Sunday, January 31, 2010

I need a new tripod

Friday night, I was so excited to go shoot that big beautiful moon. It was rising fairly early (4:45 PM) and we had crystal-clear skies. I set up my tripod, had a cable release, and was all ready to go.

Tip from the field, folks...skip the $20 Walmart tripods. Each time I asked the camera to focus, the lens motion moved the camera. Each time the shutter tripped, the motion moved the camera. Just a tiny bit, but enough to lose that razor-sharp moon edge I was hoping for. The legs are sturdy, and the mount fits tightly to the camera body, but the mount doesn't fit snugly to the tripod itself. Will be tripod shopping soon!

Shutter: 1/100, f/6.3, ISO 100, 270mm RAW, tripod mount (for what it was worth...)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Having a lightbulb moment

Shutter: 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 200, 198mm Av (aperture priority). Tripod mount, RAW. No processing in RAW, added a black & white adjustment layer in Photoshop.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Yet another fearsome snow creature stalking the park.

Modest exposure and sharpening done in PS RAW

Shutter: 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 200, 300 mm

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who's on the menu?

More photos from last weekend's snow sculpting competition. I made some minor adjustments to both with the clarity slider in PS RAW.

Shutter speed: 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 200, focal length 30mm RAW

All EXIF info the same on shot number 2, but I zoomed in to 90mm to capture the dragon having a little human lunch!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Snug as a toad on a turtle?

This snow sculpting team poses for a picture after finishing their work entitled "Mr. Toad's Not-so-Wild Ride". In order to stay warm as they worked through the night, they had to wear many layers of clothing.

Shutter: 1/160, f/5, ISO 200, 65mm hand-held. Adjusted exposure in PS RAW editor. Increased clarity slightly.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Warning: f-stop experiment ahead

Poking around the house for warning labels, the most interesting one I could find was on this bottle of Peppermint Schnapps our neighbor gave us for Christmas. I just bought a prime, 50mm lens with f/1.8 and decided to try a couple of available light shots (at 4:30 on a gray winter afternoon). The best light I could find was on the floor near my living room window (hush, Ron...this was a legit experiment).

The minimum focal length for this lens is 1.5 feet, so I had to roll the bottle away from me far enough to get the small (maybe 5-pt.) type in focus. At an aperture of 1.8, the depth of field is so shallow that only a very small area of the label is in focus (image #1). If I drank much of this in one sitting, that would probably be my view (ha ha). In the second image, I shut down the aperture to 3.5, and the depth of field increased to a point where more of the label is visible. I tried to crop both images to a similar size, but as both shots are hand-held, I'm sure the original distance from the bottle changed somewhat.

Shot in Av (aperture priority), so the camera selected a matching shutter speed.

Image #1: Shutter speed 1/200, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 800

Image #2 (below) Shutter 1/50, f3.5, 50mm ISO 800

Subtle differences, but visible if viewed full-size.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Avoid the 6-bull pileup on the inbound I-90

Over the weekend, our town hosted its 24th annual snow-sculpting competition. Contestants finished just in time to have their work judged before the spitting rain began pitting their work.

Is there anything more masculine than a bull? How about a buffalo bull? How about a whole pile of buffalo bulls?? Come to think of it, I'll bet Buffalo Bill was considered pretty manly in his day, as well.

Shutter: 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 200, 39mm RAW, handheld. Tweaked the exposure in PS RAW editor, desaturated to convert to B&W (which it mostly was, anyway, due to gray-white sky and snow). Bumped the clarity slider to bring out the grain from the carving tools.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Antioxidants, anyone?

Actually, I like blueberries for their taste. They sure make a splash of pretty color on my morning Cheerios. Very edible!
Shutter: 1/50, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 55mm handheld, Manual, RAW. Exposure and clarity boosted in RAW editor.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Going Hog Wild

The mascot for the Ice Hogs hockey team performs a headstand during one of the breaks between periods.

Shot in RAW; increased the exposure to lighten it up. Played around with some noise reduction. Even at this high ISO, it wasn't too bad for an image that will only be viewed on a computer, not printed.

At first, I thought all the "blotches" on the wall were the result of a noisy image, but I realized it's from all the times the puck slams into the sideboards. I think my hockey-ignorance is showing!

Shutter: 1/250, f/6.3, ISO 1600, 270mm, Manual mode, RAW

Friday, January 22, 2010

To boldly go where no man in his right mind would care to position himself

You have to be pretty bold to play goalie on a hockey team. Luckily, this guy looks pretty well-padded.

Shutter: 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 200 mm RAW, Manual

Exposure increased in PS RAW editor to brighten the image a bit.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lights, face-off, action!

This image has no real focal point, but I was experimenting with capturing action shots and this was one of the better efforts. I'd been reading a very helpful thread over at Elements Village that gave some pointers about shooting sports. The tip to shoot RAW for the chance to lighten dark photos during processing was a GREAT idea. My "sports" mode photos were brighter, but noisier, and I don't have the option of RAW when using the Scenes on my camera.

