Monthly Archives: February 2007

Black & White, Artistic Touches, and Pinhole Cameras

A Magazine for Those Who Love Black & White

I love black & white photography.  So I put in for a subscription to a black & white photography magazine called B&W.  As it stated right on the magazine (and on the website), it’s a “Black & White Magazine for Collectors of Fine Photography.”  You don’t necessarily have to be a collector to enjoy this magazine.  I just got my first issue in the mail yesterday, and it’s amazing.  It’s a bit more expensive than a typical magazine, but it’s 145 pages (nice pages might I add) of mostly photos and write-ups from various pro photographers.  The magazine is timeless (you’ll want to hang on to these puppies) and it won’t be outdated by changing technologies — in fact, most of the photos are quite old.  If you like black & white, you’ll love B&W.

How to Give Your Photos That Artistic Touch

Picture Correct has a good article on “Artistic Considerations for Better Photos.”  You know how there are some photographers who just know how to make a shot work?  Well, this article won’t make you one of those overnight, but you’ll be on your way with a little practice.  The tips include things like using simple shapes, finding the right moments, shooting at those golden hours, and basic composition strategies.  Pay attention to these things and you’re photos will show it.

Pinhole Cameras From Everyday Objects

If you really want to go crazy with some low-tech goodies, check out the how-to at Instructables called “Juice Box Pinhole Camera.”  I know there’s a large following of pinhole camera folks and toy camera folks out there, but this takes it to a whole different level.  It appears as though it can be done, but if you try it don’t be too disappointed at the quality of the results — you’re not making a Hasselblad for Pete’s sake!  But quality is subjective and you might find that this is just the artistic release you needed.  What will they think of next?

Photo of the Day…

Three Geese

Photo by Brian Auer
10/28/06 Flemington, NJ
Three Canadian Geese swimming in a pond near sunset
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
300mm equiv * f/8.0 * 1/200s * ISO100

Camera Buying Guide

I see a lot of people ask about what camera they should buy, especially when they’re looking to move up to a dSLR. So I’ve put together a recipe for choosing your next camera. This guide is geared toward the dSLR, but you can apply the same thinking for any type of camera. I’m not going to tell you one camera is better than the other — those are just opinions. In fact, I won’t even mention any specific models of cameras. When looking for a new camera, here’s what you should do to get the facts (if not exactly, then something similar).

  1. Go to Outdoor Photographer and read the article on How to Buy an SLR Camera.
  2. Go to Consumer Search and read the Digital SLR Camera Reviews (be sure to read the full story too).
  3. Go to Digital Photography Review and pick up to 5 of your favorites based on what you now know and compare them side by side. Read the reviews and pick out what’s important to you.
  4. Go to a local camera shop and put your top 2 or 3 cameras in your hands. Take some sample shots and experiment.
  5. Go to Amazon, B&H Photo, Adorama and look up lens prices for each of your top 2 or 3 cameras.
  6. Use the same stores to buy your new camera once you’ve picked out the winner. Don’t buy from the places that advertise prices lower than everybody else — they’re a scam. Trust me.

The moral of this post is that there’s no easy way to pick a camera and it’s highly subjective. To each their own; so if you hear somebody ranting about why camera X is better than camera Y, don’t be too trusting of their suggestions. My (personal) biggest factors for buying a new camera would be how it feels in my hands, how easily I can operate it, and if it falls into my price range (don’t sweat $100 or $200 bucks — you’ll spend more than that on most lenses). My least important factors for buying a new camera would be resolution (I have a 6MP and I’m perfectly happy), image processing (I shoot RAW), and sensor size (most are APS-C sized anyways).

Feel free to leave comments to other useful resources if you have any. Happy Hunting!

Lensbabies, Lighting, and Batching

Composition Techniques for the Lensbaby

Michael Brown at Macro Art in Nature has some great composition techniques in his post titled “What The Lensbaby ‘Should’ Force You To Do.”  Though the tips use the Lensbaby as the subject, the tips presented are useful whether you use a Lensbaby or not.  Thinking about what you’re doing with your camera, where you’re pointing it, how you’re framing your subject, and what your shot is drawing attention to are all things that should be kept in mind with any type of photography.

Flash Bounce Tips

The Strobist has some good tips in his article called “Lighting 101: Bouncing off of Walls and Ceilings.”  Good lighting is key for any image, bouncing the flash is great for flash photography, but this set of tips takes it to the next level.  Take your flash off your camera and bounce it.  There are situations when bouncing the flash attached to your camera won’t give you the desired results.  One example I can think of is when you’re taking a portrait orientation shot and you’re not near any side walls — take off the flash and bounce it off the ceiling or floor.  The article has some other great tips scattered with good example images.

