Monthly Archives: February 2007

Depth of Field, Striking it Rich, and Photoshop Online

Depth of Field Video Tutorial

So this goes pretty good with yesterday’s topic on Controlling Depth of Field.  I found this video on YouTube by Shelton Muller with Total Image.  It gives you a good visual handle on the differences between depth of field and why you might use one versus the other.

Amateur Photographer Making the Sales

The Photopreneur has a story about an amateur photographer called Rich Legg: Striking it Rich.  It’s a great story about a real guy who loves photography.  He has started to accomplish what many amateur photographers strive for — selling photos.  See how he’s gotten to where he’s at now, and check out his blog called LeggNet’s Digital Capture.

Use Photoshop Online for Free

So CNET News has the scoop on the plans for Adobe to Take Photoshop Online — and offer it for free, no less!  Now don’t get too excited, two things to keep in mind: 1) It’s not for probably another six months, and 2) It won’t be the full-blown feature-filled version of CS3 or even Elements.  But it should be a handy little web application.  The price is right at least.

Photo of the Day…

Cenral Park

Photo by Brian Auer
11/06/06 New York, NY
Central Park in Manhattan
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
35mm equiv * f/6.7 * 1/45s * ISO100

6 Tips for Controlling Depth of Field

Depth of field (DOF) is one of the most important factors in determining the look and feel of a photograph. It’s also the most overlooked for photographers moving from a point-and-shoot camera to a digital SLR camera. The dSLR (and most of the ultra-zooms) offers huge amounts of control over depth of field, and you should know how to utilize that control.

Depth of field refers to the distance (depth) from the focus point that a photo will be sharp, while the rest becomes blurry. A large, or wide, depth of field will result in much of the photo in focus. A small, or narrow, depth of field will result in much more of the photo out of focus. Neither approach is better or right, and which depth of field to use is up to you, the photographer. You may have different reasons for choosing a certain depth of field including artistic effects, bringing attention to a subject, or crisp representation of a scene.

There are four main factors that control depth of field: 1) lens aperture, 2) lens focal length, 3) subject distance, and 4) film or sensor size. Your film or sensor is pretty well set, so you won’t have much luck changing that. Your focal length and distance to the subject are usually determined by your choice of composition. So the lens aperture is your primary control over depth of field.

Before I get to the tips, let’s get a few things straight:

  1. Aperture Control - Large apertures (small f/numbers) cause a narrow DOF, while small apertures (large f/numbers) cause a wide DOF. To bring attention to a subject by blurring a background, shoot with f/numbers like f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6 – this is called “selective focus”. To bring the whole scene into focus, shoot with f/numbers like f/16 or f/22.
  2. Avoid Excess DOF - If you want to bring an entire scene into focus and keep it sharp, you’ll use a small aperture. But be careful not to go too small. Lens sharpness will start to deteriorate at the smallest apertures. Use enough to get what you want, and no more. You may have to experiment a bit to get a feel for how your camera and lenses work at different apertures.
  3. Focus Point - The DOF extends behind and in front of the point of focus. It usually extends further behind than in front, though. So keep this in mind when choosing your focus point; you’ll want to focus about 1/3 of the way into the scene rather than 1/2 way.
  4. Use a Tripod - As you stop down the lens for greater depth of field, you’re also letting less light into the camera. To compensate for this and maintain correct exposure, you’ll need to either use longer shutter speeds or a higher ISO. The ISO can only be increased so much before noise artifacts will become an issue, so you’ll most likely want to lengthen your shutter speed. If you’re shutter speed is too long, you’ll need a tripod (or some type of stabilization) to deal with this.
  5. DOF Preview - When looking through the viewfinder of an SLR camera, you’re seeing the world through the lens. You can easily see your resulting composition and point of focus, but the depth of field you’re witnessing is a little false. You’re seeing the resulting depth of field for the largest aperture of the lens, no matter what f/number you’ve chosen. Most newer dSLR cameras have a feature called DOF preview that allows you to stop the lens down to the chosen aperture so you can see the true depth of field. What you’re seeing usually gets darker because you’re letting less light through, but you should still be able to see the scene (unless the aperture is very small and it’s dim out).
  6. Focal Length - As I mentioned, your focal length is usually determined by your choice of composition, but you should know how it affects your depth of field. Longer focal lengths (200mm) have less depth of field than shorter focal lengths (35mm). Just keep this in mind when you’re trying to achieve a certain depth of field — you may need to alter your focal length in addition to your aperture.

