Want to get better at photography? Then here’s a quick list of some things you can do right now to start getting better.
Step away from the gear forums and the endless debates over what the best camera/lens is and just use the gear you have. All the online advice in the world is no substitute for getting out there and capturing images.
Get a good tripod and ball head, and use it. Yes, the tripod can be cumbersome at times, but the degrees of freedom it offers you in terms of creative options are worth it. With a tripod, you can capture long exposures that would be impossible to do hand-held. Plus, using the tripod will force you to slow down and think about your shots more.
Learn to shoot RAW. Even if you aren’t a master of post-processing, shooting RAW today means that you’ll be able to have maximum flexibility with your images down the road. Since RAW editing software continues to improve, you’ll be able to use new tools on your old shots and get great results.
Practice zooming with your feet. Use either a fixed focal length lens, or put some gaffer’s tape on your zoom ring. You’ll get a feel for perspective and composition, and it will force you to try new angles.
Get out of Program Mode and tell your camera that you’re in control. Try using Aperture-priority metering to control depth of field. Compare images captured wide-open (low f-number) with those captured while stopped down (high f-number). Use auto ISO if you’re shooting hand-held so that you can get sharp images, or use your tripod for the best results.
When I’m on the road scouting locations or leading workshops, I use my MacBook Pro as my field computer. I store my images on a portable USB 3 hard drive and I use Lightroom on my laptop to manage, keyword, and process images.
The challenge with this approach is that Lightroom by its very nature is a single-user application. Unless you store your Lightroom catalog file on a portable drive, it means that you’re going to have to set up two catalogs: one on your main computer and one on your laptop. Keywords and adjustments are not stored in your images unless you use DNG files, so simply copying the images from the laptop to your desktop computer won’t preserve all your Lightroom adjustments. Continue reading →
Night photography is fun. Night photography is also hard. To photograph the Milky Way, you need to be somewhere dark. In the summer, when the nights are warm, it often isn’t truly dark until after 10pm. That means this time of year is perfect, as the nights are just starting to get longer but temperatures are still fairly warm. You also want to make sure there is no moon to spoil the starlight. I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris to determine when astronomical twilight ends (this is when it gets very dark), and for moon information.
Last weekend, everything came together. I took a nice drive with my friend to Limon, CO, where I’ve shot the wind farm in the past. I’d pre-visualized this shot for over a year; I just finally got around to doing it.
You can have a lot of creative fun with a digital infrared camera. Converting an old camera to infrared is a great way to breathe new life into that camera. I recently purchased a used Fujifilm X-E1 mirrorless camera to use as an infrared body. I chose this camera as a compact complement to my Fujifilm X-T1, which has become my primary travel camera due to its small size and excellent image quality. I don’t want to carry multiple systems in the field, so I figured the X-E1 should do the trick (and it does). I’ll have more on that in another post. The toughest decision about infrared conversion, is choosing the conversion type. Depending on your style of shooting and subject matter, you can choose from a range of conversions, including standard, enhanced color, super color, deep black, and even full-spectrum (UV through IR range). Each of these conversions has its own merits, but most people will probably want to use either standard (720nm) or super-color (590nm) for infrared work. Continue reading →
This photograph of a blue grosbeak illustrates just how far camera technology has come in the eight years since I first traveled to the private birding blinds of South Texas. Back then, I was using a Nikon D2x and 200-400mm f/4 zoom lens. I got plenty of good images, but my keeper rate was fairly low, especially as light faded. I also didn’t seem to get the sharpest shots at times and I couldn’t really figure out why, as some shots were tack-sharp. Was it the camera? The lens? Or was it something else about my technique? Continue reading →