Friday, October 30, 2009

Islands in the Sea

We usually have two ways we visualize islands in our head when we think about them.  One is the lush tropical islands with lots of trees and greenery from all the water and humidity and the other is the famous comic strip depiction of the lone palm tree on the deserted island with our hapless marooned comic strip character(s).   Very rarely do we think of a desert island.  There are several islands in the Great Salt Lake and since it is in the desert and the water is so salty, they are as much of an arid desert as anywhere in North America.  Today's photo is taken from Buffalo Point on Antelope Island looking North to Fremont Island. 

I take almost all of my photos in Camera Raw mode and then run them through Photoshop Bridge Camera Raw processing to get the color balance, contrast, saturation, etc. that I want.  Sometimes I'll do a little work such as dodging, burning, taking out poles, posts, or signs in photoshop if needed.  This one just got the Camera Raw processing and nothing else.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn Colors Up Close

The fall colors are beautiful from a distance, but I wanted to get in closer almost like I was inside looking out.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Panoramic View

It snowed at our house yesterday.  We don't often get snow before Halloween, but this certainly isn't the first time.  I hope it means we'll have a wet winter with lots of water for next year.  Today's photo has very little to do with that except it does show that the Great Salt Lake is low.  This photo, or maybe I should say "these photos", were taken about a month ago.  If memory serves me correctly there are a series of 4 photos stitched together to make this panorama of part of the Wasatch Front.  On the left side the camera was pointing almost due North and on the right side it was pointing East South East so the photo covers from Farr West/Plain City on the left to Layton/Kaysville on the right.  The photos were taken from a vantage point on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.  The panorama was done with Photoshop CS4.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More of Oregon

The mountains of West Central Oregon have so many beautiful places.  Driving along Highway 126 North West of Sisters, Oregon I spied a little pull off that looked beautiful, so I pulled off and this is one of the photographs I captured.  It was at this same site about 100 yards away that I got the tree I posted a few days ago.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Today's photo is probably the oldest one I have posted.  It was originally taken in a hooch (our living quarters) in The Republic of Vietnam when I was stationed there.  I had bought my first 35mm SLR and was doing some experimentation.  In this one It was just me and one candle at night so it was dark.  One of these days I'm going to try experimenting with the filters and techniques in Photoshop to reduce the motion blur.  I have no recollection of how many seconds I tried to hold still for this exposure, but as you can see I didn't do a very good job.  This was scanned in from the original 35mm slide at very high resolution.  The original scan is 18 megapixels and the TIF file is over 52 MB in size.

Friday, October 23, 2009


After stopping in Oregon and watching the cowboys try to round up some horses for shoeing I was walking away when I glanced in the back of the ferrier's pick-up.  I couldn't help myself, this was real world stuff not some hollywood set-up.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tall and Straight

I was in a beautiful forest in West Central Oregon a few months ago trying to find a way to capture some of the grandeur, when it occurred to me to put my camera next to the trunk of the tree and shoot staight up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sunflowers on a Cloudy Day

I sometimes call myself a photographer, but I'm really not.  I'm just a guy who tries to see the beauty around me and capture it.  If I were really a photographer I'd always have my camera with me.  The other day as I was going from point A to point B I did happen to have my camera when I saw a fence line with sunflowers draped over it drying out so the seeds could be harvested.  To me that was interesting so I turned around and went back and captured a few photos of it.  This is one of them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Admin "Oops" Note

For anyone who "grabbed my Button" for their website prior to today, there seems to be an error in it. I think I have fixed it, so test the one you have and if it doesn't work then please go to this link and try again.

Movie Mode

This is the 8th in the series of 10 Cool Features of Your Digital Camera You Should Know and Use. This feature more than any one we've talked about is more about having fun with your digital camera. My wife recently attended the wedding of a niece in another state and I didn't go because I had to stay home and work. When she got back she was showing me some of the photos she had taken and I asked her if she had videoed the ceremony. She gave me that look of "What are you talking about?" Turns out she didn't know that her little "point and shoot" has a movie mode. One of the many features currently being touted by the mid level DSLRs is HD (High Definition) movie mode. So apparently it is a fairly popular feature. I'd love to see how many of the home done YouTube videos were done with "still" cameras in movie mode. I'd venture to say the number is probably significant.

There are times when -mostly just for your own pleasure- movie mode is the way to go. My wife's niece's wedding is one of those where it might be nice to have the ceremony. Another one is babies first steps, or attempts at them anyway. And of course when you can see somebody is about to do something so stupid as to defy all reason and you can't talk them out of it (or maybe you didn't even try), but maybe you can become famous on YouTube or get rich on America's Funniest Home Videos. Movies don't have to be long to be fun to watch. Like looking at a photograph, sometimes you only need a few seconds to enjoy it. In addition, most digital cameras that have video mode include sound.

This photo of one of my darling grandchildren is certainly cute and tells a little bit of a story as you see her standing by the couch. Her mom and dad will always remember how cute she was as she was learning to move along on her own by holding on to furniture.


