Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lighting with one Speedlight

About a week ago I was up late and decided to experiment with the Speedlight SB700 as this is fairly new to me and there is a lot to learn.  It could be any compatible light but I happen to have this one.  For the photo above it was about 11:30 PM and I had only one small lamp on beside me so I could see what I was doing.  Otherwise, the house was dark.  The 105mm f/2.8 was on the D600 so this is what I used.  This idea was spur-of-the-moment and the shooting session very informal.  Anyway, I set the speedlight behind this vase to see what kind of effect it may have on the environment once the shutter is tripped and this is the result.  What you see is a speaker grille on the left, the vase, television on the right, and what is our sunroom in the back.  Remember, the house was dark except for the small lamp bedside me.  The camera was set to Manual mode, manual exposure, 1/50s, ISO 100 @ f/2.8  The camera's built-in AF assist illuminator had to be turned on ( I usually keep it off) for auto focus to work because it was too dark otherwise.  I did not note what manual setting was used on the speedlight and will have to remember to do so next time.  Anyway, I like this.  The sunroom looks lit up, outside is dark as seen through the windows and the highlights in the photo all help portray the feel and sense of that evening as I remember it.  Look close and you'll see little white specs suspended around the vase.  That's dust in the air captured by the instant flash of light.  And next time I'll have to hide the speedlight better.  : )

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Love Is In the Air (and the SB 700 Speedlight Off-Camera)

Congratulations to our daughter and her husband on the birth of their little girl.  All are doing great as they experience a whole other kind of love and wonder. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New Life

It's been a very tiring week around here as Mindy and I have been expecting the birth of our daughters first child.  It began when her and her husband went to the hospital on Monday because the contractions were steady and frequent.  Mindy and I showed up minutes after they did and 5 or 6 hours later we were all sent home because the contractions had lightened up and our daughter was deemed "not in active labor".  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sunset Glow

I made it out for a very brief time yesterday but was able to capture this sunset.  Just wanted to share.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Photo Shoot for Free or Not? Part 2

The other day I asked if I (we) should do photo shoots for free or not.  If interested you can read my thoughts on that, and I hope you do because I mention other costs in that article that are altogether different than what this piece is about.  Here, I want to explore some real monetary costs that are involved on our part as well as the cost of our time which is based on my limited experience concerning what I have encountered.  

I am not a professional photographer.  By that, I mean I do not make my living from photography.  It is my hobby.  A passion. Something I enjoy very much.  I derive much satisfaction and pleasure from it.  And it is all the sweeter when someone else appreciates and enjoys my efforts.  If photography is your hobby, this article is for you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Photo Shoot for Free or Not?

My daughter and son-in-law

No doubt this is a controversial subject with many opinions for and against.  To each his own.  I don't know that there's a hard, fast right or wrong but wanted to share my thoughts on the matter after experiencing a recent dilemma.  I'm sure some of you have found yourselves in similar situations and struggle with what to do so I hope this will be of some help.

Friday, October 11, 2013

DSLR and Compact Camera Dilemma

Panasonic FZ100

Yesterday I wrote of a pain in the neck and the need to explore some options.  Though I certainly haven't wrung it all out yet I thought it may help the decision-making to put it in print, so here goes:

Option 1 - stop carrying the DSLR every time I go out.  Well, this approach has definitely aided the healing in my neck over the last couple months but leaves me feeling empty otherwise.  Like I'm missing out.  Not only on capturing a moment but also the enjoyment of using the camera itself.  I've also been much less active - not getting outside, which I've written about before.  What is it about not being able to freeze moments in time to look them over later and reminisce of the day, place, events, etc.?  To not be able to post-process that image to create what I saw or envisioned?  To share that with others?  Before a few years ago these things rarely, if ever, entered my mind.  But now, it's very much a part of me and I don't want to be without if I don't have to be.

Option 2 - carry my current compact camera when out and about.  I've done this on occasion as mentioned in this post, for instance.  And while on the one hand I was pleasantly surprised by the image quality it rendered for having such a small sensor and that it fit in my back pocket, it just isn't a camera that makes me want to carry and use it all the time.  Its body is slick with no grip to it which makes handling difficult.  Its viewing window gets washed out in sunlight making it difficult or impossible to know where the focus is or how the scene is being composed.  It's slow in use, has limited dynamic range, limited ISO range, etc.  

