The New Manual DSLR Project

Hi, and welcome to my blog. The Manual DSLR Project was started March 30, 2010 with the intent of devoting one year to learning how to use my Nikon D300 in manual mode. I invited you to join me as I took this journey. You celebrated with me as my fingers began to remember which wheel adjusts the shutter speed and which controls the aperture settings. I was brutally honest in sharing my mistakes.

A year passed quickly...and I achieved my goal of demystifying the manual operation of my camera.

While the Manual DSLR Project was intended to be bound by time (one year), I am eager to keep the conversation going. So look for additional posts on anything related to photography. And interact. Let me know if you are reading the blog and find it useful.

All the best...

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year = Do Over

Hi, everyone. If you follow this blog you can see that the Manual DSLR project has been neglected over the past several months. While I did a lot of photography and blogging in 2010, it was much tougher to do so in 2011. A number of factors contributed to this, but the two biggest factors were this:

We closed one business and opened another, which means that we totally changed our business structure, but not much else changed. We still do the same thing, but we now operate as a corporation instead of a sole proprietorship. On April 14, 2011 Kennamer Media Group, Inc. was incorporated. We are currently working on a number of projects that will release in 2012. If you want to check out what we are about, visit our website at  
At just before 7 am on April 27, 2011 our home phone rang. It was the county's Code Red service, which warns you if there is a weather emergency in your specific area. We had heard the day before that we might have some storms that day, but nobody could have predicted what happened. That first call was for a tornado warning. Though we did not know if until days later, a small tornado passed (in the air) at the end of our street and then touched down about a half a mile past our house. We lost a few trees, one of which landed on our son's car. It was parked just outside of the garage and the tree barely missed the house. Trees were down on our (dead end) street so we used our chainsaw to clear the street and then went back to our house to cut the tree off Cody's car. But that was only the beginning of what would be a very rough day. By the time the day was over, our county had been hit by 6 tornadoes and 33 people were killed. The largest tornado was an EF5 which varied from 1/2 to 1 mile wide and cut a path of destruction for 28 miles.

This is one of the sheds we built for tornado victims.
We have done some disaster relief work before. We were in Biloxi, MS three weeks after Katrina hit and went back to help with relief work later on; we also helped with flood relief in Iowa. But it is different when it is your community and your neighbors who are devastated. Through our church and our denomination's Mission to North America Disaster Response organization, we put together a team of people from our church that would organize work and host teams from out of town to help with the recovery work. In the months since the storm, 29 teams have stayed at our church and worked in the community doing debris clean up, chainsaw work, and construction. We had teams visit from as far away as Delaware, Maryland, and Iowa. We even had a group from Delaware that we had met when we were in Iowa to come work with us twice for three weeks at a time. This experience has been a great blessing and we met dozens of great people, but it took a great deal of time.

So photography has been on the back burner this year. Phase two of the Manual DSLR project did not quite get off the ground. But a new year is a great time to start fresh and that is my plan. Look for posts on lighting and manual flash during 2012. 

My other photography related activity is writing iPhone and iPad app reviews for Since late 2010 I have been writing a weekly review of an app or accessory for the iPhone or iPad. If you have suggestions about apps to review, let me know. 

If you are unfamiliar with Current Photographer, check it out. There is a wealth of information regarding the art and business of photography. And be sure to check out my app reviews:

Don't you love do-overs? Sometimes we need them.

Please feel free to interact as I reembark on this journey. 

All the best...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Using Someone Else's Lighting: Shooting a Theatrical Production

In the last posting, I discussed natural lighting and how to use the light you have to produce the best results. That same day I had shot a The Prince & the Pauper, produced by Blackberry Little Theater in Fort Payne, Alabama. That will be the subject of this post.

I have shot other plays before, both live as they were happening and in a series of staged shots that the director wanted photos of. The latter is, of course, easier. But shooting a play as it happens is always interesting. The main disadvantage is that you don't have an opportunity to move to various locations as you shoot.

My first suggestion is that you see the play before you shoot it. Since our youngest son was in the play, we had the opportunity to see it before I shot it. I decided to shoot the Saturday matinee and opted to shoot from the balcony to assure that I didn't disturb others. Be sure you obtain permission from management in advance, so that you don't break any theater rules.

Second, you should select the right lens. I used a Nikon 80-200 f2.8 to shoot the entire play. If I owned a 24-70 f2.8, I would have used it. But alas, I have not bitten the $2000 bullet yet. Even so, the 24-70 2.8 is very high on my wish list. While the 80-200 was good for some of the close-up shots, a shorter lens would have been handy as well. As is always a good idea in photography, use what you have in your bag to get the job done.

Now for the camera settings...I set the ISO on my Nikon D300 at 3200, to take advantage of the low light performance of the body. Using Shutter Priority, I set the shutter speed at 1/250 sec, which is the slowest speed with which I thought I could handhold this lens. Here are a few of the results.

