Friday, November 16, 2012

Commercial Photography

The other day I decided to stop by my buddy's new dental office and take a few pictures.  I figured that he spent a lot of money building that new office and making it look good, why not try and do him a favor and get a really good picture of it.  So when I got close to the office and I liked the blueish color of the sky (I knew it would be perfect in just a few short minutes) I decided to give it a shot.

After I got done, I decided to immediately start processing the photos.  I wanted another try at HDR (trying to keep it realistic) and this was just my shot.  I combined the photos and started making a few tweaks.  I removed some garbage cans and a couple of handicap parking signs as well as a reflection on my UV filter and voila, this is the shot I ended up with.  Not too bad if I do say so myself.  =)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rural Decay 2

For the first couple of years living in our current house I took a certain route to work.  Every day on my way home I would notice a certain old car that was a little ways off the road.  This was a car that was really unremarkable in almost every sense of the word.  It was completely rusted out, in the middle of nowhere with no real hope of ever getting restored.  Anyway, there was always something about that old car that drew my attention almost every time I drove past.
Now for the last year or better I have been taking a different route to work that does not take me past the old car.  I had almost completely forgotten about it until the other day when I was in the area with Elena and my parents (in another car) and again noticed the old car.  I didn't have a good chance to stop at that moment because E was on the verge of a melt down and it would have required leaving her in the car unattended (apparently that's frowned upon.)
So the following Friday I walked out of my workplace and noticed the layered clouds of an overcast sky and decided right then to try and get a good picture.  As I got to the place on the interstate a few things were going through my head that had nothing to do with photography.  Should I really be parking my car along an interstate?  Can this really be safe?  Am I prepared to trespass on private property?  Is it really trespassing if there are no signs?  What if a state trooper sees me (what are the chances of that actually happening?)  What if the owner of the car spots me and starts to come down there?  Like I said, nothing to do with photography but everything to do with my surroundings.  As you can tell, I decided that no, I should not be parking on the interstate but I was going to anyway.  I was prepared to trespass, and yes it is still trespassing even if there are no signs.  I will accept whatever a state trooper decides if that should become an issue.  I would ask for forgiveness from the property owner if they confront me.
After scoping out the scene and deciding which lens to use, I got my camera setting set and took a few pictures.  I started shooting in color but decided B&W might work better and switched to monochrome.  B&W was definitely the right setting for this scene.  I recomposed and took a couple more.  All-in-all I only took 6 total shots.  I figured if I can't get it figured out in those shots with no interruptions or distractions then I deserved to have to come back and try again and maybe I would learn my lesson.
When I got home I waited 'till that evening to process the photos and when I did I immediately had a favorite.  I went through my typical processing techniques and showed my wife the photo.  She thought it was pretty good and so did I.  It was sharp and had plenty of contrast.  So I stopped and went to bed.
Fast forward to Monday and I wanted to show a couple people from work.  When I showed the picture to my buddy Matt he thought it was pretty good too, but when I was tabbing through the pictures he caught a glimpse of the very last photo I took that day and said it was his favorite.  I asked him to explain why and he did.  After looking over the two photos again I couldn't help but agree.  It was a much better composed photo with stronger visual cues and fewer distractions.  I hadn't even given this photo a chance when I initially reviewed them and I'm glad I waited for someone else to see them before I sent it to the cutting room floor.  I went through the same processing techniques for this photo and cropped it down a little and came up with the photo you see below.

IMHO I think this is a great photo (not just "pretty good") and I am one very happy camper.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Upon further review...

One of the things that several blogs and websites have talked about is saving your RAW files so you can go back and take a second (or third) look at pictures when you've learned something new or gotten a new program or whatever might produce a different/better resulting image.  As I've been trying to work on my post-processing techniques I have picked up a few things that have helped me get better results on my finished pictures.  I still don't want to over process my photos and I'd like to stick with basic editing techniques so I was extremely excited when I learned how to get my finished photos as sharp as I thought they should be.  Previously I was struggling to get my photos from RAW files to look even as sharp as the JPEG's straight out of the camera.  Imagine my elation when I was able to get a photo to look better than my camera could.  That meant I was finally starting to get some real benefit from shooting in RAW.  One of the photos I had previously been pretty disappointed with was the photo of Buxton park that I took last winter.  If you remember I was on my way to work and I stopped and handheld my camera out my car window and took the shot with my 50mm (no IS) lens.  After PP the shot just didn't look as good as I had hoped and printing it off at 8 x 10 confirmed my suspicions.  It was such a cool scene and I was pretty bummed about the lack of quality.  Fast forward about 8 months and I decided to "re-process" the photo and see what I would get.  The resulting image was much better than before and about as good as I had originally hoped.