Speed Up Batch Processing in Photoshop

A quick tip from Planet Photoshop for “Speeding Up Batch Actions” can come in very handy if you do any amount batch processing.  This is one of those tips you wouldn’t ever think to do unless someone told you to.  Check it out to find out how.

Photo of the Day…

White Wild Flower

Photo by Brian Auer
06/05/05 Post Falls, ID
Close-up of a wild flower in North Idaho
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
62mm equiv * f/3.2 * 1/40s * ISO64

Black & White, Congo, and Israel

What’s So Great About Black & White?

The Digital Photography School poses the question “Why Black and White Photography?“  In case you haven’t noticed by the photos I’ve posted on this blog, I’ve become quite fond of black & white photography.  I’ve found that it’s a great method of showing a photo in a completely different way from it’s color counterpart.  According to the DPS post, some reasons photographers prefer black & white are: versatility, no distractions, subtlety of tones, and variety.  Read the post for explanations to these reasons.

Stories From the Democratic Republic of Congo

Inside Aperture has a good photo essay called “Aperture in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”  The author talks about his trip with a documentary film crew as they made their way through the DRC.  It’s really hard to imagine what life is like there, but the photos in the essay help shed some light.

Photo Essay From the Israeli Air Force

SeeChaos has an interesting post called “Photo Essay: Serial Number 3817131.”  The essay shows the lives of these 18 year old girls that are placed into the armed forces in the name of nationalism.  The photos give off a very strange feeling — there’s just something not right about an 18 year old girl toting around an automatic weapon.

Photo of the Day…

Forest Floor

Photo by Brian Auer
10/07/06 Delaware Water Gap, NJ
Tree trunks and forest floor in the woods
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
42mm equiv * f/4 * 1/8s * ISO400

My Dad: World Traveler – Part 3

After being in Taiwan for over a week, my Dad and his Dad took off to the Island of Borneo.  Here are a few of his notes and photos.

February 1 – Up at 5:00 AM and off to the airport.  About 3.5 hours to KK (Kota Kinabalu).  Hot and humid on exiting the plane — I wondered why people were changing on the plane.  Picked up by driver and transferred to Le Meridein Hotel in downtown KK.  Nice hotel with a great room overlooking the ocean on the 9th floor.  From the hotel room we noticed a large crowd starting to gather just in front of the hotel.  The crowd grew as the afternoon wore on.  Tons of vendors selling all kinds of food were setting up tents just in front of the hotel by the water front.  When we went to dinner we asked about it and were told it was the 7 year anniversary of KK and a big party was about to start with a parade and fire works at the end.  We walked around the vendors for about an hour took some pics and video (good stuff).  The party out front went on until about 1:00 AM and we watched fireworks for about 20 minutes and went to bed very tired.

February 2 – Wake up call at 5:00 AM.  Not good.  We had to check out at 5:45 and our driver picked us up at 6:00 to transfer to the airport for 45 minute flight to Sandakan.  We then transferred to the jetty and got on a speed boat and headed to Turtle Island.  Arrived at Turtle Island before lunch.  We had a tour guide who would stay with us for the next 3-4 days.  His name was Saat — nice guy.  There were 3 other people with us: a couple from Denmark and a woman from Australia.  Nice people.  After lunch we went to the beach for snorkeling and swimming.  Water was very warm easy to get into.  This island stop was mainly to watch the sea turtles come up and lay eggs, which happens at night.  Saw a couple of monitor lizards — pretty cool.  I need to get out with my long lens and get some close-ups.  After swimming Dad took a nap and I went out and took some pics.  Saw a monster lizard in the bush, but too late for a pic — it was at least 4 feet long.  Soon after 8:00 PM we then all went to the beach to watch a turtle lay her eggs in a hole she dug (about 80cm deep).  She laid 94 eggs and the ranger put them in bucket to put them into the hatchery.  It takes about 2 months for them to hatch.  The turtles are about 3 feet long and 3 feet wide (large).  After the laying we went to where they put them into the hatchery.  We then went to the beach where they released 75 new hatched turtles into the sea.  This goes on every night of the year.  We had 4 turtles nest and lay eggs that night and laid 287 eggs combined.

February 3 – Up at 5:45 AM for breakfast at 6:30 and on the boat at 7:00 for trip back to Sandakan.  We transferred about 1 hr by van to the orang utan sanctuary for the feeding of the mammals.  Lots of long-tailed monkeys — very playful like a bunch of kids.  We were about 15-20 feet away, so good and close.  Took way to many pics.  Then the orang utans showed up — much larger and very cool.  Very up close and personal as a few came up to about 2-3 feet away.  Too close for the long lens I had on the camera.  I think I need 2 cameras, one for each lens as changing lenses is a pain.  Might have look into that.  We then got on another boat, this time for a 2.5 hour run up the Kinabatangan River.  We saw a crocodile, a few birds, and some proboscis monkeys (these monkeys have very large noses).  After arriving at the Sukau Lodge and checking in we went on yet another boat ride, this time in search of wildlife.  We saw long-tailed monkeys, monitor lizards, very large birds, and a really nice sunset on the river.

