Saturday, November 28, 2009

PhotoHunt: Technology

'Nuff Said.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thank Heaven for Hot Chocolate

This photo was taken the same day as yesterday's about a mile away and aiming South instead of East.  If you look real hard you can see the tail end of the cloud cover that was so evident in yesterday's photo.  I forgot to mention yesterday that after taking these photos I was very thankful for hot chocolate.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Today is Thanksgiving in the United States.  This photo was taken three days ago at a farm near my home.  I'm thankful that it has warmed up some.  I'm thankful for beautiful things to see and photograph.  I'm thankful that I can reach out across the world with this blog.  But far and away I am mostly thankful to my God for my wife and family, especially every single one of my children, their spouses and my sweet sweet grandchildren!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A View of Antelope Island

I've posted several photos from Antelope Island and I promised a few posts ago that I would show a photo of Antelope Island instead of from it.  This is the South end of the island taken from up on the mountain side in the city of Bountiful, Utah.  On a photographic note, I did a post on Zoom several weeks ago in which I talked about how a long lens compresses distance.  In this photo you see the mountain like peaks of Antelope Island and then you see some fog and then more mountain peaks.  The second set of peaks is actually on the far shore of The Great Salt Lake - some 16 miles from the tops of the island peaks.  This was taken with a lens that is equivalent to 250 mm on a 35mm camera.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Using the Self-Timer

This is the 11th post in the series about 10 Cool Features of Your Digital Camera You Should Learn and Use.  We're on feature # 7 which is about using your camera's self-timer.

The first thing most people think about when they think about the self-timer on their camera is that they can run and get in the photo.  That's what the designers, the marketing folks and the instruction manual writers thought about too.  Now for my take on it -  I use the self timer quite often, and yet I'm rarely in the photo.

What many of us don't realize is that when we press the shutter button on the camera most of us are causing movement.  Generally that is not a problem, but if you have a lens that will give you 10 or 12 or even longer zoom and you're zoomed at or near your maximum even the slightest movement will show in the photo.  Another time you may have a problem is if you're shooting a macro shot so you are very close to your subject.

The time I find myself using the self-timer the most is for long exposure shots.  I consider anything longer than about 1/15th of a second to be a long exposure.  Yes, of course I'm on a tripod whenever I take a long exposure but even with a tripod you can get camera movement as you press on that shutter button and/or hold or let go of the camera as the exposure is made.  On the image above the camera was on the tripod for a one full second exposure and the self-timer was used.  I simply set the self-timer, press the button and then step back from the camera.  On the exposure below the camera was on a tripod, but I did not have the self-timer on and I was in a hurry so when I saw the Trax train moving I quickly mashed down on the shutter button, you can see the very visible motion blur particularly on the Christmas garland in the foreground.  I was trying to get the horizontal motion of the train, not the vertical motion of the camera.  And, of course, if you combine a long exposure with a long lens (zoomed in) you magnify the probability of getting motion blur.

Oh, and by the way, I have certainly used the self-timer to try to get into the picture, like when we had the family at a cabin at Bear Lake a few years ago.  Yea, that's me running to get in the picture in time.  For the next attempt I sent one of the younger ones who could run faster.

Okay, by now you know the drill.  Get out your camera's instruction manual and learn about how to set and use your self-timer then get out there and get in some photos as well as make some long exposure or some long zoom or both.  Good luck and as always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

PhotoHunt: Bird

I see so many great bird photos on peoples blogs and other sites on the web, but I've never been one to take photos of birds.  So this week's assignment was tough for me.  Yesterday I was driving along when I saw two tractors out plowing a field with a ton of Seagulls flocking around them.  I snapped off 10 or so photos, and not one came out to my liking.  But, this assignment has got me thinking about good photos of birds.  So even though I had to compromise and pull one out of the archives from early this spring when this "Early Bird" young Robin got caught in a snow storm, I'll be much more observant for birds in the future.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Antelope Island Vista

Another from those I took on Halloween morning.  Last night I was up on the mountain side just South of what you see here.  One of these days I'll post a photo from that side of Antelope Island.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Always Learning

When I was young they said "You can't teach and old dog new tricks."  But that doesn't mean that an old photo dog like myself shouldn't at least try.  Tonight I was in Salt Lake City, Utah where the famous Mormon Temple is.  I looked up through some trees and saw what I thought was an interesting and very pretty view of the spires, but I had always wanted to try that zoom technique where you zoom during the exposure, so I thought I'd try it on these.  It's not perfect, but it was fun trying.  I'm going to keep trying.  If any of you know where there is a good tutorial on this technique please let me know.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Camera Shy Wild Horses of Oregon

