Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lunar Eclipse.... RIP X-Keys...

Two nights ago was the lunar eclipse. I am finally rested up enough afterward to write about it... (long long night with no sleep)

After procrastinating a bit I was able to, on short notice, put together a shoot to capture the event. Unique Photo rented me a 100-400 f5.6L IS lens which was the longest lens they had in their menu..

Now what I should have done was posted up some info/hints on how to get good photographic results.. of course I didn't think about it till afterward (And when I saw all the people saying they were out there with their cameras)... so this is the info I should have said earlier..

Eclipse shots are a significant challenge. You are basically shooting a target that is:
  • Dark
  • Fast Moving
  • Far away
  • and Highly Detailed
The fact is that you won't be able to capture what your eye sees... Digital cameras have no where near the amount of dynamic range that your eye has. So once you get over that, you have to figure out how to deal with the technical challenge.

Firstly, you need a long, fast, lens. In general you want to get as long of a telephoto as you can. 200mm would be a minimum for most cameras. Even at 400mm you will need to do some cropping. Because you will be using such a long focal length you must, ABSOLUTELY MUST, keep the camera steady. This means a really solid tripod, and preferably a wireless trigger.You will also want to engage the mirror lock up before every shot.

The next consideration is that the subject is going to be dark, and moving. The moving part is the most prohibitive..if it were steady you could just use whatever exposure time you want. Here you need to be as short as possible. Practically you want to keep it less then 1 second (1 second i think is really the limit for reasonable sharpness). The faster the shutter the sharper the shot obviously. To accomplish this you will want that fast lens down to f2.8. Your ISO should be just high enough to get the exposure right.. no more. Image noise is worst in the shadows and we are capturing a lot of shadows here.

Of course.. fast telephotos are really REALLY expensive (400mm f2.8 is ~$8000). You will likely have to settle for a f5.6 lens. In this case you will end up with shooting closer to 1s, and a higher ISO then you really want.. Alternatively you could get your hands on a mount with a star drive (one that tracks the movement of the moon/stars/etc) then you don't have as much of a problem with the long exposure.. so lower the ISO accordingly. Another approach is to use a telescope with camera mount (and the star drive).... but that is a whole other ball game.

If you don't have a tripod, or a fast lens.. then your only real hope is to jack your ISO up to as high as you can so you can get the shutter speed down.. use some image stabilization if you have it.. You'll end up with really grainy images but at least you'll get something..

Anyway... so that is how you wanna approach it next time. LOL. (squirrel that info away till 2014..)

My experience I can sum up with one word.. COLD. It was freezing out. I started shooting right as it began at about 1:30am. I continued on till just after 4am when totality was over and the moon started to go behind trees. For the non totality shots I used 1/125 f8 ISO 100. Once in totality I had to jack it up to 1s f5.6 ISO 800. In the end I was not very happy with the sharpness, and the noise level, but it was the best I could do with the lens that I had to work with. With some noise and sharpness processing the results are usable.. but certainly not as high quality as I set out to do (then again maybe I shoulda prepared better LOL).

I've only processed fully one picture so far... have not had much energy/time to do more:

On another note.. somehow I fried my X-Keys pro macro keyboard. This is the 58 key console I have linked to photo shop shortcuts.. I have gotten totally dependent on it (And my wacom tablet of course).. so the fact that it is non operational is a big deal for me... (and I still have work to do! Bleh). Not sure what happened.. it may have been a static shock that happened a day or so ago.. but don't know for sure. So I guess I'll be ordering another one... :(

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Duck season.. Wabbit season.. no.. BUSY season!

For the last few weeks I have been in my busy holiday season with my primary photography job Creative Designs Photography. Pretty much every weekend I have had client shoots. During the week, after my "day job", I put a few hours into various Photoshop work.. and that sums up my life. LOL

Right now I have a queue of sessions waiting for orders, PS work to do for sessions with orders, and sessions that just happened that I gotta develop and post... throw in a big client event I shot just yesterday that needs like 250 shots RAW developed.. its good to be busy.

On the other side I was able to get a majority of my portfolio work completed. I've been posting stuff as I finish it. I do still have like 60 more images selected.. of which I may do something with 20... but I think all the A-List shots are done and posted. I am pretty happy with how my new site and gallery looks.. what a huge improvement from just a few months ago.

So this probably will be my last little update for a few more weeks. I have a few technical blog entries that I started and didn't finish yet. I'll get to those after the holidays when the dust settles.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Photoplus NYC...

Well it was fun yesterday.. the NYC Expo has yet to be a disappointment.

It seem, at least to me, that this year there were fewer companies showing stuff off.. In particular I noticed there were fewer album manufacturers (and who needs 30 friggen companies at one trade show anyway?). To make up for it it seemed like all the big names had much larger spots.

