The Digital Photo Guy

Tag: gear

New Day, New Post, New Directions

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Articles, gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements

Nichole Paschal of Topaz Labs to Present Webinar

Most digital photographers know about Topaz Labs’ powerful suite of software that can turn photos into amazing art with a single click. And, most photographers know about Nichole Paschal, Topaz’s outstanding webinar guru. A wonderful photographer in her own right, Nichole has agreed to present a custom webinar to the Wickenburg Art Club Photography Group and you’re invited.

On Monday, May 4 at 6:30PM Arizona Time (6:30PM Pacific, 730PM Mountain, 8:30PM Central, 9:30PM Eastern) Nichole will present a webinar custom designed for new photographers as well as advanced dSLR photographers. She has even added in a segment for cell phone photographers. Stripped of all the jargon and techie “stuff,” this webinar simply focuses on “Creating Beautiful Photography.”

Although the webinar, with my input, was created especially for our Photography Group, Nichole has graciously allowed me to invite my blog readers. To register, simple follow this LINK to receive your log-in code. DO NOT share that code as it is unique to you. Using that code, on Monday, May 4th at 6:20PM Arizona Time (about 10 minutes early,) log-in to the webinar. Once you’re logged in, you be able to hear us as we prepare for the webinar.

Anyone with a PC or Mac and high-speed Internet access can participate. There will be a Q&A period at the end where Nichole will field questions. There will also be a random “door prize” of a free Topaz software license of your choice. Be sure to review the complete line of Topaz Labs programs so you know which one you want if you’re the lucky winner (the complete suite is not eligible, just single licenses.)

To get a sense of Nichole’s presentation style (outstanding!) check out some of the 200+ Topaz Labs videos on YouTube. Even if you don’t use Topaz software for some reason, the basics are all there and you can learn a ton.

This Old Blog is Gonna Change

I want to thank the nearly 1000 subscribers who have helped make this blog successful over the past 10 years. But, as with everything in life, things change and it’s now time for this blog to change. Up to now, my focus has been on landscape, nature and birds with a smattering of other subjects thrown in from time-to-time. However, you may have noticed a shift over the past few years. First, I started photographing pin-up models like Tylor and Tina. Last November, I photographed glamour models at the Arizona Shootout. In between, I photographed Alyssa Caitlain at the junkyard and in a studio.

Last week, I photographed more models at the Spring 2015 Arizona Shootout and, for the first time, made fine art nude images. This isn’t to say I no longer make landscape or nature photos, just that my interests have expanded and I’m now photographing subject matter that may not be to everyone’s taste. Here are some examples.

AmeliaSimoneBW-102   AmeliaSimoneBW-103   AmeliaSimoneBW-104

For the moment, I’ll keep my more explicit images in my Model Mayhem account. But, as readers get used to the new genres, I may post some here. I hope my readers know me well enough by now to know that I won’t be posting erotic or pornographic images but only what, in my opinion, are artful images of the human form.

If you choose to stop reading my blog because of this change, I thank you for your past readership and wish you the best in all your future photographic endeavors.

If you choose to continue reading my blog, I thank you for your acceptance of change and hope you’ll enjoy the new disciplines I intend to pursue.

Lighting Gear

The photos of Amelia Simone (above) were made using Canon 580EX II and 550EX Speedlites (buy them cheap on Craigslist,) Impact 60″ umbrella, David Honl speedlite grid and Interfit COR751 light stands. The backdrop was a piece of mottled velour from Walmart and she was posed on a standard folding table with a piece of black cloth draped over it.

YN_kitA cool device I bought specifically for studio work is the Yongnuo YN-622C-TX kit and two YN-622C transceivers for a $155 from Yongnuo on eBay. I’m not a fan of Chinese goods but, in this case, my concerns were unfounded because these E-TTL compatible triggers (yeah, you heard right, E-TTL) are well made, 100% compatible and easy to use. Even the Chinglish user guide was rewritten by New Zealander Clive D. Bolton. In the end, this was much ado about nothing because I’ve never had to read the manual.

So, what’s the big deal you ask? Let me count the ways. First, regardless of whether you’re using one flash or 10 flashes, the YN-622C-TX (C = Canon, N = Nikon) lets me control the flashes from my camera. I can twiddle around with the flash control in the camera’s Menu but that’s a lot of twiddling. I can also control the flashes using the switches and menu on the flash but that’s a lot of walking back and forth. Using the YN controller I can assign different flashes to different Groups (A, B or C) and adjust each flash output from 1/1 (Full) down to 1/128 power. For people just learning about flash photography, I can set everything to E-TTL and let the camera do all the thinking.

All native Canon modes are supported including E-TTL, 1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, HSS and, even, Multi-Mode. Each Group can be turned on or off so it’s easy to test which lights are producing too much or too little light. And, the best feature of all is the simple, intuitive control interface. As I mentioned earlier, I unpacked the triggers from their boxes and began using them within 10 minutes.