This shoot yielded 269 useable, non-duplicated images.

I had intended to post a great deal more by now. However, we have been knee deep in tornado relief work, so this project has been pushed to the back burner. As the summer is almost over, I expect that our teams and work will decline and I'll have more time to work on this blog.

Thanks for reading. I always enjoy your comments.

All the best... Mike

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lighting 101: Using What You've Got

When I first started the Manual DSLR project the first thing I did was to turn my camera to "Manual" and start shooting...experimenting. So where do you start when the subject changes to lighting? I guess the most natural place to start is with natural light, or sunlight. So let's talk about a shot I took recently using natural light and no modifiers (reflectors, diffusers, etc.)

Our youngest son was involved in a children's theater production this summer. Performances were Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a matinee thrown in at 2 pm on Saturday. This meant that we had a couple hours of free time between the first and second shows on Saturday. So what do you want to do? I don't know...(repeat, repeat, repeat). But alas, we both had our cameras, so I suggested driving over to the old Davis Mill. This is a great old building that I've been driving by for the past 20 years but haven't ever really stopped and looked at it. Once a booming sock factory, the mill is now an antique mall. They had just closed when we arrived Saturday, but we did get to walk around outside to take some photos.

The first photo you see is my favorite from the afternoon, with Trisha leaning against the frame of an old garage door. I wasn't sure if that was poison ivy at the time, but did caution her against touching it (although I later determined that it did not match the photos of poison ivy that I found on Google Images). With only natural light to play with, I had to make sure that her face would be out of the shadows. It was about 5:30 in the afternoon, so the sun was low in the western sky. However, we had just gotten a pretty good rain shower, so the sky was a little overcast. This door is located on the west side of the building, so what we got was a diffused sunlight coming in from about 30 degrees to her left. If this had been a planned shoot with an assistant I would have likely used a reflector or perhaps some fill light, but for what I had in my hand, I felt pretty good about how it worked.

My goal for this phase of the manual DSLR project is to train my eye to see the light and to learn how to best use the light I have available (whether natural or controlled) to make the picture. I hope you will join me in this journey and let me know what you think.

The other shot is an HDR image of the building. I didn't have a tripod with me so this is 5 shots (2 above, 2 below) taken while sitting on the edge of the railroad track that was just behind me. It gives you a good idea of the layout of the building (that side is facing west), and how cloudy it was, which gave me a nice diffused light.

By the way, I took photos at the theater, using only stage lighting. Look for some of those in the next post and a discussion of how I chose to shoot it. And yes, I'm going to whine that I really need that 24-70 2.8 for just that type of shooting situation. Well I do...

All the best...Mike

Friday, June 24, 2011

Storm Update

Here a team from Lexington SC is working on electrical and finishing drywall.
Hi, Folks! It has been a crazy past several weeks, and while I have had the chance to shoot and write a bit, I didn't have a chance to bring both together on this blog.

As many of you know, our area was hit by severe storms on April 27. According to the National Weather Service, six confirmed tornadoes touched down in DeKalb County on that day and 33 lives were lost. Hundreds of homes were destroyed.

This is one of the portable showers at our church.
Much of our lives since April 27 has revolved around relief efforts to help our communities recover from the storms. Our church is hosting teams from all across the country who are taking vacation time to visit our area to help with the relief effort. Working with our denomination's Mission to North America organization, I am serving as the initial contact for groups who come to our area and my wife, Trisha, is coordinating the work once the teams get here.

To date, we have hosted teams from Delaware, Iowa, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Florida, and a couple of full-time RVers whose home is wherever they park their motor home. It has been great to meet these good people who donate their time and expertise to help their fellow man. There is still much work to do and we will be here working and hosting teams as long as there is work to do and volunteers keep coming.

We have made some new friends and renewed some old friendships. For example, we went to Iowa for flood relief in 2008 and met two couples from Delaware. After the tornadoes hit here, these great folks called and let us know that they would be here to work for three weeks. And work they did!

A partial completed Shed For Hope stands among the rubble.
The work has been anything from debris clean up, chainsaw work, house repairs, helping to build houses, and building Sheds for Hope. Sheds for Hope is a project started on the Gulf Coast after Katrina where storage sheds are provided at no cost to those who have lost so much in storms. The sheds provide storage room for those who are living in temporary housing, like FEMA trailers. An 8' x 12' wooden shed costs about $600 and takes 2-3 days to build. While it would be more efficient to prefab these buildings off site, part of the value of working in the storm area for 2-3 days is the contact with the families and their neighbors while the shed is built.

As a rural community, our area has not received a lot of press coverage. Even so, I am heartened by the outpouring of support that we have received by our sister churches across the U.S. The children in Vacation Bible school at Perry Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Perry Georgia raised more than $1,200 to support our Sheds for Hope project. Thanks to these children, two families now have a building to store their belongings.

