Experiments with Film

So for a learning experience I took a roll of Tri-X 400 Kodak Film and shot it as if it was actually 800 ISO. 

I can see how this is useful when shooting indoors as even with my lumu light meter those images exposed well. My problem came if I had the camera outdoors. I couldn’t prevent overexposure it seems (I do not own a ND filter for my film camera).

You can see the results below that I felt were worth to share (both good and bad):


Barn Street Drummer Street Drummer Protest Mother and Son Mother and Son Mother and Son Mother and Son Graham Graham Graham Graham Graham Graham Graham Graham Graham Graham Playing Farm



Learning To Use Natural Light

While it’s easy to take pictures outside where where is a lot of light. I wanted to try and shoot Graham indoors with using only what natural light came in through our patio doors.

Indoors I’m always tempted to use flash even with ample light from windows to make my images. With these I put away the flash and shot these images.

Two are a little underexposed I think, but I still like the results.

Tummy Time Close

Graham Toes

Tummy Time

Thanks for reading

A quick lesson for newbies..

A poster named Jon over on he DPS Forums made a recent post that I wanted to share with readers here. It is a great bit of advice and something to get your mind in the right place as a new photographer.

The original post can be found here but this is the text from it:

I do an awful lot of event photography. I’ve got the contract for two of the local Circus’s for their promotional shots next season. (Which I’m really excited about by the way) and one of the things that strikes me about event photography is that I never really get to see the show.. This may sound strange but it’s actually quite true, and it’s true of Portraiture, true of Landscape, true of fine art,true of street, in fact, I can’t really think of any genre in which it isn’t true.


Well, I realized this the weekend before last, when I was shooting yet another circus performance, at the local circus school, when I’m with my camera, I don’t JUST think about the performance in front of me.. Actually, I RARELY think about the performance in front of me. I think about what the performer is about to do, I think about composition, about obstacles and whether they can be used to enhance the shot or whether I should move because they detract. I relaxed a little and took some time on Saturday last week to enjoy the show.. Then I remembered “I’m here to take photos, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be invited.” So I reluctantly picked up my camera.. The show was good, the kids talented, and for a little while I felt like I was missing out…

Now today, looking back through my shots, I can really see where my brain clicked from “photographer” to “spectator” .. and back again. There’s a distinct difference between the two..

But when I look at these photos, I realize, I wasn’t missing out at all.. I’ve produced some images that show the skills and abilities of these young people at their best, something that the parents love, and show off to their friends, even though they took their own photos that night.. Sure, someone with more experience than me might have made it even better, but they weren’t there, I was, and when I miss a show, people ask after me..

What I’m trying to say, is that if you want to be a photogr
apher, instead of just improving your snapshots, you need to turn your head on. You need to think like a photographer.
You know, when I was learning French, I couldn’t get the pronunciation right.. Someone said to me “You know how the French accent sounds in English?” I said “Yes.” And started doing an impression of a Frenchman. “Great.. Now do the same thing, only saying French words instead of English ones” they were right.. It worked, it was a lot easier.

What I’m saying is, even if you don’t get how to take photos yet.. You know how pro photographers stand and hold their cameras, how they move around to get the right composition.. Imitate them.. You’ll feel a bit self conscious at first. That’s only because you’re thinking about yourself, not your subject.. Stoppit.. Think about what you’re doing, and why, not about what others think about you, that’s totally irrelevant.

What you’re doing, by imitating pros, is training your muscles into good habits, you’re also making it far easier to take good photos.. Maybe you feel a bit silly.. Well, that’s just tough.. If you want to be a good photography, then believe me, you’re going to be doing these things eventually..

Make it easy on yourself and start how you mean to go on.. Move like a photographer and think like a photographer, stop making it difficult by trying to be a casual observer, the two can’t happen at the same time.. If you want to be a casual observer, put your camera down for a short while and enjoy.. But if you’re there to take photos, be a photographer.

Sorry, this is as much a self-learning exercise as anything else..

If you like his advice you can also see his great photography work at these locations:

Thanks for reading,


Analog Exposure Meter

You may recall my post on the Sunny Sixteen Rule a while back.

Now I would like to take this a step further and share with you an Analog Exposure Meter that you can use to get a range of exposure settings you can use when deciding how to compose a shot.

The Analog Exposure Meter was created by a guy named Mathew Cole from Minnesota. There is an excellent description on the PDF on how to use it and why Matt Created it. I highly suggest reading it and using it to help you to learn exposure better.

Link to PDF

Here is mine after getting in laminated with 10mm plastic at Office Depot and drilling a hole for a brass tack to hold them together.

Thanks for reading

Exposure for difficult subjects to Meter.

Sometimes you run into situations in low light that you have a difficult time trying to get the right exposure for your subject.

Here are some settings you can use as a starting point to better your chances at getting the shot exposed correctly. Note that these exposures are based on the assumption your ISO is at 400. If your lens is not fast enough to use the suggested f-stop then use your widest aperture and adjust your shutter speed or ISO.

Also remember to bracket!

