The four essential lenses

When it comes to “starting out” as a photographer, there’s plenty to learn about technique. Most amateurs will go out and buy a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, which is a good first step. Once they have this camera, a lot of time can be spent tweaking settings to get the right pictures. From ISO to shutter speed to focal length (often known as “f-stop”), these settings will determine a photographer’s technique and are invaluable for increasing a photographer’s skill. As they begin to take more pictures with these settings, they can learn more about composition (like the “rule of thirds”) and improve their style even further. With the exception of the purchase of the camera, the amateur photographer can learn a lot for free just by playing around with the DSLR and taking lots of photographs. And yet, there is a point where knowing how to compose a good picture and knowing what settings to use for said picture...
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Instagram’s missed opportunity

As a photographer, there are plenty of places I can upload my pictures so that people can see them. Not only can you submit photos to stock photo sites like Adobe Stock and Shutterstock, but you can utilize marketplaces like Fine Art America to sell your photography. Often, this doesn’t necessarily help strengthen your brand, as each picture can be lost in a sea of other photographs that other photographers are trying to sell. Even photo sharing sites like Flickr are merely a reliable place to store your pictures so that they can be pulled up quickly and used on other parts of the web. If I want exposure, I need to utilize the “big three” of social media to get my pictures out to potential viewers. Facebook allows me to post on a scheduled basis and collect my pictures into albums, but many more people are utilizing hashtags on Twitter to gain views and followers. Of course, there is the most...
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. . . then comes baby carriage

Like I said last month, one of my weaknesses as a photographer is taking pictures of people. There are certain challenges when taking pictures of a proposal, but there are somewhat different challenges when taking pictures of weddings or newborns. When another friend of mine asked me to take pictures of their newborn son, I was happy to oblige, even if I had to let them know it isn't my forte. I had a rough idea of what to do, but I also learned a lot. Since this was my first time taking pictures of an infant, there were plenty of lessons learned. If you're looking into expanding your repertoire to include infant photography, the following are a few things to consider: 1. Lighting The fundamental element of photography (aside from the camera itself), lighting determines a lot about how you take a picture. It will determine if you need to increase your ISO or shutter speed settings. While you can control the lighting indoors,...
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First comes love . . .

I'll be the first to admit that one of my weaknesses as a photographer is taking pictures of people. There are so many variables that are difficult to control when a person is the subject of a photograph. Lighting, pose, background, depth of field, etc. etc. etc. Consequently, I have not had much experience taking pictures of people, as most of my best images are more along the lines of "still life." Still, when a friend of mine was planning to propose to his girlfriend, he asked me to take pictures of the event. Considering that he introduced me to my wife many years ago, I figured I owed him and agreed. Because I don't regularly take pictures of proposals, there were some lessons I learned during the experience. If you're thinking about delving into the world of proposal photography, here are a few things you might want to consider: 1. Location, location, location Usually, the photographer does not get to pick the location...
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The Great American Eclipse

The Great American Eclipse

Back in 2010, I was curious when the next total solar eclipse in the United States would happen. After looking it up on Wolfram Alpha, I learned that it would take place in seven years. I also found that the path of totality would pass near where I lived at the time. At that point, I decided that I would go out to see the total solar eclipse when the time came. Fast forward to 2017, and I had moved from Alabama back to Colorado, so my totality viewing location had moved from Tennessee to Wyoming. I think I always intended to photograph the total solar eclipse, but as the day approached, I realized I had little knowledge on how to shoot it. While the glow typically looks white, a "temperature shift" in editing can create a picture like this. From my photography of the moon, I knew I would need my tripod and remote, as well as a lens large enough to fill...
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Nature up Close

When you think of nature, what's the most impressive thing that strikes you about it? Is it the grandeur of the landscapes? Is it the minutia of the small components that make up the world? For me, it's definitely the scale of nature that always strikes me as majestic. I can climb a mountain that towers above the plains; but even on the peak of this mountain, I can find the tiniest flowers. In focusing on the small elements of nature, I've found some fascinating photographs. While climbing Mount Bierstadt, I came across this grass covered in frost. Even before I had my DSLR camera, I found a setting on my point-and-shoot digital camera that could be used for macro photography. Being able to get close to something and capture it in a picture felt like I had the world under a microscope, even if the capabilities of the camera were limited. Ice is fascinating to photograph, especially with the right lighting. One of the...
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Shoot the Moon

A few months ago, I discussed some of the techniques for taking pictures at night. Now that we’re finally into fall and the nights are getting longer, I thought I would focus on some specific techniques to take pictures of the Moon. Unlike “painting with light”, photographing the Moon has different challenges. Sure, you’ll still want a tripod and remote, and your ISO should be relatively low, but if you really want your Moon shots to pop, there are a few more things you should probably know. The first key difference between taking pictures of the Moon and painting with light is the shutter speed. While you’ll want a long exposure to capture the full extent of your light streaks with the latter, a shorter exposure time will help define the features of the Moon. Instead of appearing as a bright white circle in the sky, you’ll be able to capture the craters and plains of the Moon. You will still...
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Trees are the Answer

If this is the case, what is the question? I’m sure there are plenty of Jeopardy-esqe responses to this, but the question I’m referring to is this: What is one of the most difficult common objects to photograph? One of the challenges of photographing trees comes in their grouping. A picture of a forest is neat, but unless there’s a subject, what’s the point of the photo? In Colorado, we’re definitely in a time of year where the fall colors can be the subject of a picture, but even this can sometimes be a challenge to capture without focusing on something specific. Sometimes the color of the trees can be your subject. Over the years, I’ve found a few ways to take pictures of trees to overcome this “subject-less” challenge. The secret lies in composition. Take the above photograph, for example, it’s a pretty generic photograph of some aspen in the fall. However, because the trees are backlit, the ones in the...
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Painting with Light

One of the limitations I had with my photography years ago was that I couldn’t take good pictures at night. Part of this was due to the limitation of my camera: a point-and-shoot Olympus that I didn’t know how to fully use. Sure, there was an automatic setting for “night” that I occasionally utilized, but often the pictures I would get were more based on luck than anything else. Once I was able to dive deep into the settings of the camera, I found I could manipulate them to take the pictures I wanted. Still, the camera had reached the limits of its capability and I moved to a Nikon D7000 DSLR. With a DSLR, pictures of cities at night are quite easy to create. Now that my camera’s settings were much easier to control, I found the art hidden within night photography: painting with light. Due to the minimal amount of photons hitting the focal plane of the camera, long exposures...
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How to see in Black and White

There’s something in the simplicity of Black and White photography that speaks to the art of the medium. Maybe the removal of colors accentuates the composition? Maybe the monochromatic tones show more than initially captured? Maybe it’s an act of getting back to the roots of photography? Whatever the reason, there is a simple charm and stark boldness in Black and White photography. This image received 1st Place in a Black & White Contest, partly due to the contrast of light and darkness. Over the years, I’ve been able to train myself to see which pictures are best suited for the Black and White conversion. Back when I was photographing with a point-and-shoot Olympus C770, I would occasionally take pictures with the “Black and White” filter. At the time, I didn’t have the post-processing tools I needed to create stunning Black and White photographs, so I relied on the simple (and limiting) in-camera filter. Now, with the help of Photoshop, I have...
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