Enough for now. My next installment will actually be about photography and the most manual of lighting situations: natural light. We will start there and move into reflectors and modifiers, hot lights, and flash. All the best...Mike

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

After the Storms...

What a week. Last Wednesday morning we were just waking up when our weather emergency service called to let us know there was a tornado warning for our immediate area. That started a crazy day and week. In the first round of storms a large pine tree in our front yard fell on my middle son's (Cody's) car. Although it will still run, his car is about 6-8 inches shorter than it once was and not safe to drive. Due to strong straight-line winds in our area we lost power from about 7:40 am Wednesday until about 9:30 pm on Saturday.

The rest of Wednesday brought wave after wave of storms with the last two bringing tornadoes both to our northwest (Flat Rock and Pisgah) and east (Rainsville, Sylvania, and Henagar). By the time the day was over, 33 DeKalb County residents had lost their lives.

We were blessed to have lost nothing more valuable than a car. My oldest son Devin, who works with the student weekly at his college, got press credentials for President Obama's visit to Tuscaloosa. After that was over he returned home to visit, shoot some footage for his paper, and to be with his family. During the next couple of days he shot several photos and a good deal of video footage, some of which he compiled into this video. Check it out here, or through this link to YouTube. Click the link to be able to watch it in full-screen, HD mode.

I will post more in the coming days, but wanted to get something out there this week. Thanks for all the kind words and for those who inquired about our well-being. We are truly blessed... MK

One more thing...If you want to see a video of the Rainsville tornado as it formed, check out this eery video. Rainsville, Alabama tornado

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stormy Weather

Hello all:

Our area was hit hard by storms yesterday. We are fine but without electricity. We lost several trees and my son's car in the storm. I'll post photos later. Sadly, many of our neighbors lost so much more.

For a few storm-related photos please check my Twitter feed @manualdslr. Once we get electricity (which could be as long as two weeks) I'll catch up with blog posts.

All the best...

Sent from my iPhone
Mike Kennamer

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy...

Hi, gang! You haven't heard much out of me lately because I've been busy with a number of other projects. Here's a quick rundown of what I'm currently working on:
  •  Writing Projects - While I can't divulge the details, I am working on three significant writing projects--all in different stages of completion--related to my background in healthcare. These are the jobs that pay the bills, so you can understand why they have been a top priority. While some of the these projects will be active for a number of months, I hope to get back to The Manual DSLR project very soon. 
  • New Business Structure - After seeing a large percentage of my writing income going to Uncle Sam in the form of income and self-employment taxes, I have worked with a CPA and an attorney to restructure my business from a sole proprietorship to a sub-chapter S corporation. This change should help us to avoid (not evade) excessive taxation while building a business structure that will allow for future growth. It also allows us to combine what we do in photography with our writing business. I took several of the photos in my first book (published in 2002), but because I'm getting paid primarily for the writing, I have never considered myself to be a "professional" photographer. But I guess it's official now.
Our company is called Kennamer Media Group, Inc. Look for more details as we develop it further. Thankfully, most of the leg work in putting together is complete, so I'll be able to get started with manual flash soon.

I'm considering ordering some of Kerry Garrison's Black Belt Lighting products as that would be a good way to learn manual off-camera flash. Look for a review once I get a chance to order it.

Until then, all the best...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chickamauga Battlefield

Aiming toward Chattanooga
Here's a shot of a cannon on the hillside.
Last Saturday I went to the Chickamauga Battlefield near Chattanooga Tennessee and took a few shots. There is not much to say about these other than it was a fun day with my son Lane and about 20 other guys from church.

I hope you enjoy!


Signs of Springtime

Monday, April 4, 2011

Looking Back...

They say that time flies when you are having fun...

I suppose that is true, especially when it comes to the past year during which I have blogging on this site. While I am preparing to move to the next phase of the Manual DSLR Project, I want to take a moment to mention the highlights of the journey.

Since I am both a blog reader and a podcast listener, I was thrilled when Kerry Garrison, of Camera Dojo, posted an encouraging comment on one of my posts. And I was super excited when David Ziser mentioned my blog on his Digital ProTalk blog. I have enjoyed reading comments posted by photographers like me who are working on being the best that they can be.

As soon as I started the blog I also started a Twitter account (@manualdslr) and have excited to get to know some of the photographers (amateurs and professionals) around the world who love to learn (and teach) more about photography. There are too many to mention them all, but I do want to mention some of those who have encouraged me the most:

Shane Lund an LA-based wedding photographer
Joakim Berndes @, of Stockholm Sweden
Kelley Young
Roar Engen , of Norway
4square 5 square Productions
Mary Jane Sparrow @ of Arkansas
Alex Racanelli @ of Danbury, CT
Kimberly Logan @ of Saratoga, NY
Lensbaby of Portland, OR
PostalPix @ of California
Trevor Current @

As I move into the next phase of the Manual DSLR Project I want to thank everyone who encouraged me, pushed me, retweeted me, #FFed me, or just read the blog, enjoyed my photos, or followed my tweets. One of the greatest lessons learned from this project is that the photography profession has some of the nicest, most supportive people in it that I have ever known. Thank you for letting me be a small part...