Option 3 - purchase a camera that is smaller/lighter than my DSLR yet is engaging, competent, and responsive.  The last thing I want is another camera system (body and lenses) to add to what I have already - which consists of two DSLR's with associated lenses and two compacts.  So I would have to sell at least some, if not all, of what I currently have.  On one level that's a tough thing to come to terms with.  After all, it was the Nikon D7000 that seduced me in the first place.  Then there's the Nikon D600 with its terrific image quality, dynamic range and high ISO ability.  Not to mention some terrific lenses that go with these bodies.  On another level, the weight of these bodies and lenses are having a negative impact on my health which I never saw coming.  

Coming up - thoughts on which camera/camera system to go with if I go that route.  But concerning what I've written above, let me know if you have any other ideas.  I'd love to hear them.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Pain in the Neck

I've been on a bit of a hiatus recently.  The main reason for it was a pain in my neck that restricted side to side head movement that I put up with for many months.  I had a suspicion as to what brought it on so to put it to the test I pretty much stopped carrying the camera around...which meant I haven't been out much, which means I haven't been making many photos which means I haven't had much to blog about.  The few times I have been out with the camera I carried it in my hands instead of around my neck.  This is okay for a short while but it does get tiring after awhile and my hand starts cramping.  Nor is it very safe.  Heaven forbid I drop it because it's not slung around my neck.

So what was the result of not carrying the camera over my shoulder/neck for almost two months?  No more pain.  It's been completely gone for a few weeks now.  Suspicion confirmed.  Crud.  Now what to do?  In the next post I'll explore some options.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Shimmer of Light

I got out for bit after work yesterday to take a walk and make some pictures.  It was a beautiful evening with bright sunshine and a blue sky filled with billowy clouds but it was no surprise I ended up in the woods as they just seem almost magical somehow and are one of my favorite places to be.  Be sure to click the images for a larger view.  You'll appreciate them much more that way.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Food Photography Lighting, cont'd

As I commented at the end of the last post on lighting, I'm back with what I tried this week and hopefully the results are better.  Be sure to click for larger pictures.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shooting with a Compact Camera

This past Sunday afternoon was a beautiful day so I asked Mindy if she would like to go for a walk.  I wanted to take her to a place she's not been to and watched to see if she'd grab her camera before heading out.  Alas, she did not.  So I did not, which is very rare.  Well, when I speak of 'the camera' it refers to the DSLR.  However, my compact camera was in the car so I consoled myself that it would have to do.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Food Photography Lighting

Vegetarian Chili
Mindy has a blog called It All Begins With Dirt  in which she posts about vegetarian meals for Meatless Monday's.  When I'm around she'll usually enlist my help for taking photos of the process as well as the finished meal.  We're both trying to hone our skills regarding this whole process and lightening is a big part of it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shooting with the Induro CT214 Tripod and Nikon 300mm f/4

Nikon D600, 300mm f/4 @ 1/250 sec.
I've been shooting more and more with the Nikon 300 f/4, both handheld and with the Induro CT214 tripod combined with the Induro BHD2 ballhead.  (Let me say up front, this is NOT a review of these items.  That said, I like them all very much.)  Now, conventional wisdom says to keep your shutter speed at 1/lens length at a minimum for stable handheld shots.  So, when using the 300mm on a full-frame camera the shutter speed should be a minimum of 1/300 for sharp photos.  Shooting handheld with the 300 f/4 has seen a lot of images sent to the trash for not being sharp due to motion (mine, the wind, the subject, etc).  (For a comparison, the images shot on this Post were shot handheld at a minimum of 1/800 with most at 1/1000 seconds.  While they look okay on the Web, they are not quite as sharp overall as those shown here at much slower shutter speeds.)  Yesterday was very overcast and windy and knowing I wanted to go in the field and shoot the 300mm I packed the tripod with camera gear in the trunk of the Harley and took off.  While hoping for somewhat larger wildlife to shoot, I took what I could get, like the green darner dragonfly above.  There is no way I could have pulled that shot off without the tripod (the shutter speed was too slow and it was windy).

