Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - How to Choose a New Camera

Today's cameras are incredible electronic tools. They can do many things that more expensive and larger digital SLR's can't. Well, they can but it requires more technical expertise to do so.

Since it is so near the holiday's and so many people are planning to buy a new camera I thought it wourld be helpful if I offered a simple tip that might help you choose which camera is right for you. I spent some time in a local department store with an electronics department that contained several brands of cameras on display. One thing I should mention is that most of these will have very comparable image quality. As a matter of fact if you don't make prints larger than 8" X 10" they are virtually the same.

So if they all give the same quality image then how do you choose? There is a simple test you can do in the store. You should do this before talking to any clerks or sales people. Look the camera over and see how it feels in your hands. The controls should be easy to reach and easy to understand. Most cameras nowadays have very few outside buttons on them. You should have an on/off button, and a "W/T" button for wide angle or telephoto views. Another button will turn on the menu options. If these are easy to find and operate, continue checking out the camera by taking a couple of pictures of something or someone in the store. Was it easy to do without having to figure out how it works? If so your still on good ground so keep going. Somtimes a message will pop up telling you the internal memory is full. If this happens try to delete the pictures on the camera. It's OK, its a demo model you are using and you need to know how to do this. If this is easy to do keep going. The camera may or may not have a button for viewing images and some have delete buttons on the outside too.

Next you need to open the camera's menu and find out how easy it is to change the settings. If this is easy for you to understand, you have found a good camera for you. There will probably be several models of the same brand at different prices. The higher the price the more options and pixels. Only buy the more expensive cameras if you will use the options offered, if you won't then save your money for a tripod. If you can figure out how to operate the camera without the help of the clerk then it is a good bet you will be happy with it later.

I found the menu's of Sony, Fugi, and Nikon to be the easiest for me to navigate. Olympus was available but I didn't get to handle it at the time I was there. Canon is an excellent brand but I had a hard time decifering it's menu system. Once you have become comfortable with the camera you like talk to the clerk if you need to, or if you have questions but don't let them talk you into something you find complicated or hard to operate. After all the clerk isn't going to be shooting your pictures for you.

Good luck and have fun. Once you have your new camera check out my older posts to learn how to use it.


Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

I have created a great little book store called "How To Use Your Camera" where you can buy photography books online. Just click the link to see what is available.

If you need a camera get it here at my camera store at "Photo To Go"

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.


Monday, October 25, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - With a Tripod

How to use your camera includes how to use your camera on a tripod. Most new tripods have a base plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera. That's what that little ¼ inch screw hole is for. In some instances you will attach the camera directly to the tripod head. I like the base plate idea since I can remove the camera from the tripod and put it back as needed. I just leave the base plate attached to my camera most of the time.

The first thing you should do is learn to take a self portrait while using your tripod to hold the camera. Decide where you want to be and what background you want. Then point the camera at the area where you will be. Turn on the auto timer, activate the shutter, and then go pose in front of the camera. When you check your image you will know what adjustments to make to your position or the position of the camera and tripod. Take shots with the camera in landscape position then tilt the camera on it's side and shoot portrait images. Experiment with close-ups and wide angle shots until you get several images in each position that you like.

Now find a subject on the ground or floor to take shots of. This could be a flower, bug, mushroom, pet cat or dog, whatever interests you at the time. It should be something that won't move very much. With your camera on the tripod, lower everything until the camera is as close as it can be to your subject and still focus. If your camera has a Macro setting, turn it on as it will help you get as close as the camera can get. Shoot several images from above, to the side, from the back and any other angle you can think of. Just keep moving the tripod around and framing your shots then take the pictures you have created.

Did you ever see those sports photographers with cameras that have long sticks under the camera or the lens? The stick is called a “Monopod.” Most are adjustable so that you can adjust the length, and some have the same kind of heads that will hold removable base plates like tripods do. Some folks like monopods because of their small size and weight. Personally, I avoid them. I can do anything a monopod can do with a tripod by simply extending only one leg. But I still have the option of using the tripod when I want as well.

To use your tripod as a monopod, close the legs up together. It doesn't matter if you have one or all of them extended. Just be sure to fully extend at least one of them. The tripod should be about as tall or a little taller than you are with the camera attached. When you use a monopod, you are still creating a tripod, it's just that two of the legs are the ones you are standing on. Put the tripod out in front of you so you are slightly leaning into it to make it as steady as possible. This is why it needs to be longer than a walking stick.

Practice taking shots of moving subjects such as kids at games, running animals, cars on the street, and so on until you feel comfortable with the process, then open the legs and take some landscapes using the tripod. Again put your camera in both landscape and portrait positions and shoot until you are comfortable with all the features of the tripod you are using.

I hope you found this article interesting and useful. I know that a tripod will improve your photography a great deal. Most Pro's will buy a better tripod before they will buy a new camera or lens. It's that important to them.

Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

If you are looking for books about how to use your camera click this Book Store link to see what is available. Need a Camera? This Camera Store has the the best choices available on the internet.

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - The Tripod

The single most important accessory you can have to help you learn how to use your camera is a tripod. I have two and use them all the time. One is small and light weight and the other bigger and heavier. I use the small one when I'll be doing a lot of walking with lots of other gear. The bigger one gets selected most of the time because it is solid as a rock. It's a bit heavy and predates the newer carbon fiber tripods but it still works really well.

You can find tripods in most department stores and in any camera store that will work for you. To choose one, take your camera with you and try them out. Get the one that will hold your camera steady indefinitely in all positions. My camera is too heavy for my small tripod when tipped sideways for portrait shots. It worked for my previous camera if I didn't have long heavy lenses in place. It works perfectly for my point and shoots. For now the important thing for you to do is buy or borrow a tripod and get ready to learn to use it. My next posts will cover this topic in detail so keep coming back.

Watch this site for more information about how to use your camera and the tripod together.

Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

If you are looking for books about how to use your camera click this Book Store link to see what is available. Need a Camera? This Camera Store has the the best choices available on the internet.

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - Built In Light Meter, what it does

Something you should know as you continue to learn how to use your camera, is what your built in light meter really does. These are really remarkable tools these days but you still need to be aware of their limitations.

Back in the early days of light meters, scientists determined that of all the light provided by the sun, only an average of about 18% of that light was reflected from any surface. Photographers refer to the tone of this reflected light as 18% gray. Ansel Adams took this concept much further but for me to go deeper into this here would take many pages that I am sure you don't want to read just now. So for now, just accept that something near 18% of available light is actually reflected back to your eye, and to your camera.

Because of this, most but not all built light meters are designed to calculate apertures and shutter speeds for your automatic exposures based on an average light reading of 18% gray. Some camera manufacturers have determined to use a slightly different value but for all practical purposes the idea is the same. You can see this in your photos. Have you ever taken a shot of a bright object such as a snow or beach scene only to find your image looking gray rather than white? You can try this if you want by setting your camera to auto everything and shooting a picture of a piece of white paper or some other bright object.

This is why your point and shoot camera may have special scene modes for things like portraits, beach, snow, landscapes, and so on. The manufacturer has decided to help you properly adjust your exposures by attempting to provide clues as to the kind of light scene you might be shooting in. If your camera doesn't have these features, you can still make corrections if it has an exposure lock feature.

In this instance you move your camera as close as possible to the subject you are trying to photograph, letting the meter read light directly from the subject, activate your exposure lock and then recompose your photograph and shoot.

Digital SLR users have more control over this, as do many of the more elaborate (expensive) point and shoot cameras. Continue learning how to use your camera by spending some time experimenting with this. Adjust your scene modes and white balance settings until you feel comfortable with the results and where to find the menu options. You will find that your photos will not be as dark and gray, but the colors will be richer and more true to what you actually see with your eye.

Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

If you are looking for books about how to use your camera click this Book Store link to see what is available. Need a Camera? This Camera Store has the the best choices available on the internet.

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - The Electronic Analog Exposure Meter

A lot of the people I visit with or coach about how to use your camera have no idea what this handy tool does, or for that matter how to use it. Most will turn it on accidentally, then work like the devil to turn it off again. I intend, as briefly as possible, to help you not only understand what it does but help you use it to your advantage.

Most camera's offer this tool but it isn't always turned on or it only displays when in a certain shooting mode. You may need to spend some time with your manual to figure out how to find and turn the meter on for your camera. The professional-grade cameras make this easier because the pros use this tool a lot. My Nikon D300 displays a meter in the viewfinder and on the control panel. It's that important if you want to have total control over your exposures.

The Electronic Analog Exposure Meter consists of a row of little vertical bars or possibly little dots. An example may look something like this: “+3..+2..+1..0..-1..-2..-3.” This would be a meter graduated to 1/3 steps between each full stop. A meter graduated to ½ steps would display a single dot or bar between each full stop.

The “+” sign indicates an increase in exposure while the “-” sign indicates a decrease in exposure. Exposure is simply the amount of light allowed to reach your film or sensor. It is controlled by either the shutter speed, or the size of your lens opening or “aperture,” usually both. If your meter is indicating an exposure in the + area, more light is being allowed in, if it is on the – side then less light is being allowed to pass. Ideally you should adjust you meter to the center for you first exposure. See how it appears to your eye and your histogram. You can then make adjustments by changing either your shutter speed or your aperture to get the exposure you want.

With your camera in hand and set to manual control or shooting mode, go out and take a few pictures while adjusting the shutter speed and aperture to see how it affects your meter readings and what the images will look like. I will take this topic further in a later post, so be sure to check back for more information about your exposure meter as you continue to learn how to use your camera.

Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

If you are looking for books about how to use your camera click this Book Store link to see what is available.

Need a Camera? This Camera Store has the the best choices available on the internet.

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.

How To Use Your Camera - The Rule of Thirds

One of the best and easiest ways to compose your scenes within your viewfinder is by utilizing the Rule of Thirds. To do this you activate your cameras reference grid so you can see the lines either on your monitor or inside your viewfinder. If your camera doesn't have this feature (rare) you can simply imagine a tic-tac-toe pattern within the viewfinder or monitor.

As you view the scene you intend to shoot, you will want to position your main subjects along the lines of the grid, or at the points where the lines intersect. To see how this affects a photograph pick up any magazine or book with pictures in it and try to determine where the main subject is located within the photo. Check out where the horizon is in landscape scenes. You will note that it is almost always either in the vicinity of the upper or lower lines, and almost never in the middle. Note that in most of the other pictures the main subject is almost never in the center either. This is what we want to be able to do too.

Now with your camera, turn on the reference grid and take a bunch of pictures using this method to position your subject. Do it with close-ups, wide angle shots, everything. Have fun, and decide if this didn't help you take better pictures. Remember to avoid placing your subject in the dead center. Also the lines are a reference only, you want to use them to give you the “general area” rather than the “exact position” of your subjects as you compose your shots.


Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

If you are looking for books about how to use your camera click this Book Store link to see what is available.

Need a Camera? I researched this topic and this Camera Store has the the best choices available on the internet.

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - The Viewfinder

Not every camera has a viewfinder that you look through. Some have a monitor or screen on the back that allows you to see what the camera is pointing at. Some cameras such as SLR's have what is called “through the lens technology” which means that a prism in the viewfinder allows you to actual view your scene through the lens. Cameras without viewfinders but with viewing screens do the same thing but display the scene on the cameras monitor.

There can be a lot of information available about the scene you are viewing that is very helpful to you. One of my camera's actually display's 27 different pieces of information in the viewfinder as I look through it. This can include the shutter speed, f/stop, analog exposure meter, battery status indicator, focus point, in focus indicator, and much more. One optional item that most cameras allow you to display is called a “Reference Grid.” Not every camera has this feature but most of them do. Here's how to use it.

Look at your camera's manual and figure out how to turn the reference grid on and off. I usually leave mine turned on. You use this grid to help keep a level horizon in your pictures and to help you position your subjects. Where you position your subject within your frame is virtually everything that photography is all about. Most of your reference grids will look like a tic-tac-toe board either in your viewfinder or on your monitor panel. There will be nine rectangles or squares and your screen will be divided into thirds. The lines help you use the Rule of Thirds as you compose your images which I will write about in my next post. For now just take some pictures while trying to put your main subject either on or near the grid lines or the intersection points. Use the lines to position your landscape horizons too. You'll like the results. Watch for my next post about the “Rule of Thirds.”


Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

If you are looking for books about how to use your camera click this Book Store link to see what is available. Need a Camera? This Camera Store has the the best choices available on the internet.

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - Sony NEX-5 A Great Choice

If you've been doing digital photography for awhile and have decided to upgrade to a better camera, this may be the one you are looking for. This camera will put you at PRO level at less than half the price.

The NEX -3 model is least expensive and is made of polycarbonate materials while the NEX - 5 will cost more and is constructed of magnesium. It also has a couple of features the NEX-3 does not have. You can see these cameras at my camera store at Photo To Go

Here's what Sony says about these cameras:

Revolutionary design.

To create a camera with DSLR performance combined with portability that rivals compact digital cameras, Sony incorporates a huge image sensor into a compact frame. The result: an interchangeable lens digital still camera that makes it possible to capture professional-grade pictures without the extra size and weight of standard DSLR cameras.

Add the ability to shoot astonishing low-light pictures, gorgeous HD movies and simplicity of use, and the new α NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras make it easier than ever to capture your vision.

Take amazing photos.

Introducing the interchangeable lens camera that doesn't change your lifestyle. Now you can experience the performance of DSLR without the size and weight. Packed with innovative features, Sony α NEX cameras include a tiltable LCD, Auto HDR, Anti Motion Blur, continuous shooting up to 7 fps, and Live View on a tilting 3.0" LCD. 

Don't miss the chance to get those Fall colors, order yours today.



Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

I have created a great little book store called "How To Use Your Camera" where you can buy photography books online. Just click the link to see what is available.

If you need a camera get it here at my camer store at "Photo To Go"

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.


How To Use Your Camera - A Great Camera Choice

If you've been doing digital photography for awhile and have decided to upgrade to a better camera, this may be the one you are looking for. This camera will put you at PRO level at less than half the price.

The NEX -3 model is least expensive and is made of polycarbonate materials while the NEX - 5 cost more and is constructed of magnesium.

Here's what Sony says about these cameras on their website:

Revolutionary design.

To create a camera with DSLR performance combined with portability that rivals compact digital cameras, Sony incorporates a huge image sensor into a compact frame. The result: an interchangeable lens digital still camera that makes it possible to capture professional-grade pictures without the extra size and weight of standard DSLR cameras.
Add the ability to shoot astonishing low-light pictures, gorgeous HD movies and simplicity of use, and the new α NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras make it easier than ever to capture your vision.

Take amazing photos.

Introducing the interchangeable lens camera that doesn't change your lifestyle. Now you can experience the performance of DSLR without the size and weight. Packed with innovative features, Sony α NEX cameras include a tiltable LCD, Auto HDR, Anti Motion Blur, continuous shooting up to 7 fps, and Live View on a tilting 3.0" LCD. 

Don't miss the chance to get those Fall colors, order yours today.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - Aperture Priority

Aperture Priority is usually designated by the letter "A" on the mode dial of your camera. For camera's without a mode dial it will be a menu option if the camera allows you control over this mode. Refer to your camera's manual to find out if your camera allows this. Knowing how to use your camera includes understanding how to use aperture to your advantage.

