Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Today we continue on with our popular series of collaborating with the great poetesses and poets of the blogsphere. We will be looking for writers for next month's collaboration. If you're interested, contact me or send in one of your poems. We will pick one of the poems and feature it each month.

Before we start this month's collaboration, I have an announcement about our blogging schedule. I started out as a photographer who wrote a blog. I am now in danger of becoming a blogger who photographs and I need to get back to my photography, my business and my life lol. Plus feeding the monster can be dangerous for us bloggers, we need to have high quality food (content) and if we stretch ourselves too thin, we risk feeding inferior food to our readers. With this in mind, I will be blogging three times a week instead of five times. I hope you all understand and appreciate my reasons for this change. Most weeks it will be on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. We're only changing due to business obligations or photographic trips.

Thank you for following us and making us part of this great neighborhood of enormous breadth, both geographically and intellectually. Our next follower will be number 200 and we are fast approaching 15000 page views. To us, this is amazingly wonderful. We once again thank you with all our heart. Now on to the fun stuff!!!

Adriene blogs under the name, Sweepy Jean and writes poetry under the name A D Joyce.  This is one lady of amazing and varied talents who lucky for me writes one of her original poems for all of us today. I think I will let Adriene describe Sweepy Jean and A D Joyce for us. From her blog:

These are the musings of a writer, mother, wife, fantard, and citizen of the world trying to find her way. A long-time poet who at one time forgot how to speak has opened her mouth again and is finding her voice.
I feel so unique but really, I am so typical. After a couple of decades sublimating myself to the needs of my family–experiencing the joys and trials that family life can dish out–I finally realize that, after God, I should be my priority. Then, next in line are my husband and my two adult children who have repopulated my empty nest (thanks busted economy).
On my “day job” as an editor/writer for a medical magazine, I’m satisfied with my level of accomplishment. But what about my unfulfilled dreams that haunt me in the cold dark of night? Right now my goal is to complete a book of poetry and get it published somehow.
After that, who knows?

If you have read Sweepy Jean's blog you will have no doubt that the book will be published and you will want to own it and read it over and over again.

A D Joyce's Poem Titled:

To Summer.

Our eyes met 
When pink and white
Were brilliant,
Timeless, fleeting
Cherry blossoms.

We hate to
Leave the moment.
We mimic
The soft green trees
Drink late spring rain,

Face to face
Catching silver
On our tongues
Quenching a thirst--
Small, delicate

A rainbow
Betrays the sun.
In us, heat,
Our hearts melting
As springtime flames

To summer

Monday, May 30, 2011


In my home town of Boston, there is a saying that is very true;  "Every baseball fan thinks they can manage the Red Sox but very few football fans think that they could coach the Patriots." Because most of the fans started playing baseball or softball  as children and continued right up to and including college, they think it is simple. It is true that the strategy is far simpler in baseball than in the chess game strategy of football. What people forget is all the small details that go into managing a baseball team, especially a pro team. Just keeping all the highly skilled and paid players happy and motivated is not a small feat and where many managers fail. 

Baseball is a game of individuals playing as a team. When a batter is up, he is not playing as a team that often. Baseball is simple, you hit the ball, you catch the ball, you throw the ball and many times a player's success has nothing to do with the team's success. A batter can hit 400 and the team may not be successful. In 1941, the Red Sox's Ted Williams hit for a 400 average, the last player ever to hit 400.  That team had five future Hall of Famers playing for it and still finished second. 

I think photography has become just like baseball. Almost everyone has a camera of some type from expensive DSLRs to simple point and shoots and even cell phones take a pretty good picture, although it is a glorified point and shoot. When the digital age in photography came to be, it brought many really great innovations.  What people may nor think about is that over all, it lowered the price of photography. The cameras and lens prices have not gone down but photographers no longer have the cost of buying rolls of film and then the cost of processing the film. 

When I switched over to digital I was paying around $25 for a roll of film plus processing. Now I can spend that much for a flash card and use it over and over again. Plus I can see some of my mistakes on the camera's LCD screen saving us from wasting what would have been film and lost images. It really has been a great resource for photographers but it has also opened the door for some really bad photography. Even worse it has produced many boring images. 

People have a camera and learn how to mechanically use it but do not take the time to learn the art of photography. Photography is a special art. It combines art and science more so than any other art. It takes time and effort to learn it well and then more time to refine your skills. In truth I really do not think you ever really learn all there is to it. 