It seemed like the product of the show was the NIK's HDR Pro plug in. It was being demonstrated and discussed in quite a few forums.

The two most exciting booths were absolutely the Unique Photo booth (girls + full body skin panting.. nuff said), and the Nikon booth which had (amongst other things) a halfpipe with guys doing tricks on bikes and boards. This year I noticed many more companies offering lectures and info sessions on all sorts of topics. If you stuck around all three days you probably could amass a pretty good education for free.

So I managed to attend some lectures at the Unique Photo booth.. was pretty impressed with Lindsey Alter's lighting presentation.. The seminar I attended on night photography was pretty interesting... and I would say was worth the $80 I paid for 2 hours.. I also caught bits and pieces of various other presentations here and there..

So the show was cool.. and then afterward I shot the city at night from the Weehawken waterfront.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

500 shots later... LKR event post-mortem..

The LKR event went pretty well last Thursday. Like last year it was a pretty good challenge. Anytime you mix low/bad lighting with fast action your in for some fun.

I shot the event with two rigs. For flash photography I used my 40D with a stroboframe flash bracket (the one that rotates the flash around the lens), and a 580EX flash with a Lumiquest soft box attached. I use that configuration anytime I am doing direct flash. The 5DmkII was used with a higher ISO and available light as it has superior low noise performance. Most of the night was shot without flash.. The 5D had a 70-200 f2.8L IS on it and the 40D had a 24-70 f2.8L (although i switched em around from time to time).

As I noted earlier this was the first time I had two simultaneous cameras. Again the Black Rapid strap I use kicked some serious ass. Also some kudos to for coming through with the 70-200 f2.8 on short notice since Unique doesn't seem to have many of em in stock (and my f4 version just wasn't going to cut it).

As far as the event is concerned.. it was fun, and the VIPs were great.. Because of the tables it wasn't possible to get up close to the stage during the show.. but the room isn't too big so the 200mm was fine.. but none of the usual concert style shots that people seem to get.. more journalistic.

This was the first time I have had to deal with competing media photographers who attended the show (last year I was the only shooter). The posed shots were difficult because I had to fight for everyone's attention during those windows of opportunity. They generally stayed out of my way for the rest of it though. Having a bigger camera then everyone else helps with that..

Bernie and Kris posed for a billion photographs with people and had pretty good stage presence (Kris in particular). The kids did great.. etc.

Ended up with 500+ shots which I culled down to around 180.. for the most part I am pretty pleased with how they came out. Took me a few hours to develop the raw files into TIFFs, and then about a hour of batch processing time to put them through noise reduction, fractal size reduction, and then output sharpening.

I know a few people have already asked me about checking em out.. When they (or whatever they pick from the ones I send) become public by LKR I'll post a link... For various reasons I won't be posting any publicly.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New England and upcoming stuff

I just got back from a weekend in New England to celebrate a friend's wedding. Had a great time, and of course I did bring my camera. No... I wasn't Bob The Photographer at the wedding.. I actually only took a few shots. My basic wedding policy is that I am there as a guest so I don't run around trying to get "shots"... after all they already had paid good $$ to get an excellent REAL wedding photographer who is going to do a kick ass job. I'll let him run around while I enjoy the cheese and wine. :)

That being said since the wedding was in an apple orchard, and it was the "peek" time for fall foliage, I focused on that. On the way back we drove around Brattleboro and I did some work at a few bridges over the CT river.. I also stopped in Hartford for a few minutes at a park on the river edge.. After culling and selecting I ended up with another 20ish images to add to my portfolio.. not bad.

Speaking of portfolio.. last night I finished going through all my recent work (since July). I've got 114 new things to develop and retouch. A pretty wide collection of macro work, scenic stuff, and some abstract architectural things I did. About 45 of the images alone are from Sedona. Not sure how long it will take to do it all but my new work station should help me rip through them (holy crap it is fast!).

Next weekend I have an outdoor client shoot, and the following week I've got the Little Kids Rock concert. I also am trying to fit in a trip to Bushkill Falls at just the right time for the colorful leaves. I may be attending the HDR seminar at Unique Photo next week.. which hopefully will teach me something I don't already know. I also registered for a night photography seminar at Photo Plus... hopefully something useful rather then a sales pitch for the teacher's book. That was, for the most part, the only expo seminar that both interested me and I thought would be worth the $80. They did have a few Lightroom/Photoshop classes but I didn't think they were advanced enough. I am going to go to the Dave Cross seminar in Nov instead...