So what is aperture? Aperture refers to the size of the opening in your lens at the time your shutter activates. It works a lot like the pupil in your eye. In bright light your pupil lets less light into your eye by contracting to a smaller size. In darkness, your pupil opens up to allow more light to enter. In a camera lens, aperture is controlled by a series of overlapping blades that can be adjusted to various precise opening sizes. It is referred to as "f/stop." Most cameras will allow you to make adjustments to aperture in both 1/3 or 1/2 stops. I use the 1/3 stop option as it gives me more control.

Because the actual opening size is calculated as a ratio, you need to know that smaller numbers refer to larger opening sizes while larger numbers refer to smaller opening sizes. So an opening size of f/2.8 is actually larger than an opening size of f/36. This can be confusing if you let it or think about it too much. Don't do that. Rather, you should think about it by how it affects your photography.

Aperture affects photography in two ways, it lets in more or less light depending on the opening size, and it controls depth of field. You can also use aperture to control shutter speed. Smaller apertures require longer shutter speeds to obtain proper exposure while larger apertures will allow shorter shutter speeds.

Depth of field is probably the most important thing controlled by aperture. When you want to get that landscape scene with everything in focus, or you when you want only the bug on a flower in focus, you need to control depth of field.  The easy way to understand how it works is to learn that smaller f/stop numbers like f/2.8 give shallow depth of fields, while larger numbers give deeper depth of fields. So if you want to take landscapes with deep depth of fields it is best to use smaller apertures, the ones with the larger numbers. An Aperture of f/11 to f/36 will give deep depth of fields.


There is much much more that can be written about this and I will continue discussing aperture and depth of field in other posts so keep coming back. For now though, as you continue to learn how to use your camera, you should read your manual to see what level of control you have, then go out and take pictures. Use aperture to control depth of field, and then use it to control shutter speed and note the effect it has on your images. Good luck and have fun.

Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

I have created a great little book store called "How To Use Your Camera" where you can buy photography books online. Just click the link to see what is available.

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.

How To Use Your Camera - The Histogram, Simplified

Almost everyone who attended my photography walks this Summer had no idea what the histogram was. They knew it was a graphic of their picture but beyond that they had no idea as to how it works. By the end of this post you will not only know what the histogram is telling you but how to use it to create better pictures. It will take a little practice but that will be the fun part as you continue to learn how to use your camera.

The histogram is a display of the tonal values recorded by your camera. Some cameras can show a histogram of the image in your frame or viewfinder before you snap the shutter, while others will only display the histogram after you have taken the picture. Some histograms will show color tonal values of red, blue, and green tones as well as the combined tone of all three which is usually displayed as a white graphic.

If your picture is bright with lots of light areas, the graph will bias toward the right side of the graph and if it is too bright it will climb the right edge. If the picture or scene has lots of dark tones then the graphic will be to the left. Whenever the graphic shows that tonal values are against either the right side or left side, the image is too dark or too bright and you are loosing potential photo data. Don't worry about what the graphic looks like in between the sides too much. What you want to achieve is a graphic that begins near the lower left corner then climbs to the upper middle area and comes back down near the lower right corner. Don't worry if it has a jagged appearance or whatever, only that it starts and ends at the lower left and right corners.

Controlling the amount of bright or dark light is a simple matter of opening up or closing down your exposures. By opening up, I mean letting more light in by either using longer shutter speeds or wider apertures, and by closing down you would use faster shutter speeds or smaller apertures. If your camera is set to Auto it may or may not let you make simple adjustments unless you use the exposure compensation button or menu option. Just set this to plus or minus values and note the changes to the histogram. Check out my previous posts if you have problems here and refer to your manual too.

For now, turn on your camera and find the histogram if it has one. Read about it in your manual too. Then take pictures of dark areas and light areas and review what the histogram display shows you. Then adjust your camera settings to decrease and increase light until you get all the data within the graphic area and it does not climb the edges.

Knowing how to use this feature will help you get those shots that include bright backgrounds such as those bright cloudy days when your screen goes totally white, and ir will help you capture the detail in the dark shadowy areas.

Please send comments if this article was helpful to you or if you would like information about other topics.

I have created a great little book store called "How To Use Your Camera" where you can buy photography books online. Just click the link to see what is available.

You can also visit my own photography website at Dwains Picks to see some of my work.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will check this site often.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - "P" or Programmed Mode

A large number of your camera's will have a "P" posted on the Mode Dial. This is a really cool setting and is one that you will really want to know how to use as you learn how to use your camera.
When you select this setting, your camera is basically on full automatic everything. But you have the option of changing the automatic selections your camera chooses if you want to. Lets say you are shooting a nice water fall while the camera is in P mode and because it is a very bright day all your shots are freezing the action and you really want that silky effect. You can get this by adjusting the shutter to a slower speed. (this is usually the default adjustment) In program mode the camera will automatically change the other settings so that you maintain the correct exposure all the time. Because changing the shutter speed also causes the aperture to change, you can adjust the shutter to get the aperture you want as well and have control over depth of field.
I normally use the P setting when I am shooting unpredictable subjects and I think will need to react very quickly. These subjects can be kids at a baseball game, flying birds or running wildlife, or any moving subject such as ocean waves, water falls, and so on. I keep my camera on continuous auto focus and use a setting that lets the shutter continue to work as long as I hold the button down. Then all I need to worry about is zooming in or out to get the shot I want. Yet I still have the option of adjusting the settings if I think I need to and I don't have to take the camera from my eye to look for another option.
If you liked this article or if you would like to see information about another subject regarding how to use your camera please send me your comments.

Another great resource for information about learning how to use your camera is my online store at "How To Use Your Camera"
To see my photos go to my website at: Dwains's Picks

Monday, September 20, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - Which Camera should I Have?

Many of the folks I talk to are afraid to admit that they only have a tiny little point and shoot camera. They also feel a little embarassed about the fact that they don't know much about how to use it, and that's why they don't buy a bigger and "better" camera. I once overheard a customer in a camera store tell the clerk that he wanted something that would take better pictures than just a little point and shoot pocket camera. Naturally the clerk was willing to sell him whatever he could. But what the customer really needed to know was how to use what he already had. Once he mastered that, he would then know what features he would need in a new camera, if he needed any at all.

I am here to say that what you need to do is learn to use the camera you have now. You don't need to go out and buy a fancy new camera to learn about photography. The one you have now will get you started and you will be totally surprised at what you can do with it if you spend the time to learn how to use it. Go back and review my previous blogs and apply what you learn to your existing camera. You will be glad you did. Once you have mastered all the features of your existing camera you will be ready to move on to the next level. You may find that you are already there!

Here's an example of a photo I shot with a 2 megapixal point and shoot Fujifilm camera seven years ago. I proves the point that it isn't always the tool, it's how and when you use it.

IFor more information about photography go to "How To Use Your Camera" for a really cool collection of books and cheatsheets.

You can also see examples of my own albums at Dwains Picks.

How To Use Your Camera - Shutter Priority or Time Value settings

Different camera makers call this by different names. Nikon calls it "Shutter Priority,"while Canon calls it "Time Value" and represents it by the symbol Tv on their shooting mode dial. Other cameras will have the same or similar terms that reference the same function.

As you learn how to use your camera, one of the features you will want to gain control over is shutter speed. By setting your camera to the "S" on a Nikon mode dial you will have selected Shutter Priority Mode. When the camera is in this mode you can choose how fast or how slow your shutter will work. At the same time, your camera will calculate what aperture will be appropriate to give you the best exposure based on it's light meter reading and your selected shutter speed. 

