Monthly Archives: November 2007

Want to Learn More About Me?

Framing Myself

Antoine over at ADIDAP (All Day I Dream About Photography) has posted a brief interview with me — 10 questions on various topics. Some of the non-photography inquiries included:

  • What is your day job?
  • Is photography your only/main hobby if no state another?
  • Why is your logo a raven?
  • Can you share with us your 5 top RSS — NONE photography related?

And of course,there were some questions about photography:

  • For how long have you been shooting pictures?
  • A lot of your pictures on Flickr are street photography is it your preferred subject?
  • What is the most important piece of gear you own?
  • What is your best advice for the beginner in photography?

So, if you haven’t seen it already, head over there and check me out. And if the rest of you have any questions for me (photography-related or otherwise), feel free to ask in the comments below. I’m always fascinated to see what other people want to know about me, or IF they want to know for that matter.

Photojournalism Project at PhotoAxe

PhotoAxe, a photography blog authored by our friend Lau from Romania, is gearing up to celebrate its 1-year birthday! Happy Birthday PhotoAxe! With that, Lau has launched a group photography project on the topic of photojournalism. She wants us to tell a story using 3-5 photos (old or new) and a small amount of accompanying text.

The deadline is January 1st, but don’t wait until the end of December to submit your entry! Lau has chosen me to be one of the judges for the competition part of the project, where she’ll be giving away the “Associated Press Guide to Photojournalism“. Since I’m a judge I can’t officially enter the project for the prize, but I’ve dug up some old photos of mine that I wanted to use as a project entry just for fun. So here we go, pictures first… don’t laugh, I’m not much of a photojournalist.

Tuesday, November 15th, 2005 — Washington DC >> Thousands of Ethiopians marched from Capitol Hill, past the State Department, and on to the White House seeking attention from U.S. Government. They urged U.S. Officials to pressure Meles Zenawi to free political prisoners and end the violence in their homeland. Since the elections for national and regional government councils on May 15, 2005, Ethiopia had been in turmoil and demonstrations had ended in death and violence because many felt the elections were rigged to favor Zenawi and his political party.

Cigar Humor

Cigar Humor
Brian Auer | 11/25/2007 | Los Angeles, CA | 300mm * f/6.7 * 1/60s * ISO100
[Buy Prints] [See it at Flickr]

This is one of my favorite photos from the recent Olvera Street Photowalk in Los Angeles. Soon after the group met up we dispersed to explore the area, and a few of us happened upon this guy doing a little magic/comedy show. The guy was pretty funny — the magic wasn’t half bad, but his antics were the best part of the show. I took 34 photos of him during the show, and this was one of the 3 that turned out pretty good. In the other two photos (1 & 2), he’s actually shooting me a look — he saw me up front taking photos of him.

I feel like this particular photo has a lot going on inside the frame, but it all adds to the composition in a positive manner. The face, the cigar, the hat, the coat, the people in the background — everything seems to work together. Maybe it’s just because I was there… what do you think about it?

Cigar Humor Post-Processing

  1. Original JPEG
    Actually not too shabby given that it was an overcast day.
  2. Processed RAW
    When I started, I wasn’t sure if I’d be doing black & white so I warmed it up a little and I also pushed the histogram back in-bounds to give me more flexibility in Photoshop.
  3. Black & White Conversion
    I used the Black & White Adjustment Layer in Photoshop with the default settings. I tried messing with the color channels, but that kept giving poor results because of the abundance of skin tones in the photo.
  4. Added Contrast
    Just a typical “S” curve with a Curves Adjustment layer to push up the contrast.
  5. Added More Contrast
    I used sort-of-an-S-curve with another Curves Adjustment layer by bringing up the highlights while maintaining the shadows.
  6. Sharpening
    Unsharp Mask on a stamped layer at 120%, 1.8 pixels, and a threshold of 1.


Focusing on the Unfocused Photos

A sharp focus with crisp detail is generally one of the most sought after features in a photo. How many times have you thrown out a photo because your auto-focus was off a little? How many of us fret over shutter speeds, “sweet spots“, image stabilization, tripods and tripod heads, and image sharpening techniques in Photoshop?

I’m not arguing that sharp photos are are worth the extra effort — but I think unsharp photos are worth more effort than we typically give them. And by “unsharp photos” I don’t mean those accidental blurry shots resulting from your AF picking up on the wrong subject. Intentionally unfocused photos can be quite amazing for certain scenes and subjects.

I spent a bit of time on my last photo shoot working on de-focused, mis-focused, and soft-focused imagery. One of my key learnings is that it’s much harder to pull off than you would think. But before I get to the tips, here are some observations about the nature of these types of photos. I’m finding that they can usually be placed into one of the following categories.


De-focused photos are those that are so incredibly out of focus that it can be hard to tell what’s in the photo. This method can add a very abstract and mysterious feel to a photo. Since there’s nothing for your eyes to focus on, your attention goes to the soft shapes and tonal gradients found throughout the image.


