Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Happy New Year!

Out with the old, in with the new.

Today is the final day of 2011. Tomorrow, 2011 will be nothing more than a long list of fading memories. Hopefully it was a good year for you.

Tomorrow will begin 2012. In life, with each new beginning, there is hope. Maybe 2012 will be better than 2011. Maybe you'll make more money, restore a broken relationship, finally have that talk, tell your family "I love you" just a little more often, enjoy an amazing vacation, actually accomplish some of your goals, pursue your dreams.

These things will not happen on their own. It requires work and effort on your part. But you will find the extra effort to be worth it a lot more often than not. So go for it!

Life is short, don't let it slip through your fingers without a fight.

Happy New Year!

Photo Of The Day - Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stealth - Palmdale, California
Taken on 12/28/2011 at 11:55 am.
Shutter 1/160, f13, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.
This is an F-117 with the tails of an SR-71 behind.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Silver Queen Mine

The Silver Queen Mine near Mojave, California, began in 1933, producing both gold and silver.

Mining first began in that area in 1896, but stopped in 1901. A new discovery in the early 1930's on a neighboring property to that first site renewed interest in the area, and several mines opened (including the Silver Queen).

Details are hard to come by. Apparently, mining at the Silver Queen slowed significantly after World War 2. Sometime in the 1970's the mine closed, although there may have been some activity through the 1980's, but that cannot be confirmed.

The current owners of the property are exploring the idea of reopening the mine. It is believed that gold and silver can still be found in that area. A couple other mines near Mojave have recently reopened.

Right now the Silver Queen mine stands abandoned and in decay. Vandals have done much damage, and Mother Nature has done even more. Like a forgotten statue, the mine reminds us of a different time, but only for those who stumble upon it.

The property is private, and some property lines are not marked clearly. The journey is at your own risk.

These photographs were taken on 12/28/2011 using a Pentax K-x DSLR.
Tank - Mojave, California
Tank #2 - Mojave, California
Keep Out - Mojave, California
Inside Wall - Mojave, California
Beams and Blue - Mojave, California
Remnants - Mojave, California
Wood Window - Mojave, California
Rusted - Mojave, California
Falling Apart - Mojave, California
Heap of Ruins - Mojave, California
Lost Mine - Mojave, California
Lost Ruins - Mojave, California
Forgotten Cross - Mojave, California
Desert Ruins - Mojave, California
Steps - Mojave, California
Roller Skate - Mojave, California
Keep Out of The House - Mojave, California
Keep The Radio - Mojave, California
Broken Television - Mojave, California
Golden Rock Wall - Mojave, California
Silver Queen Mine - Mojave, California

How To Make A Minature Studio For Free

Studio equipment is expensive. Should you need a studio, you might spend more on that than your camera and lens combined. But it doesn't have to be expensive.

If you click here, you'll find a website that offers some good tips and tricks for putting together your own studio for less. And here you'll find a miniature studio for about $10.

Miniature studios are good for photographing small items. Last night I made a miniature studio for free, using common materials found around the house.

First, I found a clear tupperware container. I thought this would be a sturdy base and perhaps the tupperware might bounce some light around. I placed the tupperware on it's side, with the opening facing me.

I cut a sheet of white printer/copier paper to the width of the tupperware. I slid it in, letting the paper naturally curve up at the back of the tupperware (do not crease it!). If I had been thinking, I would have stood up the scrap paper on the sides of the tupperware to help bounce the light around (which might have reduced the shadows).

Next I found two lamps around the house. I removed the shades and checked to make sure the bulbs were the same. If you have different bulbs, it might cause some funky lighting. If I had been thinking, I would have placed a round tupperware container over each bulb to diffuse the light some. Or maybe a white sheet. Or maybe some parchment paper. (Be careful, though--you don't want to start a fire!) Next time I'll play around with different ways to diffuse the light.