The best times to us this option is when you know you want your camera to shoot at a certain speed, but you are unsure about the other exposure elements or you know you won't have time to consider them. This can be when you want to stop action, or possibly add a blur effect to some action. For instance lets say you want to shoot pictures of a waterfall with the water appearing silky. You would use a very slow shutter speed. The camera will open or close the aperture accordingly so you get the best exposure. Another example would be when you want to pan a subject, that is you are watching your son or daughter as they ride past you on their new bike. You focus on their face and using a moderately fast shutter speed you snap the shutter as they go by. The effect will be a clear view of the moving subject, with a blurry background.

I have created collection of books and other resources that will provide in depth detail about these subjects and more, if you are interested you can look at this simple website to find just about everything that is available to help you learn to use your camera. I am particularly fond of the books of Bryon Peterson. He shoots in the same geographic areas that I do and I can relate to his subject matter.

How To Use Your Camera - Books

Dwains Picks

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - Exposure

For additional books and information click the link below.

How To Use Your Camera

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How To Use Your Camera - Where to buy more information

It occurred to me that many of my readers will want to find detailed information about many of my blog topics as well as other aspects of photography. So I went to work and put together a collection of titles that are available online that cover just about everything related to camera's and photography. I will continue to add to this list regularly to assure that it is the most comprehensive resource available. I've put these titles in the form of an online store where you can look them over and purchase them if you please.

Here is the link: http://astore.amazon.com/howtouseyourcamera-20

How to Use Your Camera - Depth of Field

One of the most important elements of photography for you to know as you learn how to use your camera is what is called Depth-of-Field (dof). This is the area within your photograph, from front to back, that is in reasonably sharp focus. The automatic point and shoot cameras have settings on them that do this for you. These settings control other aspects of exposure too, all you need to do is select the setting you want and shoot. The camera figures out the best exposure for you. For instance the the Macro setting will allow you to take close up images with a shallow depth of field, while the landscape setting will have a deep depth of field.

But what if you want to have more control over dof? You do this by adjusting the aperture of your lens. Aperture refers to the size of the opening that will let light through to your film or sensor when the shutter is activated. The bigger the opening, the more light comes through. The smaller the opening the less light. Aperture is actually a ratio calculation that is expressed as "f/stop."  You have all heard people say things like "f/11" or "f/22" or "f/8" and so on. Don't worry about where these numbers come from. That's for mathemeticions to worry about. We're photographers not math teachers. All you need to know about this is two things. They are; the smaller the f/stop value, the larger the opening in lens that will allow light to pass, resulting in faster shutter speeds for proper exposure. The larger the f/stop value, the smaller the opening, AND (here's the most important part) the smaller the f/stop value, the shallower your dof. The bigger the f/stop value, the deeper your dof. People get really confused with this stuff if they think to much about it. Don't. The last part is what is most important to you right now, that is: the bigger the number the deeper the dof.

Not all cameras let you have control over your aperture settings but a lot of them do. The setting on your camera's mode dial is usually designated with an A or an Av. Look for this in your camera's user manual and see what it says. I use an open apertue in low light settings and when I want a shallow depth of field such as when I am shooting pictures of flowers. I can let the background go blurry creating a framing effect. When shooting a landscape scene I use a more closed aperture setting, giving me a deep dof, and a longer shutter speed. Note that I keep mentioning how aperture setting effects my shutter speed. This is important as they work together to help you get the proper exposure. I'll talk more about this in a later post.

A couple of other points about Depth of field is that it is relative to distance. In other words, at any given aperture, depth of field will be larger (deeper) for distant subjects such as landscapes, than for close up subjects like flowers or insects. And finally, at any aperture, there is twice the depth of field behind the point of focus as in front. This is important to know when you are concerned about your point of focus. More on this later too. So, for now, find out how to control your depth of field on your camera and go take pictures in each of the various settings available. Check out my two photos and note that the flower picture was shot using a wide open aperture (small number) and the sunset was created using a closed aperture (big number).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How to Use Your Camera - The Mode Dial

Many of the cameras I see people using these days have a mode dial on them. These cameras also have a multi-selector dial as well and you should not confuse one with the other. The mode dial is where you select the proper shooting mode for the conditions or type of photography you will be doing. Some of the most common settings available are AUTO (Most people use this setting) landscape, portrait, sports, P or Programmed Auto, S or Shutter Priority (Nikon), Canon calls this Tv or "Time Value." A or Aperture Priority, and M or Manual. I will discuss each of these in subsequent blog posts. Nikon cameras include a "Scene" mode with sub-menus that include shooting fireworks, snow or beach scenes, landscapes, portraits with face recognition and so on.

My Kodak Easyshare 1253 isn't this fancy. It simply has a Scene button on top that lets me choose from 23 possible situations that I might find myself shooting in. I just have to push the button and select the mode that fits the lighting conditions I will be shooting in. It's pretty simple if you know where to look but if you think you will find these options by pushing the menu button you will become frustrated in a very short time. This is another reason to learn how to use your camera.

Spend some time looking for the mode dial or scene buttons on your camera. Once you know where to find them take several pictures using each of the various options. It will be important for you to be able to find these modes quickly and easily. To do that well will take a little practice as you learn how to use your camera.

My next blog post will discuss Depth of Field, which settings will allow you to control it, and why you might want to do that.



<a href= “http://dwainspicks.imagekind.com”>Dwains Picks</a>


Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to Use Your Camera - Focusing

I didn't intend to cover this topic until later so this will be a brief post just to clear my mind.

A couple of days ago I was making my rounds as a volunteer park host when I came upon a man with a nice looking camera hanging around his neck. Since I am unable to pass by anybody with a camera anyway I stopped to ask him what make and model he was using. I thought I knew, but it looked fairly new and I wanted to be sure. The camera was a Nikon D300. I asked the guy how he liked it and was a little surprised by the answer he gave. He said it was a good camera but that he had missed a shot of a foggy landscape that morning because his lens wouldn't focus. Obviously this guy didn't know how to use this camera yet. He did mention that he could have set his focus to manual and done it that way but it didn't occur to him at the time. Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to belittle the man and his camera. I had to work my way through this situation too and so will you.

What do you do if your camera will not focus? Sometimes this can be a really tough fix. Most of the time its something as simple as turning the camera from manual to auto focus. At other times you may have your camera set to shoot close-up shots then without resetting the camera, attempt to shoot a landscape scene. In this case or vise-versa, you camera may not focus as you want. This can be very frustrating when it happens because you will most likely loose the shot you wanted to take before you figure out what happened. The only solution to this problem of learning how to use your camera is practice. Keep shooting, change settings and shoot then change the settings back and shoot some more.

In the situation above where the man missed his shot because his camera wouldn't focus, he had a couple of other options he could have used. His first was to switch to Manual Focus. Another is that he could have use one of the other "focus area" modes. My advice to him was that he should have switched to manual focus and used an aperture of F/11 or so to insure adequate depth of field. I should have also suggested that he use his depth of field preview button so he could be sure that everything was in focus. The reason his camera wouldn't focus is that the image in the frame didn't have enough contrasting light that any of the 3500 focus points could detect. This can happen whenever a background is similar in color to the forground or the subject is the same color as the background and so on. The D300 has six control settings available to the photographer, as many as 51 special focus points available and other settings to help get the shot. But like I said, it takes practice to learn how to use your camera.

How to Use Your Camera - ISO Sensitivity

As you are learning how to use your camera, one important feature is called ISO Sensitivity. ISO stands for Industry Standards Organization. It came about when all the various film companies were developing film. You will recall from those days that you would buy film based on an ISO or ASA of 100 or 200 or 400, etc. This was an attempt to standardize film "speed" so that photographers would know which film to buy and use in different lighting situations. This way they could buy a Kodak film of ISO 100 and it would be more or less comparable to a Fuji film of ISO 100.  Your old film cameras have settings on them for the various film speeds you might use as well.

