves but could also be infra red light like your TV remote.  Radio triggers are much better than the infra red and have a better range.  Some triggers are part of a system.  The trigger and the light are made to go together so the light will have a built in receiver so if you have the right trigger you can control the light without a separate receiver.

So now you know the different parts and pieces what are the advantages to off camera flash or strobes?

1. You are in complete control of the light.  You are not dependent on the sun or anything else that could bother the light source.

2. They are portable.  All speed lights and some moonlights are battery powered which means they are portable.  You can take them with you when your on a outside shoot. The light can be stronger than the sun but soft at the same time.

3. You can modify the light to be strong or soft.

4. You can be consistent.  Once you have your lights set you can take photo after photo and it will be the same.  Say your taking photos at an event where you have a photo booth set up after you get your light set you can rotate people in and out without changing camera or light settings with the same results you had on your first subject.

5. Using and learning off camera lighting makes you an overall better photographer because you start looking at light in a different way when not using off camera flash.

As you can see there is a lot to off camera lighting.  In other blogs to come I'll go over settings and Modifiers and stands.  So until the next time. Get outside and shoot!


(Max Stansell Photography) blog flashes learning lighting Max Stansell Photography Monolights Off Camera Lighting Photography strobes triggers website Fri, 05 Nov 2021 07:16:56 GMT
Get the spots out! Sensor Cleaning Hey Everyone! Hope you had a great week.  This weeks discussion is on cleaning the sensor of your camera. First a disclaimer.  Before attempting to clean your sensor read your manual on the procedures to clean to your camera and if you don't feel comfortable doing it, don't.  Take it somewhere you trust to get it cleaned. That said cleaning your sensor is very easy especially if you have a mirrorless camera.  So why do we need to clean the sensor?  When your camera is on an electrical current goes through the sensor making it somewhat of a magnet for dust and dirt.  When changing lenses sometimes dust can get in.  Some cameras aren't sealed as well as others and dust and dirt can still get in.  So cleaning your sensor from time to time may be needed.  A dirty sensor will show spots and specks on your photo's especially if you are stopped down to f22 or so and usually shows up in scenes with blank backgrounds like the sky or a white wall.  So let me go through how I keep my sensor clean.

Prevention. The first step in keeping your sensor clean from dirt and dust is prevention.  Don't leave your camera laying around without a lens or body cap on the camera.  The less your sensor is exposed to the elements the better.  So quickly changing my lenses is the first thing I do. Some times I hold the camera body sensor side down and blow out the inside of my camera with a blower bulb to dislodge any dust that might be in the camera body then put on my lens.  I don't do this all of the time but try to do often. Try to keep the camera side of your lenses clean so not to accidentally insert dust and dirt when attaching a lens.  Keeping your camera and equipment clean is a must.

Cleaning. Most modern camera's have some sort of cleaning function on them.  This basically de-magnifies the sensor and vibrates it to let dust fall off. This is worth a try but I haven't had too much success.  The next step will involve touching your sensor.  Never touch with your fingers! The dirt and oil from your hands can harm your sensor.  The only thing that touches your sensor is something that was made to touch your sensor! These products were made to touch your sensor and not to harm your sensor. First you should have access to your sensor.  If you have a DSLR camera you will have to get your shutter out of the way. (Read Your MANUAL!)  Usually some sort of shutter lockup or cleaning mode will let you see your sensor.  Most mirrorless cameras when you take off of the lens your sensor is there is in full view.  Some newer mirrorless cameras have some sort of shield that goes over the sensor but this is not the rule but the exception. Know your camera and read your manual! The first thing that you want to touch your sensor with is a sensor brush. These are soft and specially made not to harm  your sensor.  Some of them have a negative charge on them to collect dust and the dirt that will cling to the brush.  Make sure you follow the instructions and be gentle with the sensor.  If you had to go this far to get your lens clean the brush usually does the trick for stubborn dust and dirt. If you have a spot on your sensor you may have to use a solution with a special swab to wipe the sensor to clean it.  You can get swabs that already has the solution on it or you can buy dry swabs and solution and then add a few drops to the swabs then use.  I have used both.  I keep one of the pre-moistened ones in my camera bag especially when I travel for emergency cleaning.  The swabs are shaped like a little paddle that is the exact size of the sensor.  You will wipe with one side then the other side and discard the swab.  If you still need to clean you use a new swab.  Again follow the directions of the equipment you are using. There are different types of solutions and your camera company may have a use this solution only.  For my Sony they recommend "Aero-Clipse" cleaning solution.  

Cleaning your sensor does not have to be scary and can be done easily just follow your camera manual instructions and the instructions of the cleaning tools and you will have a clean sensor making editing quicker not having to remove spots.

So until next week, with a clean sensor,  get out and shoot!

(Max Stansell Photography) blog Brush canon cleaning DSLR Eclipse learning Max Stansell Photography Mirrorless nikon Photography Sensor sony Swabs website Fri, 29 Oct 2021 07:57:08 GMT
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 MSP05063_Luminar4-editMSP05063_Luminar4-edit 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 Cathedral FallsCathedral Falls 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,"