Monthly Archives: January 2007

X-Rays, 10-Tips, and Pocket Printers

X-Ray Photography as Fine Art

The folks at Macro Art In Nature take a look at “X-Ray Art – Beautiful Imagery By Hong P. Pham, M.D.”.  Hong’s images are very artistic in nature and create a sense of frailty and fineness in comparison to traditional photographs.  A majority of Hong’s work is with various flowers (both in color and black & white), but there are additional images of sea-life creatures.  Hong offers prints of these amazing images for a very reasonable price.  I’m very much considering picking up 4 or 5 flower shots for decoration.

10 Tips for Amateurs

Christopher Anderson at Picture Correct posted an article titled “Ten Easy Tips for Taking Better Digital Pictures“.  He goes over some basic rules for composition, exposure, manual controls, and evaluating your work.  I agree with most of what is said in the article, but I can’t help but put my two cents in.  Christopher states that you should never depend on Photoshop or other editing tools to enhance the quality of a photo or fix mistakes.  I disagree.  Photoshop is a great tool, and is just as (if not more) critical in photo creation as darkroom techniques are with film photography.  Don’t get me wrong — if you over-do it with Photoshop, the results are poor at best.  But no photo comes out of a digital camera ready for printing and hanging in the art gallery — they need adjustments and touch-ups.  My other disagreement with the article is that he says to avoid underexposure at all costs.  I disagree.  Avoid OVEREXPOSURE at all costs (though he does mention this one too).  Blown out highlights are more distracting than underexposed shadows.  If you have to make a choice, underexpose — it will save your image.  Other than that, good stuff.

A Printer That Fits in Your Pocket?

This is pretty neat if you’re into gadgets like I am.  Rob Beschizza at the Wired Gadget Lab looks at a compact printer in his post titled “Zink Puts a Printer in Your Pocket“.  The device prints out 2″x3″ photos, so I’m guessing it’s only a little bigger than that.  What’s really neat is the technology that is used to create the image — no ink!  The “ink” is on the paper and the printer makes it show up in the right colors.  Probably not great for gallery quality prints, but cool idea for weekend trips or vacations.

Photo of the Day…

Statue of Liberty

Photo by Brian Auer
06/28/06 New York, NY
Statue of Liberty from base of statue
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
135mm equiv * f/11 * 1/200s * ISO100

Photoshop TV, Mood, and Viewfinders

Photoshop TV Episode 66

The guys at Photoshop TV have released “Photoshop TV Episode 66″, and it’s AMAZING! This week, the tips are aimed straight at photographers. They’ve got two good tips and one AWESOME tip. One good tip is for a simple method of watermarking your photos using an action with smart objects. Another good tip shows a good way to utilize the crop tool. THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP is for using Photoshop CS3′s Camera RAW editor with photos that aren’t RAW — I’m talking JPEG and TIFF in addition to RAW. If you’ve ever used Camera RAW, you’ll know how powerful it is when making initial adjustments to the photo. Photoshop CS3 has added some great features to the Camera RAW interface, and the best part is that you can use these features with JPEG and TIFF images! This is powerful. The most powerful of the features is the ability to adjust white balance — something that was once somewhat difficult to adjust on a JPEG is now very easy. The video tutorial goes over the adjustments available in the first tab of Camera RAW, but if you explore the rest of the options you’ll find that you can adjust almost everything you want plus some stuff you didn’t know existed. EXCELLENT TIPS!

Giving Photos a Some Mood

John Watson at Photodoto posts some tips on “How to Process a Photo for ‘Mood’“. He shows us a good short example of how to use two tools to create mood. The first tool is the blur overlay, which kind of softens some of the image and adds some mystery to it. The second tool is duotone conversion, which is basically a black and white with a color filtered over it. You can duotone using many different colors, thus directly affecting the mood of the photo. This is definitely something to try out on those color photos you like, but just lack something that you can’t put your finger on.

Viewfinders Are Not Perfect

Darren at the Digital Photography School asks the question “Does Your DSLR’s Viewfinder Give the ‘Full Picture’?“. DSLRs do a pretty good job with the viewfinder (95% of the sensor image for most) since that’s really your only option, but they’re not perfect. For most photos it’s not a real big deal, but sometimes you’ll try to compose a shot just right only to find out that some distracting object found its way into the shot near the edges. It’s a good idea to learn how your viewfinder works, and the quickest way to do this is by previewing your shots after you take them and see just how much extra you’re getting around the edges. For those without DSLRs, the viewfinder can range from descent to terrible — so be careful and know thy camera.