So there are your basic tips for controlling your depth of field when taking photographs. The best way to learn how to control DOF is to set your camera to aperture priority mode (if it has it) and go take some pictures. Photograph the same subject many different times while altering the aperture, point of focus, and focal length (if you have multiple lenses or a zoom lens). Either write down your settings you used for each picture or use software to view your camera’s settings while you look through the pictures on your computer. You’ll begin to see how these different things affect your photos.

The photo below shows a slightly out of focus background. I took several shots at various apertures, and I decided that I liked having the building out of focus but I wanted it to keep its main features. So the best settings (in my mind) were at a fairly large aperture with a slightly shorter focal length (opposed to 150 or 200mm). In fact, my focal length was determined by the composition and I probably couldn’t get a much further away due to the angle I was shooting at.

Photo of the Day…

Princeton Cat

Photo by Brian Auer
11/07/06 Princeton, NJ
Shot taken on the Princeton campus
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
80mm equiv * f/5.6 * 1/350s * ISO100

Color Spaces, Crop Snap, and Pantone hueyPRO

Preserving Photo Colors on the Web

Photodoto has a good explanation on how to “Preserve You Photo’s Colors on the Web.”  Do you ever spend a bunch of time editing your photo to perfection, upload it to the web location of your choice, and find that something looks off?  Luckily, it’s a pretty simple fix — and most people encounter this at some point in their photo-sharing career.  It has everything to do with color spaces, and knowing that web browsers use the sRGB color space.  The article goes into how to spot it and how to fix it.

Stop Crop Snapping in Photoshop

Planet Photoshop has a quick tip to help you “Stop the Crop Snapping.”  Also known as: that annoying feature that makes your crop tool jump to the edge of the document when you don’t want it to.  I always run into this problem when I’m trying to just shave off a little bit of the photo near one of the edges.  Until today, I had no idea it was so easy to fix.

Review of Pantone hueyPRO

The Wired Gadget Lab has a review of the “Pantone hueyPRO Color Calibration Device.”  Color calibration devices are used to set color profiles (which are different than color spaces) for your computer’s monitor.  It’s basically a hardware/software package that tells your computer how to display colors and tones.  So these things are important for us photographers.  The Gadget Lab does a good quick-and-dirty on this package from Pantone, and they give it a pretty good rating.  I’m about ready to throw my Spyder2 in the trash and go buy the hueyPRO — I’ve had too many problems with the software over the last month.

Photo of the Day…

Gone Fishing

Photo by Brian Auer
08/21/06 High Bridge, NJ
Decaying Fish at Spruce Run State Park
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
90mm equiv * f/6.3 * 1/640s * ISO100

Night + Camera + Car = ART

If it’s dark outside, you have a camera, and you’re in a car, don’t make waste of your time — make art! I’ve got to give my Dad credit for this one, since he’s the one that mentioned it to me. Actually, he sent me a bunch of whacked-out pictures and made me try to guess how he took them. I got close, but not right on. So here are some of the shots he sent me:

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Making your own abstract light paintings is pretty simple, but you’ll need a few things: night, a car, a driver, and a camera that’s capable of long exposures. So you go out for a drive, set your camera for long exposure (4 seconds seemed to work nicely) at your lowest ISO, point your camera out one of the windows, and take a picture. Now that’s the basic part of it, but there are several ways to get creative here.

