Iceland and others

2014 was a really busy year, and I shot less with my camera than I have in some time.  I also posted less here on Enthusiast Photographer.  Part of that is (and continues to be) that my primary editing PC was in a closet for most of the 2nd half of the year.  I still have a few shots that haven’t made it to my secondary (travel) PC.

Anyway, here are a few 2014 shots that I like that hadn’t made it to the blog yet.  Some of them are touristy, which is fine with me 🙂

Quick scenic stop on our way to Akureyri, the 2nd largest city in Iceland

Quick scenic stop on our way to Akureyri, the 2nd largest city in Iceland

Another scenic stop on the way to Akureyri

Another scenic stop on the way to Akureyri

We were very lucky to catch the Northern Lights.  Tripod and very long shutter speed required!

We were very lucky to catch the Northern Lights. Tripod and very long shutter speed required!

The cabin we stayed at...

The cabin we stayed at…

In the museum in Reykjavík, there was a display that caught my eye...

In the museum in Reykjavík, there was a display that caught my eye…

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The opera house / theatre in Reykjavík

More sculptures from 798 in Beijing

More sculptures from 798 in Beijing

I thought this was an...interesting...contrast

I thought this was an…interesting…contrast

It is time to get back to some more creative shots, but I still really enjoy my travel photography!

Sometimes you go back…

I recently went back to Beijing’s very-interesting 798 District.  It is a really eclectic area with a lot of art and…unusual…things to see.  The last time I went I was in a bit of a rush, and wanted to get back to see a few more sights and take a few more photographs.

As it turned out, this visit was even shorter and the time of year meant it got dark much earlier, so I got a lot less opportunity than before.  I took a bunch of touristy shots (I am fine with that kind of thing as long as it is done on purpose), but also tried to get a few creative shots in as well.  As we wandered around, I went by the spot of one of my favorite shots from my previous visit:

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I loved the texture, subtle colors and indirect light in this photo when I took it a few years ago

I thought I might try some different things with the scene, somewhat like I do with the tugboat I often photograph in Charleston.  Unfortunately, sometimes you go back…and things aren’t what they used to be:

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I’m sure everything works better now, but it isn’t nearly as interesting as it was.

I guess the lesson is that you can’t count on interesting things enduring – make sure you take the opportunity to capture what you want – think about more than one composition and have as much fun as you can.  The shot might not be there the next time you come back…

Had similar experiences?  Post ’em up! 🙂

Get it Right In the Camera

Man on the Chau Phraya

Man on the Chau Phraya

If you hang around on photography forums or blogs enough, you’re eventually going to hear someone say “Get it right in the camera”, “I never edit my photos” or “You shouldn’t need to tweak your photographs.” While I understand where these people are coming from (especially in the first one), I think these kinds of statements are extremely damaging to beginning photographers.

Here’s the thing: You should never feel scared to press the shutter button. While I appreciate (and agree with) the idea that a photographer should have full command of his/her equipment, the learning and creative process is far more important as you start out. Editing photos isn’t a crutch – it is a way to extract what you were looking for to begin with. There is nothing wrong with making adjustments after the fact – Ansel Adams made plenty of adjustments in the darkroom. Editing will help rescue images that didn’t come out quite right as you’re trying new things, too.

Also, the “get it right in the camera” crowd are getting tweaked whether they know it or not: The camera applies a certain amount of adjustment for saturation, contrast, sharpness, etc. for JPEGs by default, and most editing software like Lightroom does the same thing for RAW files as well (though of course in the case of RAW you can change/undo 100% of what the software applies).

At the end of the day, your goal as a photographer is to end up with the best composition and exposure possible. As a learning beginner, both of those things can be improved after the fact. Hopefully you wind up with an image that makes you happy and learn what to do next time that makes editing less necessary. As I’ve improved my photography, the kind of editing I do is different. It is probably fair to say it is a lot less and certainly I strive for an image that is as close to done as possible when I press the shutter button. That said, I’m a lot more interesting in having a photo I’m proud of, and if editing gets me there I have no issue with that at all.

So that’s it: Edit, learn from what you’re having to adjust and improve. And most importantly: have fun with your camera!

That twitch…

WP_20140205_007A yellow field surrounded by mottled gray and bone-white trees and morning mist.  An abandoned church covered in vines, the door blocked by vines but the stained glass that crowns the entrance peeking through.  An old camper wildly painted in vivid colors and images that are slowly fading.  A bright pink diner with a Cadillac out front and a tremendous array of Elvis memorabilia on the walls.  Fields split by a rumbly river fringed with trees.  Stone bridges barely wide enough to pass on four wheels.

