Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Buying Used Gear That Isn’t Really Used

Refurbished cameras are inspected by the manufacturer and usually carry a 90-day warranty. The savings can be significant over an unopened item.
Refurbished cameras are inspected by the manufacturer and usually carry a 90-day warranty. The savings can be significant over an unopened item.

Digital photography is an expensive hobby, and we all want to find a good deal when buying gear. Now that the Internet makes comparison shopping easy, it’s hard to find deals and specials beyond what’s already out there.

The other approach to buying camera equipment has been to utilize the used market. The trade-off for getting a cheaper price on pre-owned equipment has always been the risk of not having a warranty should that gear malfunction. When you consider that modern DSLRs and lenses are more computers than machines, it’s no wonder why we can be hesitant to purchased used gear. If you’re going to purchase used equipment, you want to avoid scams and know you’re getting what is advertised. As the saying goes, if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. I generally try to avoid the auction sites and Internet sales forums for that reason alone. Continue reading Buying Used Gear That Isn’t Really Used

That moment it hits you

"The moment it hits you" Sunrise over Badlands National Park, South Dakota.
“The moment it hits you”
Sunrise over Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

I’ve been re-working some of my HDR shots using Lightroom CC because it really does a great job of keeping things natural. Here’s a shot from my Badlands trip in 2012 that I reworked.

I first used the HDR Merge feature in Lightroom CC, which produced an HDR RAW image (DNG). I was able to do a lot of adjustments in LR CC on that image, which I then sent to Photoshop CC, where I applied Color Efex Pro 4 and cleaned up some dust. I then returned the image to LR for the final tweaks and sharpening. The whole process took less than ten minutes.

Get my complete Lightroom HDR tutorial video here!

Five things you can do today to improve your photography

Lincoln Memorial at twilight, Washingon, DC.
Lincoln Memorial at twilight, Washingon, DC. This shot would be impossible without a tripod.

Want to get better at photography? Then here’s a quick list of some things you can do right now to start getting better.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Happy shooting!

Traveling with Lightroom: Moving images between two computers

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 Traveling with Lightroom: Moving images between two computers

Shooting the Milky Way

Milky Way over the wind farm near Limon, CO
Milky Way over the wind farm near Limon, CO

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.

Tech Specs

Nikon D810 with 14-24mm AFS G zoom Nikkor lens
30-second exposure at f/2.8, ISO 1600

Night photography tips after the jump… Continue reading Shooting the Milky Way