For studio portraiture, where I want the key (main) light to fill light ratio to be about 3:1, I can set the Key to Group A and the Fill to Group B. If I want a hair light, that can be Group C. The triggers can be set to one of 8 channels so you’re not firing someone else’s flashes or vice versa. There’s a Test button to check your configuration. In the category of really, really cool, one of my 3 transceivers can be used as a transmitter if my controller should croak. In other words, I have a YN-622C-TX controller and 3 YN-622C receivers. If the TX should be dropped and stepped on, I can use one of the receivers as a transmitter. I’ll be down one flash but that’s not usually a big deal because I can set my LumoPro to Optical Slave mode and let one of the other flashes trigger it.

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The Kids Have Fledged!

by on Jun.30, 2011, under gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements

Hummingbird Chicks Have Fledged

The larger chick, Big Guy  (BG, front) fledged this morning, just after I made this photo using a Canon 40D with 50/1.4 plus a Kenko 12mm extension tube and Canon 550EX with a Stofen Omnibounce. I was a bit concerned about using flash but thought the chicks were old enough not to panic. They got annoyed after about seven photos but didn’t seem worried. Since then, I’ve watched mama try to push the younger one out of the nest by flapping her wings but LG (Little Guy) wasn’t going for it.

It’s been an amazing journey, from watching mama lay the eggs to faithfully sitting on them for as much as 50 minutes each hour to seeing the chicks just after hatching. Now, the cycle is almost complete and the new hummingbirds are ready to start their own lives. I’m not a religious person but I can’t help but believe that there’s more to life on earth than PDL (Pure Dumb Luck.) I hope we don’t waste this opportunity with our self-absorbed, entitlement-minded, me-me mentality that says humans can do as they wish.

Photo Editing Tools Overview

Last week, I presented a short webinar discussing the differences between Photoshop CS, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. I produced this because I saw too many people buying things simply because some “expert” told them so.

Most digital photographers just don’t need all these programs. Even professionals rarely use all these tools. Watch the video and learn how these programs differ and which best meet your needs.

Unlimited access to Photo Editing Tools video

After making a PayPal payment, you will receive a link to the video.


Cleaning Your dSLR Sensor

This was another short webinar I produced to demonstrate a “dry” method for cleaning a dSLR sensor. The “wet” method was the first technique developed for dSLR sensors and it is still highly effective. Unfortunately, there are also serious side effects to methanol. The “dry” method works 99.9% of the time without any of the downsides of methanol.

Unlimited access to Cleaning Your dSLR Sensor video

After making a PayPal payment, you will receive a link to the video.

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New Day, New Direction

by on Jun.07, 2011, under gear, Monday Morning Tips, Workshops

More Photography, Less Marketing

Starting immediately, I am offering classes by appointment only. I will, of course, finish classes I am currently teaching or scheduled to teach (e.g. Palomar College) but I will not develop, schedule or market new classes or workshops except on request. To schedule a class, send me an e-mail with two or three days that are convenient for you and, at least, two weeks in advance. After I check my calendar, I’ll confirm a date and send you an invoice. All my current classes and workshops are available on-demand.

The only other services I offer at this time are an Annual Photography Coaching Plan at $60/year ($5 per month) and a Premium Photography Coaching Plan at $120/year ($10/month).  For $60/year, you get unlimited access to the site and timely answers to e-mail questions. The premium service also includes 10 hours of webinar. If you have a complex question, you can request a face-to-face meeting via webinar. Each meeting is also recorded for you to review for up to 60 days.

The 10 hours can also be used to schedule standard webinar classes such as Digital SLR for New dSLR Owners (3 hours,) Photoshop Elements in 3 Hours (3 hours) or Photoshop Elements for Digital Photographers (6 hours.) The hours cannot be applied toward special events. Another use for the 10 hours is individual Feedback and Coaching Time Sessions (FACTS.) Webinar classes and meetings can be scheduled anytime between 8AM to 8PM Pacific Time, Monday through Friday with, at least, two weeks notice. Immediate or after hours services are available at an extra charge.

Former students are always welcome to e-mail questions and they will always receive a reply. Registered readers will receive a response to questions of interest to larger audiences.

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What’s That Q Button?

by on May.29, 2011, under Articles, gear, Monday Morning Tips

Are You Familiar With Your Q Button?

On newer Canon dSLRs, there’s a button on the back, labeled “Q.” Pressing it brings up an editable display on the rear LCD. Nikon labels it’s the button either INFO or “i.” Newer dSLRs from other manufacturers all offer some variation of this control. Until recently, I’d ignored the button because it didn’t fit my workflow. I knew what it did but I never made the effort to retrain myself.