The lamps were placed on the right and left of, to the front of, and little higher than the minature studio. I placed one lamp (the one on the left) slightly closer so that the shadows would fall more in a certain direction. If I had diffused the light a little and bounced it around more, the shadows would be less obvious. I'm sure a little trial-and-error would fix this.

I placed the object to be photographed (in this case, a Christmas ornament) on the paper. The camera was set on a tripod. Depending on exactly how bright the lights are, you might not need a tripod. I probably didn't need one, but I used a tripod anyway.

The key here is white balance. You'll have to manually set this and take care to make sure it is correct. I found the tungsten setting worked for the particular light I had. Use an ISO of 200 or less.

The entire object doesn't need to be in focus, but the important part of it does need to be in sharp focus. Make sure you have an appropriate depth-of-field. In my case, I wanted the very top and very bottom to be a bit fuzzy to force the viewer's attention to the middle.

Baby's First Christmas - Tehachapi, California
In the future I'll play around with color paper and placement of light. I imagine that there are a lot of possibilities for a set up like this.

Best of all, though, is that it was free. 

Photo Of The Day - Friday, December 30, 2011

Contrails At Sunset - Hesperia, California
Taken on 12/24/2011 at 4:54 pm.
Shutter 1/80, f4.6, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 300mm equivalent.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reflected Winter Tree - Hesperia, California
Taken on 12/24/2011 at 2:17 pm.
Shutter 1/585, f4.6, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 135mm equivalent.

Thought Of The Day: Take A Risk

Be careful. Take care of yourself.

But take a risk!

Get out of your comfort zone. Bend the rules a little.

Take a chance. Maybe it won't work. Maybe it will work out better than you could ever have hoped for.

If you don't take a chance, you don't have a chance. If you never try, you will never succeed.

Don't be afraid. You will fail, that is a part of life. It's what you do after you fail that is important. That is when you grow.

If you never try, you will never fail. If you never fail you will never grow.

This applies to photography as much as (if not more than) anything else.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thought Of The Day: More Kindle Fire Thoughts

In yesterday's Thought Of The Day, I spoke highly of the Kindle Fire but said that the Apple iPad is the clear choice from a photography standpoint. The iPad has a built-in digital camera while the Fire does not.

I was asked if the Fire offers any benefit for a photographer--photographically speaking, of course.

The answer to that question is yes. You can download books and magazines onto your tablet computer.

There are a number of good photography books available in a digital format that Amazon has made quite simple for you to purchase. The best part is that you can carry these books with you where ever you go. You can quickly reference them out in the field if need be. And there is no added bulk or weight aside from the tablet itself.

Four different photography magazines are available for you to purchase (at least that I could find). Most printed photography magazines cost between $4.99 and $9.99 per issue. And very few are worth that price. Sometimes you will find an issue worth its weight in gold, but most of the time there are only small nuggets of useful information found within the magazine's pages. Perhaps two dollar's worth.

The good news is that most digital magazine subscriptions available through Amazon cost $1.99 per issue. These downloaded copies are available to you for as long as you want to set aside disk space for them. Like digital books, these can be quickly referenced any time you want.

One benefit of viewing photography magazines through a tablet instead of printed is that the photographs themselves look even more amazing.

The Fire does offer internet access through WiFi. If you are in a hotspot, that's great! You can find so much helpful information by using Google that surely will benefit the photographer. If you are not in a hotspot, bummer.

Photo Of The Day - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blue Bird House - Hesperia, California
Taken on 12/24/2011 at 2:50 pm.
Shutter 1/100, f4.6, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 120mm equivalent.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Kindle Fire vs. Apple iPad

It's not fair to compare the Kindle Fire and the Apple iPad. I think everybody knows that the iPad is a much better tablet computer. But the Fire costs $199 while the iPad starts at $499.

The real questions are:

Is the iPad two-and-a-half times better than the Fire?

Which should you buy?