Photo of the Day…

Wide Angle Manhattan

Photo by Brian Auer
06/28/06 Jersey City, NJ
Manhattan from Jersey City Shore
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
27mm equiv * f/9.5 * 1/250s * ISO100

Layers, Shake, and Cradles

Using Adjustment Layers

The Photocritic posted an article titled “Using adjustment layers” that talks about the difference between adjustments and spot edits, and how to apply image adjustments using layers.  This method of using adjustment layers can be very useful and it allows you to make changes to a photo without committing to the change.  These adjustment layers can include things like layers, curves, saturation, filters, black & white, and many more.  The adjustment layers form the building blocks of a great (edited) photo.

Camera Shake VS Poor Focusing

The Digital Photography School posted an article called “How to Tell the Difference Between Camera Shake and Poor Focusing?“.  Both of these things can cause what would-have-been a good photo to turn bad.  This post tells you how to identify which one is causing the poor outcome, along with some tips on how to minimize or eliminate the problem.

Composition Tips for Macro Photography

Macro Art in Nature has posted a good composition tip in the post titled “Using the ‘Cradle’ Method in Photography“.  This article talks about framing subjects to gain the most effect from them.  Although the article is geared for macro photography, framing (or cradling) is a technique that can be used in any type of photography.  Along with the how-to part of it, they have some stunning photos posted that utilize the framing effect.

Photo of the Day…

Under the Weather

Photo by Brian Auer
06/26/06 New York, NY
Boat against foggy Manhattan background
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
300mm equiv * f/8 * 1/200s * ISO100

Portraits and Perspectives

Portrait Retouching Tips

A post at the Digital Photography Journal titled “Portrait Retouching Video Tutorial” shows a couple of simple tools in Photoshop that can be used for portrait (face) manipulations.  The video goes through the “Liquify Filter” and how it can be used for enlarging or shrinking certain areas of an image.  It also shows how to shorten distances between facial features using layers.

Understanding Perspective

Bob Johnson at Earthbound Light writes about “Working with Perspective, Subject Distance and Focal Length“.  These are good things to know when making decisions about what lens to use or buy for various types of photography and compositions.  I’ve seen many photographers state that wide angle lenses exaggerate perspective while telephotos compress perspective.  What many of them fail to realize is that it has nothing to do with the lens, and everything to do with where you’re standing.  Bob tells us why this is true and provides some nice visual examples to prove his point.

Photo of the Day…

Dark Skies

Photo by Brian Auer
11/07/06 Princeton, NJ
Princeton campus building against cloudy sky
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
52mm equiv * f/5.6 * 1/750s * ISO100

Sensors, Contrast, and Wildlife Photography

Sensor Cleaning Tips

Steve Paxton at Picture Correct gives us the low-down on sensor cleaning in his post titled “Cleaning and Maintaining Your Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera“.  This topic can be a scary one when you’ve paid a good deal of money for your camera and you’re faced with dust spots that need to be cleaned.  If you haven’t cleaned your sensor yourself, it can be daunting and nerve-racking to say the least.  Steve breaks it down for us and tells us what tools to use and how to effectively use them.  Once you do the cleaning yourself, you’ll realize that it’s not rocket science and your camera isn’t made of fine china and tissue paper.

Adding Contrast to Those Bland Photos

The Photocritic posted an essential photo editing tutorial called “Contrast in photos“.  He talks about using the LEVELS adjustment tool found in many photo editing softwares.  I say this is essential, because it’s really one of the first things you should do to your photo and because it makes such a big difference in such a small amount of time.  If you’ve been using direct CONTRAST adjustment tools on your photos, you should really consider the LEVELS adjustment.  It does essentially the same thing, but offers much more control on the output of your photo.  It’s not hard, I promise.

Wildlife Photography Composition Tips

Chris Garrett at DSLRBlog posts a good article titled “Wildlife Photography Tips for Beginners”.  He gives out all kinds of tips for things like composing your subject, equipment to use, how to get close, and much more.  Wildlife photography is probably one of the more difficult types of photography because it’s so dependant on your subjects, but it can be one of the most rewarding too.

Photo of the Day…

Dark Architecture

Photo by Brian Auer
11/07/06 Princeton, NJ
Princeton campus building at wide angle
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
27mm equiv * f/9.5 * 1/125s * ISO100

HD Photos, Pigment Printers, and Cropping Tips

Will HD Photos Replace JPEGs?