Recently, I began playing with the Q (Quick Control) and found that it has benefit in certain situations. The primary reason for using the Q button is when setting up for a completely different shoot. For example, I grabbed my Canon 7D to photograph a huge dove sitting atop my neighbor’s flag pole. It was so big, I first mistook it for a hawk. The camera was still set up from the day before when I was photographing products in a studio. With a press of the Q button, I could see all the important settings in one place (60D screen used for illustration, right.) Before the Q button, my fingers were trained to automatically run through all the knobs, dials, switches and menus, checking for the correct settings. Now, in one glance, on one screen, I can check all my critical settings. Better still, I can adjust all my important settings with the same three or four controls. This is a huge time savings when I have just moments for a “grab” shot.

So, when do I NOT use the Q button? When I’m in the middle of a series or sequence, I still find it faster and easier to dial in adjustments by watching the display along the bottom of the VF (viewfinder) viewfinder. For example, as I’m shooting a scene, I may decide to add or subtract EC (exposure compensation.) This is much more convenient to do via the back dial and the ELI (exposure level indicator) along the bottom of the VF.

Birds in the News

The hummingbird is back with a new clutch of eggs! Last Thursday, as we were leaving for a quick trip to check on the Arizona house, we noticed the hummingbird is back with a new clutch of eggs. Based on what I’ve read and heard, this new pair of eggs has a better chance. The first pair was quite likely a “dry run,” as it were. I imagine humans wouldn’t be quite so fecund if they had to mate while one was flying upside down!

In Wickenburg, we found a dove sitting on a nest in a backyard light fixture. Since we won’t be returning to Wickenburg until July, the chicks will probably have fledged by then. All in all, it’s been a pretty good last few days.

AOL and Yahoo! E-mail Users

I’m having a terrible time with AOL and Yahoo!. Both e-mail services seem to arbitrarily block my Monday Morning Tips as spam. It doesn’t help that some readers forget they subscribed and mark my e-mails as spam.

To combat this, I’m recommending all readers open a G-Mail or other free e-mail service. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) usually offers multiple e-mail accounts so you can set up a second account for newsletters. For example, Cox allows up to 7 e-mail accounts per account. Check with your ISP for details.

Another idea I’m considering is offering cheap e-mail accounts through my web site. That would give you an e-mail address like “”  If that’s something that might appeal to you, post a comment here.

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Photo Vests Are Cool

by on May.26, 2011, under gear, Monday Morning Tips

What to Look for in Photo Vests

Many photographers, mostly guys, collect camera and gadget bags. I, on the other hand, own just one gadget bag, one backpack, one LowePro Technical Harness & Belt system with assorted lens cases, two Pelican 1510 carry-on cases, one Pelican 1650 case, one Calumet WT411 case, three Interfit light stand/tripod bags and assorted laptop cases.

I’ve always resisted the urge to buy a photographer’s vest because they seemed so pretentious and geeky. I thought only photographer “wanna-bees” wore vests. That all changed recently when, on a whim, I bought a Weekender Traveler vest. I won’t say how much I overpaid by buying on a whim but, suffice it to say, with a little research, I could have paid much less on Amazon. The vest fit well and really surprised me with its versatility and utility.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be of poor quality and one pocket started to tear out almost immediately. Here are some things I learned about photo vests in the short time I’ve owned one.

  1. 1. Be sure there is, at least, one zippered pocket for your wallet and valuables. This zippered pocket should, preferably, be on the inside and, if possible, lined with a waterproof liner.
  2. Is there a convenient pocket for your cell phone where it doesn’t stick out nor does it get lost in the bottom of a cavernous cargo pocket?
  3. If you plan to use the cutesy “D” rings, be sure they’re metal, not cheesy plastic. I hate when I lose my hand grenades because the plastic “D” ring breaks.
  4. Buy one that’s loose because it won’t be after you fill the pockets with a Canon 580EX II, Canon 70-200/2.8L, six spare batteries, spare memory card wallet and a partridge in a pear tree.
  5. Look for cinch tabs on the sides to take up slack when you’re just trying to look cool as opposed to actually carrying gear. Otherwise, it fits like a cheap suit.
  6. Be sure there’s a large back pocket for a 70-200 size lens. While you’re at it, you might want to check for a water bottle size pocket that holds the bottle upright.
  7. Be sure there is a pen and notepad pocket but not a whole bunch of small, useless pockets.
  8. Tall, thin pockets are virtually useless unless you plan to carry tall, thin things. The contents fall to the bottom and are a pain to remove.
  9. Eschew labels. I hate logos like Canon or Nikon or LowePro emblazoned on my gear. If that’s your thing, have at it but birds fall out of trees laughing when they see ‘togs that look like walking billboards.

Piqued by my experience with the Weekender, I searched for a better quality vest designed specifically for photographers. In the end, I settled on a Tamrac 153 World Correspondent’s Vest. I went with the Tamrac because I’ve had excellent service from Tamrac. When my Tamrac straps began to come apart, I returned two to Tamrac and they repaired both at no cost. I thought that was a good sign that they would stand behind their products.

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