This photo was taken a few miles outside of Hines, Oregon.  We'd heard that there was a nice herd of wild horses out there but it is so unusual for them to be where people can get up close that we didn't realize, for sure, this was them until some friends were looking at the pictures and told us that you can tell by the short ragged looking tails and the look of them that these are them.  They were just standing around eating and even after I got out of the car they didn't pay a whole lot of attention until I started taking pictures.  Then they decided to leave.  That actually helped as they started to gallop, kicking up dust.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Snow Basin Creek

This little creek is right by the Snow Basin Ski resort.  This was taken in Early October, a little over a month ago.  The Mountains are very white with snow now, even down to the foothills.  I wonder what this stream looks like now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Study in Blue

I've always considered Antelope Island to be kind of a dry, deserty, drab place, yet I've gone out there a few times lately and come back with some photos I'm kind of happy with.  Many of them have been shooting back toward the Wasatch Front using the water to add to the composition.  This is another I took the morning of Oct. 31 this year.  It was fairly cool still and so there is a haze or light fog in the valley.  Just so you know, I didn't do anything to make this all blue, it really looked like this. 

It's a funny thing about landscape and scenic photography.  Sometimes I take a photo and think, "Wow this is going to be beautiful" and when I get it back to the computer screen it's just okay, and other times I think "Why am I even taking this?" and I get it back to the computer screen and it's beautiful.  Sometimes you just don't know, so I'm trying to force myself to take more, even if I don't really feel like they'll be that great.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Special Guest Photo of the Week

As much as we enjoyed Robert Weber's photo for the past week +, it's time for a new one.

I'm particularly excited to bring you this week's guest photographer because she is my daughter and she has taken to photography like a fish to water.  She is much more creative and courageous than I ever was.  She takes wonderful photos and specializes in people - particularly family and friends.  She is also very crafty and her and her sister have a VERY popular craft blog called Nannygoat.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

PhotoHunt: Music

I'm very thankful to for helping me get out and do things I've wanted to do anyway.  I've known Joel Nowland, though not closely, for several years and I've known that he handcrafts very exclusive custom guitars in a shop in his basement.  I've wanted to see his shop and what he does and to photograph him.  For this weeks theme I actually had another shoot set up with a violinist, but it fell through so I called Joel and he very graciously invited me over to shoot.  I got several shots that I'm very happy with.  I felt that changing to Black & White suited the mood and reduced it to an image of a craftsman and his tools.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Big Drip

Lately I've seen some very interesting water drop photos.  I had never tried this so I thought it would be fun.  I took about 300 photos in my attempt to get some really good ones.  Most of the shots were taken in burst mode like I wrote about as one of the "10 Features".  I have deleted about 290.  Really.  This water drop stuff is not easy.  But I have not given up.  I'll be trying some more and when I get a system that really works I'll put a tutorial here on the blog.  Meanwhile here is one of the decent ones.  I don't know if it was the best but I had to hurry to get this posted for todays photo of the day.  By the way this was shot this morning before I had to go to work.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Genuine Roundup

Today's photo was taken the morning of Halloween 2009.  This is one of the dozens of horsemen and horsewomen who participated in the annual Bison Roundup on Antelope Island.  They have to bring the several hundred bison that are on the island in to the corrals for the winter.  You can find out more by clicking on Bison Roundup above.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day

Even though I posted a photo about Veterans' Day in response to the PhotoHunters theme of the week I still wanted to honor the actual Veterans' Day with something semi appropriate.  I've chosen a photo that I took in 1973.  My wife and I were on our honeymoon and were on one of the tour boats in the San Francisco Bay on a foggy day.  I caught the flag on the back of the boat with the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in the fog.  I've always loved this photo.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Using Camera Flash Controls

This is the tenth in a series of articles under the overall title of 10 Cool Features of Your Digital Camera You Should Learn and Use.  But don't let that fool you.  Just because it's the tenth post in the series doesn't mean we're done.  We're only on feature # 6 abou using your Flash Controls.

If you're one of those people who think the flash on your camera is for taking photos when the light is to low then you should probably read this article.  There may be something about that little device on your camera that you don't know.

