Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shepherd Photo Club?

Hmmmm....I've had lots of students ask me in the last year to start a photography club. I've thought about it much and well.... I've decided to give it a try. You see, this is actually the second time I've tried to start a photo club. A number of teachers at school said that they would be interested in one. So, we started one on Flickr. We had several shooting assignments, 3 or 4 posted pictures, and we commented on them. But within a few months it seemed that everyone was too busy to take pictures with any regularity. So, I'm somewhat wary of trying it again (I hate to be disappointed!).
But, what the heck, 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained', right? So, if you would like to be part of the club, the first thing to do is to go to Flickr and create an account. It's easy to do and it's FREE! Next, click the link to join groups. Our group is called "SPS Photography Club". You should search for it by name.
To start with, take one of your favorite photos and upload it to your flickr account. Once you have it there, 'share' it with the 'SPS Photography Club'! Don't worry if you don't see your photo in the group immediately. I have to release it!
I will share one of favorite photos that I shot on my recent trip to Yellowstone National Park this fall. It's a head shot of a coyote. When you see it, you will know you're in the right place! Also,there's also a dozen or so shots there from a year ago when we tried to get the teacher club started. If other students have posted photos there, please take time to comment on them.
Next, I have a photo assignment for you! Assignments are what force us to go out and take pictures - after all that's what the club is for, right? Since many of you might get a new camera for Christmas, you might as well put it to use while everyone is gathered around the Christmas tree. Our assignment is to take a picture of a 'Group'. Now I was thinking of a group of 'people', but it could be a group of anything. Let your creative juices flow! Once you have a picture you like, upload it to flickr and share it with the SPS group.
To help you get started, I have a couple of links to share with you. The first one is to a photography podcast that I listen to (here's the link). It talks about 5 or 6 great ideas to keep in mind when you're taking a picture of a group. The podcast is part of a photography blog called The Digital Story. Take a look at the blog when you get a chance, it has a lot of great resources on it.
If you're looking for some general photography tips to get you started in the right direction, check these 10 tips out. Ok, that's it for now. So, get out there and start shooting!
I will Twitter photography and club info from time to time on my Twitter account. So, join twitter and follow me if you want to keep posted!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

World Wide Photowalk - Lansing

Randy Jones (above) and I participated in Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photowalk on Saturday.  Groups from 10 to 50 were meeting in cities all over the world Saturday and were spending a couple of hours together walking around cities shooting pictures and sharing with each other.  Randy and I joined the group in Lansing.  There were about 21 of us, led by a photog from the capital city, Richard Vissers.  We met at the Brenke Fish Ladder at about 9am and walked north several blocks from there.
The walk took us up a tree lined street of businesses that were colorfully decorated and surrounded by flowers.  At our furthest northern point, we stopped at a Turner Dodge Park that contained the Turner-Dodge house. All this provided many opportunities for pictures.  Upon returning a few hours later, we all met at a local restaurant to share our experiences and refuel.  
You can see my pictures on my flickr site (LINK).  Everyone will eventually sharing their pictures on a flickr group site.  As of tonight, the site wasn't yet available.  
It was such a great experience, Randy and I talked about organizing 'photowalks' in and around Shepherd.  So, stayed tune for announcements of such a walk if you're interested in going out and taking pictures!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

No Luck with our PhotoWalk

Well, NAPP closed off the applications for new Photowalks yesterday, on Friday.  I applied last Friday (Aug 1st) for our own city (I actually applied for Mt Pleasant).  But, I have not heard back at all (either way).  Since then, another Michigan city was approved - Lansing.  So, I called the photographer (Dane Robison) in charge of Lansing and have decided to sign up for it.  I sent out an email to the people who have attended Cool Tools at Shepherd and let them know about the change.  I'm driving my mini-van down to Lansing on Saturday (Aug 23rd) and six more people are welcome to join me!  So far, I have one for sure and another maybe.  So, sign up here, and lets go have a ball!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ever been on a Photowalk?