Well digital camera's use the same terminology. ISO refers to the speed or "sensitivity" of the electronic sensor in your camera. The users manual for a Nikon Coolpix P80 defines ISO sensitivity as "a measure of how quickly the camera reacts to light." It also says "the higher the sensitivity, the less light it takes to make an exposure." Most cameras will have default setting for ISO. The P80 I just mentioned uses ISO 64. My D300 uses ISO 200 as it's default. Other cameras may use other settings.

So why is it important to know this? Because most cameras set limits on what the auto setting will be able to use. In extreme lighting situations you will need to change these settings to get the image you want. For instance, the Nikon P80 will use a range of ISO 64 to ISO 800 in it's auto setting. This means that the camera will read the available light then adjust the exposure settings of aperture and shutter speed, as well as camera sensitivity (ISO) to get what it thinks is the optimum setting. But what if you are shooting in a dark setting and you want to freeze action, but your camera can't get the shutter speed fast enough? You need to take control, and one of the things that is most forgotten is the ISO setting. If you set the ISO to a more sensitive setting such as 1000, or even 3200, you might have a better chance to stop the action. Another example is when shooting a mountain stream in broad daylight. Your camera will want to use a fast shutter speed in this instance. I like the water to appear silky by adding a little blur effect. I need a slow shutter speed to accomplish this so I will set my camera to a less sensitive ISO in this instance. I will drop down to ISO 100 or lower. I will also close my aperture to let in less light as well. I'll be discussing aperture in a later blog so don't get tangled up on it right now. Now I can slow the shutter speed down and work on creating the shot that I want.

So if you really want to learn how to use your camera, you need to mess around with the ISO settings. Take your time with this, read your manual so you know how to quickly make adjustments to the setting when you need to, then go out and shoot a bunch of pictures using the various settings. Some will be totally white, some will be totally black, some will be blurry and so on. The important thing is that you know what this setting does and how you can change it when you want to.

How to use your Camera - Understanding White Balance

One of the most important aspects of how to use your camera includes a basic understanding of whate balance. Almost, if not virtually all digital cameras nowadays have a menu option called "White Balance." Even your digital phone has a setting for white balance if it has a camera in it. So what do we use "white balance for?" Most cameras and phones will have this setting set to Auto. This is okay if you like to let your camera do all the thinking for you. Your camera will read the available light and choose a setting that it thinks will render the color of your images as it sees them. But what if you want the picture to appear differently? How do you make a picture created on a cold and dreary day, look warmer if that is what you want to depict? You can do this by changing the white balance settings.

Here is my suggestion for learning to use this feature of your camera. First read what your camera's manual says about white balance. Most of the manuals will tell you that the camera sees light differently than what the human eye sends to the brain. Your brain automatically adjusts light to be "white" light. It filters out all the different colors and makes it appear white. A camera doesn't have that ability. It reads the light as it is, if it's blue, you image will appear blue,if its red, it will appear red, and so on. The white balance settings in your camera help you gain control over this. Some cameras even let you adjust light by what is called Light Temperature. We won't discuss that here.

To learn to use this feature and how it can help you get the picture you see, or the one that you want to create, change the settings and shoot some pictures in each one. Note the differences and think about new ways to use this feature to create interesting photos.

I do most of my photography out of doors. The three settings I use the most are daylight, cloudy, and shade. The daylight setting is for clear sunny days, and tends to add a bluish tint to my pictures, making them appear more natural as my eye might see them. The cloudy setting adds a little more red to the image to overcome the natural blue tint from the clouds. And the shade setting adds even more red because shady areas tend to be even more blue than the light on cloudy days.

So to continue to learn how to use your camera, read about the white balance settings in your camera manual, then grab your camera, find the white balance settings in the menu and take a few pictures at each setting. Go outside as see how the changes effect your pictures of a flower, and landscape, and a person or pet. Go inside and shoot in the light provided by a light bulb and note the changes here too. You will have a lot of fun with this, and just maybe you will also create some really neat photographs.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to use your camera – Where to start

So where do you start if you want to learn to use your camera? Well the best place is by getting both the camera and it's manual out together. If you are one of those folks who always say “I just need to take the time and sit down and learn how my camera works,” this is the time.
Before turning the camera on, look at the “Quick Start Guide” that came with your camera. It will tell you things like how to turn it on, insert the batteries, charging time for the batteries and how to shoot pictures. I might include how to hold the camera and how to frame shots as well.
Take a look at the “mode dial” on your camera if it has one. If you don't know what this is, check for it in the manual, and read about all that it does. Most of these will have little picture symbols on them and some version of P, S, A, and M painted or stamped on the surface. It will also have an auto setting as well, and there could be others. The Mode dial is where you will be able to change or set the camera for most of the settings you will want to use. Not all cameras are equipped with mode dials though, Some only have internal menus to work from. Cameras with mode dials also have the same settings in their menus as well.
Take the time to look at all the menu options. Usually there are three basic categories including “Settings or Setup,” a “Shooting” menu, and a “review” menu. Most cameras also have buttons on the outside that speed up certain tasks like image review and delete, video, and other commonly used tools. Experiment with the various settings you find on your camera and in the manual. We'll talk about many of these in later blogs, but for now you need to start becoming familier with both your camera's manual, and the menu options in each categorie available for you particulare make and model of camera.
Next we'll begin working with some of the basic settings like what is ISO, and White Balance, and why they are important.

How to Use Your Camera


I am about to launch a series of blog posts about "How to use your camera." The need for this came to me this summer as I was working as a volunteer for Oregon State Parks and Recreation. I worked at Wallowa Lake State Park, where part of my duties included conducting photography walks along some of the hiking trails in the area. Before each walk or hike, I spent a little time explaining some important factors about "creating" photographs rather than "snappin' pitchers." I discussed three things all pros use to make a photo. I included the tools used to make those three things work, and I began helping people get used to using the menus in their cameras as well as explaining what some of the things mean.

After a few outings I came to realize that most folks simply don't understand the language to begin with. Some folks could relate ISO to the old film speed concept they used to use when they bought new rolls of film, but when asked how different settings could effect their images in different lighting conditions they had no clue. Almost everyone became confused when we talked about aperture and depth of field. Shutter speed was a little easier to grasp but almost no one used the shutter speed setting on their camera. Almost everyone I talked to always used the "Auto" settings for everything.

So, if you are one of those folks who wants to know how to use your camera just follow along. I'll begin by discussing the most common features available on most cameras available today. Then I'll dive deeper into the mysteries of these features and tell you how to use them. In the end you will have learned much more about your camera, how the controls work and how to control them, and above all learn to take better pictures. Will you be a Pro by then? Probably not, but you will have a much better understanding of  photography and how to create a photograph the way you want, rather than be surprised at how good your camera works.


Friday, May 7, 2010

The Fox and the Photographer

I had the pleasure of watching and photographing this Red Fox for about an hour before I captured this shot. I had others from other locations and distances and a few more after this one but I think this one best describes the story of his day.

I first spotted him as a bright blond spot on top of a distant rock outcrop. He was hiding from people and their domestic dogs as they passed by on the road under his location. I had seen this fox in the vicinity before so wasn't surprised by his presence. Actually I was looking for him.

As I watched him he was laying down behind some low tufts of grass watching the people and animals below. After they passed he sat up then got up and moved up the hill. After traveling several hundred feet he suddenly came to attention looking straight ahead and down a little, then did the little fox hop and nose dive into the vegetation in front of him. When I next saw him he was chewing something but at the distance he was from me I couldn't tell what it was. I lost track of him then as he moved behind rock outcrops and more vegetation.