All the best... Mike 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Original Manual DSLR Project: One Year Later

Hello all:

Just over one year ago I embarked on a new project called the Manual DSLR Project. Since it is now time to take the project to the next step I wanted to preserve the original purpose of the blog by moving it from the header of the page to a post. The blog description will be revised for the next chapter in the Manual DSLR project.

Thanks for reading and be sure to keep following my progress as I continue to grow as a photographer.


Original Manual DSLR Project Description:

Hi, and welcome to my blog. I am an amateur photographer who occasionally takes some decent photos. However, most of the time I shoot in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. First of all, there is nothing wrong with shooting in "A" or "S" mode. However, I do not feel that I am using my camera to its fullest since I am not at all comfortable using Manual mode. Learning manual mode will also help me to do some artistic things that can't be done in Aperture priority.

So here's the deal...

Inspired in part by the movie Julie and Julia (my wife made me watch it) and professional photographers like David Ziser (who blogs on Digital Pro Talk six days a week), Kerry Garrison (of Camera Dojo fame), Gavin Seim (Pro Photo Show), and others, I am giving myself one year - 365 days - to learn to use manual mode on my Nikon D300. Rather than taking that journey alone, I am inviting you to join me in this journey. Learn from my mistakes. Celebrate with me as my fingers remember which wheel adjusts the shutter speed and which controls the aperture settings.

My goal is that in one year I be more familiar with the features of my camera than I am now. My goal is to be able to look at a scene and know what shutter speed, ISO, aperture setting, etc. to select.

While I am giving myself a year to work through this learning project, I do not expect to post to this blog every day. I work a full-time job and often work late hours. I am not David Ziser (though I would love to have a small portion of the knowledge and skill he possesses). I expect to post to this blog about once a week.

So join me in this journey. Let me hear from you. What I know right now I learned from some of the awesome photographers out there on the web and on podcasts. I am open to hearing your thoughts.

All the best...

Friday, March 25, 2011

The End is Near!

Okay, don't panic. Not that end, but...

The first phase of the Manual DSLR Project will end in less than a week. I started this project 360 days ago with the goal of learning how to use my Nikon D300 in manual mode. I had heard others talk about shooting in manual but it seemed like a mystery to me. Wow! What a ride it has been.

I have learned so much in the past year but know that there is so much left to learn. Look for a reveal of the next phase of the Manual DSLR Project in the next few days.


Monday, March 14, 2011


Last month I lit a couple of candles and took a few shots, posting the results on this site. Here is one more from that shoot.

This was shot at ISO 200 using natural light; f5.6, 1/5 second. I bumped the black setting in Lightroom to get rid of some of the surrounding ambient light. The result is what I was looking for.

With only 16 days left in the Manual DSLR Project I am still working on what to do for my next project. I'm narrowing it down, but will probably make the decision on a trip that I'll be taking later in the week.

Between taxes, a new writing project, and doing some work on a new business venture, I've been on somewhat of a dry spell in taking photos lately. However, I will have some great opportunities for taking some photos this weekend. Look for some new photos on Twitter and Instagram as early as Thursday. My username on both is manualdslr.

All the best... Mike

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Taking Care of Business

I've been tied up with a couple of other projects lately so the frequency in which I have posted has suffered. So here is a quick post to let you know what I've been up to. 

This is a barn that belongs to my sister and her husband.
First, it is tax time and I have been going through the torture of working on my tax return. I will start by saying that this is THE LAST time I will do my own taxes. I have hired a CPA who understands my type of business and who will take care of my business and personal tax returns for what I believe to be a very fair price--the preservation of my sanity. I started preparing my own tax returns several years ago when my tax professional retired due to health reasons. At the time our business was relatively simple and she encouraged me to do it myself. There comes a time, however, when things get so complicated that completing your own tax return is somewhat akin to performing your own appendectomy. Now I'm pretty good at carving the Thanksgiving turkey, but there are some things that amateurs shouldn't do.

Speaking of that a co-worker yesterday asked me if I would be interested in shooting a wedding for her. Again, there are some things that amateurs should not do!

Finally, I am working on a sample chapter of a new book. I can't release details at this point, but I'm excited about the possibilities.

With only 22 days left in the 365-day Manual DSLR Project, I am also thinking about deciding what my next step will be. I'm leaning toward devoting a year focusing on lighting techniques, but am not absolutely sure yet.

I am excited that late next week I'll be taking my wife on a surprise trip. You should understand that I am terrible at surprises. My kids were so good at convincing me to let them open Christmas gifts early that we just started "having Christmas" on December 23. But I have kept this one a secret. Not many people know the secret destination and fewer know the itinerary, so I believe that she will be genuinely surprised. It's funny. I could list the itinerary here and she'd never know. It's not like she ever reads my blog!