The answer to the first question is no, the iPad is not 2.5 times better than the Fire. The iPad might--maybe--be twice as good as the Fire. My non-expert opinion is that the iPad is around 60% to 75% better. What that means is that the iPad is a significantly better tablet computer, but the Fire has a significantly better value.

And it shouldn't surprise you that the Fire has a better value because Amazon takes a loss on each Fire sold. I've seen some estimates that say the total loss to Amazon per Kindle Fire is between $50 and $75. They're hoping to make up for that with electronic media sales.

The iPad, on the other hand, has a 100%-200% markup, depending on exactly which one you buy.

Amazon did something smart when they were developing the Fire. They conducted surveys of tablet users (mostly iPad users) to find out which features were most and least used, and also which features were most and least duplicated with other devices that the tablet users owned. Features that were least used and most duplicated were not included. Features that were most used and least duplicated were absolutely included.

The Fire has all of the essential features you'll use often and none of the features that might seem nice to have but you'll never actually use. That keeps the cost low and operations simple.

The answer to the second question is personal; however, you likely already know the answer. Those that can purchase an iPad without thinking twice about the cost will do so. Those that are budget-minded--those that would miss an additional $300 (minimum) gone from their bank account--should strongly consider the Fire.

The iPad is like a Lexus, while the Fire is like a Kia.

With regard to photography, the iPad has a built-in camera, while the Fire does not. Apple has created some pretty good post-processing software for your images, while Amazon has no need for that software because there is no camera. So, speaking strictly photographically, the iPad is the clear choice.

Photo Of The Day - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oscar - Hesperia, California
Taken on 12/24/2011 at 2:18 pm.
Shutter 1/355, f11, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 300mm equivalent.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Monday, December 26, 2011

Kodak 35mm Camera - Hesperia, California
Taken on 12/24/2011 at 4:05 pm.
Shutter 1/40, f3.5, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 30mm equivalent.
Converted to black-and-white and toned using Paint.NET.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Merry Christmas! ...And Your Camera Really Doesn't Matter

Merry Christmas everyone!

Here is proof that your camera doesn't matter. Any camera, in the hands of a skilled photographer, can be used to create successful photographs.

These two photographs were taken with a Discovery Kids digital camera that doesn't even have one megapixel! Most cell-phone cameras are more capable than this. Here are two of seven images that I snapped outside earlier today:

White Flower Against House - Tehachapi, California
Nails and Leaves - Tehachapi, California

Friday, December 23, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Friday, December 23, 2011

Tehachapi Airport - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/21/2011 at 7:53 pm.
Shutter 30 seconds, f11, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DSLR, 75mm.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Cropping

Photography is non-verbal communication. One major key to creating successful photographs is to communicate with the viewer as clearly as possible. If the photograph is stating unnecessary words or seems to be communicating more than one theme, it will leave the viewer confused and unimpressed.

Often the simplest photographs are the best photographs. That's because the message of the image is stated as clearly as possible, with nothing unnecessary included. Generally (but not always) that is the best approach to photography: simple, straight-forward images.

You want to, as much as possible, crop your photographs before pushing the shutter release button. In the field, carefully consider how you want the final print to look. If there is something in the frame that does not make the image stronger, then remove it from the frame before taking the picture. Move a little left or right, up or down, step forward, step back, zoom--remove it somehow.

It is better to get the photograph the way you want it when you take it than to try and fix it later with computer software.

After the image has been captured, there are three general reasons to crop a photograph.

First, you might not have noticed something when you were in the field that is very obvious to you now as you look at the image on your computer screen. This happens when you are in a hurry--sometimes you have to be in a hurry, especially with quickly changing environments or fast-moving objects--and are typically found at the edges of the frame.

When you find things in your images that you didn't expect and don't want, crop them out! Get rid of them and make your photographs stronger.

The second reason to crop is to shape the image. Print shapes are not typically the same shapes as camera sensors. Decide what size the images will be printed. I consider this when I'm in the field taking photographs, so that I can compose the images in such a way that they can be cropped to that shape without losing anything important.