In about a half hour I saw him again. He was coming down the hill from far to the right of where I had last seen him. As he got close to this point he stopped once more on the top of a small rock outcrop and laid down behind another clump of grass.  As I waited and wondered about what he was doing, I noticed more people and dogs walking on the road that passes along the base of the hill. I should note that this is a favorite road of dog walkers, walkers, and people who never leave their cars but run their dogs on the road with general abandon. As a hiker in the area I need to keep a constant eye out for their droppings as most of the locals consider this area a dog toilet, and it saves cleaning up their own yards by running their dogs here.
But I digress!

As soon as the walkers passed by the fox got up and started down the hill again. Suddenly he stopped and ran quickly back to the top of the outcrop. He stayed just long enough to let a pickup truck pass by with a border collie streaking down the road in front of it. As soon as they passed the fox quickly trotted to this spot and I captured the image as he stopped to look over the ledge.  From here the fox moved about fifteen feet to his right and laid down as if he were going to go to sleep. Now and then he would suddenly look back up the hill or up the face of the rock outcrop then lay back down. Then suddenly there were two foxes there. The first one didn't rise but held his reclining position and it appeared as though he were regurgitating his last catch and the other fox was re-chewing it. I was over 400 yards away looking through a 500mm lens so couldn't be sure.

The second fox then moved off down the hill and I lost track of it in the rock slide. I presume it was the first foxes mate and she returned to her den. Her color was much darker with less winter coat than his. The original fox resumed his nap and was still there when I left the area 30 or 40 minutes later.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


The weather finally broke a little bit and I was able to get out and shoot a few pictures this morning. It was cloudy and the wind had a nasty bite but at least it wasn't snowing or raining.

My objective was to attempt to photograph a Red Fox that has been seen recently near where we are staying. I didn't know for sure if I would be successful with this and had a back up plan of photographing the fox's food. Golden Marmots live on the same hillside as the Fox and in great profusion.  These can be interesting and challenging too. You can hear them chirping before you will ever see them. This fox is well known by the community and we all look forward to seeing it and it's kit's in the Spring.

A long range lens is very helpful in this kind of work photography and I have a Sigma 170-500 that I use. It's not top of the line but it does a good job in good light. This is the lens I would use for this project.

During a two or three hour I was able to capture a few scenes of snow capped mountains, marmots, two foxes, and a barn owl. The owl shots didn't turn out with this lens as it was flying and I was on a tripod set up for sleeping foxes when it came by.

I didn't get any really great shots of anything but that's not the point. The point is that I was able to get out there and get something. It was a good day!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kids and Photography

I do a lot of photography with my grandkids. Enough that I can trust them with my camera. Of course I keep an eye on things but at age 14 a boy or girl can be responsible for things if you expect them to. You just need to teach them some basics and be able to step back and let their imaginations go to work.
This past weekend I handed my camera to one of my grandsons charging him with shooting his brothers baseball game. I had captured two games the day before and thought he would like to do this one. I had the camera set up so all he had to do was frame his shots, something he thinks about and is good at.
The result of letting him shoot that game is phenomenal. Not every picture is perfect as you might guess, but the story told by the series of images he shot is amazing. All totaled he shot 1191 pictures. Mostly of the ball game, but there are other things there too.
It has pictures of me from across the field, he also has pictures of a very pretty girl from across that field too, and later there are more of her from a little closer. I'll talk to him about that! Not that he shouldn't take pictures of girls but how and why and the ethics of doing it. The thing is that he shot and captured what he saw through his lens. Family members and friends all became part of the story. In the end what he captured was the essence of a weekend of baseball with family and friends. It couldn't be done in one or two simple photos no matter how perfect they could be, instead it took over 1000 images to make the story whole. We can edit this down to fewer images and we will, but it will be the photographer, my grandson, and I doing it together and he will have the final say as to what we use in his story. I just might make a coffee table book out of this collection or maybe a screen saver. Isn't photography fun!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nikon D300, Auto or Manual Settings

Most serious photographers, whether amateur or above take pride in being able to shoot their cameras in totally manual settings. The really good ones know and understand exposure, what the effect of long lenses verses normal verses wide-angle lenses can be and the relationship of focal length to distance and so on. They understand the differences between shooting landscapes, portraits, panoramas, panning and action shots, and which lenses and exposures produce the best results in each instance. These photographers sometimes shudder at the thought using anything that is considered "auto" on their cameras under any condition or circumstance. It's a matter of pride and integrity. They might actually have a feeling of "guilt" if they stooped so low as to "autofocus," especially if one of their peer's found out that they had reduced themselves to letting the camera make any decisions for them at all. "Oh the Shame!"

I look at it differently and thankfully so do millions of other photographers and manufacturers. The reason is this, when we choose the various settings our cameras are capable of, whether auto or manual, we know why we want that setting and what effect it is supposed to produce. We know and understand exposure, but we also understand that sometimes conditions are such that it is humanly impossible for the photographer to track and adjust to all the changing conditions we experience while shooting.

Here is an example:

This weekend I was shooting pictures of my grand son as he and his teammates played a baseball tournament.

I proudly set all the settings on my camera as follows:

1. For White Balance-I used auto because the sun and clouds were rapidly intermittent and I knew I would be watching the game and not the specific lighting.
2. ISO-also auto because late in the day we've been having very dark clouds actually make it so dark that shutter speeds become too slow to stop the action. Letting the camera choose the best ISO setting would help keep shutter speeds up.
3. Quality was set to normal. I don't expect to need RAW data here for large format images that I can't produce with the cameras normal setting. I can also get a lot more images on my cards which is important in this instance since I was shooting multiple shots to capture the action.
4. My auto focus was set to continuous servo, and the dial at "Ch" for continuous shooting at 6 frames/sec. I wanted to capture the action with as many images as possible of the batter or the close plays at the bases or in the field. Compose
5. I took advantage the Nikon D300's 51 auto-focus points with 3D tracking so my images would be as clear as possible during the sometimes very fast action sequences. This way I could swing the camera from batter to outfielder to base runner while adjusting the focal length on my zoom lens to get as much of the action as possible. (This is really hard to do)
6. Next I set my camera to "P" or "Programmed Auto" mode. This allows the camera to set the shutter and aperture based on its meter readings regardless of what focal length I am adjusting to, but will also allow me the latitude of over-riding the auto-setting if I choose to.

I had a few other settings adjusted here and there too such as whether my camera should choose shutter or focus priority or both, and so on. So in the end, was I really doing all the work and totally in charge of my images or was the camera doing all the work and giving me the credit for whatever came out? I like to think I was the one in charge. Yes  I delegated certain aspects to my camera and took advantage of the tools and abilities it provides, but I chose which ones and I knew and understood what they were and why I wanted to use them. Subsequently I also knew what to expect from my effort and I wasn't disappointed.

In the end I have roughly 2000 images from four baseball games over two days of shooting to evaluate. No, not all of them will be great or even good images, but there will be a few that are and these will be better than the average shooter could have gotten. In many instances they will be better than the hard core manual shooter could have gotten as well simply because the action is too fast. When shooting at manual settings you need to set your camera for averages and a lot of time that is just what you get, average images.

So, whatever camera you use, learn about all of it's abilities and take advantage of them. You will be surprised and pleased with the results.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Baseball Pictures - Through The Backstop

Are you trying to get good shots of your kids or grand kids playing baseball? Is the backstop behind home plate causing your camera to focus on it rather then the subject you want?

You can beat this problem if you can control your camera's focal length. To shoot through a fence or the bars of a cage at the zoo, you use a longtelephoto lens. This can be a problem for some shots, but if you want to get the player swinging the bat at home plate, zoom in. The fence will blur out or totally disappear depending on how far you are from the fence and how much telephoto you have. Experiment with this before and during the game to see what you need to do. Once in awhile you will get a perfect shot, of the fence! But you will also get some great shots of your favorite player as well.