If you're old enough to remember the little Kodak Instamatic cameras with the cube flash on top that would rotate after each photo so you could get 4 flashes per cube, then you remember the end of the real flash bulb.  You had to pay for each flash back then because each bulb could only be used once.  Back then, especially, it used to drive me crazy to watch a sporting or other event and see the flashes going off in the stands - 50 to 200 or more feet from the subject they were trying to photograph.  It still bothers me today, but not as bad because expensive bulbs are not being wasted.  What's the point to all this?  Simply that the old cube bulbs and the tiny little electronic flash in your digital camera are designed to light an area 15 to at most 20 feet in front of your camera.  So if you're at a sporting or other event, including your child's debut as the tree in the preschool production and you are flashing a photo of something more than about 15 feet from the camera all you are really doing is lighting up the back of the heads of the people in front of you.  On top of that you are fooling the camera.  The camera knows you are using the flash and so it sets itself to receive the light based on the fact that the flash is working.  So it thinks in the terms of about 1/60th second and maybe f5.6 or f4.5, depending on the capability of your lens.  Then when you look at the photos the back of the heads within a few feet of you are overexposed and the back of the heads of the people about 4 rows up are perfectly exposed and little sally - the beautiful tree on stage - is a distant shadow.  So under these circumstances you have a couple choices and those are to either move much closer to the subject with your flash or turn the flash off - the little lightning bolt icon with a circle and line through it - and then try to capture a photo when the spotlight is on the tree. 

The next two problems with on-camera flash is first, red-eye and second, shadows on the wall.  Almost all digital camera's now have red-eye reduction feature.  Your camera will show a little eye next to the lightning bolt or a lightning bolt with an A (Automatic).  By sending out a couple or three mini flashes prior to taking the photo the camera is preparing the eye so the bright red rods in the back of the pupils are not so visible.  Obviously you must warn the subjects that this is going to happen.  I've seen amateur photographers at a wedding get the family all set up with bride, groom, mom and dad and sister and her little 4 year old.  The photographer tells them to smile and pushes his button the flash fires the first of the mini flashe and everybody thinks the photo is taken.  By the time the real flash fires for the photo the four year old is at the buffet table eating cake.  Shadows are a different thing entirely.  You can't control the shadow on the wall with the flash controls only with the subject controls - that is move them. This is another one of those you'll have to experiment with because every camera is different and it's even different depending on how you hold the camera.  For example you may get worse shadows when you hold the camera vertically instead of horizontally or vice versa and if you really want to have an interesting shadow, if you have a camera whose flash is not directly above the lens, hold the camera so the flash is lower than the lens.    It's okay to shoot at a different angle so that the corner of the room is several feet behind them instead of the flat wall being 12 inches behind them and acting as a perfect place for the shadows to fall and mess up your photo.

So when do you use the flash?  As I indicated above it is perfectly fine to use the flash inside when you need more light.  Just think about what you are doing ahead to reduce red-eye and shadows.  Speaking of shadows, another good time to use a flash is outside when the sun is creating harsh shadows on faces.  When I'm taking portraits outdoors my number one favorite thing is to get my subject out of direct sun and let the natural light give me shape and contour like the photo at the top of one of my beautiful granddaughters.   Even though this is an article about using your flash, no flash was used for that photo.

But sometimes that just isn't convenient and it can even be worse if they've got their favorite cap on.  Sure she's cute in the hat but it hides her beautiful eyes and what good is the photo if you can't see the eyes?  The Photo on the left is a typical "snapshot" in full sun.  Not only are her eyes hidden, but the harsh shadows of the nose and the chin are just not attractive even on a girl this pretty. 

But by simply turning on the on camera flash so that it flashes with every photo, not in automatic where it only flashes when it detects that there is not enough light, you can turn the photo into something like this. 

Of course you can click on any photo to see it even larger.

Now your job is to get out your instruction manual and find out how many flash modes your camera has, and how to get it into those modes.  Then grab somebody you love and get some photos with and without flash, inside and out.  Take 20 or 30 or more photos so you really get comfortable with that flash.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you on your expriences with flash and please feel free to leave a link so we can see your photos.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Color Country

There is a stretch of Interstate Highway 15 that cuts through the far North West corner of Arizona going from St. George, Utah to Mesquite, Nevada, that is almost like driving through the Grand Canyon.  It's a wonder that there are not more accidents along that stretch as people admire the beautiful scenery.  This photo was taken along that stretch, part of the Virgin River Gorge, as the sun was going down.  I had to shoot fast because you could literally watch the shadow line crawl up the side of the mountain as you stood there.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

PhotoHunt: Veterans/Military

Lately I've been looking for something to help me expand my creativity and get out of my "Comfort Zone".  I've been looking at a project on Flikr called 365 Days.  On it you have to take a photo that includes yourself in one form or another every day for a year.  That one scares me.  It scares me almost enough that I may do it.  I know it would be good for me, but I also know it would be very hard.  Today as I was looking through some blogs I found this thing called PhotoHunt.  This causes you to have to do something every week.  However, it doesn't really push you too hard because you can use old photos, you don't even have to use photos you've taken, but you can't "steal" someone elses, it should be . . . well if you're interested you can go to the link and read about it.