If you study your camera's manual and practice just the steps to working the camera, you can take pictures. If you put it on program mode, you can possibly take okay pictures. If you do not work on the artistic part of your photography then technically they might be okay but your images will not have the wow factor. They will not stand out from the others, will not have any soul and in a single word be boring. They might be great to you and interesting to you and if that is all you're shooting for, congratulations you have reached your goal. Just do not subject the rest of us to them. 

Okay maybe your mom will love them or at least say that she does. She is your mom!!!  I mean if you have some really good snapshots of your kids, we will all like them and they might even document their cuteness. But please do not take a snapshot of a rock, when the rock takes up a 1/8 of the photo, with the highlights blown out and the shadows gone black and make us tell you we like them!!!  These are images that I call snapshots and in my early years I took lots and lots of snapshots and not many really good images. Hopefully I am making images now. 

In this post I will attempt to speak to how I make a snapshot into an image. Some of the steps are done in camera some require post production. Like all professional photographers, I have software programs that I use in my post work. My programs are listed  in the order I use them which is also the order of frequency that I use them.

Lightroom (LR) is the one software program that I use on every image I take. I almost always (95%) shoot in raw. Lighroom is the leading photo management and editing software solution. It will convert my raw image into a jpeg when I export the finished images back to my external drive. It is not the only such program but after researching and trying other programs, I feel it is the best program of its type on the market for me. I do about 95% of my editing in Lightroom. 

I then move on to Photoshop and I use Photoshop for two primary reasons; sharpening and noise reduction. Lightroom has both of these features and they have improved them a great deal from the original Lightroom but I still am not totally satisfied with them.
I actually use a photoshop plugin for noise Imagenomic Noiseware (Win) , their MAC edition. I feel it is the best in speed and quality. 

I do all my sharpening in Photoshop (PS) using unsharp mask. As in most photoshop things, there are more than one way to sharpen using it. I like the unsharp mask but many like 'smart sharpen'.  I have two other software programs that I use a lot less; Nik Filters and Topaz Adjust.

Of the two, I use Nik the most. I can mimic many things I use to do in camera with this program. Topaz is a program I use on maybe only 5% of my images. It can give you some interesting effects but in my opinion you need to be really careful not to over use it. 

I am going to attempt to show how I photograph something and hopefully make it a better image. Some changes are in camera and some are in post production. As I have said, all of these images have been processed using Lightroom and most using Photoshop for sharpening and for the Noiseware plugin.

The first image was taken in Miami from our hotel room overlooking Biscayne Bay (as most of the images were). This was taken at 11PM after we had been out for dinner. I went out onto the patio and as almost always, I took a shot  using basic settings. I like the clouds and how they were picking up the light from the city lights below. 

In the image you can see different colored lights. The different colors are caused by actual colored lights (purple on the bridge) the warm and cooler color lights are caused by the different type bulbs used. Some are tungsten, others are florescent and will photograph differently. Many people will set their camera's white balance control to auto or daylight. What you can try is using different color balance settings to see the effect it gives. In the first image, I used auto. 

 I thought it was okay but then I started trying other settings and when I reached cloudy, I thought it warmed up the images  (especially the clouds just a touch). I also opened up my exposure a half a stop, to give a little boost to the clouds. If I wanted to I could have performed both acts in LR and will tweak my exposure in LR whenever it's needed.


This next image was the next morning. The sun had come up but behind a bank of clouds.  On this image, I kept the white balance at daylight, tweaked blacks (contrast) and brightened the mid tones. I also used one of my most used LR tools, the cropping tool. I cropped it into, what I call, my letterbox crop.

I like to eliminate any elements of the image that distracts from the main feature of the image. In this case, I feel the most important part of this image is the sun breaking through the clouds and reflecting in the water. By enhancing the contrast while brightening midtowns and eliminating the patch of uninteresting sky and the pilings in the forefront, I think it accomplished my goal. I think it went from a documenting snapshot to a pretty neat image.  As in all of these images, sharpening and noise reduction were performed.

In this next image, I thought the sky was the most important piece if the image. I did not crop anything out.

 I adjusted exposure down, added contrast and midtown brightness and used the cloudy white balance to warm up the image.

  All the adjustments on this image were performed in LR and PS.

I then wanted to play with this image and using Nik filter and Topaz,  created these two images.

Now you might or might not like them. I do like them. The last one I think is my favorite edition of this image. I think you will agree it is not boring!!!

The next image is the same day, a little later as the sun was higher in the sky. Remember as the sun gets higher, the light gets cooler.
On this one, all adjustments were made in LR and PS. I lowered exposure, tweaked contrast and midtowns, changed color balance to shade and cropped a little bit in LR. PS was used for sharpening and noise reduction.