But why not add sound and motion? Sure, you can't put this in a standard photo album, but I think you can put it in most of the new digital photo frames. You can email it to family and friends, you can watch it on your computer and you can even show it as part of her wedding video in 20 years or so.

Get your camera manual out. By now you should know where it is since it should be right next to your camera. Read about movie mode and make a few movies. As always I'd love to hear from you about your experience with it. The most important thing is to have F U N !

Friday, October 16, 2009


Beauty is timeless. Today's photograph is part of an old pump and I wasn't the first to recognize the beauty of it because it was actually part of a decorative fountain at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. I doubt that it is still there because I took this photo probably over 30 years ago.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Color Country

I captured this in "Color Country" Southern Utah a couple of years ago.  They say the Grand Canyon started very similarly.  I'd love to see the photo of this same canyon - say - 20,000 years from now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Chilly Fall

Based on the past few years it's hard to believe that here in Northern Utah we have already had snow.  I have a cousin up in Idaho that likes to put music on his cell phone voice mail answering message and lately he has had the song "Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer".  I think he's trying to wish Autumn away.  I love Autumn, I'm just not a big fan of the Winter that follows it.  Today's photo is a reminder of Spring in the Rockies.  This was taken near the top of a nearby mountain in the very late spring of this year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Closer Look at Scene Modes

This is the 7th in the series about 10 Cool Features of Your Digital Camera You Should Learn and Use.  I started talking about "Using Scene Modes" in the last post of this series where I spent some time on the Portrait mode.  Today I'll finish up our discussion of Scene Modes by talking about two other very common and handy modes.

I'm going to spend a minute on Landscape mode first because it is basically the opposite of Portait mode.  If you remember - and I hope you do - Portait mode sets the focus up closer and strives to get a smaller depth of field (DOF) where Landscape mode - usually represented by two small mountain peaks - will  set the focus at infinity and close the lens down to get more DOF.  The advantage to you is that you don't have to worry about something close in to the camera setting the focus off if what you really want is that distant peak or tree or whatever it might be.

In the first photo, even if I had meant for the mountains and background to be the focal point they didn't have a chance because of the focus.  It's almost as if I had shot the weeds in Portrait Mode.  Your eyes go straight to the weeds in the foreground.  In the second photo, with the focus set to the distant objects, the same weeds simply provide an object in the foreground to provide depth to the photo because the distant creek and old shed and truck are the focal points.  

Besides Portrait and Landscape, most cameras also have a sports mode which is usually represented by a running stick figure.  The Sports mode assumes that you want to stop the action as much as possible and so it goes into Shutter Priority mode where it will open up the lens about as far as possible - which as you know will decrease DOF - so that it can give you the fastest possible shutter speed for the available light.

These soccer league photos were taken on a gray cloudy day and in the first photo the camera was set to a slower shutter speed of about 1/40th second to get plenty of light.  By changing it to sports mode and getting a faster shutter speed of 1/320th second for the second image the motion is stopped.

A golf swing is much faster than kids on a soccer field.  This shot was on a bright sunny day and the shutter speed was 1/1000th second, and even at that speed the head of the club and the ball show some motion blur.  Frankly, if your shutter speed was fast enough to stop them the photo would look contrived because your brain knows that their speed is so fast that they should look blurred.

As I mentioned in previous posts, different cameras have different Scene Modes, if you haven't yet drug out your instruction manual, NOW may be the time to find out about all the ones your camera has, and how to use them.  Most of the manuals I perused as I prepared for this series gave good hints on what kinds of conditions you may need to use the mode, when it is really important to use a tripod and why, and even a little about what your camera is doing to achieve the desired results.

If you have Scene Modes (or whatever your camera may call them) get out in the next day or two and try a couple of them.  See what happens if you use them and then take some of the same photos in full auto mode and see if they really do make a difference.  Another good exercise is to try to duplicate the Scene Modes without specifically using them.  Try your own shutter, aperture and focus controls and see if you can meet or beat the automatic ones.  Good luck and as always I look forward to hearing from you about your results and what you learned.

The most important thing is to have F U N!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

This Weeks Guest Photo

This week's guest photo is by a friend of mine, Chad Barton.  Chad has taken many beautiful photos, but he especially loves Sunsets.  Perhaps it is because he lives only 1/4 mile from the Eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake where he can quickly go and get some beautiful and dramatic sunset shots almost any evening where there are at least a few clouds in the vicinity.  There may be more from Chad in the future to show off some of his other photo skills.

Sunset Over the Great Salt Lake

Been There, Done That

On at least two prior occassions on this blog I've committed to making a post a day (at least 5 days a week).  The last one was here.  But guess what, I didn't make it for very long either time.  I feel a little bad about that, but not too bad because this last time began an evolution that took it from the old blog to where it is now, which is dramatically different than it was then.  It is an extremely different look, and very different format, and a totally new concept and purpose.  Hopefully now I'm ready to recommit and start getting something worthwhile to come and look at.