Well, have you ever been on a Photowalk? If you're like me, most of you haven't. At least not the kind of Photowalk I'm talking about. A Photowalk is where a group of people (who love to take pictures) walk around for about 2 hours and take pictures of anything and everything. At the end of the walk, they usually end up at some sort of eatery and sit around and chimp everyones pictures. If you would like a more detailed discussion about a Photowalk, check out this blog. Today's entry (July 30) discusses this topic in depth!
Back in February, I wrote some goals (on this blog) that I wanted to try to achieve for this year with my photography. One of them was to go out and shoot with some other photographers. I'm hoping this might be my chance. Scott Kelby is sponsoring a world wide Photowalk (Here's the Link). Who is Scott Kelby? He's a Photographer (Duh!) that writes books about Photography, Photoshop and Lightroom. He has a great blog and creates awesome video tutorials for using Photoshop. Those of you that have attend some of the Cool Tools workshops where I have had the opportunity to talk about photography have seen me use some of his books.
On the Photowalk website there is a list of cities that have a pro photographer leading such a walk. You can email the photographer and become part of his group. In Michigan, Detroit is the only city that is having such a walk. Unfortunately, you can't join it. As of checking it today, it is full. Soooo, I was wondering if there is any interest in having our own here in central Michigan? I would be willing to organize it (it needs to take place on Saturday, August 23rd). Although, I don't think that Scott's group would recognize us as an official group. I say that, because on their site they say the 'leader' should be "photography instructors, users group leaders, college-level teachers, well known local professionals, etc." I don't fit that description. However, the only downside (to not being a recognized group)  would be that we wouldn't be eligible for the prizes (if you watch the video on the intro page to the Photowalk website you can learn about the prizes).
So, what's the next step?  Well, you can comment here to say that you're interested in being part of the group!  That way everyone will be able to see the group grow (hopefully).  We don't have to do it in Shepherd.  Any central Michigan city would be fine with me.  So come on, commit, and let's have some fun!  

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Search Engine: Cuil

Just out today (Monday, July 28th), a new search engine. Are you tired of Google? Google has become so common, that it's a verb used in our everyday language. The new competition for Google is Cuil, pronounced "Cool". Cuil promises to provide more comprehensive results then Google. It's results look different from Google's. It shows more information and pictures in it's results. You control whether these results are returned in a 2 or 3 column format. You can also protect yourself (or others) by turning on a safe surfing features that filters out porn. Although, the site does not guarantee that you won't encounter some. Here is a screen shot from searching 'Global Warming'.

Notice the gray box in the upper right hand corner of the picture. It is titled "Explore by Category". Below the title are possible subcategories for Global Warming. When you run your cursor across them, they reveal links to people in the subject field. Seems to be a nice way to tunnel down in your subject area.

This is the second new search engine I've seen this summer that seems to have some promise for educational use. The other I ran across several weeks ago is Viewzi. It gives you several options (or views) from which you can choose to view your results. Although, very visually inviting, I haven't found myself drawn to use it more than google. On the other hand, I have found myself drawn to Cuil and will probably give it a try over the next month while getting ready for School! I would like to hear your opinions on these two search engines. So, be sure to share your experiences below.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A New Way to Look at Flickr Sites

Do you have a Flickr account? If you don't, and you take pictures, you should! It's a great way to share pictures on the web. But that part of the story is for another time. For those of you that have a flickr site or have visited one (maybe mine?), I want to introduce you to a new way to explore pictures on flickr. It's called 'Blow Up'. It allows you to easily see the pictures from a site larger and makes the selecting of other pictures on the site very easy. I want to encourage you to try it. If you don't have a flickr site of your own, feel free to use mine. Just go to the Blow Up site and enter yours (or my 'veeman60') username below the welcome picture on the page. It will take a minute or so for the screen to set up, but soon you will be able to navigate through the pictures quite easily and see any thumbnail you click on fill your screen. It's awesome. Try it out, and let me know what you think (leave a comment at the bottom).
You can also down load code and set it up so that anyone going to your site will be able to view it through 'Blow Up'. I haven't had time to figure out just how to do that yet, but when I do, I'll be sure to share (or if you set it up, let us know how the installation process went!).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This ever happen to you?