Mis-focused photos are out of focus for the main subject, but some other part of the image (either in the foreground or background) is tack sharp. This type of photo is a treat to contemplate because you’re constantly torn between the out-of-focus main subject and the in-focus secondary subject. Our eyes love to explore the detail in the focused portion of the image, but our minds are drawn to the main subject.


I guess you could call this the “everything else” category, but this type of photo has a unique mood and feel too. The image is just enough out-of-focus to freak out your eyes, but just enough in-focus that your mind knows what the details should look like. The neat thing about soft-focused photos is that they clearly show the photographer’s intent while allowing for ample interpretation by the viewer.


I still have a lot to learn about unfocused photography techniques and methods, but I’ve learned a few things through experimentation.

  • Lens Choice
    Your shorter focal lengths will be more difficult to defocus, especially if you want to anchor your shot with an in-focus element. Macro lenses, fast lenses, and telephoto lenses will give you the most flexibility and the widest range of unfocusability.
  • Manual Focus
    Your camera won’t know how much of a soft-focus you’re going for, so your auto-focus is almost useless. AF can come in handy if you’re using it to mis-focus on some other element in the frame, but otherwise manual focus is best.
  • F-Number Setting
    Lower f-numbers will give you lots of anti-focus, higher f-numbers will give you less. If you’re going for abstract, open it up. If you’re going for soft, stop it down.
  • Your LCD is a Liar
    Your images will look much sharper on that little LCD on the back of your camera. The ones you think were soft-focused will be completely de-focused and unrecognizable. And if you’re shooting for a light soft-focus, it will almost look sharp on the LCD.
  • Focus Bracketing
    If you’re unsure about your de-focus abilities, just shoot a few at various amounts of clarity. You could even do this in rapid-fire mode if you’re using the manual focus and if you’re shooting at a fast enough shutter speed.
  • Shoot People
    People make great subjects for out-of-focus photos. We know they’re people, but we’re quite curious about who they are and what they might look like. The human form is easy for us to recognize, so it adds context to the photo quite rapidly even though the image is blurry.
  • Focus, Focus, Focus
    Focus on unfocusing. Try it out — just go out with your camera on manual focus and start shooting unfocused photos. You’ll be surprised at how different the world can appear when you remove all the details.

Anybody else have anything to add to the list? And if you’ve taken any unfocused photos that you’re particularly fond of, leave a link in the comments — I’d love to check them out.

What Would You Pay for a GPS Compact Flash Card?

After seeing some interest from fellow photographers on yesterday’s spoof “Automatic Geotagging with GPS Compact Flash Card“, now I’m curious just HOW interested.

Let’s assume that you’re shopping for a 4GB card and the GPS card is on the market. Also assuming that the cost of a typical 4GB card is about $50 (though they range between $25 and $100). What’s the MOST you would consider spending on a GPS enabled Compact Flash card? At what point would you say “forget it”?

What Would You Pay for a GPS Compact Flash Card?

Also, DEFINITELY check out the poll results from last week on the Creative Commons vs Copyright question. Copyright still has a strong lead, but there are actually quite a few Creative Commons users out there.

Automatic Geotagging with GPS Compact Flash Card

GPS Enabled Compact Flash

Geotagging photos is a great way to add another level of organization to your photo collection, but it can be quite time consuming if done manually. There are devices you can carry with you that record your location while shooting so you can sync up your images after the fact and apply geotag information, but that’s still extra work and those devices can cost more than a memory card. Some cameras have GPS and geotagging built-in, but it’s far from mainstream.

A new company, Geo-Card, has come up with a different solution to geotagging photos on-the-fly. These new Compact Flash cards have a built-in GPS receiver and microcontroller that automatically inserts geotag information right into your photos as they are written to the card — and they’re fast enough to keep up with even the fastest of cameras at 15fps. The cards are available in 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB capacities.

The GPS receiver and microcontroller fit snugly inside the standard CF card shell, so it’s compatible with any camera that accepts Compact Flash cards. The GPS receiver has 20-channel support, and has a very low power consumption. The microcontroller also has low power consumption, and the firmware can be updated by plugging the card into any card reader — which allows for updates and support for future camera models.


You can’t… I made everything up; these cards don’t really exist — and if they do, I don’t know about them. I’m sure that the technology isn’t that far off, and you might expect to see something like this within the next couple of years. I do know that as soon as somebody makes one that works, I’m all over it.

“In Your Own Backyard” Project Results

Last week, Jim Goldstein shared the results of his latest group photography project titled “In Your Own Backyard“. So in case you missed it, or if this is the first you’ve heard of it, here are the results from those who participated. The act of taking photos within close proximity to your house is a good exercise — it really makes you think and get creative because the things we see everyday can seem mundane and uninteresting to us.