Speaking of PhotoPlus.. I plan on going on Sat to the trade show for a little bit and then spending some time in Manhattan taking pictures.. Probably down in Battery Park (maybe even go to Gov Island.. still up in the air).. If anyone wants to meet up let me know.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

FF DoF.. A-Ha! LOL

A few weeks ago I spent a considerable amount of time wrapping my head around the topic of Depth of Field in regards to my full frame camera. Specifically, how it appeared to have a more shallow DoF then my 40D which has a 1.6x crop sensor.

For those that don't know.. basic Photography theory 101:
The aperture setting not only is involved with exposure, but also DoF. The larger the f-stop the larger the DoF (and the smaller the actual opening). Sounds semi-simple right? Well it is actually more complected then that....

While the f-stop does change the DoF.. the actual *effective* DoF varies on the distance to the focus point, and the lens focal length. What varies is the zone of focus.. the distance in front, and behind the focus point that remain in focus.

As an example.. lets say you use f5.6 and you focus on the eyes of a subject standing maybe 15 feet from you at 50mm. In that case you may observe that the tip of the person's nose remains in focus. However if that person comes closer to you and you again focus the same way you may find that their nose is now out of focus... the same way that may have happened if they stayed where they were and you moved to f2.8.

So getting back to my full frame dilemma.. I did some shots in my studio and realized that my usual f5.6 was not going to cut it.. and started using f8.. which I also found had a slightly shallower DoF then I desired. My initial conclusion was that the full frame sensor had a shallower depth of field then the crop sensor.. but I didn't understand why. It made no sense. A google search directed me to several articles that confirmed that my conclusion was incorrect.. that both sensors have the exact same DoF.

So I sat there and tried to wrap my head around it.. I just kept thinking that if I took the same exact picture with both cameras the DoF on the FF camera was shallower. So WTF?

What I didn't realize was that I was forgetting something that WAS different between the two.. the Field of View.. because the FoV is larger on the FF camera I would have to either get closer, or increase my focal length to compose the same shot that I would on the smaller sensor camera.. this means that I was adjusting at least one of the two other parameters which determine the size of the ZoF! So inadvertently by just trying to recompose the same shot I was creating a smaller DoF. If I kept the distance and the focal length the same, and just cropped the picture smaller to create the same composure, the FoV would be the same as the crop camera.

It was one of those "how did I miss that?" moments that had me going for a few hours.. In the end I decided that because of this effect I was going to stick with using my 40D in the studio. Because of the large FoV with the FF 5DmkII I would have to zoom in or get closer to my subjects to get similar shots as I get with the 40D... and thus would need to raise my f-stop and strobe power.. which is ok for most things except for high-key.. So just to simplify I'll stick with my trusty 40D.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New workstation...

For most of this year my main workstation has been crashing and locking up without warning. I figure that after 3 years of overclocking this hardware to the very edge of sanity it finally has developed some flakiness..

So I've been dealing with it.. but things got harder when I started working with the 21MP files from the new camera. I just don't have enough memory to handle all the plug ins and etc that are a part of my work flow. Photoshop CS5 is a total memory pig as well.. as compared to the slightly less piggy CS4. All this means that it locks up more often, usually after I just finished painfully creating a layer mask and was just about to save...

Sooo.. I finally broke down and ordered parts for a new machine. Instead of overhauling the watercooled pimped up monster that I currently use I decided to build a simple yet powerful one from scratch. It will have an I7 3Ghz quad core CPU, 8GB RAM, and an SSD for a system drive. I also solved my storage issue by getting a 2TB data drive (no more RAID mirror.. just my standard external backups). So in short (for the non computer-geeks) this thing should handle anything I throw at it.

Of course there will be some complexities.. for one I am moving to full 64Bit Windows 7 (from the 32bit version). Some of my plug ins that I have grown to love do not currently work under 64bit.. so I will be flipping back and forth from 32bit Photoshop and the 64bit version.. Hopefully in a few months that will all be resolved with some updates.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rock Concert... More expedition ideas.. and PhotoPlus

Wow another new post from me... I am usually not this verbose when it comes to blogs.. don't worry it won't last long.

All my client work up to this point is done... (just need to order some prints).. so it is back to portfolio work for a week or so. (yay!) I am committing myself to publishing my Facebook page and my personal site by the end of Oct.

Yesterday I was asked to shoot the Little Kids Rock concert in NYC as I had done last year. It was a great experience (and photographic challenge), and I loved doing it so I quickly said yes.. last year Liberty Devito was there (drummer for Billy Joel) along with Clarance Clemons (sax player for Bruce Springsteen). This year it will be the 2009 American Idol winner and Vanilla Fudge.. along with all sorts of music industry celebrities and some kids playing rock music.

The only issue was it fell on a day that was going to be during my schedule work trip to AZ.. so I had to do some juggling. Oct is going to be CRAZY busy with a ton of photo stuff and work stuff and weddings and so on and so on.. LOL. I love being busy.

