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...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Photo Op: Helping Others

If you have been around the photography industry for a while you have no doubt heard of some of the organizations in which photographers help others through their photography skills. The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation is one such organization, founded by Sandy Puc and Cheryl Haggard, that provides professional remembrance photography services to parents who have suffered the loss of a baby. Help Portrait, founded by Jeremy Cowart, provides free portraits to those who would otherwise not have access to professional photography. Many of us volunteer our time to photograph charity events in our local area. Clearly, there is opportunity for photographers to help others with their photography.

This is the first photo request that I received through Findagrave.
Recently I discovered another opportunity to reach out through photography. While on a business trip in Dallas I recalled that my dad recently mentioned his grandfather, who often visited his hometown of Grapevine, Texas. We had the opportunity to visit historic Grapevine and walk the same streets (well, sort of) that my great grandfather walked in the early 1900s. While eating in a restaurant in Grapevine I searched Google for my great grandfather's name, hoping that I could find his grave site. That's when I discovered, which not only showed the cemetery (in Dallas) where he was buried, but also included a photo of his tombstone. Because of that site I was able to visit his grave on my way to the airport before returning home on Sunday.

Once I got home I visited the website again to find that my great, great grandfather was buried just south of Fort Worth. Again, there was a photo of his tombstone, provided by a kind stranger. I also learned that my great, great, great grandfather's grave is in South Carolina, though a photo is not yet available of his grave site.

This cemetery was about 11 miles from my home.
This piqued my curiosity and I decided to learn more. is a very cool site that depends upon volunteers to populate the pages. It currently contains more than 79 million grave records. Here is how you, as a photographer, can become involved. Simply create an account on the site and let them know that you are willing to take photos of graves near your home. When a member wants to see a photo of an ancestor's grave, they will fill out a request online. If you are near that cemetery, you will receive an email showing the request. You can then claim that request and, once you find the grave and take the photo, can fulfill the request by posting the photo. I've been a member for less than a week, and this morning was able to fulfill two requests. I intend to fulfill two more that I couldn't get to today.

This is, of course, all voluntary. I am appreciative enough of the person who posted photos of my ancestors graves (and helped me to locate them) that I am willing to volunteer my time to take photos of the graves of other people's ancestors. Of course, you may submit photos that have not yet been requested. So while we were at the two cemeteries we visited this morning we also took photos of several other graves that will be posted on the site. Perhaps someone that doesn't even know about this site will find their ancestor's grave sites because of my willingness to take a few photos on a Saturday morning.

So if you are looking for an opportunity to serve others through photography, there are lots of possibilities for you, including the four I mentioned here. I hope that you will find an opportunity to serve others with your photography skills. And be sure to check out You might just find some of your history there.

Although I am not posting to this site as often as I did a couple years ago, remember that I am still writing iPhone and iPad app reviews every week on So be sure to check them out, and be sure to visit our (relatively new) business site at It's a work in progress, but then again, what part of life isn't?

All the best...Mike