  • Old Steel Garden Furniture
    Dion van Huyssteen – DV Photo
    “The photo is of some ancient steel garden furniture in my parents backyard.”
  • A Suburban Morning
    Steven Vore – Steven’s Notebook
    “I took a camera to work (my office is 2 miles from my home, so I’m still within the “5 mile” rule), and about 11am went for a walk to see what I could see. On one side of the parking lot were all the colors of fall, with some green still peeking through the yellows and greens. On the other side, construction; torn, brown and ugly.”
  • Untitled
    Matt Collinge – Madmat01 at Flickr
    “Taken from Waddington Fell looking at pendle hill in the Ribble Valley Lancashire England.”
  • The Birds
    libeco – LiBeCo
    “Since we have a birdfeeder in our backyard a lot of birds visit us, which gave me an opportunity to take some pictures.”
  • That Country Feeling
    Tam – First Time Critic
    “I’m open to critique, but I know this image isn’t the best. It is however the best photo I’ve taken in terms of representing the area I live in.”
  • Tennis I
    MT Fanders – mannedspace
    “My oldest playing the game he enjoys: Youth Tennis.”
  • Don’t litter in our backyard
    Richard Wong – In The Field: Richard Wong’s Photography Blog
  • Looking Back
    René Modery – Singapore In Pictures
    “Mother carrying her little daughter home in the evening.”
  • Another Day at the Beach
    Brian Auer – Epic Edits Weblog
    “Surfers on the beach at Encinitas, where surfing is a way of life and a big part of the culture.”
  • Trains to Mars… I, II, III, IV and V
    Mannii – Trains to Mars…
    “Three parts – rice fields, one part – apple orchards, and a WHOLE LOT OF culture. Throw in occasional urban spaces, and a few bullet trains for a perfect mix – called Morioka, Japan.”
  • Untitled
    Glen – gZphotoGraph
    “Rocky Nook Park in Santa Barbara’s Mission Canyon.”
  • Small Town General Store
    Karen Wink – Fotokew
    “I shoot southern style. my blog are photos taken in rural Mississippi.”
  • Hate Free Campbell
    Rafa – Why Yet Another Photo Place
  • Storm Cell at Sunset
    Sandy Redding – dot.double:dot
    “We seldom get storms here. Only five inches or so of rain per year. There’s a nice outcropping of rocks not far from my house that has a good view of the desert and the Sierra Nevada range in the distance. The lightning was flashing as the storm approached us. I stayed as long as I dared, but eventually had to retreat.”
  • Contour
    Antonio Marques – Words:irrational

Link Roundup 11-24-2007

LAST CALL FOR THE L.A. PHOTOWALK THIS SUNDAY!!! Trevor and I will both be there ready to shoot some photos, so head into L.A. this Sunday and join us for some photowalking fun.

  • 6 Tips for Bulletproof Aquarium Photography
    Aquarium photography can pose some some unique challenges you won’t find anywhere else. The combination of the low-light without a tripod, thick & dirty glass, hyperactive kids, and floating debris can make for challenging shots.
  • Effective Photo Keywording Step by Step
    It’s the least interesting part of any photography project but it could be the most valuable. Whether you’re uploading your photos to Flickr, to a stock site, or even to your own website, incoming traffic can depend heavily on your keywords.
  • Lighting 102: Restricting Light
    Gobos, snoots, grid spots, and cookies are covered in this article. Don’t know what those terms mean? Check it out, there are great photos and descriptions to go along with the funky names.
  • How to Shoot a Waterfall
    Alex Wise Photography
    Shooting waterfalls is amazingly easy but it seems a lot of people don’t know what they’re doing. This article includes technical tips and also natural tips for selecting the right time to shoot a waterfall.
  • Keep Your Eyes Open
    Beyond Megapixels
    Keeping both eyes open while shooting gives you a wider field of view, it makes your subject more at ease, and it helps your telephoto work, but it’s a hard technique to master.
  • Better Handheld Shots at Low Shutter Speeds
    All Day I Dream About Photography
    Tips and techniques for working in low-light situations, plus a little trick that usually proves to be worthwhile.
  • 10 Top Sites for Alternative Urban Photography
    The Se7eners
    Ten sites that span the spectrum and that anyone who loves urban photographs should know and bookmark.
  • Video of the Week — This is some serious studio work… 3 days for this photo!

Label Your Rechargeable AA Batteries

Battery Labels

Most digital cameras today don’t use AA batteries, but there are a few still out there. Additionally, most flash units generally use AA batteries (correct me if I’m wrong). If you’re like me, you have about 20 rechargeable AA batteries floating around at any given time.

I learned a long time ago that keeping track of battery groups is crucial to extending the life of your batteries in general. What I mean is that most devices either use 2 or 4 batteries, and not all devices use batteries at the same rate. So if you get some old batteries mixed in with the new batteries, you’ve got the battery life of the old ones and you may end up throwing out recycling perfectly good batteries.

My solution to this was to label each set of 4 batteries with a unique label — I use “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”, etc. This allows me to keep the same battery set together in use and in charging. When that set dies for good, I can be confident that I’ve used up every bit of possible juice from those batteries. This method also allows me to cycle through each set so I don’t use up one set faster than the others — and I also know that the “A” batteries are older than the “D” batteries, so I have a good idea of which ones are likely to hold less charge and die out more quickly in use.

Anybody else out there pay that much attention to their batteries, or am I just nuts?