(BTW if you are curious my shots from last year are HERE on the LKR web site... rather I should say the handful that they picked to display as I gave them more then 100 to work with)

Speaking of AZ.. I likely will be going back again in Nov (and probably in Dec too) for another week. I am going to try to stay a few more days to visit the Grand Canyon and do some more photography. I don't know how many more opportunities I will have with these work sponsored trips so I need to take advantage. Unlike last time my personal days will be on my own dime but at least the flight will be covered... Between now and then I need to do a lot of research and some planning.. thinking about doing a guided hike of some kind.

Another idea that popped into my mind yesterday was doing a trip up to Mount Washington in NH. Some friends were there and said it was a great experience to hike up.. and I've seen some great photo work done there... so it might be a thing to do. It isn't an easy hike (but I should be able to handle it).. not sure who I would go with since going alone is not really advisable. I have time to sort it out as this will have to wait till next spring due to weather conditions there.

In Oct we will be going to our yearly trip to the Photo Plus Expo in NYC. Normally we just go to the trade show and get ideas for products, equipment and etc. However after a few years we really don't need to see anything new (and my equipment shopping list is quite bare I have to say). We are thinking of doing some seminars instead this time around. There are a ton of "classes" offered all three days. The only issue is that they are kinda expensive (in my opinion). Not sure how much we will really get out of them. They have this nice digital dark room track that focuses on post processing and workflow that I am really interested in. There also are a handful of lighting and creativity classes that I would benifit from. Patti has a whole slate of classes as well picked out. But without some prior experience I have no idea if these are just rah-rah sessions or book infomercials rather then a real learning experience... more thinking on this topic needs to be done.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall shoot planning.. and smugmug..

Fall is here.. been waiting all summer for the leaves to change so I can go back to Bushkill Falls.. I keep looking at the pictures from my last time there (in April) and just something seems wrong.. maybe the lighting.. or maybe I processed them too contrasty.. not sure.. hoping that having more colorful leaves will improve things as the shots I have currently are slightly in the state of suckage. I also want to do some long exposure shots to get that "white sheet" look with the water... I didn't do that last time.

So making some plans now.. October is VERY busy with all sorts of things so I don't know how much non CDP photography I am going to do. I did want to also go to NYC as well but that may have to wait till early Nov. I actually have several trips to NYC in mind..

On to more good news.. I worked hard the last week and was able to finish up the mega client order I had.. nearly 40 images fully retouched (25% with more then one face...). That's at least 10 min per image, 400 minutes total.. nearly 7 hours of work if I was a machine and could do it straight. Sometimes I wonder if my clients really appreciate the kind of work that goes into their prints....

So now that the mega order is done (At least it went to the client for approval.. hopefully off to the printer soon) I already got in a new order for my client I had on Saturday. A nice low key pregnancy shoot... only 4 images to retouch and I plan to get that done tonight (4 images x 10min each = 40 min... crossing fingers...)

The next few days are going to be busy with non photography things.. and then its back to pounding away at the portfolio. I also have a handful of Callie shots we did weeks back that need to be finalized... the Cindy Lobster shoot as we call it.. :)

Seriously.. if I were to calculate how much time I actually spend taking pictures, and compare it with how much time I spend post-processing, I wonder what the ratio would be. I mean this is expected since if it were with film I would be working in a darkroom instead.. Ansel Adams spent GINORMOUS amounts of time in the darkroom... It is kinda frustrating to a point as I would rather be out and about taking pictures, and displaying them. But I guess that is like doing step 1, step 3, and skipping the all important step 2.

So other news... I have the initial setup on SmugMug done with what I have so far. I like it so far but still needs to be refined a bit (And obviously more content added). I think I like SM enough that I will get an account.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Seminars and Galleries

I went to a seminar tonight at Unique Photo titled Advanced Landscape Photography. It was taught by Rick Berk. He covered a whole variety of topics.. focusing on things that would bring your work to "the next level" as they say. I would say it was quite informative.. and I have a few new ideas to try out in the field when the opportunities arise...

I may have to go out and get myself a ND filter.. I have some graduated ones but not a full ND.

Can't wait to attend more of these seminars there... It is just a matter of having the time to go. I may go back on Sunday to listen to a rep from NIK software..

After class I spent a few hours setting up my new smug mug account and building the web site... certainly not done but it is mostly there. I also still have to do some things like point my domain name to it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back from Az...

Well I am back from AZ.. 9 days is just too long to be away from home.

My preliminary look at my work from Sedona is mostly positive.. However I do see in quite a few of the shots that the overly bright sun created a haze.. I'll have to do some ACR magic to do some correction (The clarity slider is one of my best friends). It is going to take some time to go through the 400 shots and pick out what I want to use. I shot the same thing multiple times from multiple places (at multiple different times per day) so that will be the hardest task.