  1. Exposure times — lengthen for longer trails
  2. Apertures — stop down to make sharper light trails
  3. Focal lengths (I used wide, my Dad used telephoto) — or zoom while exposing
  4. Focus — blurry, sharp, random, or change during exposure
  5. Composition — bouncing, shaking, panning, and rotating are all allowed
  6. Lights — look for different colors, patterns, or blinking lights

This becomes an interesting experiment as you start to loosen up and forget about following any rules of photography — YOU’RE ALREADY MAKING BLURRY PICTURES, WHO CARES!!! EXPERIMENT!!! I’ve got to warn you though, it gets kind of addicting. This won’t be a problem if your driver doesn’t mind the constant clicking of the shutter — I ticked off my wife after about 45 minutes though. So next time you’re going out to dinner, take your camera and make somebody else drive. Here are some of my shots (all are untouched by editing software — just resized):

pict2928.jpg pict2929.jpg pict2935.jpg pict2956.jpg pict2962.jpg pict2966.jpg

SLR Lens Buying Guide

So I recently decided to buy some new equipment for my camera — lenses specifically. It took me almost a full week to go through this, so I’ll share my learnings in attempts to make it a little easier on those of you in the same boat. Here is the process I followed when choosing a new lens.

  1. Determine Your Budget. Before you start swaying your judgement, set a limit to the amount of money you’re willing to spend. This will help you narrow your search. I set my limit at $1000.
  2. Determine What Type of Lens You Want. The main categories of lenses are: fish-eye, super-wide, wide, standard, telephoto, super-telephoto, and macro (there are other specialty lenses too). Most of those categories can also be split into prime and zoom lenses. You might know exactly what you want, or you might just narrow it down to 2 or 3. I narrowed my search down to super-wide zooms, super-telephoto zooms, and prime macros. My definition of each type is as follows:
    1. Fish-eye: Creates a hemispherical image and is typically less than 16mm in focal length.
    2. Super-Wide: Less than 20mm focal length.
    3. Wide: 20-30mm focal length.
    4. Standard: 30-50mm focal length.
    5. Telephoto: 50-200mm focal length.
    6. Super-Telephoto: Greater than 200mm focal length.
    7. Macro: Capable of creating 1:1 or greater magnification.
    8. Prime: Fixed focal length.
    9. Zoom: Variable focal length.
  3. Make Your Wishlist. Go to B&H Photo, Amazon, or your favorite lens source and create a wishlist for each type of lens you are thinking about. Then go shopping and find ALL the lenses that are offered for your camera that fit into your categories. Filter out your selections by dropping anything over your absolute budget threshold. I found 9 super-wides, 8 super-telephotos, and 4 macros — but I included primes and zooms.
  4. Prioritize Your Options. Start sorting your lenses based on the information at hand, your intuition, and any cost criteria you may have. Typically, the more expensive lenses are also the better quality lenses (aside from price differences of around $100). My advice is to buy the best you can afford and you’ll never be disappointed.
  5. Pick Your Flavor. Do it now or do it later, but if you have more than one type of lens you want, you’ll have to choose at some point. If you do it now you’ll save some time with the research. I decided to leave my options open — I couldn’t decide yet.
  6. Do the Research. You want outside opinions and evaluations on each of the lenses you’re thinking about, and it’s best if you can find those evaluations from the same source — but this isn’t always possible. Get multiple reviews too. Here are a list of places to start your research:
    1. PhotoZone
    2. ePHOTOzine
    3. PopPhoto Buying Guide
    4. PopPhoto Lens Tests
    5. Shutterbug Lens Tests
    6. Digital Photography Journal Reviews
  7. Make Your Decision. At this point, you should have a good idea of which lens is the best one for you from any given category. If you had more than one category to decide between, pick one. I had 3 categories to decide between, and after my research I had one lens from each category. Based on my budget, I could either get the super-telephoto OR the macro and the super-wide. I chose to get two lenses instead of one! There’s no rule against that!

When you’re picking out lenses, there’s no right or wrong choice. You have to balance out your wants/needs with your boundaries. Just remember, whatever you get will be a good choice and open up the possibilities for your photographs. So with my new additions, here are my 3 lenses for my Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D:

  1. Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200 F/3.5-6.3 (lens I had already)
  2. Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 EX DC HSM
  3. Sigma MACRO 105mm F/2.8 EX DG

Happy Hunting!