I am guessing some of the readers might like the original in each one of these examples. If you do, that's fine. It is your personal vision, these are mine. If you at least start thinking about creating images instead of making snapshots that just document, I think you have a head start in creating your personal style and vision.

This last image was the same day after we came home. In my backyard, I saw this turtle. (a yellow bellied turtle I believe?)  This is an example of where you can improve your photos right in the camera.

This first shot is a good example of what people often take. I was standing looking down at the turtle. How many images do you see from this vantage point; of flowers, animals and children where the photographer is standing pointing his camera down?  Yes, it is a turtle and if you know turtles, you can tell what type it is. You can tell it is in the wild! A snapshot that documents, "Hey there was a turtle in my back yard!!"

By taking one step, you can improve the image and make an exciting, fun image. Get down to the level of the turtle and get as close as you can. (I would not use this technique with rattlesnakes, lions or bears).

I also cropped to eliminate any uninteresting elements. Now we have a turtle portrait. You can see its eyes and mouth. I think you will agree it is a much better image. 

Stop taking all your images from a standing position; bend, stretch, sit or get on your knees. Heck, I was laying down on my stomach for this one. If you have any questions about any of this, please ask me. If you would like to see more posts that teach, let me know.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Wendy & Antonio Huertas one of our favorite couples whose wedding day we had the honor to photograph, a few years ago, have had a baby. Ariana was born last night at 11:34PM weighing 6 lbs 12 oz and 18.5 in. I started thinking about the day of the wedding and how evident it was that they were so much in love. Ariana has won the gene lottery being born to two beautiful people and I mean beautiful in every way. We wish them all health, happiness and love.
I thought I would republish their wedding album pages. To share with everyone  what a wonderful day it was . Now I am guessing Wendy & Tony would say the second best day in their lives but not by much lol.

To Wendy, Tony and Arianna with our love.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I have read comments on my blog and others that readers wish they lived in an area with interesting things to photograph; that it must be wonderful to live near animals and landscapes so beautiful.  It is but if you do not, than that is not a reason to stop photographing. I wanted to post a blog to show that you can make interesting images in your own neighborhood; even in your own backyard, if you take the time to look and see. 

So when I awoke this morning I grabbed my camera and 105 Nikon macro lens and went out to my backyard in search of interesting and hopefully beautiful images. I have a small garden out there and thought what better place to look. At 9 AM it was just leaving the golden hours, as I wrote in yesterday's post. 

The first thing I saw was a shrub I just planted last week. It has red flowers. Red always catches my eye and I would suspect most photographers who shoot in color. This is what I saw when I looked at it.

I think it's an interesting plant with great potential for adding color to my garden. What about as a subject to create interesting images? As you can see in this image, it's not so interesting.  The light was a little harsh and I have not finished planting in the garden so  the background was not great. So do I move on, or worse yet go back in the house to have breakfast? Say the heck with it because there's nothing out there to photograph? No, I tried to "see" an image. If this view didn't work, than including more of the background would be worse, in my opinion. Maybe you would "see" something that I didn't.

What about getting in closer and carving out mini landscapes of this flower? This would turn from a documented image to a creative image; things I saw and helped create with my choice of ISO, f stop and a little post production. Let me say right now that in post production the color channels were not manipulated and vibrancy and saturation were not adjusted in either Lightroom or Photoshop. These are my two most used post production tools and the only ones I used on these images. The only work performed in Photoshop was reducing noise and sharpening. In LR I adjust white balance, exposure slightly, added a vignette in some images and cropped almost all of them in some fashion. These were the images I captured. I hope you find them interesting and enjoyable to view.
Remember these are what I saw my own personal vision. If you were out there with me looking over my shoulder, you might have wondered what the heck I was shooting. Learning to "see"  is the important skill to learn.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The word photography is based on the greek words φῶς  (light) and γραφή (drawingtogether meaning drawing with light. In everyday use the word light is used instead of radiation which is what we are actually record on paper or card. 

Photography is the art and science of creating pictures by recording radiation on a radiation-sensitive medium, such as photographic film or electronic image sensor. It is widely believed that Sir John Herschel in a lecture before the Royal Society of London on March 14 1839 is the person who made the word photography known to the world. Although on February 25 of the same year in a German newspaper, a Berlin astronomer had used the word photography already.

This posting is not about the history of photography. What I have written is just a little information that I thought you might find interesting. I did when I first read this information years ago.

This posting will be about the practical application of light in your photography. It will be about the natural light, not the manipulation of light using flashes or even reflectors. This is the light that we all see when we are outside in our environment. It is always here  (North America) in some form roughly between the hours of 6AM until 8PM give or take depending on location and the season. I realize that I have many readers outside of North America. But that is where I am right now which means that is what I can photograph   to get examples to use here.