Another thing is I did do some bracketed exposure shots with the intention of doing some HDR.. Rather then spend time in Adobe HDR Pro I may try to get the new NIK HDR software that just came out.. supposedly it blows away everything else.

Of course before all that I have nearly 40 images from a previous client shoot to retouch.. and two shoots this weekend... so the Sedona work may be taking a backseat for a while (Along with the rest of my portfolio work). The busy season for my portraiture is approaching. I had wanted to be done with my portfolio by now but that didn't happen.. I am getting impatient so I might start putting up sections of it....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The great camera upgrade conundrum...

Nikon just announced their latest camera.. the D7000... some early reviews are saying things like "the most capible camera of its class ever.. beating out the Canon 60D by miles.." etc etc.. So what to do? Do we all just run out and buy it because it is the most amazing camera "of its class" ever?


Seriously.. the only people who win in the Great Camera Arms Race are the manufacturers and retailers.

Case in point.. I got the Canon 40D in 2007.. had to have it.. got it right when it came out.. of course for me it was a huge upgrade. I had been using the XT for three years and it was just time. Here we are three years later and I still use it. (as a side note I still use the XT occasionally as well) While I moved up to full frame with the 5DmkII the 40D still has a place for me in my tool box.. I do all my studio shoots with it.. and when I need that extra telephoto range I put my 70-200 on it and shoot away. My wife uses it as her primary. Do I have any real motivation to upgrade it to the 60D? Or even the 7D? No.. it suits me fine as is. There just arn't enough feature/performance upgrades to warrent spending the money... and I could care less about having an "outdated" camera.

(well.. since the 5DmkII is my primary at the moment I really don't have that "outdated" issue anyway.. but it really is in a completely different class)

I have always felt that photography is more about the photographer then the equipment. (yes I know this isn't a new thought) Give a good photographer any camera, regardless of capability, and he should turn out something with it.. give a bad photographer a good camera and they may not even know how to get 25% of the capability out of it.

Yes.. higher performance and more features may allow you to do things you were not able to do before.. example: getting cleaner images at higher ISOs allowing you to get better shots at lower light... or faster continuous shooting for moving targets.. but in most cases only a knowledgeable photographer will be able to take advantage of them to the fullest. A better camera does not improve your composition ability.. nor does it improve your eye... or give you better judgment to tweak your exposure ever so slightly based on your subject...

We just have to accept the fact that every year or so Canon/Nikon/etc are going to come out with a new version of their cameras.. Unless you are rich you can't (shouldn't) really keep up with that. There is no point. there will always be something out that has higher megapixel.. or faster shooting rate.. or some new fancy video capability.. but none of that is a guarantee that you will improve as a photographer just by using your credit card.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Yesterday I spent the entire day exploring Red Rock Country which surrounds Sedona, AZ. To say the views were awe inspiring is an understatement. You just can't put it into words.. you have to actually go there and see it yourself.

After stopping at the ranger station to purchase a park parking permit (allowing me to park at any of the trail heads etc), and get some information, I headed out to my first stop: Bell Rock. I parked at a trail head which seemed to be quite popular with the bus-tour crowd. I took some pictures of the surrounding rock formations and then had the urge to do the actual 2 mile hike to the actual rock face.. So I went.. "Why not?" i figured. The hike was wonderful and easy. I took with me my Camera and used the 24-105 lens. The black rapid strap was fantastic..

On the way I found some neat trees to shoot... I have a thing for wacky looking trees shot against a blue sky.

One thing I knew I was going to have to deal with was the position of the sun as it changed throughout the day. The changing angle of light lit up the rock formations differently depending on the time of day. Worst case the formation would be back lit.. or unfavorable shadows cast across it. Optimally one would do some kind of analysis that would tell you what time of day was best for shooting particular formations from various locations.. maybe next time I will do that. This time I just started from the south and worked my way upward around the area. Whatever it was it was.

After the bell rock hike I made my way to one side of Castle Rock where there was another trail head. The trail description said the hike was "strenuous"... Again I said "why not.." and set out again. Let me say that I now understand what the park service means by the word strenuous. It wasn't so much of a hike rather a climb over impassible terrain. Most of the time there was little to indicate where the trail actually was. I found myself looking for periodic foot prints (which I did find). Eventually I hit a point where the way was blocked by multiple downed trees. I believe the expectation was to climb over it.. but i was not prepared for that kind of maneuvering given the clothes I wore for the day (jeans short and a light weight shirt). I turned around, partially got lost on the way back, but still managed to get some shots somewhat up close.

After that I wanted something a little easier.. so I headed to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It is another touristy spot but still a good place to get some key shots. The chapel itself has been shot to death (For good reason, it is a marvel). However once you get there and climb up to the actual church you are also rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding rock formations. So I again took some time there to do some work.

