Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's all about the pictures...except when it's not.

Sometimes it's a stretch coming up with ideas for a Sunday photo. They can't all be sunrise shots. They can't all be shot at the park. 
Thankfully inspiration comes at the times you don't push. And sometimes, inspiration comes when you realize that you can't photograph all the gifts the day has to offer. 
This morning was cold, windy with a few snow flurries. The sun did come up at 6:08. Somewhere in the clouds. So with what seemed the dreariness of the day around me, I thought I'd try a flash technique I had been wanting to try when it was windy. 

And as I froze my fingers, muddied my jeans and tried for a good photograph...I heard the Red Wing Blackbirds happily singing away. Saw the Pelicans circling the bay looking for breakfast. Off to my left was a beautiful Swan. And as I was heading home, deer crossing the road and wondering what I was doing in their front yard. 

And then you realize it's not always about the photograph...but the experience...of everyday.

Canon 7D with 24mm f1.4L lens. ISO 100 at f22 and 1/8th second. 580 II fired via IR. 

Monday, February 28, 2011


As much as we are photographers and "see" the world in terms of images, words are still important and still come into play.
This week I had the great opportunity to hear from two sides of how photographers express themselves in words.

Lynnette Taugher, a local photographer, let me read a presentation she was giving on photography to a 4-H group. And the words that stuck with me were "  As a photographer, it is important that you try to look at the world in a different way… YOUR way! "

True, isn't it. Well, at least it should be. There are times I think that I'm just shooting to please a client and pay the bills instead of shooting as I would if I were shooting it "my way".  But that's business. Of course, if you do it right, you can shoot it both ways so you can still express yourself.

And then comes an exploration into the Fred Miranda forums.  I know several photographers that are members so I thought I would check out what the forums had to offer. 

What I found in the words of other photographers would probably take the smile from Lynnette's 4-H photographers drive them back to video games. 

I browsed through a great gallery of basketball photos, only to find once the comments started that everything was negative.
By my standards, these were exceptional photos. And the so-called experts picked them apart for the littlest reasons.

The corker, as they say, came after I checked out a photographer who kept cropping up in the forums adding his two cents (or would that be minus two cents) to each entry. The final entry I read included a very detailed trashing of some OK photos of a gymnastic event. 

Always curious, I thought it would be interesting to check on "Russ's" background to understand where all of his experience came from. A quick Google to his website left my laughing at what I found. Mr. "expert", who was knocking down so many photographers just trying to look at the world in their own way, displayed a portfolio with what could only be described as snapshots. A portrait section contained several amateurish images shot with on-camera flash. The composition was boring. The post production almost non-existant. 

And this was the "expert".

For my money, I'll follow Lynnette's advice and try to keep looking at the world in "my way". :-)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A great way to organize and view Digital Magazines on your iPad

IPad 101: PDF library in iBooks.

Here's a neat little trick I just used to make finding and reading my Sport Aviation and Airplanista digital magazines a lot easier!

In the past, I've either had to dig out the email with the link to the latest online magazine or search my computer for the folder where they were downloaded. 

A better idea is to transfer the magazIne PDF to your iPad and use Apple's iBooks as your digital magazine "bookshelf". And, by using iBooks,  you will have access on your iPhone too.

Which would you rather have- a list of files as in the top photo...or a visual bookshelf of your magazines in easy reach?

The workflow is simple:

Download your digital magazine PDF to a folder on your desktop (not only for transferring to your iPad, but also to archive). 

Then, transfer the PDF to Dropbox, which is a free app that not only lets you use 10 gigs of cloud storage, but allows you have to share files across your iMac, MacBookPro, iPad and iPhone.

On the iPad, open Dropbox and find the magazine PDF.

Open the file and look for the prompt on the top right of the screen to open in iBooks.

Click on iBooks and wait for your magazine to open.

Click the "Collections" button at the top.

You can now move it to a current collection, or create a new one (such as, in this case, Sport Aviation).

There you have it...all of your digital magazines organized and displayed on a bookshelf for easy retrieval and viewing.

AND...this works great for camera manuals! 

(Alternate: If you don't have Dropbox, download the file and move it into a folder for later retrieval. Open iTunes, and from the file pulldown, click "add to library". Then find the file you just downloaded...connect your on your iPad in on books...make sure the PDF file you just imported is checked for synching with your iPad. iTunes will take care of the rest)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mentor lost

I'm not sure why it seems so typical, but it's only after someone has died that we realize the impact they have had on our life.