About 3 years ago, after shooting two football games in one night, I was attempting to download the images from my Compact Flash Card. The error message I was getting suggested that there were no images on the card! After consulting with a few of my guru friends, I downloaded (and payed) for software (MediaRECOVER) that could search the flash drive (compact flash card) and find any images that may have survived the event that corrupted it. Luckily, I was able to recover all the pictures that I had taken. Fast forward to June 2008. I just returned from Costa Rica (where some teachers and students from Shepherd High School took a guided trip). I had shot about 13 gigs of pictures with my D3 Nikon. When I tried to download the pictures from a 4 gig card, it wouldn't even mount. My first thought was that the card reader I was using might be bad. So, I tried another, but with the same luck. I then tried sticking the card back into my camera to see if I could read my images (thinking I could link my camera to the computer and download them). The camera reported that their were no images on the card! I was now in panic mode! If I couldn't get the card to mount as a drive, there would be no way I could use image recovery software on it to get any pictures. After curling up in the fetal position for about an hour, I came up with what i thought was a risky plan. A plan from which there would be no return path from. I decided to put the card back into the camera and format it. I knew (at least i hoped I knew!), that formatting should only change the directory (the file that tells where the pictures are located on the disk). If there are pictures on the disk, they should be untouched. Doing this would allow me to mount the disk from the reader. After executing the plan, I put the card into the reader and it mounted on the computer. But, still no images. Next, i launched my mediaRECOVER software and let it look at my card. It reported no images! I couldn't believe it. Again, after going to the edge of the panic cliff, I remembered that the last time I used it, I was looking for jpeg images. Now, i was shooting in RAW (Nikon NEF format). The old software I had couldn't read those files. I went to the MediaRECOVER web site for an update. Their newest version did not read NEF files. So, I put google to work and found Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery. It was a free download. But, if you found your images - it wouldn't download them for you. You had to go back to the site and pay for an I.D. Key to get it to work. So, I ran the free download and found 300 images! WooHoo! I gladly payed the $39 and inputed the keys (2 string of numbers). Not sure if I will ever trust that card again though!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Burning Bushes


I recently decided to make a self assignment, something that would force me to go out and shoot pictures different from what I've been shooting for the last few years.  I've settled in to feeling pretty comfortable shooting sports of late.  So upon talking to a former student, I decided to venture back into the dark 'bar scene'.  It happens that this former student is a friend of my son and daughter and plays in a local band (with other former students).  They were playing at a local bar (Rubbles in Mt Pleasant) and I had a brand new camera (that I had ordered 4 months earlier!).  I had just received my new Nikon D3 body and it was dying to show off it's highly touted low light capabilities!  So when Carey (see picture above) told me that they were playing Thursday night and I didn't have to work on Friday - it was a done deal!
Now Rubbles is a small bar, with half the bar relegated to bands (with a small - very small dance floor).  The Burning Bushes played at midnight.  I showed up at about 11:45 to set up.  Walking into the half of the bar that they were to play in I found it to be a cave (in the sense that there was little if any light).  There were several 'cans' in front of the stage that mostly lit to the center of the stage and about 4 colored cans behind the band.  Below, this shot of Chris and Dan show the fight I was having with the lighting.
After conversing with several of my 'old' students, I 'pushed' my way up toward the stage to claim a spot.  I initially set up close to stage off to one side, besides one of the big speakers (big mistake).  I had decided from the start to shoot without aid of strobes (both for my experiment and I didn't think it would go over to well with the patrons - destroying their atmosphere and all!).  I started shooting with my 17-55 mm, 2.8 Nikkor AF-S, DX lens.  Unfortunately, I don't yet own a non-DX lens in the smaller lens size.  This would mean that while I was shooting with this lens I would only be using part of the D3's new full frame sensor.  I took some initial shots while the band was setting up and they looked fine in the new hi def lcd viewer on the back of the body.  After a 150 shots or so, I changed lens to AF-S VR-NIKKOR 70-200 2.8.  This lens is a non-DX lens and would use the all of the D3's new sensor.  I moved back into the crowd and took another 100 shots or so with this lens.  The next day, after sleeping in, I downloaded and looked over my shots.  There definitely was a difference between the two lenses when I looked at their sharpness and amount of noise.  Now the sharpness was probably due to the VR capabilities of the 70-200.  But I'm not sure about the noise factor.  First of all, I was shooting at 6400 ISO!  Even my noisiest shots were cleaner than when I shoot at 1600 with my D2X body.  So I was definitely happy with the results.  But I wonder if the additional noise was due to using less of the sensor or using spot metering for relatively wide shots?  I might have to return to Rubbles and try some different metering modes!
Both of the shots on this page were taken with the 70-200 VR lens.  You can see more of the pictures I took and look at the EXIF data on my Flickr page. 

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Setting Goals

Have you ever thought about setting goals with your photo hobby? I have people come up to me all the time (well, not ALL the time) to tell me that they want to learn how to do this or that with a camera, but finding the time to do this makes it impossible! One thing that I’ve noticed over the last couple years of reading photo blogs of serious and professional photographers, is that they set goals for themselves on their blogs at the beginning of each year. When developing these goals, they will divide them up into several categories (like ‘developing their skill’, ‘improving their business’, etc). So, I began the year thinking about things that would improve my skills and make me a better photographer. To set good goals, they must be positive, precise and small enough to achieve in one year. With that in mind, I’ve set 3 goals for my hobby this year.