So after that it was mid day and I was getting a bit hungry. So I went into the actual town of Sedona. It is nothing more then an upscale tourist trap (in my opinion). I skipped all the shops and other garbage and found a BBQ place. It was ok.. nothing worth writing home about.

The next actual photographic stop was another trail which was near Sedona airport. This is apparently one of the most used spots for photography in the area. I can see why. The hike took me to two different locations. Both of which were very high up and slightly dangerous (at least it seemed to me). At one point I was on a maybe three foot wide uneven trail which circled round the mountain that the airport was on... nothing preventing me from slipping and falling about 4000 feet to the bottom. But one does what one has to do to get that shot I suppose.. LOL. I again did a whole mess of work here, and made plans that I would return later in the day for sunset.

At this point it was around 2pm and I figured i would kill some time by going to Red Rock Crossing. It is a "day park" which has a stream and some well shot views of the other side of Castle Rock. However on the way I caught sight of another trail head and again figured a stop was warranted (Why not?). There was no marking, just a marker for the start of the trail (with no info on it). So I went on for a while and found myself literally in the middle of nowhere on a flat desert type area surrounded by the rock formations. I have never been to a location which was so "still" and "quiet". The lack of human noise was shocking.. no airplanes.. no cars... nothing. No wind noise... nothing. If one could visit mars on a calm day this is likely what it would be like.

So a bit later on I made it to the park.. and decided to hike up to the other side of Castle Rock (since my first attempt went wonderfully.. not). This time I brought my new backpack loaded with my tripod and all my other lenses. I am not sure how long the hike was.. but it was pretty long. I found one great spot slightly off the beaten path and set up my camera on the tripod for a variety of shots. I even did some HDR exposure bracketing.

At this point I was pretty tired so I took it easy for a bit to kill some more time. Eventually I left and headed back to the airport area. People were already gathering for the sunset. I packed up my stuff in the backpack and hiked up to the highest point. This was a high bluff which had a clear view There already were two photographers there. One was, like me, setting up for some sunset action. The other was doing some work with two models dressed in wedding dresses. He had them on the edge and was using a portable strobe.

So I setup and did some work while the sun was still up. More people gathered.. The show started... and maybe a hour later it was over and time to go. Packed up and found out how difficult it would be to hike down in the dark (wasn't that bad actually).

All in all it was an amazing experience. I have looked at the material on my netbook and I think I've got some things worthy of my portfolio.. I just need to put them through the developing process. I had the urge to go there again today but my body just can't take it (can you say sore? LOL).

Equipment wise.. I managed to use all three of the lenses I brought with me.. especially during the sunset light show. The 24-105 continues to be my lens of choice for most situations. I am surprised how rare i need to get down to 17mm. The black rapid strap continues to be one of the best purchases I have made of late. I was also impressed how easy it was to hike with the Tamrac Expedition x6 pack on my back.. fully loaded with about 25lbs of gear and a tripod.. weight was nicely distributed to my legs and off my lower back..

Anyway.. so that about sums up Sedona...

Friday, September 10, 2010


Well right now I am sitting in Scottsdale, AZ. My business trip was confirmed and things fell into place for me to stay over the weekend. This place is a scenic photographer's paradise (of course that means most things have been shot to death.. but i digress). My plans for tomorrow (Sat) include heading up into Sedona and doing a self driving tour with my camera. I had earlier thought about doing the Grand Canyon as well.. but I think that is too much for two days. I may relax on Sunday.. or do something local to Phoenix.. or head out east/west/south for two hours and see where that takes me...

I'll be here through the end of next week. Hopefully will get some chances for sunrise/sunsets in the area since my hours are shifted to EST still (I get up at like 4am).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Phase 1 complete!

After working most of the summer I have finally completed "phase 1" of my portfolio work... Back in July I went through all my work up to that point and decided upon nearly 100 photos I wanted to include from the last 10 years.. Since then I have been going through them and re-retouching them to my current standards. (as I previously said I was going to do).

This took a lot longer then I thought it would.. Mostly due to basic human engineering.. but that is to be expected.

Now on to phase 2.... which for me is to go through the photos I have taken since July, pick my choices for the portfolio, and then prepare them. I have some HDR work I did at a local castle.. a hiking trip in the Meadowlands.. and a whole bunch of things from the annual lake trip.. much to go through..

Another thing I am working on is building my my new facebook presence.. and thinking about rebuilding the web site...

Monday, August 23, 2010

The plan: what I am doing right now.

So I have been "serious" about photography for 11 years now.. and by serious I don't necessarily mean "good".. LOL. I of course have developed over the years from a total amateur with a Pro-sumer POS to whatever-the-heck-I-am-now. Over the course of this time I have taken probably over 100,000 pictures.. all of which are in my photo archives (don't ask how much storage that takes up.. ). It is organized but not to the level of having keywords setup (future project).