Here are the before and after shots.



Monday, October 1, 2012

Beautiful Fall

This is possibly one of the most beautiful times of the year.  All of the leaves are turning colors and the farmers are in the field for harvest.

The other night I saw a post on Facebook from my cousin regarding the farmers in the field and that it was one of her favorite memories as a child.  That really got me thinking about how much I enjoyed being out in the field with my grandpa (either in the tractor or combine.)  I truly loved it.  I would take naps in the cab next to him and the next thing I knew we were headed in for lunch (or dinner.)  So I set my sights on getting a good picture of a combine in the field.  I was keeping my eyes open on my ride home from work last Friday and that is when I noticed this scene.  It was perfect.  I love the expanse of the field with the beautiful trees in the background.

Later on, I couldn't help but notice the beauty of fall on display once again as I entered the more heavily wooded area of my bike ride.  I decided this one was also too good not to attempt so here is what I got from that shoot also.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ride to work

I've been trying to ride my bike to work on Friday's because it is a great way to get a couple workouts in and save a little gas at the same time.  So I get my happy ass up at 3:30 am and try to hit the road by 4:00.  It is a 33 mile ride that usually takes me about 2 hours.  I've really enjoyed the experience and I look forward to getting to do more of them (at least until the weather gets too cold.)

Anyway, it took me a little while to decide to ride the entire distance from home to work (I had previously been driving to a location and then riding the remaining distance) but after I made the big decision I haven't looked back.  On my first full ride I was riding along and got to a particular bridge in Des Moines and happened to notice the Des Moines skyline.  It was beautiful.  I had caught that time of morning where the sky was a stunning, deep blue.  So I pulled my camera out of my backpack and took several shots using the bridge handrail to steady the camera.  I was pretty excited.  When I got to work I downloaded all the pictures and every one of them was blurry.  DAMMIT!!  I decided to try again the next week (weather permitting) but I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.  I purchased the Pedco Ultrapod II from Amazon and carried it and a remote shutter release with me the next week.  The next week was also a great morning so when I got to the bridge I had my shot all planned out.  I was going to use Auto Exposure Bracketing to attempt an HDR image and I would also attempt to just get it right in-camera.  I was determined to get a good shot.  I also realized that part of the problem the last week was that I had underestimated how much the bridge shakes when cars drive over it.  So I had to time my exposures till there wasn't a car in sight.  I turned on my mirror lock-up and also used my LCD screen to focus (since it can zoom and my viewfinder can't.)  This time when I got the pictures downloaded they were awesome.  After attempting to HDR the images I couldn't get them to align perfectly and the HDR image was simply too soft to consider using.  Then I played around in Paint Shop Pro X4 a little while with a single RAW image and I was ecstatic with the results I got.  I immediately sent it to Costco for large scale printing (12 x 18) and after receiving the print I loved it.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Street Photography

So I'm really wondering if I have it in me to try street photography.  I've always been told I have a natural ability to talk to anybody and it's true, I really can talk to just about anyone.  I don't know how I do it necessarily but I think I just pick out something about them to mention and then try to start a conversation built on that.  It could also just simply be an "excuse me, do you mind if I sit here?" and from there talk about whatever I see.  Anyway, I'm wondering if I have the chutzpah to pull it off.  Talking to someone and then asking them to let me take their photo is two entirely different things.  I remember watching a video of Jimmy Hickey regarding how to start doing street photography and it got me interested.  So now I just need to find a way to translate my "gift of gab" into "just shoot."  Stay tuned....

Monday, July 30, 2012

Quick Post

I just wanted to put this picture out here.  I took it this morning on my way to work.  I propped my camera on the window sill of the car to steady the shot.  After a little post processing and a little cropping, this is what I got.  I kinda like it.

Food Photography

So a natural area of photography is food photography.  I've got an amazing wife that loves to cook.  I've also got an amazing appetite and I love to eat so why not blend these two areas of my life into one.  This spring my brother discovered an enormous black raspberry patch on the outskirts of town and decided it was too much for just his small family and disclosed the location to our parents and me.  To skip most of the details, Kim and I picked for a total of about 11 hours and got a ton of raspberries and quite a few scratches.  Afterwards Kim decided she wanted to macerate some of the berries and eat them almost immediately.  I told her I wanted to photograph them and these are the two best photos.

This first one is the picture she wanted.  The traditional "cookbook" type of photo from above.

This picture is the more "artistic" photo that I really wanted.

