Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Blueberries

Posted: February 5, 2015 in Writing
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Blueberries in Glass and on Table

Burger and Fries

Posted: March 12, 2012 in Photography
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Hamburger and Fries

Buy Me

Back From Vegas

Posted: March 1, 2012 in Photography, Travel
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Be a few days before I post any new images, but I think I got some good stuff. If you are ever there and want to shoot some beautiful landscapes and are thinking about Red Rock Canyon. Think again. Spend an extra few hours and run up I-15 to Valley of Fire.

I’ll also be posting my culinary tour through Vegas. If you want to read about some great buffets, go somewhere else. If you want to read about some really good food, most of it really cheap, come back soon to hear about the best sandwich west of Philly, great ice cream, donuts and pastries so fresh you can’t buy anything more than a few hours old.

And for anyone wondering, I didn’t lose any money.

Italian Sub at Eddie D's

Italian Sub at Eddie D’s

There was an episode of The West Wing in which President Bartlet said at different points to Charlie and Sam to, “See the whole board.” In the first instance, he was talking about a literal chess board. In the second, he was discussing deployment of naval resources around the globe. In both cases, he was admonishing his staff to back up and look at the big picture. He was telling them that focusing too closely on one detail can cause you to lose sight of the ultimate goal.

If our goal in photography is ultimately to take great pictures, we often need to stop looking through the viewfinder, back up a few steps and see the whole board. This is a trap that beginners often fall into, and is the reason one of the first thing a new photographer needs to learn is to not have a tree or pole growing out of the subjects head. They need to look not just at the subject, but look at the whole scene they are trying to capture. This is one of the early lessons of composition – to look all around the frame from corner to corner and make sure they are capturing what they thought they were.

This problem is by no means limited to beginners. I remember one time I had made my semi-annual trip to a local airport to shoot planes taxing, taking off and landing. I had waited until I had the sky I liked and the sun was in the right position. I positioned myself in a great location to capture the action while at the same time getting a nice background for the aircraft. Everything was just right and I was watching a jet coming in while composing the image I wanted to capture in my head.

Just as I was about to fire off a few frames, an old man and his young grandson moved into the frame just in front of me. I waited impatiently for them to move while the man explained things to the boy. He was pointing this way and that while the boy either followed his directions or looked up at his grandfather in rapt attention.

I finally decided I wasn’t going to be able to shoot the location and angle I wanted and walked away to another part of the airport to finish shooting for the day. As I drove away some time later I thought back on the scene and realized I hadn’t looked at the whole board. I could shoot airplanes at that particular place in that particular airport any time, but I would probably never have that man and boy in front of my lens again.
As you are out and about shooting, stop thinking about what you want to shoot and look at what there is to shoot. Don’t just focus on what you thought was your subject, but look in all directions, including behind you. You may not get the shot you came for, but you just might capture that special, unique moment that will never come again, if you just stop and see the whole board.

Image Quality

Posted: August 23, 2011 in Photography, Writing
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While looking through the regurgitation of my memory card this morning, I found myself rehashing old demons and wondering about the quality of some of the images. Since shooting and uploading digital pictures, I have been disappointed many times by the work I have produced and based on many posts I have read on forums, others share my complaints. The thoughts I have had and the posts I have read follow a few common themes, whether self-criticisms or complaints about rejections.

1) When I shot with film, my images were perfect, and now they are not.
2) I have a really expensive camera, so my images should be perfect, and finally
3) There must be something wrong with my camera.

Forgetting noise and other anomalies specific to digital imaging, I have been disappointed over and over because my images weren’t perfectly sharp when I thought they should have been. On more than one occasion, I was convinced that there was something wrong with the camera.

Based on that, I spent some time thinking about what I used to shoot with my old AE1 and what I shoot now, and what, besides the quality, is different. Here are my thoughts – hopefully some of the old-timers will jump in here and correct any misconceptions on my part.

First, I need to debunk my memories of those old ‘perfect’ shots I captured on film. Back in those days, I didn’t shoot anywhere near the volume of the pros, but I did go through several rolls a week for quite a while. In the first place, my memory of these great shots, were of the ones I actually kept. I remember sitting in the mall outside the photo processing lab, flipping through the 4x6s, thinking – good, good, crap, crap, crap, good, etc. The crap went into the nearest trash can. Secondly, I very rarely had anything printed larger than 4×6. If I looked at everything today at 4×6 instead of 32×48, many more of them would look just fine. Conversely, if I had all those old film shots printed three feet wide, they would probably all be crap.

Second, I need to rethink what is perfect. I remember a class I took back in my film days, and the teacher showed us an image he shot for an ad on Fuji 25. He was trying to drum into us the value of using slide film and told us that he could blow that image up to billboard size and it would still be perfect. Would any image today meet that test? No. And here’s the reason why. On film, especially at that speed, the camera captured an almost perfect copy of what the eye saw. In today’s world, no matter how good the camera is, it captures its interpretation of the world, based on a programmer’s logic, in pixels. Most of you think of pixels as dots of color, and that’s almost correct, except they are really squares of color. The world (and especially the light reflected from it) isn’t made up of squares. You take one of a pro’s old film shots and blow it up as large as you want and it will still be perfect. Do the same with their best work today and around 300% or so, it is going to start looking like crap, because all those little jagged edges of squares become more apparent. They are not shooting perfect images. What they are doing that I am not, is doing the best possible work with the best possible equipment. Now I can’t afford the best possible equipment, but there is no excuse for not doing the best work I am capable of.

And finally, something is wrong with my equipment. (No, not that equipment – my camera!) One night, a few weeks ago, I got fed up with that excuse and decided to find out. There are test kits and processes out there for you to Google, but this is what I did. First, I put my camera on my tripod and attached the cable release. Don’t have both of those? Go away and come back when you do. Next, I put some good light aimed at a table. Doesn’t have to be pro lights, just strong enough to allow proper focus. I laid a piece of paper on the table with nice, crisp printing, and then I laid a ruler on the paper bisecting it horizontally.

I focused on about the 5 or 6 inch mark and pressed the shutter release. I took several images, using manual and auto-focus and different apertures. Finally, I loaded these into my computer and viewed them at 100%. Guess what? They were exactly perfect. The focus was where it was supposed to be, and the DOF was just fine. There was nothing wrong with the camera or lens. That only leaves user error, which is a fancy way of saying, I was screwing up.

Since then, I have only shot perfect, brilliant images which have met with 100% acceptance and are selling like hot cakes. Well, not really. But, when they are not as good as they can be, I can only blame myself and go back and try and get it right.