Once you've decided what size print you will make, crop the image to that shape so that you have complete control of how the photograph will look. Don't leave it up to the lab to do the cropping, because four out of five times they will get it wrong.

And even if you have no intention of printing the image, often one shape will create a stronger photograph over another shape. The only correct shape for a photograph is the one that is the strongest. Sometimes that shape is a square, other times a rectangle, and other times a long rectangle.

The final reason to crop is to zoom. Sometimes you will not have a telephoto lens that is long enough or a macro lens that will focus close enough to capture the image you want. Other times you simply didn't choose the best focal length, which typically happens when you are in a hurry (again, sometimes you have no choice but to hurry).

If cropping the image (removing unnecessary parts) makes the photograph stronger, do not hesitate to crop. There is no shame in cropping. Photographers have been cropping images for well over 100 years.

In conclusion, keep your photographs as simple as possible to communicate as clearly as possible. Crop out whatever is unnecessary. It's best to do that in the field before taking the picture, but by all means do so in post-processing if you didn't get it correct when you pressed the shutter release button.
Simple is better, but don't make your photographs uninteresting. Making complexity out of simplicity is very difficult. You have to find a way to inject thought and emotion into that simple subject.

Photo Of The Day - Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tree At Last Light - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/21/2011 at 4:22 pm.
Shutter 1/40, f14, ISO 200, Pentax K-x, 28mm, CP Filter

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Early Morning Fog - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/16/2011 at 5:43 am.
Shutter 1/50, f4.5, ISO 3200, Nikon S8100, 100mm equivalent.
Converted to black-and-white and toned using Paint.NET.

Thought Of The Day: Great Photography Quotes

Photography is non-verbal communication, but here are some verbal (or, at least, written) communication about photography that deserve repeating:

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." --Henri Cartier-Bresson

"Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times." --Elliott Erwitt

"The difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is that the amateur thinks the camera does the work." --David Hemmings

"A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they'll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won't do a thing for you if you don't have anything in your head or in your heart." --Arnold Newman

"The important thing is not the camera but the eye." --Alfred Eisenstaedt

"The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it." --Ansel Adams

"Beauty can be seen in all things. Seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph." --Matt Hardy

"You've got to push yourself harder. You've got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You've got to take the tools you have and probe deeper." --William Albert Allard

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." --John Lubbock

"Getting the technological foundation to make perfectly exposed photographs was easy, but amounted to nothing on its own. I simply had to commit myself, to express feelings about what I was undertaking." --Bjorn Rorslett

"You don't take a photograph, you make it" --Ansel Adams

"The camera can photograph thought." --Dirk Bogarde

"If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera." --Lewis Hine

"Photography helps people to see." --Berenice Abbott

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Climbing Tehachapi Pass - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/13/2011 at 3:54 pm.
Shutter 1/500, f11, ISO 800, Pentax K-x DSLR, 55mm.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Busy, Busy

During he holiday season, Santa Claus is not the only one with very little time to spare. It seems I have more on my "to do" list than time to do it all in.

And the deadline is quickly approaching.

The only way to successfully get through this is to prioritize. Focus first on what is truly important, put off until later that which is unimportant.

In a couple of weeks, 2011 will come to a close and will give way to 2012. My list will shorten significantly, and there will be time to accomplish all of the less important things.

So, while I feel stretched and perhaps even tired, I have nothing to worry about. I can enjoy these fleeting moments while they are here.

Photo Of The Day - Monday, December 19, 2011

Old Railroad Tie - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/13/2011 at 3:48 pm.
Shutter 1/125, f11, Iso 400, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Sunday, December 18, 2011

Glove - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/13/2011at 3:46 pm.
Shutter 1/250, f7.1, ISO 400, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Saturday, December 17, 2011

Train and Truck - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/13/2011 at 3:54 pm.
Shutter 1/320, f11, ISO 800, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thought Of The Day: A Study Of Three Photographs

I took these three photographs early yesterday morning within a four minute period. I was traveling through Lancaster, California and noticed the beautiful sunrise. Because I had a camera with me, I was able to capture the beautiful scene.