Try it! Let me know what happens!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Lonely Photographer-Hardly!

I asked my wife and grown son if they wanted to accompany me to the National Wildlife Refuge near Richland, Washington yesterday. In the beginning it was OK with them but they both needed to do some other things first, then we could go. I waited about an hour then I said I was leaving, if they wanted to go along it had to be now. I ended up going alone. It was too late for any early morning scenery but I was after wildlife or closeup shots anyway since the latter is my latest passion in photography.

I headed for a Bank of America first to get some cash to pay the entry fee, picked up a ready made poorboy complete with chips and a cookie at the local grocery, and set my vehicles GPS for my destination. I've learned that this device will take me over routes I would never think or know to go, and it's always a pleasurable experience. As a matter of fact I have a small Amazon Website where I sell the Top Rated GPS units. There's a link to that site on this blogger page.

When I got to the refuge I had a nice visit with the volunteer in the contact station, paid my entry fee of $3.00 dollars and started out on the Auto tour. You drive your own vehicle over a pre-determined route and do your photography from within your vehicle.

I saw tons of wetland birds. The day was sunny but hazy, making it a little difficult to choose which white balance setting to use. I chose daylight and let it go at that. Still I hadn't totally prepared my camera as I should have and was just enjoying the slow drive as I idled the truck along the route. There were other cars on the tour too and we just passed each other as needed but kept moseying along.

Soon I saw something moving in the grass near the base of a lone Oak tree next to the road. As I approached I saw a medium sized, young looking Raccoon waiting for my approach. Naturally since my camera wasn't ready I missed the best shots as he climbed the tree. I got a few others when he reached his favorite branch though and then I made sure my camera was ready for whatever came next. As  I moved along I came to a rest stop where you are allowed to leave your vehicle. There was one other person there when I arrived and we struck up a short but polite conversation. His name was Frank. I helped him identify a Starling, (he said he was new to ornithology) and we both shot pictures of a couple of Bald Eagles that were soaring high above in the bright sun.

Frank soon departed and I changed lenses to my Sigma 170-500 zoom. I photographed a couple of groups of turtles sunning themselves on logs in a slough, a Great Blue Heron, and a beautiful white Egret as it preened its feathers out in the marshland. As  I continued my tour I suddenly I saw another Heron in the distance that was flying my direction. It has something long and thin hanging from its bill. I stopped the truck and got ready but the bird landed behind a dike out of sight. I moved the truck slowly forward until suddenly the bird appeared again right next to me and another heron was chasing it. I had less than 5 seconds to grab the camera, point it out the window and snap five quick shots as both Herons flew by. Fortunately I had set the camera to programmable mode earlier when I saw the other heron. It was standing right on the road and I knew a car in front of me would cause it to jump and fly so I had prepared the camera to capture the bird as it lifted off.

I left the auto tour and headed over to the other side of Richland where I could walk the trails near the "Plank House," in another part of the same refuge. The Plank House is a replica of the dwellings used by the local natives when Lewis and Clark were here. I met another photographer there and we walked the paths together as we discussed our equipment and various ways and reasons to shoot pictures of the local plants and other scenery. Eventually we parted company as I saw some pretty wildflowers I wanted to work with. After awhile I ran into Frank, the guy I had met earlier in the day and it was like meeting an old friend. We visited and compared a few notes about the days adventures and then went our ways again as we had before.

I soon left Richland and headed over to the Cedar Creek Grist Mill. I had been there the day before and after reviewing the shots I took that day I wanted to go back and try to catch the same frames but with different lighting. As it turned out I arrived just in time and the light was exactly as I had hoped. I had time to create about ten frames before it was gone. I worked a few other closeup scenes with Bleeding Heart and other wildflower blooms, and visited with other guests before leaving.

Was I a lonely photographer because my wife and son chose to stay home? Not on your life. I made several new friends, had a great day of photography, and came home grinning and happy with a camera full of nice pictures for my "lonely" effort.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Close-Up Photography

Entering the world of close-up photography for the first time is like being a pioneer. It's challenging, exciting, and offers new wonders at each bend. It requires developing a new "eye" for photography. You're still looking for that perfect landscape, but it's much smaller. It requires learning new ways to use your old equipment, or acquiring new equipment to do the job. I suggest learning to use your existing equipment for close-up work before buying a bunch of new stuff. You will be surprised at what you can do with what you have. Don't be afraid to use your little point and shoots for this work too. Some of these will do amazing things for such little cameras.

I created this image using my Sigma 70-300mmD Lens mounted on my Nikon D300. This lens has a macro feature that lets me focus closer than normal at 200 to 300mm. It doesn't create a true macro image of 1:1 where the subject is the same size on the CCD as in real life, but will allow ratios from about 1:2 to 1:5. I mounted a really really cheap Quantaray 4X close-up filter from my earliest days in photography on the front of the lens and began messing around to see what would happen. I soon spied this little growth of lichen on the end of a fence board and moved my tripod (Bogen-Manfrotto 3221W, with a 30-30 head) up close for the shot. This took some maneuvering but I finally found the range and began shooting. I used the other filters in the set at 1x and at 2x too but I don't like the results they offer at all. The 4x really surprised me though. It gave the image a huge sense of depth. Mostly due to the filters poor quality and the subsequent vignetting that occurred. I really like this shot and its is displayed here un-edited and exactly as it came from the camera. As you probably guessed, I'm off on a new (to me) project again, and you can bet I'll be experimenting more with my old equipment in new ways.

Here's a great book that I bought at Costco a couple of days ago that is helping me with this type of photography: "Understanding Close-up Photography," by Bryan Peterson. There were three other books of his there as well but this one suited my needs at the moment. Besides Bryan does some of his photography in the same places I do here on the West Coast of the US.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shoot The Moon

Want to get good photos of the full moon? Here's how to set up your camera. You will need to ignore your light meter for this so don't worry if all the little bars are telling you that you are underexposed. Any camera that will allow you to gain manual control of the exposure settings can be used for this.

First put your camera on your tripod and hyper-focus on the moon. To do this you need to turn off "autofocus" and manually focus your camera on the moon so that it is clear and you can see the craters and other details, then slightly back it off a tiny bit. Now set your camera shutter speed to 1/500sec, and the F/stop to F/11. This is your starting point. You should also be using your longest lens and set it to it's maximum focal length, then back it off just a bit too. I always use my timer setting to snap the shot. I don't have a remote shutter for my camera and the timer works fine for me.

Remember that the moon is moving and you will need to re-frame your scene from time to time. I've never been successful shooting shots of the moon and hand holding the camera so I strongly recommend that you use a tripod for this.

Now, what if you want to shoot moon scenes that include the landscape? For this you will need to use your meter. I set mine for spot metering. I then put the selected spot on the landscape that I want to be metered properly and adjust the shutter speed and F/stop accordingly. Don't forget to re-focus your camera if you need to. From this point it is a matter of shooting at different focal lengths and exposure settings. I will continue shooting at various settings with the moon in different parts of the frame until my creative juices have been exhausted where upon I will download my images and check out my work.

Note that the moon rises a little later each day. I check a local almanac to find out when. If no almanac is available I try to note when the moon lifted above the horizon then add about twenty minutes for the next day. That will be close enough for you to get ready. You can also get near "full" moon shots the day before and the day after the actual "full moon." Knowing that you should have plenty of time and opportunity to plan your shoot and make any adjustments you find necessary, barring the weather.