Photographers have two periods of day that they would rather photograph. Before I get comments telling me that you like to shoot at high noon because you love shadows or you like to shoot at 1AM in complete darkness because umm you like complete darkness, I am speaking of a vast majority of photographers; especially nature and portraiture photographers. Those two times are generally referred to as the 'golden hours' and are the first and last hours of sunlight in the day. That is when the quality of the light is thought to be the best by many photographers. 

Typically lighting is softer (more diffused) and warmer in hue and the shadows are longer. When the sun is near the horizon, sunlight travels through more of the atmosphere, reducing the intensity of the direct light, so that more of the illumination comes from indirect light from the sky. More blue light is scattered, so that light from the sun appears more reddish. In addition, the sun's small angle with the horizon produces longer shadows. I could go more in depth with this but I am guessing many of you would then be going over to read what Aaron http://www.aaronoutward.com/ is writing about today. 

What I will try to show today is the difference in light at different times of the day. In order to show you the differences, I have taken an image from the same spot, focusing on a small area with palm trees and bushes, at about eight different hours of the same day. This is not an exciting image but it does help show the difference in the light and it is right outside my backyard. To do this I needed somewhere close by.

I started out at 6:30 AM (by the end of the day I cannot imagine what my neighbors were thinking). 

This first image was taken at around 6:30 am and you can see the light is very low and indirect. The sun is not high enough in the sky to provide a good quality of light. While there is light, it is very flat. Another thing is that I shot all these images at F4.5 with an ISO of 200 in aperture priority mode. Normally I would have changed to manual, raised my ISO and changed the f stop to 2.8, giving me more light to shoot. For this posting I did not want to do that. This post is showing how the light quality changed during the day and keeping those two settings constant is a better way. One of the other problems with shooting in low light is speed, I was hand holding at a 10th of a second. Not a great chance of getting a sharp picture. I didn't. If you look closely, there is a softness to the image.

Second image taken at 8 am right in the golden hours.

 You can see how much more light and how much warmer the light quality is, also longer shadows flowing away from the subject. You can see the shadows behind the trees and in the foreground. With the higher light I am now shooting at 1000th of a second. The image is sharp and clean. If I photographed a person in this light I would not need to use a flash. I would get a great light on their face and no shadows under their eyes.

Third image taken at 11AM

You can see the light is not as warm and getting harsher. Notice the shadows are shorter, the sun is almost directly overhead, causing shorter shadows. If I was photographing someone in this light and I did not use a flash they would have raccoon eyes. These are heavy shadows under their eyes caused by the shadow from the ridge over their eyes. In people with deep set eyes the shadows are worse. I would not even try and take an image of someone facing me in this scene in the sunlight. I would look for shade and use a flash to add a touch of fill light to add to the light. I am still shooting at 1000th second.

Fourth image shot at 1PM

 I think the light is even worse now. You will have bad hotspots and those short shadows. In the harsh light of this and the previous image you even lose saturation. Your greens and reds will lack saturation, looking dull. Another indication of the strength of the light is that I am now at 2000th of  a second.

Fifth image shot at 5PM

The light is warmer again as the sun lowers in the sky. This is really great light to shoot in, nature or portraiture. The light will soften the angles of the face causing a more flattering look. The colors are once again saturated. I am still at 2000th of a second. Why is the light not so harsh? One reason is that the light is now coming from the left side and back. On a portrait you might need to use fill flash depending on where you place the person relative to the sun.

Sixth image at 6:15 PM

It's still warm light, longer shadows but now the shadows are coming toward the camera. In landscape photography, this is not necessarily a bad thing; in portraiture it would depend where you pose them. With the light coming from the side then you can have a great image. I'm still at 2000th second, getting close to back lit.

 Seventh image at 7:30 PM

Okay now we are backlit; not good light for obvious reasons. The speed's down to 100th of a second. Most of that is coming from the sky. If you want to keep shooting, you will need to move to the right or use a flash.

Eighth image shot at 7:32PM

I moved a few hundred feet to camera right. There's really great light on the palm trees in the center of the image; warm and bright with really long shadows. You could still get great images here; either of the palms (you would need to move much closer or use a zoom) or place your person right in front of the palm. 

This is a simple explanation of the quality of light and how to see it. Most photographers who consistently get poor images usually do not "see" the light. It is the most important part of photography. Learn your light, learn to see it and learn how to work with it. I cannot give you better advise on how to go from someone who takes pictures to someone who makes images.