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...

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!