Canon EOS-1D Mark III, Niger, and Somalia

Canon Announces the EOS-1D Mark III

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people talk about one camera so much!  Everybody’s got something to say about this new camera from Canon, but Rob Galbraith DPI has a roundup of information including the Canon white paper and lots of product shots.  In case you haven’t heard for some reason, the Mark III is a pro-level dSLR that owns the rights to the phrase “worlds fastest AF dSLR with approximately 10 fps continuous shooting.”  That’s impressive!  Also an interesting note, the camera uses a new 10.1 megapixel APS-H sized sensor (28.1mm X 18.7mm) with a crop factor of 1.3 — so somewhere between a full frame and a typical APS-C sized sensor.  Interesting, but still too expensive for most of us.

The Results of Oil in the Niger Delta

There’s a great written and photo essay at called “The Drilling and the Damage Done“, which takes a look at how oil drilling in the Niger Delta has taken it’s toll over the last 50 years.  It’s amazing that this kind of thing goes on in places like this, yet most of the world is probably unaware.  I was.

Documenting Somalia

Here’s another photo essay type of documentary at Inside Aperture called “Aperture in Somalia” that shows one photographer’s trip through this country.  I just can’t fathom going to a country where you need armed guards by your side at all times for safety.  It’s sad, but real.

Photo of the Day…


Photo by Brian Auer
08/21/06 High Bridge, NJ
Woodpecker at Spruce Run State Park
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
300mm equiv * f/9 * 1/160s * ISO100

Cameras, Cameras, and Lenses

New Digital Cameras From Sony and Sigma

Wired Gadget Lab has the scoop on a few Sony digital cameras that have yet to be released.  In the lineup: the Cybershot G1, T100, H7, H9 and W series cameras.  The interesting thing to note is the use of large internal memory (2GB) and WiFi for downloading pictures — cool feature!

Also, the long awaited and delayed Sigma SD14 dSLR is set to launch on March 6th, or so says  I’m very interested to see how this camera takes hold in the photographic community.  It has some very interesting sensor technology, and it appears to be a very well designed camera overall.

Pros and Cons of the dSLR Camera

Peter Marshal at About:Photography poses the question “Why DSLR?“  Peter provides a good list of why a dSLR is a better/worse choice than a compact digital camera.  For me, the biggest downside of a dSLR is the cost.  The camera body costs quite a bit, but that’s nothing compared to what you’ll spend on lenses and accessories.  I just plopped down over $1000 on two new lenses and a tripod — and the goods weren’t even that expensive (relatively speaking)!  The biggest upside to a dSLR is the control you gain.  You have that ability to change lenses, choose aperture / shutter speed / ISO / white balance, and do much much more with flash photography.  For me, it’s worth it — but it’s an expensive hobby, so buyer beware.

Film Lenses on Digital Cameras

The Online Photographer tells us “Why Film Camera Lenses Aren’t Great for DSLRs.”  There are two sides to the story of film lenses on digital cameras, and this article presents one side — lens coatings.  Digital cameras require different (and more) lens coatings than film cameras, and so image quality is compromised when using a film lens.  Technically, you can use a film lens on a digital camera because the crop factor of the sensor works for you rather than against you (sensors are smaller than film — most of them).  So the other side to this story is that if your film lens was coated properly, you should actually get a better quality image on a digital camera because you’re using less of the lens (just the center portion).  You get a better quality because most lenses perform better at center than they do at the edges of the image.  So if you can get your hands on a high quality film lens, it should work fine with your digital camera.

Photo of the Day…

Statue of Liberty

Photo by Brian Auer
11/05/06 New York, NY
Statue of Liberty from below
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
300mm equiv * f/8 * 1/125s * ISO100

Black & White, Cramming, and Humor

5 Black & White Photography Tips

The Digital Photography School has an article on “5 Black & White Photography Tips.”  These photo tips are geared toward what you do with the camera when you intend to shoot black & white rather than what you do with the software.  The 5 tips cover capture modes, color spaces, ISO settings, time of day, and composition.  The most important tip is that you should ALWAYS capture the full color image, and do so in RAW if your camera supports this.  Don’t let the camera decide how the black & white shot will look, that’s what photo editing software is for — you’ll have much more control.  If your camera has the option to capture in black & white, it’s probably just desaturating the image after it captures the full color picture.  I can’t recall one time that I’ve ever used a pure desaturation to develop a black & white.