Orang Utans Orang Utan Long-Tailed Monkey River Sunset

February 4 – Up at 5:30 AM for river trip and jungle trek.  We left the main river to a small channel which was filled with all kinds of plants floating so it seemed like we were in a car at times.  Followed the channel to an oxbow lake and landed for a jungle trek.  We trekked for about 1.5 hours — lots of leaches but we did not get any on us.  Returned to the boats for return trip to lodge and got stuck in the floating plants. — not bad though.  At 10:30 we went for a nature walk on a board walk through the jungle with a plant guide.  He pointed out the plants that will send you to the hospital or the morgue.  Nice to know.  At 4:00 we went on another river cruise in search of the pygmy elephants that were spotted the day before.  We went down river and along the way saw numerous monkeys and birds.  We also came across an orang utan and baby — pretty cool to see in the wild.  Saw two snakes in the trees overhanging the river and got right below them, but they were just sleeping and did not wake up.  Never did see the elephants and the sunset was below average.  Not like last night.  Back to the room to pack up and get ready for tomorrow.  We move to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge for the next 3 nights.  Most of the day will be traveling with a stop at some caves and cave exploring.

Bird in Flight Water Plant

<< Go To Part 2 << —— >> Go To Part 4 >>

Underwater, Crop/Resize, and Project 365

Just a reminder for those who haven’t noticed – I’ve put up a reader poll on the sidebar of the main page asking YOU what you’d like to see more of here on the Epic Edits Weblog.  Your feedback is much appreciated.

Underwater Photography Contest Winners

Underwatercompetition.com has this year’s underwater photo competition winners.  These are great shots, and what a cool hobby within a hobby.  The equipment for doing this type of stuff can be very expensive, but the results can be stunning.  Here’s a link directly to the winning photos.

Crop and Resize in One Step

Photoshopsupport.com has a quick-tip for how to crop and resize in one step.  It basically shows how to make use of the crop tool’s input features that are sometimes overlooked, and saves you a couple of steps if you want to crop and resize at the same time.  If you use Photoshop and you were unaware of this feature, you might be missing out on some of the features in other tools too.  Check out this tutorial and then get into Photoshop and start digging around to see what you might have been missing!

Project 365 – Take a Photo a Day

There’s a post at Better Digital Photography that tells us how to take a photo a day and see your life in a whole new way.  It’s an interesting idea that can promote your own growth as a photographer by making you look at the every day subjects in new and interesting ways.  A good way to spice this project up a little might be to combine it with a daily or weekly or monthly theme as I talked about in my post titled “Themes, Megapixels, and Cameras vs Photographers.”

Photo of the Day…

Bush

Photo by Brian Auer
06/05/05 Post Falls, ID
Dead bush in a puddle of water on a dirt road
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
62mm equiv * f/3.2 * 1/30s * ISO200

Sharpness, ISO, and New Cameras

Tips for Getting Sharper Photos

There’s a good article by Jason Busch at Picture Correct called “My Photos Aren’t Sharp (Part 1).” He talks about the differences between dSLRs and compact cameras, and what those differences mean to the output of the photo. He goes on to layout a complete checklist of things that may cause blurry photos. My favorite: the quality of your lens. When it comes to camera gear, you really do get what you pay for. There’s nothing wrong with slapping on that deal of a lens you picked up just for the heck of it, but good expensive glass usually produces better results. The differences between expensive glass and cheap glass may not be an issue for your particular taste, but if you’re noticing sharpness issues it’s something to think about.

Choosing ISO Settings on Your Camera

The Digital Photography School has some good tips for “How to Choose the Right ISO for Your Digital Photography.” Lower ISO values are less sensitive to light and produce minimal noise effects, while higher ISO values are more sensitive to light and produce more pronounced noise. This article looks at the trade-offs of low vs high ISOs, and it provides a guide for choosing an appropriate setting in various circumstances. What setting do I use? I usually keep the camera in AUTO ISO mode, which lets the camera choose between ISO 100, 200, and 400. All of these settings result in very minimal noise, and the AUTO setting allows me more flexibility when shooting. Of course, if I want to spend the extra time in getting my shots just right, I’ll always try for the ISO 100 setting and only work my way up if the lighting is too low.

New Cameras on the Market

A couple of interesting new cameras are coming to market. One is a compact camera line from GE — that’s right, General Electric. It looks like a descent set of cameras, but it seems kind of strange for this company to enter an already flooded market. We’ll see what happens. The other camera is more like a toy, but it looks kind of fun. Ever think of throwing your camera? Maybe not, but you might after you see this one.