One of my big issues is that I don't really have much of my work on display. People know I am into photography but it isn't like I can show them anything that I have done.. save maybe the stuff I do for CDP which is on the web site. One time long ago I had some work up on the net but it started to suffer from neglect and I took it down.

SO..... A few weeks ago I put together a plan:

  1. Go through all my work from beginning to now and select items to include into a portfolio.
  2. Re-Retouch everything using my up to date tools, workflow, knowledge, and skills.
  3. rebuild into a 1 stop shop online portfolio, info, etc site to showcase me and my work.
  4. Build up galleries using one of the various existing photo sites (dphoto, zenfolio, etc etc).
  5. Establish a blog for my musings.
  6. Work on putting together some kind of printed portfolio.. (book, prints, etc etc whatever)
Obviously I have completed #5 on the list. I have done a 1st pass through my work and have identified around 100 shots I want to include.. these do NOT cover any of my portrait work.. that I will do later (and will not be including any client work more then likely). I am mainly going to focus on my scenic, nature, abstract, and cityscape work for now.

So now I am working on #2... and it is tedious. I am working my way from oldest to newest.. My workflow back then was a joke (seriously.. a total joke).. and the image noise in all the Olympus E-10 photos is atrocious.. Doing multiple stages of noise reduction and sharpening.. After a bit of time I have made a big dent into the list. A majority of the "old" stuff has been done leaving just a handful. Most of the new stuff on the list has already been processed to my liking, and now it is just a matter of output sharpening and reduction.

However.. I still have a ton of new material from PA to look at and some other work which I will be including.. so there may be a bunch more to do from scratch once I get to that point. I also have to go back and look at the portrait work as well.

The one thing that so far I will NOT be putting up is my earliest work done with the Olympus c2020 camera. These will require some significant attention due to the noise level and low resolution of the sensor. It is a shame since I have a group of real nice Statue of Liberty at sunset pictures, and some shots of the Blue Angels from an airshow, and I wanted to include them. I have some tentative plans to get more SOL pictures this fall/winter but who knows...

Anyway.. after all that is done I will finally be in a position where I can display my work, and have it critiqued on a different level. I am both excited and hesitant on having my work evaluated by real photographers who are not personal friends. I am curious as to seeing exactly where I am with my abilities.. I KNOW how I feel about it.. every time I think I have a photo which hits the mark I browse some galleries on or BetterPhoto and promptly feel that my work is just not worthy. The fact is there are just soo many good photographers out there it is so hard to really stand out.. anyway that is a discussion for another time. this is what I will be up to the next few weeks.. I do have some photo shoot ideas in mind for the fall but this will be limited to my available time. Also.. I *might* be taking a work trip to AZ in Sept and may have a window of time to do what I want. Tentatively I plan to dedicate every waking moment to photography and not sleeping very much either! :) But we will see if i go or not. It is 60/40 at the moment toward going.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fun with macro in PA...

I just got back from a 5 day vacation in PA. Every year my wife's family rents a cabin on Lake Walenpaupack in PA for two weeks. All the "kids" go up over the long weekend and we have a blast. And of course I have taken the opportunity to do some significant shooting.

For the last several years I have focused primarily on scenic work of the water, and sunsets. Of course by now I have shot that to death and decided that this year I needed to focus on something different. I decided that this year I would try my hand in macro photography, and maybe try to do some night sky pictures. I have tried the night sky thing before in PA but was hampered by clouds, and the lack of a real big wide view due to the crop factor of my camera.

In the past I rented various lenses from for my PA trips. I have gotten the 70-200 f2.8L IS a few times and liked it.. although it was pretty heavy. My favorite two rentals up to this point have been the 400mm f5.6L which did great with wildlife, and the 10-22 f3.5 which made up for the crop factor of my camera last year. If I didn't get the 5d I was going to get this lens. A big dud was a fish eye lens that I tried out last year and really had no idea how to work..

So this year I decided to go with something new and get the macro. My friend Brett (Hi Brett!) has one and it looked like it would be cool to try. I rented the Canon 100mm f2.8 IS. Cost me like $70 bucks with insurance and shipping included. Not too bad for 1 week.

So we get up to PA and I start shooting macro stuff right away. Everything from the caterpillars I see crawling around all over to the knotty wood of the side of the cabin. I quickly realize that natural light was not going to cut it. Pulling the limited knowledge I got with 20 minutes of research in macro photography (done the night before we left no less) I hooked up my 580EX using the off shoe cord and attached my lumiquest soft box. Using f22 and 1/160 (ISO 200) I found that I could get some nice results if I positioned the lighting just right.