Monday, July 29, 2013

Good Morning

Quick post to show what I saw when looking out the window this morning.  These two began on the porch railing but by the time I grabbed the camera and made it back they were gone.  At that point I went around the corner to another window and there they were.  Snap.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Birding in the Backyard

Mindy and I have been wondering where the hummingbirds have been this year.  Usually we see these small creatures coming and going all summer long, but this year we've seen them a total of maybe five times between us.  Until today.  They've been giving a real show of constant activity at the feeders today and have been fun to watch.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Converting Photos to Black & White

Thought I'd do a little more B&W this time around.  I posted some black and white photos in April but haven't done any more until recently.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nursing Fawn - Wildlife at Its Finest

Just before noon on this overcast and dreary day I looked out our second story bedroom window and saw a fawn with its mother at the edge of the woods on our property.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nikon 300mm f/4, part 2

I've been out the last couple days with the Nikon 300mm f/4 I wrote about before practicing on some small creatures such as birds, butterflies, dragonflies and such.  Gotta say, it's been a challenge - between the wind blowing, fast moving subjects, the lens seeking focus and no VR my hit ratio is somewhere between one half and one third keepers to shots taken.  And by keepers I mean the subject is in sharp focus.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Don't Remain in the Dark

Yesterday I wrote of making images pop with LR5.  As are all of my articles thus far, it is just high level information.  Meaning, I don't go very deep into all the particulars because there is a ton of information on the Web already.  I use quite a few more tools in LR than what I mentioned yesterday.  I may change my way of thinking in the future but for now I'm keeping the content such that it may raise questions or simply pique something in you.   I'm more than willing to try to help anyone that may have questions, so if that's you, just ask in the comments section below or email me at  I'm a firm believer in sharing knowledge - you learn from me and I learn from you.  Don't remain in the dark - and don't hoard knowledge either.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Making Images POP with Lightroom 5

I've been using Lightroom (LR) for a couple years now and recently upgraded to LR5 when it became available.  I don't think I'll ever stop learning the different things about it and how to incorporate them into my images (at least I hope not).  But I have found certain settings I use repeatedly enough that I created a filter for them when importing images from the camera.  One thing that struck me recently, though, was that I'm still manipulating the different sliders quite a bit and have been wondering if another filter needs to be created or tweaked.  Why?  Well, I think it's because I'm constantly trying to make the images be the best they can be to the best of my ability and that's a good thing, right?  And hopefully, it's a sign of growth.  But this realization brought more to light, namely, there are more sliders and functions in LR and especially LR5 that I haven't learned and used yet.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's Raining - Carp

The storms have been pretty constant for the last week here in Ohio and have dumped a lot of rain.  Now that it's the weekend I really wanted to get out of the house and do some shooting.  I choose the Chippewa Trail, having been on it one time before, thinking it might prove interesting.  This trail links up with Buckeye Woods which I frequent quite a bit so I was on somewhat familiar ground.  Little did I know what was in store.  The entire trail was more or less flooded.  I had parked at the South entrance just off Chippewa Rd and began walking North.  Before walking even 30 yards I was in water on the trail and there was a lot of splashing all around - carp everywhere.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Photographing Lightening Storms

We had some storms blow through Ohio this week and I was able capture a small portion of their fierceness.  I stayed in the house for safety reasons but this limited what I was able to photograph with the camera mounted on a tripod and shooting through an open window.  This was my first attempt at photographing a storm, much less lightening.  I look forward to the next time when I'll do things a bit different and will post the results here. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Carry a Camera to Shoot Wildlife

I take a lot of walks at the various nature areas around home and always do so with a camera to capture wildlife, vegetation and landscapes.  Not having the luxury to pick and choose what I might happen upon I figure to at least be ready to capture it before running the other way so I have a picture to back up my story.  : )  Seriously though, this snake did not pose a problem, fortunately.  I've read there are only three kinds of venomous snakes in Ohio and this isn't one of them.  What surprised me when I checked it out at home is that this is a Blue Racer and are said to be extremely nervous and become very aggressive when an attempt is made to capture them.  They will strike viciously and do so numerous times inflicting pain with their many teeth.  They will even rapidly vibrate their tail amongst the leaves to simulate a rattle.  Had this one done that I'd have run for sure because even though I was sure it wasn't venomous the rattle would have had me all confused.  But, there was no problem here as I had no desire to capture it except with the lens.  I was fishing at a pond in an area that looked like it hasn't seen a human in quite some time and spotted this creature about 4 feet away from where I stood.  We were both right at the edge of the water keeping an eye on each other but minding our own business.  I had the feeling this snake was just relaxing and soaking up the sun as it very loosely coiled itself around the reeds and moved just a little from time to time over the hour and half I fished that spot catching and releasing six bass and not quite landing three others before they got off the hook.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Early Morning Outing, cont'd