I did not bring a tripod because it's a pain to lug around (even though the one I own is small and light-weight). Most modern cameras have good anti-shake, which allows the photographer the use of a slower shutter speed when handheld, and most modern digital cameras do a good job of minimizing the "noise" at higher ISOs. Also, you can place the camera on a sturdy flat surface and use the camera's self-timer and get the same results as if you used a tripod. In other words, tripods are not necessary most of the time.

However, I could have used a tripod for these photographs. I would have preferred a lower ISO--in fact, I really had to push the capabilities of the camera to even "get away with" the ISO that I used--and I would have preferred a smaller aperture to increase the depth-of-field. However, there were no sturdy flat surfaces in the area.
Railroad Signal At Sunrise - Lancaster, California
Taken on 12/15/2011 at 6:23 am.
Shutter 1/15 (handheld!), f6.3, ISO 1600, Pentax K-x, 55mm.
The above photograph captures the deep red, the orange, and the dark blue of the sunrise. There are millions and millions of sunrise and sunset photographs out there, and it takes a particularly amazing sunrise or sunset to create a great photograph. If the sunrise you photographed is average, the viewer of the photograph will see that and quickly move on. Particularly amazing sunrises occur only every so often (usually a few times a month, depending on your location and time of the year), but since you never know when they will happen, you have to be awake and prepared.

I wasn't completely prepared, because I didn't have a tripod.

The railroad signal reminds me of a saguaro cactus, which aren't found anywhere near Lancaster, and I find the shape interesting. I placed it on the left-half of the photograph because I wanted to minimize the signal overlapping the clouds (which would have created a distraction). Also, the clouds are higher in the sky on the right-half, and provides a little balance. However, the signal points more to the left than the right, and that causes a bit of uneasiness.

Because of the digital-noise, due to using ISO 1600, and because of the small depth-of-field (I would have preferred f11, give or take an f-stop), this photograph would look best as a 5" x 7" print, and it is cropped to that shape. At that size it would be difficult to tell the downsides of the image. The larger the print, the more obvious the noise and depth-of-field become. By cropping a little off the top and (especially) bottom, I could make an 8" x 10" print, or by cropping a little off the left and right sides, I could make an 8" x 12" print. However, at that size, I would want to display the image in such a way that viewers would be no closer than three feet from the print. The further away the viewer is, the less able he or she is of closely examining the photograph and the less likely he or she will notice the flaws.

Rails and Signal - Lancaster, California
Taken on 12/15/2011 at 6:25 am.
Shutter 1/10 (handheld!!), f6.3, ISO 1600, Pentax K-x, 28mm.

The above photograph has the same issues with noise and depth-of-field as the previous one. It's cropped to a different shape, though, and would require custom printing, matting and (maybe) framing. That means it will likely never be printed, but if it were printed, I would likely make it a 3" x 5" print. If it were to be viewed from a distance of at least three feet, I could go as large as a 6" x 10" print.

The railroad tracks guide the viewer from the bottom left to the middle-right. Why? Because the bottom-left has the highest contrast, so the viewer's eyes get drawn there. The distant lights act like a line to move the viewer to the railroad signal, and then the viewer explores the sunrise sky.

The reason the land seems slanted is because I used a wide-angle lens, which distorts straight lines (especially at the edges of the photograph). I wanted the signal to be straight, and that made everything else slanted (increasingly so at the left).

The land at he middle-left of the image has some details. I should have burned that area in during post-processing so that the details would show more (but that takes time, and, especially during the holiday season, I don't have all that much time to be sitting in front of a computer messing around with images). If I had used negative film (instead of digital capture), I would have had a larger dynamic range, and there would have been better details in that dark area.