Anyway, look for Twitter messages and photos to start next Thursday. I am looking forward to a much-needed break and a break from our schizophrenic weather. Not to mention some quality time with my sweet wife.

Until next time...Mike

PS. Don't forget to check out my weekly posts at I also recently posted an article at Amateur Photographer Magazine.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Spring Fever!

We have had such nice weather lately that my case of Spring fever is growing more intense every day. This is the time of year when I really want to hop on an airplane and fly south. That's not going to happen this year, but I do have photos from Thanksgiving 2009 that take me away to a warmer place and time.

On November 23, 2009 after spending the night in Atlanta, we flew from Atlanta, GA to Miami, FL then on to Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI, arriving at approximately 4:40 pm. From there we took the Red Hook Ferry to Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI arriving at approximately 7:00 pm local time.

The weather was perfect as you can see in the first photo, which was taken overlooking Caneel Bay on St John. The second was taken from Little Maho Bay just as the sun started going down.

This was a great trip with plenty of time to lounge on the beach, check out the local scenery, and just to relax. Lunch on Thanksgiving Day was at Little Maho Bay. We sat on the beach and ate grilled cheese sandwiches. Luxury? No. But I'd take it any day.

Think warm thoughts! All the best... Mike

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Are You Doing This Afternoon?

A couple of Saturdays ago I received a call from a friend who runs a Christian camp just a few miles from my house. He had a group going on a hike to the "Penitentiary", a really cool maze of rocks where kids can crawl through tight spaces, challenge themselves by walking along ledges and developing teamwork by being in situations where they must depend on each other. "So what are you doing this afternoon," he said. "I'd like to get some shots of these kids for our website."

Since I didn't have any plans and my wife and kids were away I took him up on the invitation and shot a few shots. Although this is the Manual DSLR Project, I shot most of these in Aperture Priority. Why? Because I felt that was the best tool for the job. Many of the shots taken were in low light situations. While I used a flash on some of the shots, I tried to limit the use of flash where I might temporarily "blind" the kids when they were trying to balance or walk across a narrow ledge.

It was definitely a different experience as the action was fast, lighting was challenging, and the kids were having a great time. It was fun to share their hike and preserve some memories for them. I did have the advantage of having hiked the same area before so I knew where to catch some of the shots.

I've included a few of the shots here. As you can see, there was a little snow left on the ground, though the temperature was hovering around 45-50 degrees (F), making it a comfortable hike. This was just another opportunity to take some photos, enjoy the great outdoors, and experiment with some interesting lighting situations.

I would like to go back in the early morning with a tripod to take some more "artistic" shots of the rocks and experiment more with the lighting. 

I hope you enjoy! MK

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! Thinking Spring!

Just a quick post today to wish you all a happy Valentine's day and to share springtime thoughts. What a gorgeous day it was today! I am seriously getting Spring fever. To share that Spring fever with you I dug back into the archives to find a photo of a tulip tree in our backyard, taken in March 2009.

This was well before I started the Manual DSLR Project, so I cannot explain why I shot this as I did. It's almost embarrassing. What was I thinking?

Anyway, this was shot at ISO 1600, f18, 1/160 sec. It was shot with a 300mm macro lens. Oh my!

How would I have approached this differently today? It was shot in the afternoon so I might use ISO 320 or 400 and maybe open up the aperture a bit (probably to f 6.3 on that lens) and use an appropriate shutter speed based on those settings. Oh well. That's why I started this journey almost  a year ago, so I could learn and be better today than I was then.

I did apply a develop preset in Lightroom 3 called PH Soft and Dreamy with a goal of softening it a little.

So happy Valentine's Day to you. All the best...Mike

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Portland Mailbox

Hi, everyone. Yesterday I wrote about finding inspiration in something as simple as a mailbox. Today I am posting another mailbox photo--this one from Portland, Oregon--in my continuing series of mailboxes. This one is (I believe) on the corner of Park and Davis in the Pearl District of Portland. Not a great deal of personality on this one, but you can tell that it is a workhorse, having been dented from the inside out. Anyway, I like photographing this utilitarian piece that is also a work of art.

All the best... Mike

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What You Can Learn From A Mailbox...

Little Italy, New York City
During our June 2010 trip to New York City I realized that you can tell a lot about a neighborhood by looking at its mailboxes--not the residential ones--but the big United States Postal Services collection boxes that are so familiar on many of our city streets. That realization first came when my wife and I were sitting on a bench in front of a store in Little Italy, eating a slice of pizza and watching the world go by. I started to notice the personality of these mailboxes and how they reflected that of the community in which they serve. There were stickers and graffiti on this particular box that let us know that it was part of the community.