1. My first goal is to go out shooting pictures with another photographer. The idea here is to have the opportunity to share skills and ideas with another person. It will also give the opportunity to see ‘pictures’ from another perspective. Have you ever tried this? I’ve been on trips out west in the national parks with groups of high school students. The picture above is of the 2006 group I traveled west with.  This is a picture from a hike that we did in the Tetons.  Most of the students have some type of camera with them. They look like sheep as they all head for the same spot, but they’re really no different than most of the other tourist out there. They want to make sure they get the typical shot that they’ve seen on the postcard and in the magazines. However, there’s usually one that goes off on their own, looking for the ‘different’ shot. Usually, when we return from the trip, we meet and will share our various pictures from the trip. It’s always interesting to see the unusual pictures from that one student. Some can be very interesting and good! As of yet, I don’t yet have another photographer in mind, so this is one goal I’ll be working on.

2. My second goal is to give myself a photo assignment. It would need to be something that I’m motivated to do, but yet involve a skill I’m deficient in (that leaves me a lot to choose from!). For this, I chose a task that I’ve played around with on a couple of occasions over the years, but never spent the quality time needed to be successful. The assignment is to take pictures of moving water and achieve the silky look in the water that comes from slow shutter speeds. This silky look can really add to the feeling you’re trying to achieve in a water shot. I will probably try to go north this summer for this one and find a river or falls area, although I will have other opportunities this year too. I will be in the Smokey Mountains in early April and out by California’s Mt. Whitney in mid-July.

3. Now, for my third. After traveling west almost every summer for the last 20 years and reading photography magazines, I’ve seen many photography expeditions advertised and written about. The photographers that have written about these in the blogs almost always rave about what they’ve learned. I really would love to go to the Rockies in the fall and take part in one of these expeditions. Well, of all my goals, this one I’ve taken the first step on. I’ve registered for Moose Peterson’s Wildlife Photographer’s Base Camp. It takes place next October in Yellowstone National Park. I’m so excited about this one I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait!

So, what are your photography goals for this year? I would like to hear them. It doesn’t matter if they’re big or small goals, just set some and then share with us. Maybe it will be just submitting a picture in the next assignment on SPS photography group on Flickr! Come-on, share with us!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Learn by Listening?

We can learn photography by listening.  I listen to a number of photography podcasts while I run.  I hate running!  But it's the only thing that allows me to keep trekking up the mountain trails in the summer.  To make it less painful, I download podcasts by professional photographers and listen to them on my iPod shuffle while I run (by the way, Apple dropped the price of the shuffle by $30 - check it out here).  Recently while reading Scott Kelby's blog, I learned that many of the talks given at the latest MacWorld Convention in California are now available online for free (did I say "For Free"?).  They are available in the Quicktime format.  Just click here, and you will see 4 to choose from.  I've just started listening to "Beginner Digital Photography" by Lesa & Shawn King.  It's interesting.  It's very similar to the topics we talked about at the Cool Tools Workshop at school.  But, they use many different slides to demo the point and talk about it from different angles.  Maybe it will resonate better with you.  So far, I'm enjoying it!
There are other titles there and they sound very interesting.  There's; "Five shooting technique's to make your pictures look better" by Derrick Story.  Derrick does a weekly podcast here.
Others that I will be sure to check out are; "How to Capture Killer Sport Images", by Ben Chen (Ben is a photoshop guru also), and "The Art and Craft of Digital Photography", by Chris Orwig.  Many differrent podcasters raved about Chris' presentation.
So, if you get a chance to check some of these out, share your comments here for us to discuss!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just a couple thoughts