Rob Galbraith at Rob Galbraith DPI gives a quick review of the buzz about HD Photos in his post titled “CNET looks at HD Photo format“.  I’m no big fan of making obsolete the technology that has already provided me with 16,000 photos over the last 5 years, but I might make an exception for the new HD Photo format proposed by Microsoft.  It’s basically a photo format that acts like a JPEG with better quality characteristics.  Of course, there are some other perks to the new format, so read the article if you’re interested.

Get the Low-Down on Pigment Printers

Mike Johnston at The Online Photographer writes a follow-up article to pigment-based printers called “Pig. Printers: More Info Needed…“.  The original article can be found at “Current Pigment Printers“.  If you’re getting serious about printing your own work, this is some very good information.  Pigment printers offer a level up from traditional dye-based printers in areas of quality, photo life expectancy, and ability to print larger formats.

Cropping Photos for Better Composition

Elizabeth West at Photodoto posts a good set of tips in her article “How to Crop a Photo for Better Composition“.  In addition to providing a technical explanation of how to crop, she lists out the possible reasons for cropping including: eliminate distractions, emphasizing, moving the main subject, and changing orientation.  Cropping is an important tool for creating a good composition, but ALWAYS keep in mind that cropping removes pixels.  If you remove too many pixels, you can end up with a much smaller photo than you started with.  I will crop as needed, but I try to keep it to a minimum so that my final outputs are near the maximum resolution that I started with. 

Photo of the Day…

Orange Fungus Trail

Photo by Brian Auer
10/07/06 Delaware Water Gap, NJ
Fallen tree with orange fungus growing on it
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
90mm equiv * f/10 * 1/13s * ISO400

New Cameras, Toy Cameras, and Tablets

A Rush of New Cameras

It seems as if the floodgates have been lifted in the river of digital cameras, most notably by Olympus.  I had to have seen at least 8 new cameras just from Olympus announced in various blogs and reviews around the web.  I’ll just mention one of them.  The Olympus Stylus µ770 SW is the new release of a waterproof and shockproof camera.  I’ve got the 720 SW, and it’s the greatest thing on earth — besides my beloved Maxxum 7D.  If the 770 is anything like the 720 (and I’m sure it’s only better), it’s bulletproof.  It’s so nice to have a camera that you can take out in the rain, pool, lake, or ocean without worrying.  The shockproof feature is nice too, and my wife has essentially tested the reliability of this feature on the 720 — diaper bags and purses are scary places.  Other perks of the 770: it’s just slightly bigger than most cell phones so it fits in your pocket, it’s waterproof to 33ft rather than the 10ft of the 720, freezeproof to 14F, and crushproof to 220lb.  Like I said, it’s practically bulletproof.

Toy Cameras, Serious Art

I came accross this older article today at Flak Magazine called “Toying in Photography“.  Honestly, I had no idea these cameras (or people) existed.  It’s the most interesting article on toy cameras and the photographers and artists that use them.  These toy cameras are REALLY poorly made plastic boxes that take 120mm film and use plastic lenses.  But the stuff that comes out of these cameras can be very good.

Drawing Tablet Insights

John Watson at Photodoto raises the question “Do you need a drawing tablet“.  He starts off stating that if you only do simple operations, you probably don’t need one.  I’ve got a Toshiba Tablet PC where the touchscreen tablet is built in on top of the viewing screen.  This comes in very handy when (as John states) I need to do complex masking, burning, or dodging.  They are very intuitive to use, and can definitely speed up your editing time when used correctly.

Photo of the Day…

Surf's Up

Photo by Brian Auer
04/23/05 Dana Point, CA
Surfer at Salt Creek Beach Park
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
420mm equiv * f/5.6 * 1/800s * ISO50

My Dad: World Traveler – Part 1

For the next couple of weeks, my Dad will be on a trip overseas with his Dad and his Dad’s wife Jennifer.  This week, they’re in Taipei, Taiwan doing a little exploring.  Here are some pictures and notes from his trip to date.

January 21 – About 7pm we headed to LAX and Dad drove about 80-90mph all the way there.  I just closed my eyes.  Boarded the plane at 11pm.

January 22 – This day did not exist.

January 23Arrived in Taiwan at 6:15 am.  Got to the hotel at about 1pm, checked in and dad took a nap.  I went for about a 2 mile hike around Taipei and took some pictures.  The city reminds me of New York City, lots of scooters and cabs.