About today's photo.  Since I spent a good part of my life in the military I didn't have too much trouble finding a photo that at least fit this weeks category.  It's not a great photo by any stretch of the imagination, but it is important to me because it's me and my section in front of the burning oil fields in Kuwait after Operation Desert Storm in 1991.  I'm the guy in the middle.

Maybe I'll combine the two - 365 Day and .  All I'd have to do is make sure one of the photos from the 365 Day project each week fit into the category for PhotoHunt.

Remember though this whole "World's Best Photography Blog" thing is supposed to be about Having F U N with photography.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Living the Dream

A couple or three years ago we pulled over at a rest stop off the Interstate just inside the Idaho border coming back from Oregon.  This very peaceful scene caught my eye.  As I looked back into Oregon I could just imagine all the people, invisible in this photo, going about their daily lives, working on the farm and in the various industries.  Kids and teachers in the schools, some moms at home getting ready for the family to return.  Okay, so I'm a dreamer, but what's wrong with that?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

New Special Guest Photograph by Robert Weber

A few days ago I was scanning through (FAR) when I came across a very interesting photo that really grabbed my attention.  (The photo was not this one, I'm still not sure exactly what it is, but it is beautiful.)  As a member of FAR you can review other photographers' photos and submit your own for review, so I decided to review his because I really liked it.  Robert replied back to me and I enjoyed our interaction and in the process found out about his blog and visited it.  I saw some very nice work there and he was kind enough to let me share one of my favorites with you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  Click or copy this web address to visit Robert's Blog:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

South Falls

I love the mountains of Utah, and frankly much of the western United States.  But when it comes to lush and green it's hard to beat Western Oregon.  This is another of the many I took while visiting this Spring. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Morning Splendor

I really love this photograph. I feel I was very fortunate to catch the morning sun just at the right time with the heavy clouds over the peaks of Snow Basin. I do need to give credit where credit is due. I was on a photo expedition with my friend Chad when he saw that the sun was about to glance across this mountain top and suggested we turn around and go back to the vantage point where this was taken. I'm really glad we did. I have submitted this to a contest at

Monday, November 02, 2009

Burst Mode

This is the ninth post in a series about 10 Cool Features of Your Digital Camera You Should Know and Use.  Of course, I'm only up to the 5th feature.

In my personal history in photography I've always referred to the taking of several photos in rapid sequence as "burst" mode.  You may open your manual looking for burst and never find it but that doesn't mean your camera doesn't have it.  I looked in four different camera manuals and found three different names for the same thing.  (To be fair, two of the manuals were the same brand and used the same word.)  I found "Burst Mode", "Sequential Shooting" and "Continuous Shooting" so you may need to be creative in finding it in your manual.  Of course you can start searching through the index with the three I just listed but if you don't find it don't give up.  Go to either the Table of Contents or the index and start looking until you find something that looks like it might mean "taking several photos in rapid sequence". 

The idea behind using Burst Mode is usually to try to catch the peak of action but often it is to catch the series to record specific images of action that are happening fairly quickly.  Well, why not just use Movie Mode?  In fact sometimes that may be the best way, but remember that it is very likely that your movie mode is much lower quality than your still mode.  There are cameras out there that shoot Movie Mode at a resolution of 320 X 240 which translates to a small fraction of a megapixel.  On the other hand some of the new cameras shoot in High Definition (HD).  Those can be as high as 1080 X 720 which is still only about 3/4 of one megapixel.  Most newer digital cameras are at least 8 or 9 times higher resolution.  That is not the only reason however.  In movie mode most cameras automatically set the shutter speed to slower than 1/60th of a second, so in reality any images involving action are probably slightly blurred.  Your eye doesn't see that as you watch the video, but stop most Movie Mode frames and you will see motion blur.

Another way of saying all that is that in Burst Mode -or whatever your camera calls it- you should get a sharper, better image.

These were all shot at 1/640th of a second, or more than 10 times faster than in Movie Mode.

Even with the high speed action of a golf swing you can see the ball headed out toward the fairway and you can see the tee flipping through the air. If this were in movie mode the club would be all but invisible because of it's speed and forget about seeing the ball or the tee at all.

Serious golfers and coaches like to see the follow-through as well. It tells them a lot about the efficiency of the swing.

You may not be trying to improve your golf swing, or maybe you are. Maybe you're just trying to capture the fun times with your kids growing up. Whatever it is, get your manual out and find out if you can capture some quick shots in rapid sequence and start practicing.

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