Shutter: 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 154mm RAW, Manual mode.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


At the hockey game, my friend propped his beer bottle on his knee. He agreed to hold still so I could capture the bottle, with the game in soft focus in the background. I tried about a dozen combinations of exposures, with and without the flash, before settling on this one.

He was really thirsty when we got done.

Shutter: 1/60, f/3.5, ISO 400, 25mm

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Almost as chaotic as last week's wires

During a break between periods at a hockey game, fans had the chance to throw rubber pucks onto the ice, aiming for a target to win a prize. To get all those pucks off the ice in preparation for the final period, dozens of young fans were turned loose on the ice to collect the pucks into large bins. It was controlled chaos, and fun to watch.

Shutter: 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 164mm, RAW, Manual mode. Increased the exposure slider in PS RAW editor. No other edits.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mini-Assignment #1

In processing this image, I applied three of the 10 rules described in the article.

1) Rule of thirds. When snapping birds through a window that is framed by curtains, I often don't have time to consider perfect composition. If I wait too long, I'm photographing an empty branch. I'll often plant the bird smack in the middle of the frame and plan to crop later.

2) Cropping: The small finch in the original shot is nearly lost in the branches. Cropping focuses interest on the main subject.

3) Framing: I love to shoot objects through natural frames. I considered cropping out the branches on the far left, but it made the photo too heavy on the bottom. Instead, I framed my crop to place the bird in the lower right third of the image, framed by surrounding branches, and kept the left-most branches for an anchor.

I played with Levels and brightness, and bumped the hue & saturation on the bird only just a touch, to really pop him off the branch. I considered changing the rest of the image to B&W, but it was already so pale and neutral I decided to leave it au naturel.

Comments on my decisions most welcome!

Edit: Taking Julie's advice, I cropped out some of the left-most branches. Her suggestion proved to be right-on. I thought while I was at it, I'd clone out some of those soft-focus branches as well. See image #3.

Shot manual, handheld. Shutter: 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 200, focal length 281mm

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In the pink!

One of our friends, clowning around with some pink cotton candy. Who knew you could get cotton candy at a hockey game??

(Edit: Karen suggested I try selective color. There's second image below...)

Shot in Night Portrait mode.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Freeze Frame

Felt like Julie tonight...went to a hockey game. :-D  To celebrate his birthday, a good friend bought a set of seats to our local hockey team home game. Fun reason to play with my new camera! Borrowing a theme from last year's 365 challenge, I managed to stop the action as one player skates up to his teammates after a fine play.

I was switching between Sports mode and Manual. If I were to guess, this one was in Sports mode, because it was a .jpg file, not RAW.

Shutter: 1/30, f/6.3, ISO 800, 270mm 

Friday, January 15, 2010


I bought a new computer. To remove the old one from its desk-side cubby, I just unplugged all the cables and dropped them where they lay. Egad!!!

 (Yes, I dusted and untangled before I put the new box here...)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

White in the real world

Hurray! Temperatures warmed up into the 20s (wow! double-digits!) so I took my walk outside in the park near our house. It was mid-afternoon, but the sun was already dropping, making longish shadows on this lonely, cold bench. I was shooting into the sun. Set my white balance on Sunny (since it was).

Back home, in Photoshop, I ever-so-slightly adjusted the exposure in the RAW editor to lose a touch of blue in the snow. I then used a B&W preset to convert this already almost B&W image.

Shutter: 1/125, f/18, ISO 100, focal length: 130mm

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trying to get it eggsactly right...

Two days ago, I posted a photo of a white paper towel, before and after processing. Today's photos show the results of playing with white balance.

The first image, my favorite, was shot with the white balance on my camera set to Tungsten. I had the egg in my homemade light box. The bulbs in the lamps are nothing special, just hardware store light bulbs. I had one of the lamps turned away, so the majority of the light source came from one light only. I had a cable release attached to the camera, which was mounted on a tripod.

Shutter speed: 1/6, f/16, ISO 200, focal length 91 mm

This one below has the white balance set to auto. This one is handheld, so the focus isn't as sharp. At this point, I had both lights turned toward it (hence, the double shadows). All I have to say about the color is UGH.

This one below is shot with the white balance set to fluorescent. There is a big fluorescent light in my basement (where my light box is) hanging above and just behind where the camera and I were standing. Another UGH on the color scale. 

Lesson learned? White balance matters, and maybe I should invest in a gray card...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

These flowers have been toweled off

Yesterday I posted a riveting image of a paper towel with a patten of dots and circles. Today, I converted that image to black and white, and added it as an overlay on this image I shot last spring (ah....spring....) of some crab apple flowers. Look closely, and you can see how the dots and texture in the overlay roughs up the surface of the flowers and branches. It's subtle, but it's there. Compare the two images zoomed in and you'll see.

Towel overlay


Monday, January 11, 2010

Are you starting to see spots??

Every time I use these paper towels in my kitchen, I think the pattern would make a cool overlay for photos. (I'll try it and post the results tomorrow).