Yes, I'm still in the middle of a series about 10 Cool Features of Your Digital Camera You Should Learn and Use. That is part of the reason that I quite getting a post out every day.  It took me a while to decide that it was okay to have regular posts and then insert the posts from that series.  With the new format it's real easy to find and even isolate the articles from that series by simply clicking on the "10 Features Series" in any one of the posts' labels or in the "Labels" sidebar. The 10 Cool Features Series is just a jumping off point to help people with their photography, but mostly it helps me.

Here is today's photo.  I'm not one who cares as much about what camera took the photo or what lens was used.  I'll tell you on most of the photos I take now that I shoot in RAW format and then use Photoshop to process the RAW.  If you want more information or you just want to share your opinion  or ideas, please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Using Scene Modes

We're already to the 6th post in the series about 10 Cool Features of Your Digital Camera You Should Learn and Use.  But we're not to the 6th feature we're just on the third, and that is the scene modes.  If you read the previous post about Computers With a Lens, you'll remember that I said that the digital camera engineers just took what good photographers already knew how to do and programmed it into the tiny computers attached to the lens and most manufacturers call them Scene Modes.  Knowing that, then you can choose to use the scene mode if your camera has it, or if it doesn't, then simply reverse the process and do what good photographers have always done to accomplish the same thing.

One of the most used of the Scene Modes is the Portrait mode.  Skilled photographers have always paid close attention to the background of their photo.  A cluttered or busy background, or one that has too many colors and/or geometric shapes will distract from the subject.  We've found that the best solution to that is two fold:   1. Find or create a pleasant background.  2. Soften the focus on it.  When I'm using an indoor studio where I have total control I use a muted background with no real shape and which has homogeneous colors, and even then I try to create a soft focus and control the light on it.  In other locations, whether indoors or out, I just try to pick a pleasant background and have it out of focus.  Even the cleverest digital camera cannot control the background, but it can work on softening it.  How does it do that?  Refer back to the post on Macro mode where I showed several examples of flowers with varying depths of field (DOF) depending on the lens opening.  You'll recall that the wider open the lens (the smaller the f number) the shallower the depth of field.  So, when you select Portrait Mode (see your camera's owner's manual) the computer in the camera will tell the camera lens to open up wide.  Then to compensate for light it will simply adjust the shutter speed so that the photo does not become over exposed.  Some cameras might also warn the focusing mechanism that you will probably be closer to the subject and some might even apply a slight softening filter to reduce the detail in the skin to give your model their best possible look.  It will probably also put your flash in auto with "red-eye reduction" on.

In this first photo you'll notice that the leaves in the background are almost in sharp focus and although it is a pleasing background it can still be distracting as you notice leaves and wonder what kind of tree it is.  This portrait was taken with the lens at f11, which is closed down quite a bit so that it gives a pretty good DOF.

In this next photo the lens is opened up to f3.5 so that there is a very shallow depth of field and yet as you can see the model is in perfect focus.  For the purpose of this post I made no other changes except to alter the f stops and of course the shutter speed to compensate for the light entering the lens. 

Well I probably don't need to tell you what the assignment is for this post.  But don't skip it.  Grab that camera and a model and try some portraits in and out of protrait mode.  Want to stretch yourself just a tiny bit?  Try getting as good or better results without using portrait mode and adjusting the controls in the camera yourself.  As always I'd love to see your results so leave us a comment and be sure and include a link to the photos you took.

Next post I'll quickly cover a few more of the most popular scene modes.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Computers With a Lens

This is the 5th of the series about 10 Cool Features of Your Digital Camera You Should Know and Use. A digital camera is like a little box of magic. In the “old days”, (that would be 10 years ago) if you wanted a decent photograph you put an image through a lens on to film which was then processed and printed. Yes, digital cameras have been around a little longer than 10 years, but not much and the key word in that previous sentence was decent. I remember my first real encounter with a digital camera was when a friend had one of those Sony Mavicas and he took my photo standing next to a life size cut out of Elvis Presley and subsequently emailed it to me. The quality was terrible. You couldn’t tell which was Elvis and which was me. I wish I had kept the photo, at least for comparison. As I have told many people over the past few years, today’s digital cameras are a lens attached to a computer and with that computer we can do some amazing things. Think about how many people make their living by trying to come up with some teeny little thing that will make the next model just a little better so people like you and me will have to buy it. One of the things these great software engineers have come up with is “Scene Modes”.

All the good photographers from the “old days” knew how to make their portraits better by doing certain things. They also knew what they had to do to capture the best sports shots and how to take a better photo on the beach or skiers against the new fallen white snow and even how to get the best pictures of fireworks. Knowing this all the engineers had to do in these new computers with lenses was program into the computer those techniques. That way even people who were too busy or just didn’t care to take the time to learn could still get better photographs and when all is said and done, isn’t that the ultimate goal?

In the next post of this series we'll start our discussion of Scene Modes by talking about Portrait Mode.

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