Taipei 101 in the Clouds Glass Roof

January 24 - We arranged 5 days of mountain trips starting Friday.  After lunch we drove (Jennifer drove) to Peitou where we used to live.  Got to see the old house and the steep hill that we lived up – the hill seems steeper and longer then it did 30 years ago. Jennifer scared the hell out of me driving the streets of Taipei (got video).  It’s a crazy place, much worse than I remember it.  Had another Chinese dinner (big) with lots of toasting.  Seems they like to toast you every 2 minutes or so.  Had lots of Taiwan beer.  I managed to eat some of everything that was served.  We had duck, ham, pork, fish, beef, tofu, veggies i could identify, date pastry, rice, dumplings, shrimp wrapped in lettuce, and a few things I could not identify.  All was very good.

Circular Archway Cultural Differences

January 25 – Had breakfast with Dad and Jennifer then departed for the Taipei 101 Building (tallest in the world for now) by taxi.  About a 15 minute ride through lots of traffic.  Went to the top to look out and it was fairly clear and could see most of the city.  We departed by taxi for the hotel.  The ride was insane.  The cab driver was in a big hurry and we cut off at least 20 cars in 15 minutes.  I should have video taped the trip.  Had dinner with Edwin and his wife at Teppanyaki Steak House.  Well, it finally happened – I had raw fish, and it was pretty good.  I thought I was going to just have steak, but that didn’t happen.  Started out with soup, truffles, shrimp, lobster, rack of lamb, fish (cooked), salad, garlic bread, spinach, and at the end I had steak.  Too much food, and to top it off we had dessert.  These people know how to eat.  After a major feast we went back to the hotel to pack up for an early morning departure to the Taipingshan Forest area for the next 5 days, so no email or contact with the outside world.  Unknown when next internet connection will be available.  I’ll hook up when I can.

On Taipei 101 Taipei 101 Exterior Looking Up

– Dan the Travelin Man

>> Go to Part 2 >>


Lighting and Extracting

Do-It-Yourself Lighting Panel

John Watson at Photodoto shows us how to make our own light panel in his post titled “Build your own 42″X78″ free-standing lighting panel for about $40“.  Proper lighting can often make good shots into great shots, and it’s important to be mindful of how it affects your subject.  John shows us that good lighting tools don’t have to be expensive ones.  These light panels can add a much more flattering light to your composition by diffusing the harsh light before it reaches your subject.  I think I’ll be making one of these right after I make my lightbox from a cardboard box.

Photoshop Extract Tool

Bert Monroy at PixelPerfect put out a handy video of a Photoshop tool called “Episode 15 – The Extract Command“.  This is a quick video tutorial on using the extract command and how to deal with some of the limitations it has.  The extract command basically pulls part of one image into another image.  Hidden in the video is another great stand-alone tip for using the clone tool between multiple photos.  This alone can be very useful for many different editing needs.  Plus, you’ve got to see the size of the tablet this guy’s using to edit his photos — wouldn’t that be nice.

Photo of the Day…

The Boy on the Bench

Photo by Brian Auer
03/05/05 Moscow, ID
Rex Auer sitting on a bench
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
420mm equiv * f/4.5 * 1/100s * ISO64

Tips, Metadata, and Smoke

Photography Tips From Abroad

The Digital Photography School is starting up a neat little weekly post for a grab-bag of photography tips.  The post titled “Digital Photography Tips from Around the Web” includes links out to topics like photo sharpening, white balance, artistic effects, and more.  So if you’re into the juicy little 5 or 10 minute tutorials, you’ll likely find something here that is useful.

Windows Metadata Tool

Rob Galbraith from Rob Galbraith: DPI put out a post called “Microsoft Photo Info beefs up metadata viewing, editing in Windows“.  Basically, it’s a piece of software that lets you view and edit the EXIF and other metadata information in your picture files right from the explorer window.  Very handy stuff when you want to do keywording, categories, descriptions, etc. in attempt to better organize your photos.  This looks like a nice slimmed down alternative to Adobe Bridge, which can be somewhat difficult to use (and buy) for some users.  The software is somewhat limited, though, and it doesn’t support .JPE files in addition to my Konica’s .MRW files.  The good news is that it DOES work on the typical .JPG files, and it works fairly well.

Smoke Shots

The Photocritic has some good stuff on smoke photography in the post titled “Smoking is good for you!“.  The article covers all you need to know about this topic, including how to make the smoke, lighting and exposure, and post processing.  The post is scattered with some great shots by Graham Jefferey of Sensitive Light.  If you’re looking for some psychedelic indoor inspiration, this would make a great little project.

Photo of the Day…


Photo by Brian Auer
04/19/05 Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Close-up of a flower
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
62mm equiv * f/8 * 1/320s * ISO50