Friday, March 14, 2014

Get Your New Camera Out of AUTO Mode.

For those emails I get that say, "Dave, I just want to learn how to use other functions besides Auto on my camera, what do I do?", "Dave, what are the best settings to use?", Dave, this camera was as expensive as my trip to the Paris, what do all these buttons do?"

My first question in return is, "What do you want to accomplish with your camera?"  If you just want to take pictures to preserve family moments on vacation, then that camera that you needed to check at the airport is probably overkill.  If you want to get all sorts of creative with your images, then I'd say you probably invested well. (note for purists: you can get creative with any camera).  Ok lets be real.  You want to do both!  You want to  have creative freedom to get great shots with a lot of control AND snap the quick pics of family without a lot of thought.

I'd be lying if I said I never use AUTO, sometimes it's just convenient to let the camera do the work.  Especially when out with the family, but you don't have to let it do all the work all the time.

Enter the DSLR camera simulator.

This simulator is a great tool to learn some things about your camera and what it will most likely do with numerous given settings.  After you "snap the photo" you'll be able to see your result and deduct from there what you can adjust.  It's pretty cool if you're wanting to learn how to shoot in Manual Mode.

The simulator does a great job of explaining what all those terms mean like, ISO, focal length, and aperture.  Most terms that have people looking at you like your on something.

Jon Arnold built this amazing simulator because he loves photography and wanted to equip photography teachers with a tool to help them teach photography to students.

The website also contains some other cool tools to help you learn about your camera and how to make better images using the simple tools inside the camera you already own!  Awesome!

You can have fun with this simulator by checking them out here.  And you have questions or comments, Jon is more than willing to let you contact him...super cool :)  Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kids (the most beautiful of all time suckers)

Back in 2012, before my son Cooper was born, I said to myself, "Self!  Get your act together and start blogging on a regular basis."  Way to go self...FAIL!

You are so excited to have this new little person come into your life and think that nothing will change THAT MUCH, then you just get completely and utterly consumed by them...the changing, the dressing, the feeding, burping, crying, spitting up, peeing straight up in the air, etc...  I admit, I was not the best at sharing the responsibility in the beginning, but as I got more involved...well he became this cute little deserving of so much love and attention time sucker!

And I wouldn't change a single second of it for anything!

Cooper is 16 months old now and he is able to give us a little breathing room when it comes to parts of our day.  Now I'm going to start learning how to prepare and post when I can...on a regular basis of course. ;)


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Handful of Favorites from 2012

2012 was an amazing year for me.  A lot of changes in my personal life as well as my professional life occurred and after doing some house cleaning on the hard drives I found many images that brought back fond memories from the year.

The images below are but a handful of my favorites from 2012 in no particular order.  Some work related, some personal projects, some moments that only happen once in a lifetime.  I hope that as you look at my favorites, you are reminded of the images you have taken in 2012Good or bad, the memories are there.

Whether you scurried to the top of a parking structure in the city to get the perfect sunset night after night or you simply grabbed a moment with the camera on your phone, know that the best camera is the one you have with you.  Being armed with that knowledge, capture more memories in this coming year.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lynn and Dave are C R A Z Y fun!

Back in November I made a three and a half hour trek up to Duluth Minnesota to witness and document some friends of mine get married.  These guys are crazy fun to be around and anytime spent with them is a good great time.  A couple that naturally walks off the beaten path, I give you Lynn and Dave Whalen.

I shot engagement photos of this, sooooo meant to be together, couple in early 2012.  It was complete overcast and dreary out but not with these two around.  We had so much fun in just a few hours that I couldn't wait for them to get married!

The engagement shoot was great, the wedding was incredible!  Lynn and Dave have such great friends and family.  Such warmth and kindness was given from everyone I met during the entire day well into the night.

To the newly weds, the Whalens.  Lynn and Dave, may the rest of your days be filled with as much joy and happiness as the Lord above can give you.  Thank you for letting me be a part of it all.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Fireworks Images you'll want to share!