Dick Matt, who hired me to work at EAA in 1984, passed away on Sunday.
Looking back, I could have done a better job at keeping contact in these years since he retired from EAA. But "work" gets in the way. And life. And before you know it, a year has passed. But there was the Christmas card...or the seeing him at the Sun n Fun fly-in each year.
But that isn't remembering him for his contributions to my life and career. That I still think about every so often when I see a photographer post studio work on Facebook that is lit very lifeless. I can just about hear him say "kids these days just don't know how to light". And, of course, he's right. They don't.
When Dick was teaching me to light in the studio I thought he was wrong. Old fashioned is probably a better choice of words. I was the guy who used strobes...Dick was the one who used "deuces". Those are 2,000 watt tungsten lights. Hot lights as we called them. Hard light, hard shadows. The Hollywood look.

And now, after 15 years, I keep trying to emulate that lighting. And adding elements of that style to my strobe lighting. Because no one does quality lighting anymore. Well, not "no one"...but few that I am seeing on Facebook.
So each time I see that style of lighting used on a portrait, I think of all the "old" techniques that Dick instilled on me. Hurrell would be proud.

Monday, December 20, 2010

End of the year. And one item on my list of things to do was looking through a box of the late Carl Schuppel's cherished camera gear. Several cool finds including two rolls of film still sitting unexposed in two camera bodies. And then, there at the bottom of the bin was his Nikon FM. An old camera. Easy to pass over. I'm not even sure what Schup used it for...or when. But then I remember what I used mine for... was 1979 and I was trying to decide between steady money working in a machine shop or taking a chance that I could make a living as a part time newspaper photographer. Always follow the heart. Decision made, I sold my Chrysler Conqueror boat, scoring enough money to pay off my car. And..and... had enough left over to buy a new Nikon FM camera and a 105mm lens.

As years went by, my assignments at the Northwestern grew, and so did my passion for photography. Everywhere I went, my FM went with me. Throughout the years I learned little metering off the grass and knowing the correct exposure would be the bottom two meter lights. And thanks to help from a young Omro businessman named Jeff Kemp, thinking I was really cool because I bought a motor drive for the camera.

It was manual exposure. Manual focus. About as basic as it comes. And as basic of a camera that it was, I learned. And my skill and portfolio grew.

I brought that camera to EAA when I started there in 1984. I used it for some of my early air to air missions, but realized technology was moving forward and there were not only better, but better suited to use in an air to air environment. The evolution of Canon cameras kept me on the cutting edge of technology. By the time I retired my Canon 1V as my last film camera I had forgotten about that little FM.

As the digital revolution continues, I occasionally look back at the "old days" when we had to limit ourselves to 36 frames before reloading. And seldom shot above ISO 400 because of the film grain. Today, my Canon 1D Mark 4 is as good as it gets. But every now and then I'll glance at Schup's FM, now sitting in my office, and remember where it all started. And smile.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Changing Times

When traveling, I've often debated with myself the merits of taking this lens...or that lens. Wanting to be prepared for the "perfect shot" without carrying too much equipment. A recent trip to Chicago raised a new question relating to photographing my travels- do i take a DSLR for quality shots? or just my iPhone for Facebook?

I've always wanted to wander the streets with my Canon 5DM2 and a 50mm f1.2L. The perfect combination for street shooting. And for images I may consider for a photo show. 
But I'm also finding that not everything I want to shoot needs to be high resolution that I'm going to use late on. More often than not, I'm also wanting to share a lower rez version of something I shot with the 5D. In the past, I waited until I got home and processed a low rez for Facebook. Then along comes the iPhone.

 For Facebook, the iPhone is ideal. Almost perfect. It would be totally perfect to me if there was a Viveza app for spot adjustments and a perspective crop. 

And what are my favorite iPhone Photo apps? My basic photo editing app is PhotoGene. It does all the basic adjustments for exposure, color, sharpness, crop and saturation.  It also does borders, rotation and RGB color adjustments. And if you're in a funny mood, it will even add caption balloons! If the photo is too dark to begin with (or has heavy shadows), then I run the image through iFlashReady first. It does a great job of filling in shadows. Very similar to "shadow/highlight" in Photoshop. When I know the lighting is going to be difficult, such as a backlit subject, I take the photo with TrueHDR. That usually gets the shot or close enough to use the other apps for final post production. 
The ability to shoot on the spot somewhat discreet...and do post production and upload in a matter of minutes has me thinking I'll probably always have my iPhone along as backup to my Canon on my next trip to Chicago.