The Digital Photo Guy

Monday Morning Tip – 7/06/09

by on Jul.03, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips

OK, so it isn’t yet Monday but this MMT is time-sensitive.

If you plan to take photos of fireworks this weekend, here are some tips. This MMT is available to all visitors but, if you want to read others, you’ll have to register for a log-in password.

Happy 4th of July to all. Take a moment to reflect on the price of this holiday and I don’t mean the bellyache from overeating!

Monday Morning Tip for July 6, 2009 – Photographing Fireworks

San Diego Fair

If you plan to attend the fair this weekend, stop by the Photography exhibition. See if you can deconstruct the photos and understand what the photographer did to get each shot. For example, did he/she use a deep or shallow DoF? What was the shutter speed and why? Try to guess the ISO and metering mode.

If you see my photos and correctly guess aperture, shutter speed and ISO, I’ll send you a free copy of Scrapbook MAX!, a really cool scrapbook program. Send your guess via email by Monday evening. For that matter, if you correctly guess 2 of the three Exposure Triad variables, I’ll send you the CD.

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Monday Morning Tip – 6/29/09

by on Jun.28, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips

As digital SLRs become more ubiquitous, there are more users who have no real understanding of the photographic power and flexibility in their hands. Most readers of my blog have more than a passing interest in learning how to use the full complement of features on their dSLRs but the majority of new dSLR owners still use their cameras in Auto “Point & Shoot” mode.

This week, we’re starting a “Back to Basics” series of MMTs. For the more experienced photographers, this may be exceedingly boring but it gives you time to go back and review the older, more advanced MMTs without missing anything.

This week, we start with shutter speed, aperture and ISO. These are the fundamental building blocks of what we call “exposure.” By balancing these three variables, we determine how much light strikes the sensor. This, in turn, controls a host of variables such as depth of field, motion blur, noise and low light capability.

There’s also an older MMT titled Adjusting Expsoure, Step-by-Step from 3/31/08 that you might want to read as a companion piece to today’s MMT.

Quick Tip

Today is a two-fer. I was following a thread on the Photoshop Elements Techniques forum by a lady who couldn’t get accurate focus with her new Nikon D80. It seemed to me that the whole photo was out of focus so I suggested she check her active focus areas. It also occurred to me that many people didn’t know about selective auto focus points so here’s the first tip.

Most dSLRs have anywhere from 3 to 51 auto focus points and most dSLRs come from the factory with a default setting called All AF Points Active. In this mode, the camera decides which AF points to use and can be fooled by objects that get between the subject and the camera. To be sure of which AF point is in play, set the camera to only use the center AF point.

A second thought I had was Minimum Focus Distance. All lenses, including our eyes, have a Minimum Focus Distance, the closest that it can focus. If you are inside the MFD, the camera can’t focus and all photos will be blurry unless your camera is set to not allow the shuuter to be released without focus confirmation. You can find the MFD of your lens by referring to the Canon Camera Museum lens page. You can also find this information at sites like B&H Photo Video where specifications for each lens are listed.

Bonus Quick Tip

Learning photography requires a plan and direction. Flitting from one thought to another like a fly in a cow pasture can be slow, frustrating process. Posting questions on a forum is OK if you have a specific question such as, “How do I set AEB on my Nikon D300?” but can be next to useless if you ask an open ended opinion based question such as, “Which is better, Canon or Nikon?” And, always, always, know your goals before asking questions. If you’re a snapshooter with no interest in the art of photography, say so in your post. If you’re an advanced amateur with a desire to take your art to the next level, say that in your post. Otherwise, you’ll get answers that resemble blind men describing an elephant.

E-mail Distribution of MMTs Ends Today

Today is the last day for e-mail distribution of MMTs. To be notified when I post new MMTs, you need to subscribe to my RSS feed. To learn how and why you want to set up an RSS feed, read this article.