I honestly love them both and the best part is that they are both straight out of the camera with no post processing.  =)

Monday, May 21, 2012

52 week project Week 2 - Sound

This weeks topic was a pretty easy one (sarcasm) - sound.  When I showed the list of topics to Kim, she immediately looked at me and said "sound?"  As in, how the hell are you going to photograph sound.  Well, when I told her that it needed to be an image that invoked the thought of sound then she understood a bit more.

Anyway, I'd had some ideas and I tried a couple of them but they weren't really all that successful.  We've got a beautiful grand piano and an even more impressive organ at our church but after attempting to photograph our sanctuary and other items in our church, I have yet to find a really great way to capture the grandure of either.  I  really feel we have a great looking church and when you walk into it in the afternoon with the sunlight coming through the stained glass windows and shining onto the beautiful wooden pews, it really is beautiful.  But for the life of me, I can't figure out how to capture that beauty with a camera!  DANG IT!!

Back to the weekly project - so I realized I had a great opportunity for "sound" last Friday night when Indianola was having their monthly Bike Night.  Motorcycles from all over the state (and some surrounding states) converge on Indianola for about 4-5 hours and make ALOT OF NOISE!  You can only imagine how loud it gets with a couple thousand Harley Davidson, Honda, Victory (and even crotch rockets) all gathered around a simple town square.  It may not even be legitimate to compare this to Sturgis but it's pretty impressive nonetheless.

So Kim, Elena and I walked the 3 blocks to the square to see what we could find.  I told Kim that if she thought she saw a good picture, then she should let me know because I'm definitely open to suggestions.  I took a couple dozen pictures trying to get pictures that show the size of the group, showing bikes in a line, individual bikes that were super original and everything in between.  Nothing really felt quite right.  Finally after we decided to start heading out, Kim spotted one last interesting bike.  It wasn't really an original bike (paint job, construction, etc) but it did have lots of chrome with some interesting light.  I took a few pictures of it trying to get something original and usable and this is what I got.  I think this works pretty well for sound, what do you think?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

52 week project Week 1 - Water

Recently I've seen on some of my favorite blogs, discussions about doing 365 day, 52 week or 30 day projects.  The concept is pretty simple.  You pick a project duration and then pick a format.  Some people will do one topic (like self portraits) for an entire month.  That would help them experiment with new techniques and styles to attempt to expand their knowledge.  Or they could pick a different topic for each individual day.

I have decided to do a 52 week project.  I have already come up with all 52 topics and I decided to start it this week.  The gist of my project and each topic is to take a picture that is either literal or invokes the thought of the topic.  I must, however, include the topic in the picture somehow.  For instance, this week is water.  I might take a picture of a bridge but there must be some water in the picture somewhere.  Or I could take a picture of geese in flight as long as there is some water involved then it works for me.

I will be posting all of my (decent) qualifying pictures here because I don't want to stop thinking about the weekly topic just because I got one decent shot.  I would rather have three entirely different attempts with three flops than only one attempt with an acceptable picture.  The purpose of this project is multifaceted.  1) To learn as much of the actual process of photography in a real world setting.  2) To get out of my comfort zone and look at things differently and to look at different things.  3) To learn if my equipment is sufficient for my needs or if upgrading is a logical next step for me.

One of my biggest hurdles is to get real experience behind the camera.  I've spent so much time reading about photography but only a fraction of that time has been spent actually taking photos.  I mean, how successful would I be if I knew every nuance of a golf swing but had never actually swung a club.  I know the exposure triangle of ISO, aperture and shutter speed but when I get out into the real world it still takes me a few test shots to figure out how my camera should be set up.  I also have a few lessons to learn about camera preparedness.  I would like to get into the habit of always resetting my camera to 400 ISO, Program mode and Auto White Balance whenever I get done taking pictures.  It only takes a few seconds and those couple of steps could be the saving grace I need to capture those quick shots of Elena instead of missing them entirely.

With all of that in mind, my first attempt is a shot I took this morning on my way to work.  I stopped at Summerset State park to see if I could get some shots of the fog on the water.  I was not disappointed and I think I got a couple of good ones.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


One of the things I had discussed with my instructor when she asked me what I was interested in was photojournalism.  I like the idea of taking pictures at football/basketball/baseball/softball games or track meets, golf tournaments and almost any sporting event.  I could also see myself taking pictures after a natural disaster to document the recovery effort and the emotions, pain and strife that has been caused.  All of those things interest me as a way to make a difference.  So Elena and I were out for a walk yesterday and as I passed by one of our local parks I could hear the scraping of skateboards coming from the skate park.  I decided to go check it out.  Elena was absolutely mesmerized by all the action.  I don't think she made a sound the entire time we were there.  She just watched and pointed at all the skaters.  The following picture is the best one I got while we were there.  What I really love is the total contradiction created by an Iowa farm boy in cowboy boots and non-saggy jeans doing an entirely urban activity (and doing it well.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Too many megapixels?