Spring & Elizabeth Streets
As we wandered throughout the city, I began to see that personality more and more. The second mailbox shown here was on the corner of Spring Street and Elizabeth Street. In a lot of ways it is my favorite, since it is the most "decorated" of any I saw on this trip. As you can see, it has a personality all its own--likely representative of the community in which it lives. If you would like to see another view of it, go to Google Maps. Search Spring Street and Elizabeth Street, New York, NY and select street view. You will see this same mailbox from almost any angle you choose. As you can see, it has been "tagged" so many times that there is graffiti on top of graffiti, stickers on top of stickers, etc. One of its legs is slightly bent, indicating years of service and a rough life on the streets.

Wall Street, NYC

The next shot is of a group of boxes on Wall Street. Interesting that they are relatively clean and free from graffiti. The stack of mail trays next to them provides evidence that these boxes see a great deal of action and are filled each (working) day with stacks of important mail from the financial capital of the U.S. This set of mailboxes scream out efficiency and order in a fast-paced financial district.

Okay, I admit that before I started studying seriously studying photography I would not have waxed poetic about mailboxes. In fact, I might not have even noticed them as I scurried along "sightseeing" in the city. But now I tend to take more time to enjoy where I am at any given time. I look around more. I notice shapes, and lights, and shadows. Is this a moment worth seeing again through the magic of photography? Would anyone else care to see this scene? Would they appreciate what I saw in the scene or would they see it in an entirely different way? A moment in time frozen for us to reflect upon.

The makers of Lensbaby encourage us to "see in a new way" in their advertising materials. I think that is what photography has allowed me to do. What has it done for you?

All the best...Mike

Friday, February 11, 2011

More Jacksonville Photos

Hello everyone. Here are just a couple more photos from my recent business trip to Jacksonville, Florida. I didn't have much time outside of meetings, so these were shot through the window of my hotel room. As you can see, I had a good view of the river and the bridge.

The first one was shot at ISO 500; f7.1; 1/400 sec. I used my Nikon D300 with an 18-135 Nikon lens. The sky was so bright I did a little tweaking with a graduated filter in Lightroom.

The second one was shot at ISO 500; f7.1; 1/500 sec. It is basically as shot with a black and white preset added in Lightroom.

I hope you enjoy! Mike

Jacksonville FL at Night

Just a quick post from lovely downtown Jacksonville, Florida. I'm staying at the Hyatt Riverview which, as you might guess, overlooks the St. Johns River. This was a quick trip for business so I did not have time to get out and explore. Though that's not optimal it's hard to beat the view from my room. Im traveling light on this trip with only one body and lens (plus my Lensbaby Composer). Since I am posting this fom my iPhone 4, I'm limited to iPhone photos.

Here is a pic taken with my iPhone. 

Enjoy! Mike

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Published Photos

I recently had a couple of photos published in a trade journal along with an article that I co-wrote with my boss. I'll spare you the details of the article, but wanted to share the photos that the editors chose to use in the article.

The first photo was featured as a full-page spread opposite the title page. It is not terribly exciting, but tells the story of collaboration in using technology that we were trying to get across. Yes, I had to give Apple a little free advertising (like they need it).

The second photo was shown in a smaller format on a later page in the article. Due to the nature of the journal and since I was writing the article I didn't get paid to provide these photos. However, I did get some valuable experience working with the editor and layout person and have a couple more photo credits that I did not have before.

To view the photos in the context of the article, click here.

As this project is about experience and learning, I count this as another experience under my belt. Maybe the next one will be a cover for Vogue...or not. Either way, it was a good learning experience.

All the best...Mike

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More Snow Pics

During our recent snow event (which is pretty rare for us) I took several photos but just realized that I had not posted very many of them. This is one that I took in our front yard. I was trying to capture the starkness of the tree and its shadow against a clear blue sky. As you can see, our dog had created a trail around the left of the tree. Kind of adds an interesting element to it, I think.

Our college was closed all week due to this snow so I had lots of time to take photos. I'll continue to post more from time to time.

Seeing this reminds me how ready I am for summer. I'll be heading out to Jacksonville, Florida for a very quick business trip tomorrow. The trip is so quick that I won't have much of a chance to take any photos. Almost considering not taking a DLSR, but that would just feel wrong. So I'll have it with me and just see what I can find to shoot.

All the best...Mike

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fun with a Lensbaby Composer

A few weeks ago we visited our son who is in college. On the way home we saw an old cemetery and stopped to take a look. I originally planned to use my 35 mm f2.8 Nikkor but I experienced a glitch (aka user error) with it and switched to a Lensbaby Composer. Here is one of the shots that I took of an old iron gate. The fence and gate was really cool with a great patina.