“Cram It” Method for Macro Photography

Macro Art In Nature has a photo technique called “A Simple Flower – ‘Cram It’ Method.”  Macro photography is an interesting and artistic form of photography, and this technique brings it to a whole new level.  It’s basically accomplished by slapping a macro lens and teleconverter on your camera, stuffing it down into a flower, and using selective focusing for parts of the image.  Interesting technique.  I’m curious to try it with a non-macro lens and an extension tube.  I’ve noticed the set I have can cause my lens to focus right down to the front element.  It’s worth a shot.

A Little Photography Humor

The Online Photographer tells us “How to be Cool in Nine Easy Lessons” when it comes to photography.  My favorite: Cool people do not use zooms.  Really cool people use cameras that can’t be fitted with zooms.  It’s hilarious — and you know it.  The funniest part is that there are a lot of people out there who truly have this type of mindset.

Photo of the Day…


Photo by Brian Auer
06/05/05 Post Falls, ID
Wild flower in North Idaho
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
62mm equiv * f/3.5 * 1/60s * ISO50

Photoshop TV, Monitor Profiles, and Adobe Software

Photoshop TV Episode 69

Yet another wonderful episode of Photoshop techniques on Photoshop TV Episode 69.  The first tutorial is a great one, and once you start using it you’ll never turn back.  They show how to make a selection using channels in order to make a mask.  Similarly, you can make selections using the magic wand, but the method of manipulating the channels gives much greater control and refinement for your masks.  There are also two other tips in this episode that cover cloning and feathering selections.

Monitor Profiles and Color Management

Earthbound Light has answers to the question “So Where Does Your Monitor Profile Go?“  This is different than Photoshop’s color settings, and probably more important.  Monitor calibration is the key to producing good colors in your favorite software, and this article demystifies the whole subject a little.  Plus there are several good links at the end of the article on related topics, in case you want to know more about color management.

Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw

Yes, the cat’s out of the bag — Adobe Lightroom has launched.  Lightroom is a photo editing and management software aimed at digital photographers.  I can’t say that I’ll be picking it up (I’ll stick to my Picasa and Photoshop CS3), but it’s causing quite the stir in the photographers community.  Also, for you Photoshop users, Adobe has released Camera RAW 3.7 which adds support for a couple of new cameras.  By the way, I am biased toward Adobe and I do pay for and use their products — they’re worth it.

Photo of the Day…

Front Doors of New York

Photo by Brian Auer
11/05/06 New York, NY
Statue of Liberty and New York City as seen from a boat
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
45mm equiv * f/16 * 1/45s * ISO100

My Dad: World Traveler – Part 4

February 5 - Up at 6:00 AM to be ready for breakfast at 7:00 and then depart by boat to local jetty to get a jeep for over-land journey. Boat ride was just 10 minutes down river. Got in a 4WD Toyota Land Cruiser full of mud — good indication of what was to come. The road started out like a dirt road back home (dry and dusty), but not for long. Lots of mud and very narrow. Had to go to 4WD a few times not bad; reminded me of racing off road back in California. Our driver was in a hurry (I liked it — faster is better on rough roads). Spent about 1.5 hours driving to a cave. Arrived at the cave and had to pay 30 Ringgits for the use of my camera (about 8 bucks US). No choice, I had to take pics. That’s why I’m here. The cave was huge, with an opening at least 200 feet high. About 1-2 million bats live in the cave, and lots of birds. The birds’ nests are harvested 3 times a year and are edible — worth big money. They harvest the nest from the ceiling (200-400 ft off the ground) and have been doing so since about the 1600s — that they know of. The cave was also home to centipedes, cockroaches, crabs, and smells quite nice inside. The roof has an opening and made for some good pics. On the way out to the cave we saw many monkeys and I needed to change lenses a couple times. Anyway the cave was well worth going to. On the way back to the Land Cruiser a monkey blocked our way for about 10 minutes. He just sat on the trail and watched us. They can be very aggressive so we waited and I took some more pics. Back in the car and down the road to a paved road (made Dad happy as it’s a lot easier to sleep on paved roads). Two more hours and we got to Lahad Datu for lunch, changed cars, and left our tour guide from the last 3.5 days. His name was Saat and a real good guide (took good care of Dad and made sure all was good). New car was a newer Toyota Land Cruiser. We left town on a nice highway for a 2.5 hour drive to Borneo Rainforest Lodge. The nice hwy only lasted for 10 minutes and then back on bumpy dirt with lots of mud — only this time we had logging truck to look out for. Saw a pygmy elephant on the way. After what seemed like forever we arrived at our lodge. Nice place in the middle of nowhere. Got our room and took it easy until dinner. After dinner we went out on a night drive with a spot light looking for wildlife with a group of about 7 others in a large truck like my dump truck with seats in the back. I thought I was at work for awhile. Saw nothing, came back and called it a night. More trekking tomorrow.

