Photography

Which lens is best for photowalking?

I get asked this question all the time. Which lens to buy for photo-walking? I don't normally give away trade secrets, but here it is.. It's model number 56-67850..Wait.. I'm of course kidding.  :-) The correct answer of course, is it depends on the type of photowalk your embarking on. If your photowalk is taking you through lots of beautiful vistas and landscapes, a nice wide angle lens would be ideal. On the other hand,  If your photowalk is taking place in more of a urban setting,  then, maybe a longer tele-zoom would suit you better.

For me, I've gotten in the habit of carrying  2 main lens with me on all photowalks. I carry a 24-105mm f/4, and a 70-200mm f/2.8. I find that these two lens are usually more than ample to cover most shooting situations.

Even if you don't own a DSLR, most of today's point and shoot cameras are outfitted with great general purpose lens. My little Canon G9 is outfitted with a 35-210mm lens, which is perfect for photowalking.  Remember, photowalking is about the experience, not how expensive you gear is.

So get out and photowalk this weekend!

If you have a question on photowalking or photography, or would just like to suggest a topic for us to cover, be sure and drop us a line. You can email us at: photowalkinglife@gmail.com

Photo Tip of the Day

[tweetmeme]Want to be a better photographer? Get out and shoot. Believe it or not, the more you shoot, better you'll get. Experiment, get creative. Too many of us are just too busy with everyday life, meanwhile were letting life pass us by. It's time to slow down, get out of our cars, take the day off, and go for a photowalk. Photowalking allows you to see the world in a different way. So come on, get out and shoot!

Peace of Mind

How much would you pay for piece of mind? Do you have a current backup of all your photos? I bet the majority of you answered; 'No'. Let's face it, backing up our photos is a time consuming task, and takes a discipline few of us have. At least on a regular basis. With the introduction of digital photography, the average person now a days stores thousands and thousands of photos of their computer. Most of these photos are priceless, irreplaceable memories of friends and family.

Businesses know how to protect their data from failure and loss, they use technology to automate, and prevent data loss. Using both hardware and software to protect their corporate data. But what about us common folks?

The answer is Drobo. Automated no Headache Data Redundancy System. Drobo utilizes a revolutionary storage technology that makes it simple for anyone to use, yet is powerful enough for business. Once you experience the power of Drobo, the idea of keeping multiple external drives or a RAID 5 array will seem as antiquated as that 300Kbps modem in the back of your closet.

Drobo Features

  • Redundant data protection
  • Hot swappable expandable drives up to 16TB
  • Mix n Match Drives cap
  • Both Firewire 800 and USB 2.0

As your library of data grows, now your storage solution can too. Drobo holds up to four hard drives, and can expand at any time, it supports up to 16TB on a single volume.

Drobo is Self-Healing

When Drobo detects a "bad" hard disk, it proactively advises you with a series of warnings ranging from a blinking red LED on its front panel, to pop-up alerts in Drobo Dashboard, to email alerts. What Drobo does next is exceptional. Drobo enters self-healing mode where it repairs around the bad sector or bad disk, working until it returns to the safest state possible. If Drobo has sufficient time and free capacity (indicated by all lights returning to a solid green state), it can even withstand a second hard disk failure. That's the power of self-healing. Unlike other storage arrays, Drobo doesn't just sit around and beep at you when something is awry—it takes the set of actions available to it to fix the problem without human intervention.

Check out Drobo for yourself. Click here to see drobo in action. :-)

Image Stabilization

Image Stabilization is going to be your new best friend, and in my opinion, a mandatory tool in every photographers arsenal. Image Stabilization, or 'IS' for short, can help you get a much sharper images then normally possible when hand-holding a camera. In fact, it's so important to helping me get great shots I won't buy a lens or camera without it. In fact even my point-and-shoot G9 has IS built-in. Both Canon and Nikon offer fantastic image stabilization. Canon uses the term IS (Image Stabilization) and Nikon's VR (Vibration Reduction). VR and IS are the same, and both terms are interchangeably. Each camera manufacturer uses their own acronyms. Both IS & VR stabilizes images from the unsteadiness of hand-holding a camera. IS helps you times using a tripod is not possible or practical, IS lets you shoot in bad light and slower shutter speeds.

How it works: Now I'm not a expert of techincal operation of IS, but here's my best attempt at the techincal way it works. Image stabilization helps to steady the image projected back into the camera by the use of a "floating" optical element—often connected to a fast spinning gyroscope—which helps to compensate for high frequency vibration (hand shake for example) at these long focal lengths. Sorry thats as technical as you can get from me.. :-)

A new comer in the DSLR market is Sony which has moved the Image Stabilization normally contained in the lens to the camera body itself.(formerly technology developed from Minolta). The stated advantage is not having to to buy lens with the expensive IS technology.

