Ruin in the Hills

When I look at old photos, ones that are yellowing, crumbling, dusty, I can’t help comparing them to my own work.

Because I love old things. I actively seek out ruins and aging structures because I wonder at the hidden history of our world, the things that will never be recorded in any textbook: the memories and events that centered on the rearing of barns and houses, the families and neighbors that flourished and vanished, leaving the buildings behind to sag and weather under the twin hammers of time and the elements.

And some day the structures too will vanish and only the images will remain. What memories will they create?

Exposure Data: ISO 200, f/8, 1/320

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7D Amazon
I’ve mentioned the Canon EOS 7D on this blog before because I can’t say enough good things about it. And now that I’ve become an Amazon affiliate, I have an extra incentive to talk about my beloved workhorse. ;)

I chose the 7D to be my main camera for several reasons that are important to me as a professional. First of all, as you probably noticed if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, I often take my camera into places where debris is likely to fall on them and where there are some sharp edges, rocks, and other detritus that has the potential to pummel a camera body. Second, since my interests include wildlife, a high burst rate is a must. Third, my workflow is helped by the ability to customize the 7D’s menus so I can quickly get to functions that I use a lot (card formatting and flash settings are the ones I use the most).

And since the 7D Mk II is supposed to arrive in September, Canon’s lowered the price on this camera. So now is the time to bag one for yourself!

If you decide that the 7D is for you, I’d very much appreciate it if you used my Amazon link to buy it. Yes, I do get a commission if you use my link to purchase the 7D from this post. A shameless plug to be sure :), but frankly I would love to be responsible for a fellow photographer purchasing this particular body. And hey, feel free to drop me a line and tell me about your experience with it. I’ll swap stories with abandon!

To purchase the 7D, please click this link:
Canon EOS 7D 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD (Body Only)

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Murder of Crows

My latest cemetery hunt led me to a charming Jewish establishment not far from Saratoga Springs. From the old iron gate to the lichen-encrusted monuments, it was to me solace after a hard day’s work.

And then when I saw a crow (how appropriate) I began to recite Poe’s “The Raven” to myself. The crows were cautious but kept looking at me with curiosity. Did they know I was talking about them? Hmm…

Wildlife photography is as challenging as they come. Animals follow their own agenda and only patience or happy circumstance will lead you to the shots that speak to you and your viewers. Thankfully, circumstance rewarded me this time; and I was in time for dinner. :)

For this shot, I had my 18-270mm zoom set at maximum focal length. My camera was set at high speed burst mode as well, to increase my chances of catching a dramatic “pose” from my subjects.

Exposure Data: ISO 160, f/7.1, 1/800

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I’ve seen flowers bring sighs of contentment, smiles from loved ones, and poems from artists. Works of art in themselves, even the humblest of these living treasures make natural subjects for the camera.

Because flower photography in many ways resembles other forms of still life, there are a few fairly simple rules to follow to make these shots stand out.

1) Use a fairly shallow depth of field. Usually f/5.6 is good on a standard lens while f/16 might be better on a macro lens. Just be aware that if the dof is too shallow, some interesting parts of the flower itself might be out of focus. This is especially true in macro photography. Ultimately, the photographer is the judge.

2) Whenever possible, shoot RAW. It solves the problems of unpredictable white balance requirements and makes sure that there is no compression loss.

3) When composing, try to eliminate distractions. A shallow dof will help here. Also remember to zoom in or out to help the subject dominate the image and avoid objects that are inherently distracting, such as objects that are brighter than the subject.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/100

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The Orb - A Peaceful Interlude

An ordinary scene can sometimes provide unexpected beauty. And a change in perspective can be as simple as just looking through the viewfinder. One late afternoon, after a hurried day of running about on this errand and that, I passed a small church I’d gone by many times. The graveyard nearby never seemed particularly interesting to me before, but I felt up for a challenge. So I wandered around a bit, disturbing a cottontail or two and looking around for that one shot that would please me.

As it turned out the sun was slightly occulted by a stone orb and the lens flare created a glint effect that somehow complimented the scene. In the end, the shot looked dreamy and half-real, a reflection of the peaceful scene I found around me.

Exposure Data:
ISO 100
.5″, 1/8, 1/30, 1/125, 1/320, 1/640

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Image  —  Posted: July 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
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National Geographic in Your Own Neighborhood

I’m fascinated by the photographs I see in every issue of NG. The amazing places these photographers get to go to, and the interesting people they meet! It helps to satisfy that curiosity that drives all of us at one time or another. And what often makes me sit and stare at a photograph for many minutes is the poignancy of some of the shots. Even without reading the caption, you find your mind wandering and wondering: who are these people, what are they doing, what kind of life do they lead?

Just this past Sunday, I was invited by some friends to go strawberry picking. It sounded like fun, so not only did I go, but my gear followed me as always. I imagined many people wandering, bending down and working in the sun. I thought of the Geographic issues of war-torn countries and people sweating over their labor. I wanted to try to get a shot that reminded me of those pictures.

My 8mm fisheye lens provided just the right amount of surrealism and some digital filtering created extra contrast and muted color to bring that desired atmosphere that I see in so many NG issues. And just for fun I also decided to use my backup body, the EOS 60D, for this session.

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Image  —  Posted: June 24, 2014 in Uncategorized
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How to Get Great Smartphone Photos

First the discovery. I was visiting a local storage facility when I found this rusting car behind a fence just beyond my reach. The afternoon was silent and overcast and the empty pile of metal told no tales. The only gear I had at the time was my smartphone and my lens pen.

Which brings me to a common fear most pro photographers harbor: the fear that cell phone photos will put us out of business. My answer? Not if we pros claim cell phone cameras as gear for ourselves! The modern smartphone has quite the impressive glass these days. Capable of ISO 50 (!!) sensor sensitivity and very respectable shutter speeds, these lenses also have very nice image quality.

To maximize your use of these cameras, you’ll need a few things…

1. Always carry a lens pen or microfiber cloth with you. Cell phones get lots of finger handling and a clean lens is key.
2. Use a proper camera app, one that allows you the finest possible control over exposure. My current favorite app is ProCapture. It allows control of white balance, flash firing, exposure compensation, and more.
3. Don’t neglect post-processing. Photoshop and similar apps work wonders. Treat the photo as you would any other.
4. Finally, bring all your usual photography skills to bear. Good composition skills and exposure control always makes for better shots. And by the way: if you fear camera shake, there are tripod attachments for cell phones available!

Exposure Data: ISO 50, f/2.2, 1/500

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Image  —  Posted: June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized
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