Well get out there and have some fun!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Copyright Issues

A few days ago I offered a couple of 4x6 prints to be displayed in the office of the BLM area we are currently staying in. The owl at left is one of those images. I put my name and my website information on the bottom of the print but I neglected to put a (C) copyright statement there too.

Today I was informed that one of the volunteer officials from the office intended to take my print to town and make copies of it. The person telling me about it was all agog about all the comments that had been made over those two images. Such comments about how perfect the lighting was, and that a former Natl. Geographic Photographer ( I can't confirm this but was told that one evaluated the images) had commented as to how good the shots were, and so on.

This is something that I have come to expect from my photography. People see it and tell me how wonderful it is, they will even drive to do town 20 miles away to have copies made to frame and give to their friends. But will they buy them from me? Only if I catch them first and this is rare!

I informed the lady that wanted the copy that I would provide one for her, and not to have copies made since I still hold the copyright. She was OK with that and said she would return my print to the office for display again.

In the future I will be putting copyright statements on my images and will include something that says that it cannot be copied in any form without my express written consent. I will probably go back to that office and write this on these two images in the next couple of days too.

An uncle once made an interesting statement to me as I watched him being repeatedly stung by angry bees as he was stealing wild honey from a hollow tree. He said "it's just totally amazing what a guy will do and endure, to get something for nothing." The same thing applies to your photography. People will steal you blind if they can and never even consider it theft unless you catch them at it.

I'll be doing more on this topic so keep an eye out for additional posts.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Which Camera Bag

Which camera bag should you use? There are four camera bags in this shot. A little white bag for the Kodak EasyShare V1253 that I took this picture with, and three others of various sizes and capacities.

The little white bag is fine for one little camera and an extra battery and memory card two. Toss in a pocket and get out there.

My favorite bag is a LowPro Slingshot. Bottom right. This bag has a single shoulder strap that goes over the right shoulder. It allows the bag to be carried on the back most of the time but swung around the front when needed. The bag is large enough for all the lenses I normally use plus most of the extras I might need for short trips away from my vehicle. I does not have a place for my big 500mm sigma, and there is no place for water bottles and granola bars.

The small bag at the lower left contains my back up Nikon D-70. It has everything for that camera handy and ready to go. I let my grandsons use this bag and camera when we go shooting together. I also keep this camera handy as it has the infrared remote capability that my larger D-300 does not have. I use this when I want to set my camera in a remote site to capture birds but I don't what to be too close myself. I can use the remote to activate the shutter from a distance. I have been successful with this beyond 100 feet.

The big LowPro at the top is my workhorse bag. When completely outfitted, I can be out all day and night in any weather. It has room for all my lenses, an extra camera body, filters, batteries, water bottles, granola bars, gps, mini digital recorder, notebooks, pens, and just about anything else you might want to carry along. I've even carried a little scout mess kit and tiny coleman stove and fuel cell.

I've just completed equipping this bag for long days in the desert where I am now. The weather has been rainy but that's about to end. This bag will allow me to carry enough water for a days photography so long as I go slow and don't over work physically. I can take my extreme wide angle lens, my macro lens, and my big 500mm telephoto. This will allow me to work landscapes, desert flowers, cactus plants, and any wildlife that I encounter.

What am I doing here? I need to get going!

Happy shooting!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How To Get Great Pictures

You need to plan ahead if you want to increase you chances of getting better than average shots. It helps if you know how to frame an image or how to arrange your subjects, but the real key to great photography is planning your shots ahead of time.

I do this by doing reconnaissance trips, with a camera, through the area I intend to come back to. The first time through an area is when everything will be the most interesting to you. Your inspiration will be at it's peak and you will get some of your favorite images now. Use your best camera at its highest quality setting.

Once you have a chance to review you work you can decide and plan how you will do your next photo trip. You should know what subjects you want to work on, where they are located, and when the light will be just right for your work. You will also know how you want to frame your shots, what to include or what to leave out, what depth of field you might want and so on.

As a rule I've learned to take lots of pictures of each subject from different angles, widths, and distances the first time I see it. My inspiration is always highest then and I am usually most creative too. Then, as I review all my images later they will either seem "complete" or they will cause me to look for answers to questions. If I feel that they image is "incomplete" or doesn't finish the "story" I will try to shoot it again and make it right.

The image above is a perfect example of what I am talking about. It is a beautiful desert scene of the Chocolate Mountains in the background and a brilliant Ocotillo plant in the foreground. Depth of field and focus or clarity are all good. Composition is properly arranged and so on but something is missing. For me it's the "foot" of the Ocotillo. It's been cropped off in the camera during the initial shot.

Now I know what I want to work on next time out. I just need to decide when I should be there. I'll let the creative juices that inspire me again at the time, but at least a few shots will include the foot of that Ocotillo plant.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Even though we were experiencing some of the worst rain storms in memory down in southern California, with temperatures in the upper 30's and winds at 20 to 40mph, these little birds still come to the feeder.

Because the weather was so bad I had to stay under the porch roof to protect my camera and lenses. I could not get as close as I would have liked because the weather was so bad. I was using my Sigma 170-500 lens at full extension.

Both images are of the same bird in different locations. It would fly up by the feeder and sit a the wire that once was a dog run, then sail across the yard to rest inside the protection of a bush at the edge of the yard. Now and then it would hop up to the top of the fence and then into the next yard for a little bit but it always came back.

Because it was so dark from the clouds and rain I had to set the ISO up on my camera in order to increase my shutter speed adequately enough to catch this quick moving little model. I use a setting of 3200 ISO and set the aperture at f/8. I needed a little extra depth of field to allow for errors in focus since he was moving around all the time. My shutter speed varied from about 1/80 sec to 1/125 sec. Both these images were captured at 1/125 sec. I also cropped these images and enlarged them beyond 100% for this post.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Foggy Photography

Yesterday was a tough (but wonderful) day for shooting on the Oregon Coast. It was incredibly foggy and even when the fog lifted, a heavy, misty haze kept the atmosphere very gray.

I was out shooting with my young friend near Shore Acres and Sunset Bay State Parks. We had the right subjects with huge crashing waves, seagulls, pelicans, snails, trees, rock formations and all but the lighting was hard to deal with. We attempted different shooting modes on our Nikon's such as sepia, or black and white since the lighting caused most of the shots to be near black and white anyway. Suddenly my friend says "I found that when in sepia if I set my white balance to "incandesant" the rocks are darker and stand out better." I tried a few shots like this and liked the result.

This image is as it came from the camera. I didn't edit it at all and I'm not sure what I would do with it if I did. I think I like it as it is

As I always say, don't be afraid to try new things. Use your camera, change its settings and keep shooting.

Photography Tips

Here are a few things you can do to improve your photography that will apply regardless of what camera you use. These are the basics that every photographer should know and do to get reasonably good pictures out of any camera.

Make sure you have a clean lens. Don't just blow the dust off, but use a clean cloth suitable for cleaning lenses and do it right.

Set up so your camera is stable and won't move as you press the shutter. You can do this a number of ways. If you will be handholding the camera, hold your elbows in against your sides, and stand with your feet apart with one slightly forward of the other. You can also lean against a solid object like a light pole, tree, building or whatever. The best method though is to use a tripod or monopod. I have both but I like to carry the tripod best. If I want to use it as a monopod I just extend only one leg and us it as I would a monopod. I'll add instructions about to how to use these tools later.

Finally the "First" basic thing you need to do is read your manual and learn what all the parts of your camera are for and how to use them. If you understand how your meter works and what white balence is you'll go a long way to getting that shot you want when the light is wierd and you are wondering why your pictures are all dark or yellow instead of like what you saw on the monitor or in the viewfinder.

I'll expand on all these topics in the coming weeks and months so you'll want to check back and see what I've added from time to time.