IS and VR work great for subjects that hold still, However, image stabilization does not prevent motion blur caused by the movement of the subject or by extreme movements of the camera. Image stabilization is only designed for reducing blur that results from normal, minute shaking of a lens due to hand-held shooting. Image Stabilization does nothing for fast moving objects such as sports, and small children. :-)

Image stabilization technology, has recently become more and more available to the average photographer. Over the years, the technology has greatly improved, and is available in a much wider range of cameras and lenses from several different manufacturers. IS is an enabling and liberating technology. It helps photographers of all abilities get noticeably better results.

I highly recommend Image Stabilization.

Lens Hoods - Why you need them

  Lens hoods play a very important role, especially in outdoor photography. Despite it's importance, it's still one of the most overlooked items by the average photographer. A lens hoods primary function is to prevent unwanted light from hitting the lens. Without the protection of a lens hood, unwanted side light will hit the lens, reducing contrast, and possibly create nasty lens flare. Lens flare can destroy an otherwise fine photograph.

 

The lens hoods also serve a second function, that being one of protection. With a lens hood installed you’re less likely to accidentally touch the optics. If you’re photographing small children or animals at close range this will also help you from getting unwanted smudges on the lens, because we all know how much kids and animals love shiny things. 

Now for the downside. Lens hoods are expensive! Each lens has a specific matching lens hood. How expensive you ask? The average cost of a lens hood is generally around $30. That's some very expensive plastic!  

All in all, lens hoods are a vital tool, and worth the investment.

Find the Picture in the Picture

  Photographers take great care to show their photos at there best, and would never think of letting you see a raw unfinished photo. What's  the difference between a snapshot and a masterpiece? Sometimes it's just the ability to see the picture in the picture. Of course I'm talking about photo cropping.

When I decided to write this article, I immediately ran through my photo collection looking for the worst possible photograph that I could find, just to illiterate that even a bad photo can be cropped into a good one.

This is a photograph of my brother on a recent visit.

There's not much right about this photograph, but we can still save it. Let's see, the background is terrible, the left side is dark and under exposed, the right side is just plain boring. The door frame molding is coming directly off my brothers head, I also have a casted shadow onto the background.. What was I thinking!

I wasn't.. I was a normal everyday person, taking a quick snapshot of my brother before he left for LA. Well, when you think about it.. isn't this a typical snapshot we take all the time? Sure it is..

 

So let's look at this picture and find the picture in the picture. Look at my brother's natural pose, and great smile.  This is a candid for a portrait. Yep! I think I'll crop this photo from a landscape mode to portrait. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have uncovered the "picture in the picture"!

 

 

Of course we could stop here, but I was still bothered by that background, even through the picture cropped is a vast improvement already. I decided to go one step further, and remove the background using photoshop.

 

There we are! A everyday snapshot turned into a masterpiece suitable for framing.. :-)

Protect Your Investment

Lenses can be a very expensive investment. Good lenses can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Such a investment is worth protecting. And it's easy to do. Simply by installing a ultra-violet filter (UV filter). A UV filter is a simple piece of glass that screws on to the front of your lens and protects it from scratches, dust, dirt, moisture and fingerprints while reducing unwanted ultra-violet light. Remember, it's far cheaper to replace a scratched filter than your $1000 lens.

When shopping for filters be sure and buy a high quality multi-coated glass. Be sure and stay away from cheap UV filters as cheap plastic filters will degrade your picture quality. One of the best  UV filters is the B+W MRC UV , it's made from high quality glass and I consider this the best UV filter available.

Better Outdoor Portraits

Photographers rarely shoot in the mid-day sun because the sunlight is direct and very harsh, this harsh light, casts very hard shadows. The midday sun comes from too high an angle, to produce a flattering portrait. It causes subjects to squint, and their eyes become lost in deep pockets of shadow.

Try and shoot early morning or late afternoon for your best results.  The light is warmer and softer just after sunrise and just before sunset -- the pros refer this time as 'The Golden Hour'.

If you must shoot a portrait outdoors at high noon, try and find some shaded areas, a trees canopy is nature's perfect umbrella. Have your subject stand in the tree's cover, you get some really nice soft light, and produces a very flattering portrait.