Hope you enjoy! Mike

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Creative Ways to Play with Light: Snow Day Edition

My recent blog posts have revolved around a theme of playing...goofing off with light to see what kind of results I could get. When we had some snow a few weeks ago I had a good opportunity to do just that. We received about 6 inches of snow that Sunday night and by Friday afternoon at sunset, the icicles were starting to slide off the metal roof of our house. This provided a good opportunity to see if I could get the light of the sunset to illuminate the icicles. The result is what you see here. Auto focus was going nuts trying to lock on the semi-transparent icicles, so I had to manually focus this one.

Here is a wider view showing how the sheet of ice-encrusted snow was sliding off the roof. It was fun to experiment with light to see what I could do with it.

Hope you enjoy! Mike

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Playing with Fire

I've been playing a bit more with light tonight, just using candles then adding flashes and gels. The first one is shot very simply at ISO 100, f5.6, 1/2 second. Not much to say here, just using the natural light of the candle and a bit of ambient light from the room.

In this one I shot at ISO 100, f3.5, 1/8 second with the pop up flash set at -3.0 and an SB 600 overhead with a red gel. I applied a PH Edgy Church preset in Lightroom 3.

I shot this one using the same settings, but applied a PH Christmas Tree preset in Lightroom 3.

The last one was shot at ISO 200, f5.6, 1/30 second with an overhead SB600 with a yellow gel. I tweaked the white balance in Lightroom to cool it off a bit as I got it a little too warm for what I was wanting.

Just like the DVD pictures in the last post I don't expect to hang these on the walls, but I did take some time to experiment with light and got a few pretty cool images.

Hope you enjoy...Mike

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Goofing off with a Lensbaby Composer and a DVD

I was sitting here bored the other night during some of our recent cruddy weather and started taking some shots with a Lensbaby Composer catching the light off a DVD. Actually I was taking shots of lots of things, but the DVD shots were my favorite.

Here are the results. The first one was shot at ISO 250; f1.4*; 1/8000 sec with both a 10x and 4x macro lens. The second was with the same settings except for a 1/6400 shutter speed.

Actually, the exact aperture is unknown as I did not have an aperture ring installed in the Lensbaby. I am guessing f1.4, but what do I know?

Anyway, hope you enjoy!


Monday, January 31, 2011

Postal Pix Discount Code

I recently wrote a review of the Postal Pix iPhone app on the Current Photographer web site. The Postal Pix folks liked the review and offered readers a 25% discount on their first order. Just use the discount code, "current" to receive your discount.

Check out the review here by clicking here. 

In the interest of full disclosure, this is not an affiliate agreement and neither Current nor I receive any money if you order from Postal Pix. You simply receive a one-time discount.

Hope you enjoy. I've tried this service and like it. Mike

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ZaZa Gallery Canvas Prints

A couple of weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to receive a free 16" x 20" canvas gallery wrap in exchange for a review and link on the blog. Always happy to add to my collection of prints (especially for free), I emailed my image to the ZaZa Gallery folks late in the evening of January 3 and yesterday I received the canvas. The image that I chose is a shot of my son, Lane sitting on the banks of Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains. That photo has been posted here before, but I decided to tone it down a bit by adding a vignette. The result is what you see here.

So how did our friends at ZaZa Gallery do? I should first say that I have only ordered canvas gallery wraps from one other company, so that is the only comparison I can make.

What can I say? It looks just as good as or better than the other canvas wraps we own. Can I honestly say it looks a hundred times better? No. However, I can say that I cannot tell the difference in the quality of this print and any of the others I have had made. With that in mind, it seems to come down to price and service.

It is a little hard to talk about service since I simply emailed my image to ZaZa Gallery and they sent the wrap to me. I didn't use their order entry system although I did walk through an order up to the point of ordering and found it very easy to navigate and use. I was most impressed that on the upload page there is an actual phone number that you can call if you have questions or difficulties in uploading the image. The wrap was packaged well and even though the box was a little crunched on one corner when it arrived, the print was in excellent shape.

So what about prices? I decided to look up prices on what might be a typical order for me and compare the bottom line pricing. For the sake of example, let's assume that we plan to order a 3/4 inch 16" x 20" gallery wrap, and a 1 1/2 inch 20" x 30" gallery wrap of two different images. The entire order from another supplier of canvas gallery wraps (from which I have previously ordered) would cost $254.95, including shipping. The same order from ZaZa Gallery would cost a total of $221.99.

So...what is my recommendation? Based on the quality of the gallery wrap I received from ZaZa Gallery I would not hesitate to entrust them with the printing of my favorite images. In fact, I expect that my next canvas order will go to ZaZa Gallery. I encourage you to check them out. You'll be happy you did.

My thanks to ZaZa Gallery for inviting me to review their product. I am pleased to provide a link to their site and am even more pleased to become a customer.

All the best... Mike

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

iPhone Photo Apps

For the past several weeks I have been reviewing iPhone apps for Current Photographer. While I am having some great fun writing the reviews, there is a bonus advantage to writing these reviews...Because I am purposefully looking for new apps that are helpful for photographers, I download a lot of photo apps and take some time to play with them--and many of them are lots of fun.

