Posts Tagged ‘lens’

The Making of a Photograph – Virgin River 2011

December 1st, 2012

A friend asked me if I’d do a blog on the making of the photograph I took of the Virgin River during the Zion National Park photography workshop in 2011.  He’s a good friend and it’s a nice photograph so let’s do it.  Here’s the end result. (You can click on each of the photographs to enlarge them and get a better look.)virgin_river_2011

And here’s what it started from.


The difference is obviously pretty dramatic so there will be a few things to talk about.  We’ll start with what I was experiencing in the field and take it all the way through the darkroom to the end product.  So let’s get started.

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Posted in Composition, Expoure, How To Articles, Light, Lightroom, Making a Photograph, Photography as Art, Photoshop | Comments (2)

HDR for Every Day

September 9th, 2012

We landscape photographers tend to avoid photographing during the middle of a sunny day.  The light is harsh with no color.  We prefer golden hour or twilight.

But there are times when we have no choice as to when we can shoot.  When we’re on vacation with family we can’t wait until sunset at every location that sparks our interest.  So we get the shot and hope for the best.  But there’s a technique we can use that will greatly enhance our chances of capturing a more compelling photograph.

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Ansel Adams – The Making of 40 Photographs: Lodgepole Pines

July 31st, 2012


Lodgepole Pines (1921)

This Ansel Adams photograph has always stood out from the rest of his works.  It doesn’t have the usual crispness or drama that one normally expects.  Instead the focus is soft and the shadows are not full and rich.  It almost seems like it might have been created by another person.  And for that reason I find it all the more interesting.

It’s difficult to imagine the great Ansel Adams as an amateur, a novice photographer.  One normally associates him with a supremely confident master of his art, a pioneer of techniques, both technical and aesthetic, that we still use and revere today.  And this is certainly an accurate characterization.  But like all of us, he had to start somewhere.  We all go through a period where our art is in its formative stages, where we are discovering ourselves, our vision and our voice.  And this photograph was part of the process for Adams.

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Default Camera Configuration

September 7th, 2009

When I’m out shooting I often make adjustments to my camera settings to get the right shot.  The problem is it’s easy to forget what you’ve done.  Then the next time you grab your camera and start shooing you might miss the shot because something is configured wrong.  So I have this routine I go through in the hotel room every night.


First, I clean everything.  I carry a soft cotton dish towel in my camera bag.  First I wipe down the camera body and all the lenses.  I try to not only wipe off the surfaces but all the nooks and crannies.  I’m very careful not to damage anything.

Next I check the front and back elements of each of the lenses to make sure they are spotless and dust free.  The front element will get blown off first.  I prefer the Giotto Tornado as it’s designed specifically for cameras.  If that doesn’t get everything I’ll use a microfiber lens cleaning cloth.  As a last resort I’ll use a lens cleaning solution.  The best way to do wet cleaning is to put a drop or two on the microfiber cloth, not on the lens element.  The back element gets blown off.  It usually doesn’t need any more than that because it isn’t exposed to the elements near as much as the front element.

I also check my filters, making sure they too are spotless.  I use the same procedure that I use for cleaning the lens elements.

Next I clean the camera sensor.  Again, I blow it off first using the Giotto Tornado.  I remove the lens, pop the mirror out of the way using the camera’s manual clean function and hold the body with the opening pointing down.  I’m really careful how hard I blow on the sensor.  I prefer to use puffs of air, not a tornado blast like the name suggests.  The last thing I want is some microscopic particle of sand to get embedded in the sensor’s filter. 

I have a loupe from the Visible Dust people that lets me look at the sensor under magnification.  Its six LCD lights really light it up and if you  look carefully you can see dust and stains.

If there’s still dust that the Giotto didn’t get rid of the next step is to use Visible Dust’s Arctic Butterfly.  You charge the bristles with static electricity by spinning the brush with the built-in motor in the handle.  The static charge is usually enough to remove any clinging  bits of dust.  If that doesn’t work then wet cleaning is necessary.  I’d rather not get into that here.

Once the camera body, sensor and lenses are all cleaned there’s one last step.  I set the configuration of all my camera controls to their default settings.  These are the setting I shoot with most often.  We probably all configure our cameras somewhat differently but  here are my default settings (I have a Canon 1Ds Mark III so some of these settings may be specific to Canon).

  • Lenses – set to auto exposure.  Turn image stabilization (vibration reduction for Nikons) on of the lens has it.
  • Exposure – Aperture priority
  • Exposure compensation – 0 stops
  • ISO – 100
  • Metering – Evaluative
  • Drive – Single shot
  • Auto-focus – One shot
  • Exposure bracketing – 0 stops (off)
  • Highlight tone priority – off
  • Number of bracketed shots – 3
  • High ISO speed noise reduction – off
  • Mirror lockup – off
  • White balance – Automatic
  • File format – RAW

One of the nice features my camera has is a ‘My Menu’ in which I have put the menu options I use most frequently.  This makes resetting the camera to its default configuration much simpler as there’s just one place to go in the labyrinth of menu options.  (It also makes it a lot easier to change options in the field.)

The other part of the nightly ritual is to backup memory cards, preferably in two places.  If I only have one backup I’ll refrain from reformatting the card until I get home.  But if I can make two copies I’ll reformat the card.

Oh yes, there are always a lot of batteries to recharge – camera, laptop, external drive, cell phone, GPS,….  (Hint: I carry a power strip with me because there are never enough available sockets in a hotel room.)  After all that, it’s time to get some sleep because sunrise is coming quickly.

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