Kalamazoo, MI. Top level parking structure. Multi exposure.

The Fourth of July is fast approaching and along with the original reason for celebrating this day (declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain) we also have parades, barbeques, picnics, concerts, and people getting insanely drunk enjoying a cocktail or two.  But one of the most anticipated parts of the days festivities are the fireworks.

Seeing the hundreds of fireworks images posted online in the days following the holiday is pretty interesting.  With a variety of fireworks images that could be on magazine covers to images that look like second grade finger paintings...I thought I'd give everyone a primer on just how to get those "cover shots" that will make your friends ask you to next years party...maybe :)

So let's list the major concerns first and then elaborate.
  1. What you need.
  2. Where to sit/stand.
  3. Camera settings.

So what do you need?  Well, you'll need a camera for sure.  A DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) or an SLR camera will give you the most control over the scene but point and shoot digital cameras will work as well.  Most small point and shoots have a mode built right into the camera that states it as a "fireworks" mode.  (Check your manual if unsure)

If you are using a DSLR or SLR, any lens will do depending on how you want your final image to look.  If using a smaller digital point and shoot or compact digital, try using different focal lengths and experiment.  Zooming in gets a nice big display that fills the frame but a wide angle shows the sheer size of some of these blasts in comparison to your surroundings.

Finally, for me, a tripod is a must.  If you don't have one, borrow one.  If you can't borrow one, find a way to prop your camera to point where the fireworks will be and just be sure that it's not going to move or be obstructed by anything while you shoot.  The camera will be making longer than normal exposures and when the camera shakes, even a bit, those pretty colored streams of light look like saw blades...unless that's your artistic intent :)

Hand held on the boat.


Find a spot that has an unobstructed view of the show.  No trees in front of you is good and being elevated is even better.  Scout some locations if you have time, but if you don't, get there early, pick your spot and stay there!  This might mean getting there a couple hours early if it's a spot that gets pretty packed every year.

Take a look at the weather too before heading out.  Check the wind direction as this could determine where it is you'll set up.  You don't want all the smoke blowing right back at you and it makes for not so crisp images later on in the show.  If you're in an area with a land mark try to incorporate that.  Like a local pro baseball stadium, a monument of some sort or the city skyline...truly impressive photos come from these strategies.


Cameras that allow you to have complete control will let you choose an aperture setting.  A setting of f/8, f/11, or f/16 will yield bright vivid colors if you're close to the action.  Shutter speeds will vary depending on your liking.  Being able to set this from 1 second to 4 seconds will get the trials of the sparks as the explosion opens up and drifts down.  If your camera has a "B" (bulb) mode, you'll be able to "hold" the shutter open until you release your finger from the shutter button.  Using a shutter release cable is preferred if going this route.  One way to get around holding the shutter open with your finger, thus creating camera shake, is to set the shutter speed to a longer exposure, say 10 seconds.  After you hear the thump when the firework makes it's lift off, hit the shutter.  After the firework explodes, hold a piece of black paper over the lens until the exposure ends.  It's crude but it works,  you could also set the shutter to 30 seconds and hold the piece of paper up to the lens between blasts to get multiple exposures as in the image at the top of the post, from one exposure...experiment and try different things.  You never now what you'll get.

Finally, if you do have some editing software like Photoshop, and you have a final image in mind, then there is no reason you can't create something that is definitely interesting as in the image below.

I shot this image of my wife with a flash off camera to get a good exposure of her and the sunset in the background.  Then moved a second image of a firework explosion over to appear as if the person lit it off of the boat.  It's one of my favorites.  Experiment, have fun, and be safe.  Below are some other links to helpful sites on capturing images of fireworks.

Composite Fireworks Image

Photographing Fireworks tips from National Geographic
How To Photograph Fireworks from Digital Photography School
Photographing Fireworks from Photography Tutorials & Tips


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Eclipse and Venus Transit Fine Art Prints 50% OFF!

On May 20th, 2012 the moon crossed paths between the sun and the earth creating some stunning images seen around the Western Hemisphere.  Just two weeks later the planet Venus made a guest appearance to do the same.