What surprised me was how hard it was to take a picture of a white object without a flash. This looked white in my viewfinder, and in the LCD screen on the back of the camera, but the sensor was obviously picking up the tans reflected off my backsplash. I'm posting the original, and the processed image. I think I should have probably played around with the white balance setting?

Shutter speed: 1/50 f/6.3, ISO 1600, focal length 84mm



Sunday, January 10, 2010

Texture's last stand

This is the last of the late December shots from my themes-in-hand trip to Arizona. We were in the McDowell Mountains, chasing Phainopoplas, so I had my camera set on "sports" mode to hopefully catch flying birds in the gray light. I zoomed way in on an arm of a dying saguaro, enjoying its texture. Used a bit of levels, and the clarity slider in the RAW editor, to bring out more detail. I usually think of saguaros as green, but this one, on its last legs, I think, had faded to gray.

Shutter: 1/250, f/6.3, ISO 640, focal length 270mm

Tomorrow, we'll go back to Illinois and all the snowy, or indoor light-box shots I can scare up!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


While we were in northern Arizona, we were lucky enough to see a bobcat dash across the road in front of our car. Actually, it wasn't dashing so much as loping, but neither of us had a camera close enough at hand to get a shot.

Fast forward a week, and we are at the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson. It's kind of a living zoo, with plants, animals, and birds native to the Sonoran Desert region. Here, I had the opportunity to get my bobcat picture.

Shutter speed: 1/160 f/5.6 ISO 400, focal length 119 mm

Friday, January 8, 2010

A place to be meditative

Inside the Chapel at Mission San Xavier Del Bac, Tucson. It was quite dim inside; I cranked my ISO setting as high as it would go. The amount of detail in the altar is amazing. For a larger picture and some history, you can read here. When we walked through the door posted earlier in this blog, this is the view that greeted us.

Shutter: 1/30, f/3.5 (as wide as I have!), ISO 1600, focal length 25mm, handheld

This lost some sharpness when I did a Save for the Web. The image is straightened a little, and corrected somewhat for color cast. No other edits.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lucky number seven

This California Condor patiently posed for a photo as I stood on the the pedestrian Navajo Bridge in Page, Arizona. He's wearing a tag on his wing. This is apparently Condor Number Seven.

Shutter: 1/200, f/6.3, ISO 400, 270mm (zoomed ALL the way in!!) I could have cropped it down, but I liked all the different colors of rock, so I left it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Looking down

We found a scenic overlook behind the high school in Page Arizona (of all places) that allowed us to peer into an arm of the Glen Canyon. Shot in RAW. Played with the vibrance and the clarity sliders a little to pop the texture on the rock.

Shutter 1/20, f/5, ISO 400, focal length 77mm

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Arc the 'erald, tires sing

Standing on the pedestrian Navajo Bridge, which crosses the Colorado River just outside of Page, Arizona, one gets a great view of the newer, auto bridge as its span arcs over the water.

For an interesting view of both bridges, and little history, read here.

Shutter: 1/640, f/5 ISO 400, focal length 77mm
Shot as a jpeg file; clarity sharpened just a bit in PSE RAW editor

Monday, January 4, 2010

Scenic Vista

While in northern Arizona, we explored the Page area, home base to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell). Not too far from Page is the eastern edge of the Vermillion Cliffs. To reach them, you drive down a twisty road and follow the Colorado River, crossing where rafters heading on a week-long journey through the Grand Canyon begin their adventure. It was a mostly high-overcast day, with the warmer river water colliding with the cool air, causing a ribbon of mist in the valley. On our return to Page, the fog broke up, exposing this gorgeous vista. We pulled over, hiked up a little hill, and took some shots. This is one of my early experiments in shooting RAW.

Shutter: 1/400 f/10 ISO400 119mm

Had to clone out a BUNCH of wires. Hope it's not too obvious where?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More power!

This trio of stacks is producing steam, while the ground fog from the low-level cloud in the area hides the base of the plant at the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona. About the only color we saw that day were glimpses of the red dirt beneath the fresh snow.

Shutter: 1/200, f10, ISO400, focal length 91mm

Saturday, January 2, 2010


We just returned from 13 days in Arizona, arriving home on January 1. Equipped with the January theme list, I took several photos specifically for the photo walk. That intent should ward off blog police who have a date book in hand... :-)

This gorgeous door dates back to the 1700s. It's the entrance to the mission church at San Xavier Del Bac, in Tucson. You can read more about this beautiful building here. The church was quite dim (as you will see by my camera settings) but the sunny day outside cast an interesting light on the open door. I loved the textures in this image.

Any ideas how to stop the slight bow of the image on the edges of the door? I have a fairly long lens (18-270 mm) and maybe it's just something I'll have to learn to live with.

Shutter 1/20
f 5.6
ISO 1600
Focal length 27 mm

Friday, January 1, 2010

Virtual Photo Walk: Post #1

No clever title. Just an image of that blue moon! I added a suggestion of a blue filter in PSE to really make it blue. This was hand held, shot in Phoenix, AZ. I like how this moon is a different angle than Ron's moon, shot "down under".

Shutter speed: 1/160; f 6.3, ISO 100