Lights On Ice - Lancaster, California
Taken on 12/15/2011 at 6:21 am.
Shutter 1/10 (handheld!!), f6.3, ISO 3200, Pentax K-x, 80mm.
The above photograph shows the headlights of a passing car reflected on a frozen puddle of water. I would never have seen this image if I had not stopped to photograph the sunrise. It shows that, while you are photographing one thing, you should keep a lookout for other things worthy of your camera's attention.

In the case of this photograph, the high-ISO (3200!) and shallow depth-of-field actually help make the image stronger, giving a more "moody" feel. It is a very contrasty photograph. If not for the rock illuminated in the middle of the image, it would have been somewhat uninteresting (the rock acts as a punchline). Also, there is some play between positive space and negative space that adds interest.

I converted the image to black-and-white because color was not an essential element to the photograph. Black-and-white has more of a fine-art and emotional feel than color, so if color is not important to a photograph, it should be black-and-white. I also toned the image (slightly, anyway) by adjusting the color curves in post-processing.
This photograph would look best as an 8" x 12" print, and it is shaped for that. It could be printed larger, but I think the noise and shallow depth-of-field would become less of an asset and more of a liability. It could also be a 4" x 6" print, although I'm not sure why I would ever want it that small.

Photo Of The Day - Friday, December 16, 2011

Tree Trunk and Branch - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/12/2011 at 2:42 pm.
Shutter 1/122, f4.6, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 140mm equivalent. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Photograph With What You Have

In yesterday's Thought Of The Day I listed several links to examples of great photographs taken with cell-phone cameras. I think, more than anything, it shows that any camera--yes, any camera--is capable of taking great photographs when in the hand of a skilled photographer.

You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on high-end photographic equipment. You can spend that kind of money if you have it and you want to do so. However, great photographs can be made with a $150 camera, with a $50 camera, a $20 camera, a $5 camera and a free camera. Perhaps that expensive equipment will make it a bit easier to create a great photograph (and sometimes it might make it harder), but any camera is capable of creating great photographs as long as the photographer is, as well.

And if the photographer is not capable of creating great photographs, no matter how expensive the camera is, it will not be capable.

As Ansel Adams said, "The single most important component of a camera is the 12 inches behind it."

The best advice I can give right now is to use the camera equipment that you have right now. Don't get caught up in thinking you need this or that to make successful photographs. Instead of spending money and time looking for new equipment, learn how to become a better photographer.

Photo Of The Day - Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fire In Wood Stove - Bodfish, California
Taken on 12/11/2011 at 6:40 pm.
Shutter 1/30 (handheld), f4.3, ISO 337, Nikon S8100, 80mm equivalent.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Digital Photography For Free

I mentioned in yesterday's Thought Of The Day that it would be really tough to get started in digital photography for less than $80, but it is still possible.

You can actually get started in digital photography for free.

All you really need is your cell-phone camera.

Almost everyone has a cell-phone, and almost all cell-phones have built-in digital cameras.

Don't think a cell-phone camera is capable of taking great images? Check these out: here, here, here, herehere, here and here. Really, check each one of them out and come back.

Is there anything more that needs to be said? If so, read The Best Camera Is The One That's With You by photographer Chase Jarvis.

If you are thinking about getting started in digital photography, it's likely you already have what you need.

Photo Of The Day - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Brake Wheel - Fillmore, California
Taken on 12/9/2011 at 7:45 pm.
Shutter 1/13 (handheld!), f5.6, ISO 3200(!), Pentax K-x, 28mm.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Black & White Film Is Better

Black-and-white film is better than digitally created black-and-white images.


First, black-and-white film has a larger dynamic range than digital capture (typically by two or three stops!), which means it can capture more of the light and dark areas of a scene before losing details. Some will argue that digital HDR rectifies this problem, increasing the dynamic range of an image. My answer back is that HDR requires photographing multiple images (instead of just one) and produces flat, "noisy", cartoonish, haloing and unrealistic results--that is, unless the photographer spends significant time and care combining the images, typically using three different post-processing softwares.