So after a few days of messing around at the lake with this setup I can tell you one thing: Macro photography is HARD! Seriously the hardest thing I have done yet. The DOF even at f22 is tiny. Holding the camera steady is nearly impossible and that is amplified with the fact it is heavy as hell and i can only use one hand (with the other I am holding the light). I did use a tripod some of the time but when going after quick insects that just wasn't an option. Most of the good shots I got were of these flowers we brought in a vase. A few others were of insects I happened upon.

All in all it was a good experience trying macro and I think I want to get a lens the next time I have some cash to spend (no time soon). I won't be spending $1000 for the lens i rented.. maybe a less expensive Tamron.

In addition to the macro stuff I had two good sessions with sunsets using my 24-105 and going all out with the tripod and bracketed exposure. I plan on bringing those into HDR and seeing if i can make something nice with them. I did also get some time one night with a clear sky. I tried a variety of things like shooting the big dipper, and getting a wide field at long exposure. The 30-120sec shots seem usable but the longer ones I did of 20 minutes really were very noisy. I have no idea what I was doing wrong with that but I'll do some research and try again in a few weeks. The one shot I love from the night was a long exposure showing the streaks of the stars as they circled Polaris. If i can clean one of those up I think it will end up in my portfolio.

So all in all a good weekend. Now I have to get some time to sort and process in PS. I plan on bringing my workstation up from "The Dungeon" (my office in the basement) and putting it in the family room for a few weeks so I can get through my portfolio work over the next few weeks. I'll write more on that in a future blog.

Final observation.. I really really need to get a real big bag.. I have a LowePro Nova 5, Slingshot 200, and microtrecker 100.. and ended up using all three to bring all my stuff.. I am still debating on if i want to get a big backpack like the Tamrac Expedition x6, or maybe a monster sized shoulder bag... or maybe nothing. I rarely bring this much crap with me (3 bodies, 6 lenses, tripod, and all the trimmings).. my biggest issue is when I want to bring my tripod with me on a hike.. I dono.. still thinking. May end up doing what I usually do and deciding at the PhotoPlus Expo in NYC and ordering from B&H on the spot.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trying to be non-redundant...

Well here we go again.. I am starting a new blog.

After spending a considerable amount of time/energy on political oriented blogs I decided that I just didn't care anymore. Well not that I didn't care.. I do care.. quite a bit actually. My opinions and the fact that I have a ton of them and like to get up on my soapbox all the time has not changed. However I realized that I don't think anyone really was listening. So why bother throw any kind of time/effort/energy into it if it means nothing to anyone? Most of my "friends" usually agree with me.. and those that don't usually know better then to open their mouths... as Charles Wang said:

"If we both agree on everything, then one of us is redundant"...

So there is really no point to preaching to the choir.. for now you will just have to deal with me ranting in person and the occasional verbal beat down on someone else's facebook posting. (For the record I still consider myself to be undefeated).

I am one of those people who likes to be involved with many things at once. The consequence is that nothing really gets 100% of my effort.. And when you already have to spend 40+ hours per week at work, and then you have a family that you spend time/energy with, there is very little left to go toward "extras".

Soo after some thought and pondering I decided to somewhat clean house of my involvements. It really didn't mean any actual changes as most of the other things I had going on were dieing out anyway. The biggest thing is just establishing a better time management practice with the time that I had available. And after all is said and done I decided that if I had to pursue just one of my "passions" it would be photography. And not just the photography that I had been doing the last few years.. the kind that i started with... what got me into the art in the first place.

Now don't get me wrong.. I have enjoyed thoroughly taking family portraits for my close friends and their friends and their friends of friends (and so on..)... and I will continue to do so for the time being. Creative Designs Photography has been a excellent vehicle for me to learn and practice my art behind the viewfinder and in PhotoShop. However as you can imagine there are only so many shots of "Baby on pillow with rose petals around him/her" that you can take, and so many hours smoothing skin and removing backdrop wrinkles, before realizing your not growing as a photographer. And you know.... while I am spending all that time in my nice controlled home studio environment there is a whole world out there full of "moments" that crave being captured.. I need to get out and start getting my piece of the pie.

This blog is just one of the things I am doing to re-invigorate myself within photography... an attempt to break free of the plateau I have found myself in and grow into the next level (what ever that is). What am I going to write about? Well any number of things. Maybe I'll talk about the shoots I send myself out on.. or maybe I will philosophize about theory and art... and maybe from time to time I'll throw up a tutorial or technical discussion..

I have no idea who is going to read this.. I hope at least my close friends and photographer buddies... I have no idea how often I will post.. maybe several times in a day.. maybe nothing for a few weeks... Please feel free to comment on my postings.. I wanna hear the good or the bad. Hopefully more good then bad.

{beep} turn the page..