Len's Rules of Photography

You never realize just how many photo opportunities are missed each day, until you start carrying your camera around. Some of my best photographs ever taken were during the course of my everyday life.  I know that carrying a big heavy SLR everywhere isn't always practical. That's why every photographer should at least own one point & shoot camera. Most point & shoots easily fit in your pocket or bag, and are easy to take with you everywhere. I carry my Canon G9 everywhere I go. With your camera in hand, you'll find yourself looking at the world differently. You'll find yourself looking for more photo opportunities, as well as a new appreciation of life and our surroundings. That's where the old wise adage comes from; "Stop and smell the roses."  Len's Rules of Photography

  • Rule #1. Always have your camera with you..
  • Rule #2. Never forget rule #1.

Gorillapods

How many times have you been out with your significant other and wanted to snap a quick photo of yourself together to remember the moment. Gorillapod to the rescue! Joby has designed one of the most useful gadgets called the gorilla-pod, tripod with completely bendable legs. These legs allow you to securely attach your camera to just about anything. You can literally shoot from anywhere, a tree branch, ledge, fence post, you name it.

The Gorillapod is the ideal camera accessory for photographers on the go. Throw it in your pocket or backpack and you'll be ready for your next adventure!

Joby now offers 4 different models to choose from:

  • The Original - ideal for point and shoot cameras up to 9.7oz
  • Go-Go! - For mobile phones and other portable devices.
  • SLR - lightweight SLR's up  1.75lbs
  • SLR-ZOOM - heavy-duty for Pro SLR's up ot 6.6lbs.

Why Shoot in Raw?

Photography has always been one of my passions, It gives me a chance to get out from behind my computer, and commune with nature. In fact, my wife and I, try and go on photo-walks at least once a week. But as much as I enjoy the photo-walks, I think the geek in me really enjoys the post-processing of the images the most. Here's where my creative and technical side converge. Of course I'm talking about Photoshop and RAW images. So let's start off with the basics explanations, and some of the differences between RAW and JPEG. 

JPEG is the most common image format used by digital cameras. Almost every digital cameras has the ability to shoot directly to JPEG. When you shoot in JPEG format, the camera’s on-board software carries out all the image processing in the camera, then compresses it using JPEG compression. JPEG is actually a compressed image format. Which means that some visual quality is lost in the compression. With this compression, you give up subtle image details that you will never get back in post-processing.

RAW is the raw data coming from the cameras sensor (CCD or CMOS).It's unprocessed, no sharpening, no white adjustments, etc, basically it the "raw" image with all the pictures data intact. RAW images also have a greater dynamic range than JPEG processed images. There is more color information in a RAW image because it is typically a 12, 14, or 16-bit image which means it contains more color information than a JPEG which is almost always 8-bits. More color information means more to work with and smoother changes. This means that you can recover image detail in the highlights and shadows that just aren’t available in JPEG processed images.

Why shoot raw?

The answer is simple, shooting RAW allows a photographer to maximize the potential for any image. and provides control over the interpretation of the image. When you shoot JPEG, the camera’s on-board software carries out all the image processing to produce a color image, then compresses it using JPEG compression. And while JPEG does a pretty good job of preserving luminance data, it really reduces the color depth, leading to problems with skin tones and gentle gradations. When you shoot raw, however, you get to control the scene interpretation through all the aforementioned aspects of the conversion. With raw, the only on-camera settings that have an effect on the captured pixels are the ISO speed, shutter speed, and aperture. Everything else is under your control when you convert the raw file. You can reinterpret the white balance, the colorimetric rendering, the tonal response, and the detail rendition (sharpening and noise reduction) with a great deal of freedom, and you can even reinterpret the basic exposure itself.

So if you love photography, and your camera has a RAW setting, turn it on now. Why not get the most your camera can offer. A RAW file isn’t called a digital negative for nothing.

Is Photography a Crime?

What is our great nation becoming? Photographers both amateur, as well as professionals are being threatened, harassed, and sometimes even physically attacked for simply taking a photograph. All in the name of national security? I have been an avid amateur photographer my whole life and really enjoy going on photo-walks. Today while photowalking, I was grilled by a security guard who didn't like where I was pointing a camera. Even though I was photographing from a public street, that didn't stop him from grilling and generally harassing me about doing something so "suspicious" as photographing a building. Now, I certainly understand the need for extra security precautions these days, but it's gotten to the point where we are letting our fears trample our freedoms. Any terrorist can obtain any number of photographs on just about any structure or location, in the USA, simply by surfing the internet. Our freedoms are what makes this nation great.  We can't let fear, chip away at our civil rights. Photography is not a risk to national security.