So Nikon has come out with two of the highest megapixel cameras on the market recently.  the 36mp D800 and now the 24.2mp D3200.  I currently use a Canon XS which only has a measly 10.1mp and I can still take great pictures.  Granted, I haven't blown anything up to greater than an 8x10 picture, but I know I could if I wanted to.  I can go up to poster sized if I'd like.  My typical file size is approx 3MB for JPG and 10MB for RAW.  That is alot of file space, especially if you believe and exercise the spray and pray approach.  I recently took 118 pictures of my daughter with both RAW and JPG files and ended up with 1.55GB of files!  How big would my hard drive need to be to handle those files if my JPG's were 12MB and 20.4MB for RAW!

The other drawback to having that many pixels is digital noise.  I've been told that the digital noise on a D800 is ridiculous.  Now if you pack that same ratio of pixels into a crop sensor like the D3200 what would you expect for noise?  I would expect the same amount and even with the new processors, are you really going to be able to use ISO 12800?  At what point does the industry decide enough is enough?  I guess never and we'll just have to keep dealing with features that MOST OF US WILL NEVER NEED!  Sure, I would like to upgrade to a 7D or even a 60D but not because of the higher megapixels, but because of the better AF and faster burst rates and quieter operation.  I would even love to eventually upgrade to the 5D line to make use of the full format sensor for landscape photography, but not (I repeat NOT) for the higher MP and ISO rates.  Those are just silly and unnecessary for almost anyone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For the Love of the Game

Photography for me has become an obsession.  I’m sure many of you have tread the path that I’m currently walking – You got a nice camera for a birthday or Christmas to take pictures of your little one – aka “Momtographer” or in my case a “Dadtographer.”  Then you realized you really enjoy taking pictures and maybe those pictures aren’t just of your precious child.  So you start taking pictures of stuff you saw on flickr or Facebook or tried to copy that great picture at a friend’s house but there seems to be one major difference – your pictures stink.  Ok, maybe that is a little harsh but they don’t look like the masterpieces you had hoped for.  Now like you, I occasionally got lucky and took a really good picture but those were usually a result of snapping away without any real knowledge of photography.
Fast forward to this last January when I started taking photography classes.  Our instructor gave us homework like any good instructor should and I found myself shooting some of the most mundane items in our house because that is what was available and that is what I had time to shoot.  I got some great critique from my instructor based on those incredibly boring photos.  After I got used to receiving critique from my instructor I discovered the critique section here at DPS and decided to start submitting some of my photos for criticism from totally random people that have no knowledge of the area I’m shooting or of my shooting style.  I have received some great critique from DPS members and I have been trying to use most of it.  I have even tried to pass along (or regurgitate) some of the information that has been given to me.
As I found myself getting ready to comment on a picture this morning I realized there was a real problem….with my comment.  I was going to ask the photographer “What is the purpose of this picture?”  It is a simple picture of two park benches.  The problem with my comment (besides being just plain blunt and rude) is “If you are new to photography, why does every shot have to have a purpose?”  Can’t a person just try something?  I know most of the photo’s I’ve taken will never be displayed on a museum wall or featured on a website tribute but that doesn’t mean the photo’s I’ve taken didn’t serve a purpose.  I’ve learned something every time I’ve gone out.  It could be that I learned a little more about AV (aperture priority) mode or how my polarizer affects my photo or even that I suck at slowing down to really consider my shot.  But those little things are what will hopefully help me transition from taking good photos to really good and someday maybe even great photos.
In short, take pictures, take lot’s of pictures!  Who cares if the subject is a boring park bench.  Take it anyway because you will learn something.  Ask for help and critique and don’t take it personally when someone breaks apart every aspect of your photo (they really are trying to help.)  But most importantly take pictures because you want to, because you love the game of photography.