An unexpected trip this morning took me on twisty, back-country roads that I thoroughly enjoyed driving.  But as I wound my way to my destination, images kept catching my eyes and making me wish I’d brought my camera.

I’m sitting in the pink diner, and I’ll probably take the chance on the way home to take some of those pictures with my phone.  They won’t be the images I wanted, and mainly I’ll take them to illustrate the path I’ll return to in the near future to capture the images the way I really want to catch them.

I finished 2013 with a bullet.  Lots of travel.  Busy with work and family.  I haven’t even taken the opportunity to post my Favorites of 2013 yet (which I’ll get to shortly).  The shutter-bug in me had been dormant other than family photos recently, but it is now fully awake and pulling me to get out with my camera.  Not a bad way to start 2014…

What I’ve been shooting lately… (Part 1)

It has been an incredible run of travel this year – well over 100,000 miles in the air and over 60,000 since July.  I’ve seen a lot of the inside of a metal tube, but I’ve also had the chance to go to some amazing places.  The more I shoot, the more comfortable I am with my equipment and just as importantly what I need to work on.  So that is the lesson for this post – shoot more and think about what you need to learn to improve when you’re looking at the shots you don’t like as well as then ones you do.

I had my first try at bird-in-flight (BiF) photography.  Verdict:  HARD!  Knowing how to set up my AF was key to getting some decent shots for a first outing.  More knowledge and tuning needed.

I had my first try at bird-in-flight (BiF) photography. Verdict: HARD! Knowing how to set up my AF was key to getting some decent shots for a first outing. More knowledge and tuning needed. D300s & 70-200 f/4 @ f/4, 1/4000, ISO 320, AF-C w/ 51-point tracking

My son came out to feed the gulls. I sat down with my back against the house, and after shooting a few shots with flash I realized I was missing a much better shot without the flash...

My son came out to feed the gulls. I sat down with my back against the house, and after shooting a few shots with flash I realized I was missing a much better shot without the flash… D300s & Nikon 18-200 @ f/7.1, 1/640, ISO 200

I left for Japan the day after returning from the beach.  I took a few photos I like, but I really enjoyed a chance to get a better shot of Tokyo Tower from the Mori Tower.

I left for Japan the day after returning from the beach. I took a few photos I like, but I really enjoyed a chance to get a better shot of Tokyo Tower from the Mori Tower. The conditions were tough again – very windy, but this shot came out OK anyway and really showed the value of VR (vibration reduction). D300s & 70-200 f/4 @ f/4, 1/15, ISO 1000

One of the next places I went was Bangkok.  To say there is a lot of texture there is an understatement.  I'd love to spend a few months wandering around there - amazing, beautiful place.  These fruits were so colorful at a street-side stand, and seemed a perfect time to play nearly wide-open.  D300s & 35 f/1.8G @ f/2.2, 1/60, ISO 200

One of the next places I went was Bangkok. To say there is a lot of texture there is an understatement. I’d love to spend a few months wandering around there – amazing, beautiful place. These fruits were so colorful at a street-side stand, and seemed a perfect time to play nearly wide-open. D300s & 35 f/1.8G @ f/2.2, 1/60, ISO 200

The Chao Phraya river in Bankok offers just as much to see as the land.  A good example of the versatility of the 18-200 VRII for both the zoom range and the stabilization.  D300s & 18-200 VRII @ f/7.1, 1/250, ISO 320

The Chao Phraya river in Bankok offers just as much to see as the land. A good example of the versatility of the 18-200 VRII for both the zoom range and the stabilization. D300s & 18-200 VRII @ f/7.1, 1/250, ISO 320

Coming off the river is a combination of a dock and a shopping center, an awesome jam of people and products.  D300s & 35 f/1.8G @ f/1.9, 1/160, ISO 800

Coming off the river is a combination of a dock and a shopping center, an awesome jam of people and products. D300s & 35 f/1.8G @ f/1.8, 1/160, ISO 800

At the temple of Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha.  Behind it are metal pots - you make a small donation and get a cup of old coins to plink in the buckets.  The sound as many folks walk up the row is really cool.  Tough to get a sharp shot as it was pretty dark and I didn't want to push the ISO.  D300s & 35 f/1.8G @ f/1.8, 1/30, ISO 800