The partial solar eclipse on May 20th was something out of science fiction, but in this case it wasn't fiction, it was real.  While eclipses happen every year sometimes twice, the next total eclipse will happen on November 13th 2012.  The May 20th eclipse was an annular partial eclipse, so being around to see this or a total eclipse will be a definitely possibility for most.

The Transit of Venus, however, does not happen that often.

The first recorded transit was in 1639 and it was said that the transit of Venus would occur in pairs of eight years.  The next two observations were in 1761 and eight years later in 1769.  Then 1874 and 1882, 2004 and now 2012.  The next transit will occur in 2117, long after I will have a chance to see it again.

Being a photographer and being able to capture smiles and fleeting moments as they happen is one thing but being able to photograph a planet that is 26 million miles away and slightly smaller than earth by only 650 miles in diameter, is truly an amazing experience...especially as it passes in front of the sun.

With this extraordinary event, I am offering another extraordinary deal!  50% OFF of the fine art print sizes for your home of the Venus Transit.  These are prints that will look amazing hanging in your home or office and will definitely stir up conversation.

Not only will the Transit prints be on sale, but the entire gallery of Fine Art prints will be 50% OFF as well.  This includes prints and canvas wraps!  That means you're getting a beautiful 16x20 for the price of an 8x10!

Use code 50%OFF during checkout.

Sale ends June 30th!  And if you're not in the market for a Fine Art print of these, send me an email and I will send a special code to get 50% OFF the regular print of these images in the Sights and Scenes Gallery


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sunset Silhouette of Minneapolis Skyline

Planning is key to getting the results you desire.  You use recipes to make certain dishes, use a map to get to places you've never been, book tickets if you're going to fly etc.  The point is, without some sort of direction or planning, you're not going to get exactly what it is you want.

Lesson learned as I have been wanting to get a silhouette view of Minneapolis at sundown.  I can see from my patio that the sun goes down and where the shadows are and in my head, I think I have a great idea of where I can go to capture this amazing image I have plastered in my brain.  I do a search of where I think it would be and head out.

I know of a park that is East of Minneapolis and it makes sense that if the park is East and the sun sets in the West then all the planets will align, the city will appear in between that, my camera will jump out of the bag with sheer excitement and snap off one insanely great image without any worries...ya, not so much.  Turns out that the sun does, in fact, set in the West but the straight line that is supposed to be from park to city to sun is a bit more like a Michigan left turn

Snap a few images and this is what you get.  Rather boring and lacking anything of value for my tastes.  The result of poor planning and definitely NOT what I had in my head because I don't have sun behind the city, it's WAY off to the right!

Sun is WAY over to the right...hmmmm.

The drive back home in the dark gives me time to think.  I totally though I would nail that shot...time for more research.  Enter LightTrac.

I have an app on my phone called LightTrac where you can plot the angle of the sun (or moon) over a satellite image for any date at any time...this is pretty darn cool and why I didn't think of using it before is beyond me.

Screen Shot LightTrac

I don't want to get burned again on my next trip so a little more research is in order.  This time from Google Earth.  If you've never used Google Earth, you will probably do as I did and play with it for a few hours without getting any work done at all...its just that amazing!  The first step on my "virtual scouting" trip is to retrace where the sun will line up.  Then adjust the map to that line using Google Earth.  Now to zoom in and at an angle.  You can now see different vantage points of where it is you'd be able to shoot from.  I found a few parking ramps that I can use to get on the top level and try a few shots before committing to one location.  This will be a huge help in scouting locations around the area and for future trips to surrounding cities.

Default Satellite View (Sunset Blue Line)
Default Google Earth View
Virtual Scouting Parking Ramp 1 (bottom of image)
Virtual Scouting Parking Ramp 2 (bottom of image)

Now THAT is planning!  The skyline looked more pleasing on the virtual map from the Parking Ramp 1 view, so that's where I found myself a few days later.  Final result pictured below.

Minneapolis Skyline (sunset)