On that note, because I'm trying to do more B&W photos, here is another shot of a barn that I noticed on my way home from my in-law's house the other day.  There are so many interesting barns on that short 2 hour trip that I'm sure I'll have a few more photos to share in the future. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rural Decay

Every night on my way home from work I see this old farmhouse (pretty well surrounded by new farmhouses and a 4 lane divided highway) and think to myself "I wonder if I could get a good picture of that house?)  I've seen it with storm clouds in the background and thought it looked pretty cool so yesterday I decided to drive out to the house and have a walk around.  I took about 8-10 photos from different angles and subjects (there is an old shed on the property as well) and this is the one that I think came out the best.  I am experimenting with B&W photos because I love the contrast available and the focus on lines and geometry.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Missed Opportunities

As I was driving to class last night I was struck by how beautiful the sunset was.  I thought to myself, I just took a bunch of sunrise photos, I have all of my camera gear (including tripod) with me, I could stop and take a few pictures and then be on my way.  Unfortunately reason won out and I continued on to my class - on time.  Well, on the way home I was driving past Gray's Lake and noticed the pedestrian bridge and then noticed the water and decided, I wasn't going to pass this one up.  Now maybe I'll have better opportunities, maybe the water will be glass smooth some day, maybe I'll never know if I don't ever stop.  Here's the result of my latest attempts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weekend Regrets

I went to Chicago hoping to get a great picture of the sunrise but I also had realistic expectations that I may leave without a great picture.  Looking back, I think I did get some good (but maybe not great) shots of the sunrise and also of the Chicago skyline, but Kim and I have both realized that I totally failed in one photographic area.  I didn't take almost ANY documentary photos.  I don't have photos of Gino's East, I took one photo of the Old Water Tower but only two (with my camera phone) of the Field Museum.  I tried to get a few night shots of the skyline but those didn't turn out because I didn't have a tripod and I tried to get a photo of the bean (again with my camera phone) but that wasn't all that great either.  AND to top it all off, the only picture of Kim and I on the whole trip was taken by a stranger (also on my phone.)  Talk about a total bummer.  I don't even have the excuse that I didn't have a good camera around because I had my camera with me almost THE ENTIRE TIME!!  I could have taken pictures of the Sky Deck at the Willis Tower or of the really cool library next to our hotel, or of any of the cool buildings in Chicago, or especially of my beautiful wife in Millenium Park.  But no, I didn't and because of that I need to make it a point on our next trip to not be so narrow minded with my photography.  I need to keep my camera handy (not stuffed in my backpack) and always be at the ready to document the moment.  Just think of all the missed opportunities for street photography that I missed.  GRRRR!  I will do better next time!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Current theme - "Get Closer"

After last night's photography class and a recent post on Digital-Photography-School I have noticed one recurring theme for beginners - GET CLOSER!!!  I took a step in that direction with my last couple of pictures but I think there is still room for improvement on the rest of my pictures.  Apparently it's still going to take some time for that to sink in because as I left my class I noticed a particularly well lit ash tree that really stood out in contrast to the night sky.  So naturally, I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots only to realize as I was driving away that I completely failed to implement the major point of the evenings class...DOH!  I will continue to work on that and hopefully someday it will sink in.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Photography Class

So my beautiful wife signed me up for photography classes as part of my Christmas gift this year and I had the first class this last Wednesday.  I have to say - I'm pretty excited.  I've been geeking out about photography for the past 15 months (since I got my camera) reading blogs, checking out all the equipment I would like to buy, etc.  The first class was about what I had expected a beginner's class would be.  She covered the basics of a DSLR camera and got a feel for what everyone expected out of the class, but some of the topics that she said we would be discussing are exactly what I am wanting.  Sections on lighting and composition, flashes, RAW vs JPEG.  For our first class she told us she wanted us to use some of the other setting on our camera.  I have been primarily Manual ever since I started reading the aforementioned blogs and they said the only way to really learn the basics is to use Manual.

Anyway, I went out last night with Elena and decided to use the Program setting.  I think I really like it for some basic photography.  Benefits of Program would be that it is almost all Auto.  I don't have to worry about shutter speed or aperture.  I only worry about ISO and white balance.  A downfall would be that Program mode would not be good for action shots of Elena (since that is how she rolls right now.)  =)  These pictures were taken at my parent's house with my dad's new Canon T3i (I'm a little jealous.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dead of Winter

I've always been taken by the photos taken in the dead of winter that have that dreary and desolate feel to them.  I'm not sure I can explain why I find them so interesting but there's just something about them.  There is one particular picture that I have hanging in my living room that truly exemplifies that feeling, it is called Winter Serenity by William Neill.  When I first got the picture I thought I was buying a B&W picture.  It wasn't until I got the picture home and had my face 3 inches from the picture while hanging it that I saw the faint colors of the cliffs and trees.  It is just a remarkable picture that I am continually amazed by every time I look at it.  The picture I've posted below is a picture of a bridge on a running trail north of where I live.  I was particularly taken at the supporting structure (although admittedly I didn't realize at the time just how poor the bracing looked.  Maybe because I was freezing my tail off.)  Anyway when I got the pictures home and downloaded, this was definitely the picture that stood out to me.