At the temple of Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha. Behind it are metal pots – you make a small donation and get a cup of old coins to plink in the buckets. The sound as many folks walk up the row is really cool. Tough to get a sharp shot as it was pretty dark and I didn’t want to push the ISO. D300s & 35 f/1.8G @ f/1.8, 1/30, ISO 800

An elephant statue at the Erawon Temple in downtown Bangkok.  I should have dialed the ISO down to 200 here -  it was pretty bright. D300s & 35 f/1.8G @ f/1.8, 1/1250, ISO 320

An elephant statue at the Erawon Temple in downtown Bangkok. I should have dialed the ISO down to 200 here – it was pretty bright. D300s & 35 f/1.8G @ f/1.8, 1/1250, ISO 320

The Summer kept hopping from there – I took another trip to Asia and went a few other places too. I’ll post a few more photographs from those trips soon. In the meantime, I’d love to see YOUR favorite pix from this year so far!

If Cameras were Hammers

If you aren’t familiar with Roger Cicala, you might know his company Lensrentals.  It is a great way to get a lens you only need for a short time (wedding/special event/etc.) or want to try-before-you-buy.  Roger is a very cool and knowledgeable guy, and is a regular visitor to one of my favorite photography forums (fredmiranda.com).  Anyway, a buddy of mine sent me a post from his blog yesterday that I think is pretty funny, and also pretty darn true.

Take a quick read of his post “Hammerforum.com”

The lesson I hope you’ll take away is that there are infinite opinions on the internet, and some of them can be pretty obtuse and confusing to the novice.  As a Nikon guy, I mainly watch Thom Hogan (byThom.com), and check out reviews from Nasim Mansurov, Roger  and others.  And of course I visit the site of the inestimable Scott Kelby often.

The net is that the web can be a little overbearing.  The hardware of photography can be a little over-consuming, and most people can do just fine with the tools they have in their hand.

What sites do you find particularly helpful or useless?

Scrapyard Visit

I was driving home from an out-of-town work trip the other day and saw an old boneyard with a bunch of cool, rusty old American cars. I turned around and pulled in to look around, and then remembered I had my camera with me. After talking to the guy running the yard and asking if it was cool for me to take some photos, I had a nice time wandering around, looking for texture.

It was actually a lot harder than I expected. Of all the photos I took, only three came out even close to what I was going for:

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Nikon D300s – 35mm f/1.8 @ f/2.5 – 1/40th – ISO 800 – Set for – 1/3 EV

A little thinner on depth-of-field (DOF) than I wanted, but it was pretty dark. Since I was hand-holding and shooting from an awkward angle/position, I had to keep a reasonable shutter speed. Since I thought there would be too much noise if I popped the ISO higher, I went with a wider aperture. In retrospect, a bad choice.  I could have also done myself a favor and not set the exposure for -1/3 EV.  That would have helped, too.

Nikon D300s - 35mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8, 1/8000 - ISO 200

Nikon D300s – 35mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8 – 1/8000 – ISO 200 – Set for -1 EV

Shooting outside in harsh sun, this shot was actually pretty challenging. Even setting the camera for a full stop lower exposure (-1 EV), I still have some blown out spots. The DOF worked better for me here, though, and I’m happier with this shot

Nikon D300s - 35mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8 - 1/3200 - ISO 200 - Set for -1 EV

Nikon D300s – 35mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8 – 1/3200 – ISO 200 – Set for -1 EV

Another shot where I was fighting really harsh sun, I also used the exposure compensation to adjust down a whole stop.  In retrospect, I wish I’d gotten in tighter on the “Special” medallion.  You can faintly see 1957 engraved there, and it would have been a cool shot, and a lot less busy than this one.

A few lessons of the day:

  • Always have your camera with you
  • Don’t forget about the EV/exposure adjustment, but don’t forget when you’ve set it! 🙂
  • Use the screen to zoom in and see if you’re getting what you want.  I usually do it more carefully than I did that day.

Even though I didn’t get all the shots I wanted, I’m so glad I stopped.  It was really cool to see all these old cars, some of which will either be on the road again or help another car get there.  The experience is always good, no matter how the shots turn out!

What kind of problems have YOU had shooting lately?