Maybe you like spending hours in front of a computer tweaking photographs, but I don't.

Second, if you get a good quality scan of 35mm film, such as at North Coast, you have a higher resolution file than what you get with most digital SLRs. And you will have a resolution similar to that of a full-frame DSLR. In fact, you could take a disposable 35mm film camera and get a good quality scan of the film and have resolution similar to that of a $5,000 digital camera.

By using film and scanning the negatives, you reap the benefits of both 35mm film (dynamic range and size) and digital (quick and easy post-processing).

Third, you have a long-lasting back up of your photograph: the negative. Technology advances and changes so fast. 20 years from now you probably won't be able to view your digital image files that you currently have on your computer. A negative will last much longer than you will.

Fourth, film is more "fine-art" than digital. What I mean by this is that most meaningful and collectible photographs were taken with film. Digital has more of a seemingly temporary quality. I think that's because it's easy to take digital images (you can snap as quickly as your camera can record), it's easy to delete digital images, and new technology often leaves the previous decade's technology forgotten (or the butt of a joke). It seems like there is less of an "art" in digital photography. Whether or not that is actually true does not matter--it seems to be true, so for practical purposes, it is true.

Finally, film is cheaper in the short-term. A beginner can purchase an old (but good) 35mm film camera for less than $50. A roll of quality film can be purchased for less than $7. Development and scanning is less than $20. For less than $80, someone can get started in photography and potentially create amazing, gallery quality images. It's really tough (but still possible) to get started in digital photography for that price.

Those five reasons are why film is better for creating black-and white photographs than digital. That does not mean amazing black-and-white images cannot be made with digital (because they can), but it demonstrates why film photography is still relevant, and why you might choose film over digital.

Photo Of The Day - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Railway Express Agency - Fillmore, California
Taken on 12/9/2011 at 7:29 pm.
Shutter 1/30 (handheld), f5.6, ISO 1600, Pentax K-x, 40mm.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Carousel - Fillmore, California
Taken on 12/9/2011 at 5:50 pm.
Shutter 4 seconds (handheld!), f8.6, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 80mm equivalent.

Thought Of The Day: It's Better To Spend Time With Family

We're quickly approaching Christmas and the end of 2011. It's easy to get caught up in all sorts of things--from photography to football, from shopping to sharing. It can seem that there are not enough hours in the day for it all, and there probably isn't.

Sometimes you cannot have your cake and eat it to.

At some point you have to decide what is most important. At some point you might need to choose between spending time with your camera and spending time with your wife and children.

Around the holiday season, it's never bad to choose family. It's better to spend time with your family than your camera and computer.

Give yourself and others something to remember and something warm to hold on to for years to come.

Sometimes, the photograph can wait.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thought Of The Day: The Early Bird Catches The Worm

If you are not up early enough to see the sunrise, then you are not up early enough to photograph it.

Besides being nature's color show, some of the best light for photography is found at sunrise. It's too bad if you sleep through it.

But like many things in life, you do get a second chance: sunset. If you missed the sunrise, be sure not to miss sunset.

Photo Of The Day - Sunday, December 11, 2011

Union Pacific In The Desert - Mojave, California
Taken on 12/8/2011 at 3:40 pm.
Shutter 1/924, f4.7, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 205mm equivalent.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thought Of The Day: The Nikon S8100 Continues To Impress

For a digital point-and-shoot that is almost entirely automatic, the Nikon S8100 does a great job. The built-in software is excellent.

Sometimes the complexity of a camera can get in the way of capturing the decisive moment. I had this problem last night with my Pentax K-x when switching lenses and/or adjusting the aperture, ISO, shutter speed, white balance, etc. I missed several great photographs because the camera and I were not ready.