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George Lepp at San Diego Zoo – 6/27/09

by on Jun.24, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips

Check the link on the Tips & News page for more info. George Lepp is an outstanding photographer who’s photos have graced many national magazines. You can also test the new Canon T1i dSLR along with various Canon lenses.

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Torrey Pines Gliderport

by on Jun.22, 2009, under Photos

Some photos from TPG in La Jolla, CA, Sunday, June 21, 2009. Most were with my 70-200/4. I tried my 300/2.8 but just didn’t need the reach and the zoom was much more useful.

Rider Up!  Incoming!  Come Fly with Me!

Legs, Don't Fail Me Now!  High Flyin' Trio  A Little Krazy Glue...

Photographing parasails and hang gliders is challenging because there just aren’t any good angles. It would be much more productive if I were up there with them but it will be a cold day in a very hot place before I throw myself over a cliff and hope the winds keep me aloft.

As they’re taking off, there’s no way to get in front of them. Once they’re up, it’s impossible to get both the sail and the pilot in a frame without sacrificing one or the other. When they’re directly overhead, all you get are butt shots.

In the last frame (above), my friend’s lens decided to commit suicide. It simply fell apart into 3 parts. I’d never before seen such a catastrophic failure.

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Monday Morning Tip – 6/22/09

by on Jun.22, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips

After 4 weeks of Adobe Camera Raw, let’s move on to Canon flash modes this week. Canon flash modes are deep, dark secrets revealed only to those who have been sworn to keep the ways of Ninja Engineers. In order to preserve this secrecy, those to whom these secrets are revealed are immediately “flashed” with the MIB memory eraser. (If you didn’t see the movie, rent it the next time your brain needs a time-out!) OK, so it’s not that much of a secret but surely the Canon engineers who work in the flash lab have very limited English skills because so little information is available in the written English word. One of the “bibles” of Canon flash is NK Guy’s article Canon EOS Flash Photography. Unfortunately, it has a bad habit of turning readers’ brains into mush that dribbles out of their ears due to the depth and breadth of information. It can only be read in small bits at a time and each part needs to be read, at least, 10 times before it begins to make sense. I’ve been working on absorbing all of it for the past 5 years.

Today’s MMT is a very brief distillation of what NK Guy has written. In fact, it’s probably not more than 2% of his article but I hope it catches some of the highlights of what’s needed by a dSLR newbie trying to improve their flash photography.

As always, the full article is in the Tips & News section and requires a password. Passwords are e-mailed to all registered readers.

Quick Tip

 When releasing the shutter, try not to “stab” it with your forefinger. Those of you who had the pleasure of attending a US military boot camp may recall the DI screaming in your ear as you aimed downrange, “Numbskull, I said caress the trigger, don’t twang it like a guitar string”. A camera shutter release is the same. As you get ready to release the shutter, press the fatty side of your fingertip against the frame of the camera, just in front of the button. Slowly roll your finger tip backwards until the flesh “oozes” over the release and the release takes you by surprise. “Stabbing” the release is a sure recipe for blurry photo.

Torrey Pine Photos

I was at Torrey Pines Gliderport on Sunday. It was interesting but not spectacular. There are just so many photos one can take of paragliders and hang gliders. Since this was the first time I had tried to photograph this sport, I was scrambling for a unique vantage point. A typical eye level  shot doesn’t work worth beans because the sail far above the pilot. This leads to a very small pilot with a full canopy or a large pilot mysteriously suspended in air. I tried to photograph from directly under as they flew overhead but that simply resulted in lots of “butt shots”. Next, I tried a higher perspective from the snack shop balcony but all the pilots are wearing full face helmets so there wasn’t much human interest. It seems the only way to get good photos is to get in the air with them but it will be a cold day in a very hot place before I throw myself off the side of a cliff, hoping the sail keeps me aloft.

There were only a few photos that I thought were worth beans. I’ll have them posted here in a few days since it’s not worth creating a new pBase gallery for them.

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