Cold Air + Camera:  Yesterday I wrote about taking pictures in cold, snowy weather.  Latter I realized that I left out a very important point about shooting when it's very cold outside.  Never, never (strong enough?), bring your cold camera directly back into the house.  The warm, moister air in the house will condense all over the surfaces (inside and out) of your digital camera.  Since most of the surfaces inside your camera involve electric circuitry, this can do very expensive damage.  The 'howto' avoid this is simple.  Take a ziplock bag (or two) with you when you go out shooting.  Before you come back into the house (or for that matter, into your warm car), put your camera into the zip lock bag.  Now with a big DSLR, you may need a very big zip lock bag, or need to break your camera/lens down into 2 separate bags.  Try to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible.  The air in the bag is a lot dryer than that in your house (cold air can't hold as much moisture).  Once your camera returns to room temperature, you can take it out of the bag.
Race Cars: One of my short term goals for the readers of this blog is to convince them to look at photos of other photographers frequently.  With this internet thing, you are able to look at the pictures of some of the best photographers in the world ... for free!  If you check out the right panel of this blog, you will see that I list some of the blogs that I read on a daily basis.  Those blogs are by some of the photographers that I often try to imitate the techniques that I see on their sites.  So, today I would like to introduce you to such a pro photographer, Jamie Squire.  He recently photographed the Daytona 500.  You can check out his photos from that event here.  While you are looking at some of his photos, ask yourself how he managed to get some of his shots.  Look down to third row of photos at picture #79816105.  How do you think he managed to get the foreground blurry and the cars in sharp focus?
Celestial Opportunity: Tomorrow night (Feb 20th) there will be a Total Lunar Eclipse.  A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes into the earth's shadow, blocking out the sun's rays. Now the moon won't be completely dark.  In fact, it should be light by some sunlight bending around our planet and should appear orangish to reddish.  This will be our last opportunity to see this kind of event till 2010.  According to the Meteorlogists, there is a good chance we might get to see it.  So get your cameras out and see if you can get a good shot.  If you do, post it to our flickr group for all of us to see.  

Monday, February 18, 2008

Taking Pictures of Snow

For my birthday I bought a new pair of snow shoes!  I've wanted a pair for a long time, but had a hard time justifying the expense with the winters we've been having for the last 10 years.  Heck, I even sold my snow blower.  But, then came this winter!  So, this weekend I decided to give them a try on our local golf course.  So, I strapped my camera on and went trekking.  Man it was cold, but thankfully no wind.  It was about 9am, so the winter sun was still relatively low.  I was hoping for some open water to shoot on the rivers, but they were mostly frozen over.  So, I decided to shoot some of the plant life left over from the fall, trying to catch their shadows in the powdery snow.
In general, cameras figure out the correct exposure for something in your picture that it thinks is an average gray.   Snow usually gives it trouble.  It is generally worse if it's an overcast day.  In that case, it will expose the white snow as gray.  On a sunny day it's generally not as bad.  In the past, I've compensated for what my camera says is the correct exposure by about 1.3 stops (over expose).  So, I was thinking that on this bright sunny day that I would only need about 1/3 overexposure compensation.  So, I took 4 photos.  The first one was at the exposure the camera wanted (zero compensation), and then 3 more increasing the exposure by 1/3 on each one.  Much to my surprise, the one that turned out closest to right on was the last one.  I had to compensate a full stop to get the proper white in my picture!  Now, this was with my DSLR (Nikon D2x).  I suspect that I need to test it out (Sunny 16 Rule) to make sure that it is computing the exposure correctly.  
These days, most point and shoot digital cameras have a menu option that allows the use of exposure compensation.  Check it out on your camera.  This will be a perfect opportunity to go out and experiment with moving away from the just basics with your camera.  Practice 'Bracketing' your exposures.  That is take at least 3 pictures of the same thing.  Expose one with no compensation, then one 1/3 -2/3rds over and the same compensation under (-1/3-2/3rds).  When you get back to your nice warm chair in front of the computer, see which one looks the best!  If you have joined our flickr photo club, post your experiment their for us to see.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Online Photography Club?

This last month I’ve tried to start an online photo club with the teacher’s at Shepherd. I taught a photography workshop in the media center for about 8 teachers in January. After going through some photography basics, I had them all establish an online site to upload their pictures to. We used Flickr for our online site. Many of you are probably familiar with the flickr site as it has been around for a number of years. There are many different types of photography groups on flickr that you can join. But, we decided to start our own group. We call it the ‘SPS Photography Club’ (real original, eh?). I thought this would be a good idea because it would give us a source of contact where we could share questions and answers year around instead of at a workshop just once a year. In addition, we decided to have periodic ‘assignments’ where we could take pictures whose subject would be centered around a specific topic. Our first topic is ‘Cold’, (since we’ve had such a cold winter!). Take a look at the pictures that were uploaded and feel free to make comments - please be kind. If you would like to join our club, establish a flickr account and upload some of your pictures to it. Then join our group. We haven’t decided on our next photo assignment yet, if you have some ideas - share them!
In a future post I plan on discussing the photo editing that you can do on flickr.  If you haven't tried it out, give it a go and let me know what you think of it.