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Favorite Shots of 2012

Well, I figured since it is mid-March (already!) I should get on my favorite photos of 2012…

It was a pretty busy year, full of travel to some pretty amazing places.  I think the biggest jumps I took with my photography are mostly centered around being more thoughtful and confident with composition as well as knowing my equipment better.  The goal (and I haven’t achieved it yet by any stretch, but we’re getting there….:) ) is to make the camera disappear and concentrate on capturing the image as you want it.  And have fun.

I took a lot of shots last year, and there are many that I’m fond of, so choosing a few was hard.  Clicking on a shot will open a larger version.

Strictly speaking, this and the next shot were some of my last shots of 2011.  But since I sort of lost track of them and they didn't make my 2011 series, I'm cheating and putting them here.

Strictly speaking, this and the next shot were some of my last shots of 2011. But since I sort of lost track of them and they didn’t make my 2011 series, I’m cheating and putting them here.  This is the pineapple fountain in Charleston, SC.

My second visit to this boat produced one of my favorite photos ever.

My second visit to this pilot boat in Charleston Harbor produced one of my favorite photos ever.

Spring found me in Alabama for the 10th edition of my favorite car show.

Spring found me in Alabama for the 10th edition of my favorite car show.

A business trip took me to Beijing, where color always seems to surround you...

A business trip took me to Beijing, where color always seems to surround you…

My favorite drink is done well in Beijing...

My favorite drink, a rye Manhattan, is done well in Beijing…

There is an art district in Beijing called 798 where you can find a lot of off-the-wall art, but the old buildings there offer some nice texture, too...

There is a  district in Beijing called 798 where you can find a lot of off-the-wall art, but the old buildings there offer some nice texture, too…

I liked the mood of this shot, but knowing it was taken in Beijing adds a little incongruity to it as well...

I liked the mood of this shot, but knowing it was taken in Beijing adds a little incongruity to it as well…

This statue was in the 798 art district in Beijing, which was ironic enough.  The billboard on the walls just layered on top...

This statue was in the 798 art district in Beijing, which was ironic enough. The billboard on the walls just layered on top…

They wouldn't let me take my tripod and it was really windy 55 stories above Tokyo, so getting this shot wasn't a picnic.  The view was stunning though, so I made due by holding my camera to a railing on my L-bracket, giving me enough stability to get reasonable sharpness.

They wouldn’t let me take my tripod and it was really windy 55 stories above Tokyo, so getting this shot wasn’t a picnic. The view was stunning though, so I made due by holding my camera to a railing on my L-bracket, giving me enough stability to get reasonable sharpness.

I like this shot, though it doesn't do a great job of showing the scale of the world's largest Buddha.

I like this shot, though it doesn’t do a great job of showing the scale of the world’s largest Buddha, located in the temple city of Kamakura, Japan.

This carved stone monolith was near the Great Buddha of Kamakura.    I thought narrow depth of field helped give it a sense of texture.

This carved stone monolith was near the Great Buddha of Kamakura. I thought narrow depth of field helped give it a sense of texture.

Prague is famous for the Love Locks that decorate fences along the waterway inside the city.  It is a growing trend around the world.  This shot was the feature of my "Touristy Photos" post.  If you're looking for cities filled with amazing things to photograph, this area of Europe is your ticket.

Prague is famous for the Love Locks that decorate fences along the waterway inside the city. It is a growing trend around the world. This shot was the feature of my “Touristy Photos” post. If you’re looking for cities filled with amazing things to photograph, this area of Europe is your ticket.

Budapest is a city filled with history, texture and stunning views...

Budapest is a city filled with history, texture and stunning views…

I wonder how many people walk through the doors of this charge and never look at the detailed and ornate metal castings all around them...

I wonder how many people walk through the doors of the La Madeline church in Paris and never look at the detailed and ornate metal castings all around them…

These shots took me through the end of the Summer, and to be honest by then I was a little worn out!  The rest of the year was also very busy at work and featured much less interesting travel, so I wound up with a sort of involuntary vacation from photography (not to mention this blog…).

So that’s it!  I’m off to a much stronger start in 2013, and I’m really looking forward to warmer weather to get out and have some fun with my camera!  If you’ve got favorite shots from last year posted, paste a link to your blog, flickr or whatever!

What are f-stops?

If you’re an Enthusiast Photographer, you’ve probably heard the word “stop” used in relation to aperture, depth of field and other areas of photography.  If you’ve wondered what a “stop” or “f/stop” is, one of the best and most accessible things I’ve read on the topic is the amusingly titled “A Tedious Explanation of the f/stop” – check it out!

2012 in review – Enthusiast Photographer

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 40,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.