Photo of the Day…

Pink & Purple Sunset

Photo by Brian Auer
09/04/05 Clinton, NJ
Sunset over a river in Clinton
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
67mm equiv * f/3.2 * 1/40s * ISO125

Displacement Maps, Photoshop TV, and World Press Photos

Using Displacement Maps to Add Depth

There’s a great tutorial at PhotoshopSupport.com on using displacement maps.  A displacement map produces a 3D effect by combining one image with that of a texture map.  The example in the tutorial uses a flag as the image and a silk sheet as the map.  Really neat effect — I had no idea this could be done so easily.

Photoshop TV Episode 68

The Photoshop Guys at Photoshop TV have another video tutorial this week called “Photoshop TV Episode 68.”  There’s a really great part in there about using the healing brush and clone stamp tools.  They show their use on old or damaged photos, but these tools are vitally useful for a range of other applications.  If you’re not comfortable with either of these tools, take a look at the video to start learning more.

World Press Photo Awards

Alright, I’m not the first to state it… but check out World Press Photo to see the winners from 2007.  I just got around to looking at them — and they’re pretty dang good.  What an emotional roller coaster though!  These are some of the most amazing photos of 2006, and it’s worth spending 1/2 an hour looking through the winners for each category.  This world we live in is an amazing and terrible place — if you’ve seen the photos, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Photo of the Day…

No Parking

Photo by Brian Auer
08/07/06 Three Bridges, NJ
Old Rusted “NO PARKING” sign on an abandoned road
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
67mm equiv * f/4.5 * 1/30s * ISO200

Rule of Thirds and Coin Tricks

The Rule of Thirds

The Photocritic has a good in-depth tutorial on “The Rule of Thirds.”  This is a rule (more like a guideline) to help with composition of your shots, and it’s been around for some time now.  There are plenty of variations on the rule, but it basically says you should divide your photo into thirds both horizontally and vertically and use those breakpoints and intersections as guides for placement of subjects.  The tutorial is filled with visual examples and discussion around how it is commonly used.  I also found a tool a while back called the Composition Adjuster, which lets you toy around with variations of this rule of thirds (golden mean, golden spiral, and golden triangles) using your own photos.

How to Photograph Coins

David Sussman wrote a tutorial for photographing coins that was republished at the Digital Photography Journal in an article called “Photography Tips: Photographing Coins.”  I’m a numismatist, so this one hit home for me.  I actually started photographing my collection a while back, but I lost interest and stopped — maybe this will spur me on.  It’s a great technique that uses a piece of glass to accommodate perfect lighting and unobstructed shots.  This method could be used for more than just coins — really any small object that you want to achieve front lighting without the use of a ring flash.

Photo of the Day…

Winter Sunset

Photo by Brian Auer
12/28/03 Moscow, ID
Winter sunset on the plains of the Palouse
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
35mm equiv * f/3.1 * 1/400s * ISO64

Themes, Megapixels, and Cameras vs. Photographers

Having a Theme can Make You Better

John Sienkiewicz from Outdoor Photographer magazine posts a tip from the editors called “Have a Theme.”  If you have photographer’s block or you’re less than happy with the direction of your work, John offers some good tips and ideas to get you back on the right track.  His main message is to have a theme while you’re snapping away.  This could be things like colors, shapes, perspectives, objects, etc.  For some other ideas, see John’s article.

Are Megapixels Worth It?

David Pogue at The New York Times has an article on “Breaking the Myth of Megapixels.”  I’ve heard this argument before, but David actually went out and did an experiment on it — two experiments actually.  What he found was that a very small percentage of people could actually determine the difference between a low (5-7 megapixels), medium (8-11megapixels), and high (12+) resolution image printed at the same size (16×24 inches).  The moral of his story is that megapixels don’t matter… much.  There are exceptions and reasons for going bigger, but most consumers don’t need the extra megapixels.  I shoot with a 6 megapixel dSLR, and when I print to 8×10 (never tried bigger) you can’t see any pixelation at any distance from the photo.  Good enough for me — for now.

Is It the Camera or the Photographer?

Here’s another argument presented by Allen Rockwell at Inside Aperture called “Is it the Camera or the Photographer… or Both?“  I think he did a great job at running the experiments and offering his opinions.  My opinion: It’s definitely both. I’ve been going through the transformation of upgrading cameras and equipment, and I’ve noticed big differences in my work at each step along the way.  The better equipment allows the photographer greater flexibility, thus expanding the potential to do better work.  Anybody that has photographed with a P&S and a dSLR will know that there are things you just can’t accomplish with a P&S.  Just my opinion though.

Photo of the Day…

Chasing the Birds

Photo by Brian Auer
06/01/05 Coeur d’Alene, ID
My son chasing the birds on the beach
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
73mm equiv * f/7.1 * 1/320s * ISO50