I love getting outside to photograph wildlife, landscapes and just the natural environment.  It can be as simple as stepping into the backyard or traveling to a park or nature reserve.  Hopefully, we can include more exotic locations in the future whether they be the famous Parks of the US or even places overseas.  For now, though, we visit local areas of which there are many here in Ohio.  This particular outing occurred at Buckeye Woods.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Early Morning Outing

In an earlier post I made a comment about being lazy in the mornings and not getting out in the early light to shoot.  The laziness has nothing to do with sleeping in because I'm usually awake by 5:30 or 6:30.  It's just that I like to make coffee or tea and relax for an hour or two while perusing some of my favorite websites.  Well, this Labor Day holiday I made the effort to be out of the house by 6:30 AM and I couldn't be happier for that decision.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Golden Hour

Recently, Mindy and I made it out to Buckeye Woods during the last hour or so of daylight.  When I made a comment about it being the golden hour she asked what that meant.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Alright - so I've been away for a few weeks - it's time to get back to it.  Here's some photos of Spring.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

The Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro lens has been a real pleasant surprise to me lately.  I've been using it on the Nikon D600 which I bought this last December and have found it to be an exceptional pairing....after I adjusted the AF (Auto Focus) fine tune to -20.  Before getting the D600 I used it on the D7000 and found autofocus to be hit/miss, and more miss than hit....despite having the AF fine tune adjusted to -19 on that camera.  Note:  I use LensAlign Mkll for calibrating and then shoot real world photos for verification, so these adjustments were not mere guesses. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Looking for Opportunities

View out of my hotel window
My job takes me to the Detroit, Mi area quite a bit.  Most of the time I travel in the morning and begin working as soon as I get there.  Sometimes I can quit at 5pm but most times it's later - a lot later.  Now that Spring/Summer is approaching maybe there'll still be light out when I quit for the day.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Black and White

Don't have much to say this time around so thought I'd post some B&W photo's to show something a little different.  Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nikon's 300mm f/4 sans VR

Nikon D7000 w/300mm f/4 mounted on the Induro CT214 tripod

With springtime here it's been enjoyable to see all the critters come out again.  Birds at the feeder, squirrels running through the yard, robins looking for insects, hawks flying overhead, etc.  To help capture some of these moments I purchased the Nikon 300mm f4 last year.  It was the most affordable and best telephoto lens I could find that didn't cost $5K +.  Mounted on my D7000 it is equivalent to 450mm focal length.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tablescapes and Exposure Compensation

Mindy has kept a dining table all dolled up for some time now.  She changes it for the different seasons, occasions, and whims that happen to blow her way.  There are several advantages to this:  the table is always set, it always looks nice, never stays the same for very long, is functional, and it prevents the table from becoming a dumping ground for clutter.  Oh yeah, and it offers a nice photographic opportunity.  It's called Tablescaping.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Of First Birthday's

The previous post was about visiting our son and his family in Wisconsin.  The big reason we were there at this time was to celebrate the first birthday of our granddaughter so I would be amiss if I didn't post something pertaining to that.  Here we are playing peek-a-boo.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Back Home from Wisconsin

It's always good to visit family and it's always good to be back home.  La Crosse was cold and dreary most of our stay.  We saw the sun one day only and I took advantage of it and got out early with my son.  We first went to Grandad's Bluff to see the sun bathe the city in light which explains the photo above.  We were at the bluff waiting for it to come up behind us and as it did it encroached on the city little by little.  (Pop quiz - which way are we facing in the photo?) It was 16 degrees with a stiff accompanying wind so we were chilled to the bone in short order, but we were thrilled to see the sunshine.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Anticipating Spring

Well, I'm back for a day.  I've been under the weather for the better part of two weeks and just didn't feel up to writing anything.  I still don't have much right now but wanted to post something to try to get back on track.  After today I'll be out again for about 7 days as Mindy and I leave town on vacation to see our son and his family in Wisconsin. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Senses, Emotions and Treasures