I didn't have this problem when using the S8100. It quickly and (almost entirely) automatically figured out what the settings needed to be and produced good results. It was much less frustrating than using the DSLR in fast moving, quickly changing situations.

Sometimes more expensive is not better.

Photo Of The Day - Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thirty - Palmdale, California
Taken on 12/8/2011 at 11:26 am.
Shutter 1/480, f9.2, ISO 160, Nikon S8100, 120mm equivalent.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Keep It Simple

Photography is a form of non-verbal communication. Like verbal communication, it's more effective to be clear and simple. Adding a bunch of useless words to a sentence will only cause confusion. Adding a bunch of unimportant objects to a photograph will only cause confusion.

Although there are exceptions, the best photographs are those that are clear and simple. If there is something unimportant, remove it! It's best to do this before pressing the shutter release button. If you're lucky, you might be able to crop it out or even clone-stamp it out later in post-processing, but never count on that. If at all possible, take care of this in the field instead of at your computer.

Make your non-verbal statement in as few of words as possible. That clear and simple communication will almost always be the strongest way of making a statement to those viewing your photographs.

Photo Of The Day - Friday, December 9, 2011

Cement Track Ties - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/6/2011 at 3:54 pm.
Shutter 1/160, f13, ISO 400, Pentax K-x DSLR, 35mm.
This photograph is about repeated lines and shapes, as well as contrast. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Right Place, Right Time

To a fairly large extent, photography is about being in the right place at the right time. Look through a magazine like Arizona Highways and notice each wonderful photograph. Had the photographer not been there at that moment in time, those photographs would not have happened.

It's the same with your photography. Rarely do great photographs come knocking on your door. You have to seek them out. You have to travel to where the great photographs are. You have to be there at the same time of the day that the great photograph is.

Great photographs are elusive things. You have to hunt them out.

Being in the right place at the right time is not enough, however. You can be in the right place at the right time and completely miss the great photograph. If you are not actively looking for the great photograph with a camera ready, you will not find it. You have to look critically all around. You must be prepared to capture it!

That is still not enough to capture the great photograph. You have to choose wisely what equipment and settings you will use. You will have to choose wisely composition. You have to choose wisely how you want the photograph to look and what you want it to say. One wrong move could be the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph.

Don't let the great photograph get away!

Photo Of The Day - Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chains Required - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/6/2011 at 3:45 pm.
1/400, f10, ISO 400, Pentax K-x DSLR, 80mm.
This photograph works because of the color contrast at the top of the image. It draws in your eyes, and then you begin exploring, making your way to the bottom.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Film and Print Service

Where do I get film and print service?

Two places: North Coast Photographic Services and Costco.

North Coast is where I get most of my film developed and scanned. They do an exceptional job. I've never had any issues using them and never had problems with dust. The files I get back have more resolution than I even know what to do with, especially if I'm using a film size larger than 35mm. The scanning does add a small amount of digital noise, but nothing significant. I've also used North Coast to make prints, and their quality is top-notch, but a but expensive. This is where I get odd shaped (such as square) or large prints done at. They ship quickly, too.

The Costco photo center is good for two things. First, if I need film developed and scanned quickly, resolution is not important, and the film requires C-41 (color negative) process, then Costco is my place of choice. I talked more about this here. Second, Costco is where I go for most of my prints. They use Fuji Archive paper and a $50,000 printer. Their quality is excellent (better than some "pro labs" I've used in the past, and not significantly different than North Coast), customer service is first-class, and prices are the lowest. Once the photograph is matted and framed, there is no way of knowing where it was printed, and no one will have a clue that you used a one-hour lab instead of a professional lab. You can get up to 12" x 18" prints in one hour. I rarely have had issues with dust at Costco (don't know how they do it), but when I have, they've gladly reprinted the image at no additional cost.

Photo Of The Day - Wednesday, December 7, 2011

BNSF Climbing The Pass - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 12/5/2011 at 4:02 pm.
Shutter 1/500, f10, ISO 400, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.