While I will not republish the reviews here, I will occasionally share examples of what I am doing with the new iPhone apps I am using as a result of this experience.

The first one was taken and edited on Camera+ photo app. It was taken at about 3:30 pm in Scottsboro Alabama as we crossed the Tennessee River. (I wasn't driving, by the way). You can't really call it a sunset, but the sun was low in the sky and there was a layer of fluffy clouds that really filtered the sun. I applied the vibrant effect and the vignette frame in Camera+. I like the results.

The second photo was actually taken by mistake but I liked it so I kept it. I was out in my front yard while we still had a layer of ice over several inches of snow. As I walked across the yard I found that the ice had cracked. I squatted on the ice to try to get a photo but couldn't see the phone screen because my auto-darkening eyeglasses were so dark. The front-facing camera on my phone was active, so instead of taking a shot of the ice, I took a pic of myself. However, once I took my glasses off (ouch! it was bright) I found that the front-facing camera had captured a shot of me with some cool clouds in the background. My hair is a mess, but it had promise.

Enter iPhone apps. I first cropped the image using Camera+ and then added an additional effect with Pic Grunger. The third photo is the final result. Again, this is not exactly what you are going to use for a portrait, but I think it is a fun photo. Did I just reach the top of Everest? (Yeah, right...) Perhaps I just got out of my vintage WWI airplane? (I wish). In reality I just got off my Kubota tractor, but Pic Grunger makes it look like I just did something much cooler.

I hope you have as much fun with these apps as I have. Click here to check out my reviews on Current Photographer.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Workflow Using Lightroom 3 - part 4 File Structure

We have been talking a lot about digital workflow lately, but realized that I might should have talked about file structure from the start. Oh well, there's no time like the present so let's jump right in.

My file structure is pretty straightforward and makes good sense to me. However, the most important thing about selecting a file structure for your photos is that it makes sense to YOU! This is how I do it.

I start a new folder each year on my hard drive. With the exception of my backup files, all my photos for the year are located within that folder. From there, I create a folder for each month. Under that folder, I create a folder for each photo shoot.

My camera makes the next two folders, one of which is handy when a shoot runs for more than one day. These, of course, could be removed. You find all the RAW files in the main folder and I make export folders (800 pixels or PRINT) to hold my finished images.

I always retain the original file number, which helps me to find the original file later should I need it. For instance, if I want to go back to the original RAW file from Cody's haircut, I can search for 3736 and easily find it. Since hard drive space is not unlimited on my computer, I archive my files about twice a year on a separate hard drive from the original backup. 

I hope this has been helpful as you develop your workflow systems. My system is certainly not perfect, but it is a start. Perhaps you can use something we have talked about here.

All the best...Mike

Friday, January 14, 2011

Workflow Using Lightroom 3 - part 3

If you have been keeping up with recent posts you'll find that we have discussed importing, backing up and initial weeding of photos in part 1; and post processing steps in part 2. In part 3 we will discuss exporting files in JPG format and saving for print and/or web use. Again, there are a number of ways to do this. I am just sharing one way to do it. You may choose to adopt my methods or adapt them to suit your needs.

We have been snowed in all week and my son Cody wanted his mom to trim his hair. So while he was confined with the scissors, I got out my 24mm 2.8 and took a few shots. Let's use this one to discuss exporting.

It is in Lightroom and all I have done with it is to decrease the sharpening and to apply a bit of noise reduction since I shot it at ISO 640 (f2.8, 1/30 sec).

At this point I will export a copy of
 this image without applying any presets or effects. Since it will be for web use I will save it at 800 pixels on its longest side. Let's look at how that will look. I go to File and then to Export, which brings up the Export dialog box. I always save the file in the same folder as the original photo and place it in a subfolder labeled "800 pixel" for typical photos that I will post online or "Print" for those that I will print. I will rename using "Custom Name - Original File Number" with the custom name being something descriptive of the photo shoot, perhaps something like "Washington DC", "Miller Family", or "Christmas Lights".

 I use JPG format with a quality of about 74 and use the sRGB color space. I will resize the long edge to 800 pixels at 240 pixels per inch for the web. For print, I would save in full size at 100 quality. Here is where I will apply sharpening presets for either screen or print settings and add a watermark, if appropriate.
 At this point I am ready to export this one. So what if I want to add a preset in Lightroom and offer another look to this photo? All I do is to select the develop preset I want. In this situation I chose Seim Effects Old Holga BW preset so I exported it as Cody's Haircut Seim Holga BW into the same folder that holds the other exported photos from that shoot. In case you want to see what the photo looks like, here it is.

The preset gives it a vintage haircut vibe, I think, and I can easily find that photo whenever I need it. So how do I find these photos, the original RAW file, or the backup file? Look for that in part 4 of this series.

Until then...All the best...Mike