My wife and I went to Severance Hall in Cleveland recently to hear the Cleveland Orchestra.  It was a really good time being out with her and listening to great music by very talented musicians.  There is no doubt these men and women spent years and years and countless hours perfecting their trade by which we are the beneficiaries through our sense of hearing.  And just as the rest of our senses are able to do, hearing brings about an emotional response on our part whether a beautiful piece of music, a baby crying, or the horn of a train as it passes in the distance.  These emotional responses can be positive or not and different from one individual to another. Then there are the actors, or musicians in this case, who experienced a great emotional satisfaction for themselves in the beginning that put them on the path where they are today.   Their emotional satisfaction has grown to include their listeners for whom they are able to bring a little joy and a sense of wonder with their music and their chosen instrument they so love themselves.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Playing Around the House

It occurred to me that I tend to load quite a few images into a file in either Aperture or LR that I've named, "Playing Around the House".  I work from home, so tend to be here most of the time.  During lunch or breaks in the action from work it's not uncommon for me to pick up the camera and start snapping away.  I'm not trying to compose a masterpiece during these times but, rather, stay familiar with the camera, its settings and experiment with various things whether with the camera or post-processing.

I think it all helps when I do shoot with a more serious intent.  Take this stairwell for example.  I was totally goofing around when this shot occurred to me.  And even though I was goofing around, I took time to compose (hand held) this before triggering the shutter.  One thing I learned when looking at it on the monitor is, I like it but wish the back of chair wasn't right under the end of the banister.  Some separation or space between the two would have made it even better I think.  I'll have to redo it one of these days to verify that.  But the lesson was to be observant of even the smallest details in the viewfinder before releasing the shutter and make the necessary corrections when you can - then fire away.

Monday, February 11, 2013


A couple weeks ago as I was surfing the Internet for photography sites I came across one that described a technique called lightpainting by Dave Black, at  I had not heard of this before but his photos were very nice and I was intrigued.  I confess that I had to read his article on the basics several times before understanding it to a point of trying it.  Not that it wasn't explained well, rather I was just slow grasping the concept.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Early Dec before our first snow.  These two pines were not leaning one week earlier when I was here.

One of things I like to do a lot is frequent state parks and nature areas.  I usually find interesting things to shoot and it's a good way to be active as I enjoy the hiking quite a bit.  Depending on time constraints I can be out as little as 1 hr or as much as 6 hrs at a time.  Sometimes I shoot a lot and other times not so much.  But I came to a realization last month that just having the camera with me makes a big difference in whether I want to be out and about or not.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'll start this off with some of what I'm doing lately - a little food photography for one thing.  My wife has a couple blogs, one of which she writes of various things and posts pictures.  You can find a link to her blog, The Howell Blessings,  in the right-hand column.  Most of those pictures are of tablescapes and food.  Well, mostly tablescapes but food is starting to make an inroad.  I've taken probably 90-95% of the pictures on her blog up to this time beginning in early 2012.  Funny how things work out sometimes - I provide her with a camera and I end up taking the pictures.

Monday, February 4, 2013


In Dec 2010 I first picked up a DSLR and I'm still very surprised how it happened.  I was researching camera's as a Christmas gift for my wife.  I knew absolutely nothing about them but wanted to surprise her with a nice one.  She had taken a photography class some years earlier and really enjoyed it.  I remember her coming home talking about SLR's (she had a point & shoot - though I didn't know that's what it was at the time).  Not knowing what an SLR was I did a very brief online search and immediately dismissed the thought of her ever having one of those.  The body cost thousands and didn't even include the lens.  Are you kidding me?

Well, now several years later I wanted to surprise her with one so the search began and that's when it happened - I caught the photo bug and it hit me out of nowhere.  Heck, I hadn't even seen one of these camera's in real life yet as all my research had only taken place online at this point.  Well, I settled on a camera and a couple lenses for her and couldn't wait for them to arrive and when they did I unboxed them, charged the battery, mounted a lens and snapped away every chance I had (without her knowing) until I finally had to wrap them Christmas eve.  But I was hooked and there was no denying it.

After Christmas I was still grabbing the camera every chance I had so after about 3 weeks my wife said, "Why don't you just get your own?"  So I did.  The exact same kind but a different lens and I still am shooting, reading, and learning about all things photography.  I hope by sharing and interacting with others we will all benefit and have a good time doing so.

So you know what to expect, I hope to post at least once a week.  I have a full-time job that has been known to keep me away for 24+ hours at a time so a daily posting would be unrealistic at this time.  I'll try to post something once a week for now, even if it's just a picture.  If you take the time to leave a comment, I will do my best to take the time to respond.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back.