Ladder to Nowhere Cave Ladder

February 6 - Bad night. Made the mistake of drinking water from the pitcher in the room. Won’t do that again. After breakfast we did a 3.5 km hike along a river looking for birds. The leaches weren’t too bad — only had a few get on our boots. Took pics of mostly plants. Got back about 11:00 AM from hike and went back to the room for a nap. It started raining and after lunch it continued. We chose not to hike in the afternoon — good thing, it flat out poured. Mostly laid round the room until dinner. After dinner they had a night walk but it was still pouring. We went to bed early instead.

February 7 - Up at 6:00 AM and to breakfast at 7:00, then met Palin (our guide) at 7:30. You need a guide to go anywhere on the trails here so you don’t get lost or come across any bad plants or animals. Took a road hike to the canopy walkway. It’s suspended about 30 meters off the ground. Gave a great view from above. Still not much wildlife to see — just a few birds. Then we went up the Hornbill Trail — steep and muddy. We heard lots of birds but only saw a few — mostly small ones. At one point we were getting rained on by branches and fruit from above, a long-tailed monkey was about 100 meters above us throwing stuff at us. Nice to see some wildlife. We did about 3.5 km in all and returned to the lodge about 10:30 and went for a short nap. The next walk was set for 3:00 and Dad decided not to go out for this one so I went without him. I had the guide to myself and told him I wanted to go to the waterfalls. This is the trail that we were going to do before the big rain. Well the trail was almost 5 km all up or down — nothing flat. A lot of ropes and ladders. Turned out to be 3 waterfalls in all — all very nice. At one point the trail was blocked by a huge tree that had fallen during the night and we had to go down a cliff and under it while hanging about 75 ft above the river. Great fun. I had at least 39 leaches on me during this hike as it was thick jungle and very wet. The trail came to a look out of the whole area and was well worth the steep hike. I took lots of pics and video to prove it. Dad was bummed out that he didn’t go. Back to the lodge for a much needed shower. Had cocktails with Dad on the veranda and went to dinner and then met with our guide to say goodbye. We then visited the gift shop to leave some cash for the local people and off to bed. We travel tomorrow to the beach resort for much needed rest after all the jungle trekking. Looking forward to lying on the beach and sipping on beer.


February 8 - Slept in till 7:30 (first time in a while). We checked out at 9:30 and had to take jeeps out because of the mud. The first leg in four wheel drive was about 1.5 hours and we then met a mini bus to transfer to for the next leg. We went to Lahad Datu for lunch and drop off other people. After lunch we changed some money and went in search of more scotch and rum for our next stop. None to be found. From there we took the mini bus to Semporna jetty about 130 km away — long drive on a busy road. We transferred to a boat to Mabul Island — a diving resort. What a great place — white sand, very clean, just like the pictures you see. Met our guide and got briefed on the program here. 3 dives a day are scheduled but you can choose what you want to do. The boats take you out to different areas to dive or snorkel. You can also dive from the beach any time. Went to bed early, tired from long day of travel.

Beer Sunset

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