Subject Setting
Campfire 1/30 sec @ f/5.6

f/11 at various shutter speeds
ranging from 1/2 second to 4 seconds.
Or keep shutter open long enough to get several bursts
Floodlit building,
monuments, fountains
1/4 sec @ f/5.6

Lighted Christmas tree,
outdoors with snow
1/15 sec @ f/5.6

Lighted Christmas tree,
1/15 sec @ f/5.6


f/11, keeping shutter open until
you capture the strike
1/500 sec @ f/16
1/500 sec @ f/11
1/125 sec @ f/8
Eclipse of Moon
In penumbra
(edge of shadow area)
In umbra
(deep shadow area)
1/125 sec @ f/8

1 second at f/2.8

Moonlit Landscape
(moon not in picture)
60 sec @ f/4

Moonlit Snowscape 30 sec @ f/4
Moving Traffic
(light patterns at night)
10 seconds @ f/16

Skyline 10 minutes
after sunset
1/125 sec @ f/5.6

Skyline at night
with lit windows
1 sec @ f/4

Spotlighted Performances 1/125 sec @ f/5.6
Street scenes,
brightly lit
1/60 sec @ f/4

Thanks for reading

"Sunny Sixteen" Exposure Rule

If you have ever watched photography videos on YouTube you sometimes heard people talk about the “Sunny Sixteen” Rule to determine exposure. This is an old way of determining exposure without the use of an exposure meter or to just verify your meter is working correctly when photography was all done on film.

Now with newer DSLR cameras they have built-in light exposure meters that do the work for you. While this is a great bit of technology it sometimes does not work very well or get it completely correct. This is why you should learn to use this classic rule to help you properly expose your images when you need it.

Here is the rule: In Daylight Your Shutter Speed = 1 / ISO (Read: One over ISO)

On a sunny day, with an exposure of f/16, the correct exposure requires a shutter speed closest to the reciprocal of the ISO. Of course you can use a larger aperture if you adjust your shutter speed accordingly.

To help demonstrate this rule the following exposures are based on using 200 ISO*.

Light Setting
Sunny day on snow or light sand 1/500 sec @ f/16 or 1/200 @ f/22** 
Sunny day with distinct shadows 1/200 sec @ f/16 
Hazy sunlight with soft shadows 1/125 sec @ f/16 or 1/200 sec @ f11 
Cloudy, bright with no shadows 1/60 sec @ f/16   or 1/200 sec @ f/8
Heavy overcast of open shade

1/30 sec @ f/16   or 1/200 sec @ f/5.6***

*Some cameras do not have a shutter speed of 1/200 sec so use 1/250 sec.
** Snow and Light Sand tend to reflect more light back onto the subject to you need a full stop less to compensate for it.
*** You can even open you Aperture to f/4 if very dark, or even f/2.6 if needed.

Thank for reading


Action-Stopping Shutter Speeds

Here are some shutter speeds that will give you good starting points for stopping or freezing motion.

The speeds listed assume your subject almost fills the whole frame and is moving horizontally. If the subject you are trying to capture is moving in a diagonal motion or only fills about half or less of the frame then you can cut the speeds by about half.

Subject Est. Mph Shutter Speed
Person Swimming 2 1/250
Person Walking (Slow) 2 1/250
Person Walking (Fast) 3-4 1/500
Person Running 8-12 1/1000
Horse Trotting 9 1/1000
Person Skating 12-25 1/2000
Person Riding Bike 15 1/2000
Horse Galloping 20 1/2000
Train (Slow) 25 1/4000
Person Bike Racing 30 1/4000
Car 60 1/8000
Train (Fast) 60 1/8000
Motorcycle Racer 125 1/8000
Plane Take Off/Landing 125 1/8000

Thank for reading


There is no Magic Lens…

There was a question posted on the Digital Photography School Forums Recently from a person that travels and was a bit was concerned about justifying spending $1000+US for gear. The person was trying to justify the cost to themselves in thinking better gear equals gettng the best pictures the person could on their trip.

Here is the person’s question (paraphrased):

I have a Nikon 5100, 50mm 1.8 (which I love), and the two kit lenses 18-55 and 55-200.The 50 is so much sharper than the kits. I have a Manfrotto 190X tripod. 

After spending the last hour using the search function here, I came up with the following
– Use the kit lens at f8 and a good tripod.
The kit lens gives me quite good images on the tripod, but not near the quality of the 50.
– 28-300mm
– 28mm 1.8
– an UW – Nikkor 10 -24 is 800$, Tokina 11-16 is 700$

I’m having trouble justifying a +1000$ lens for a hobbyist.

What lenses should I take. Should I purchase another lens to get a better image or having the 5100, is it not worth it?

Forum member Jason Gendreau had some great advice as a response that I wanted to share with everyone.

There is no magic lens / camera for anything. For every subject there is an infinite number of perspectives. 

Long, medium, short focal lengths, low light, black and white, F/2, 2.8, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, Flash, natural light… I took a 2 hour trip up to “tops” (a mountain look out in Cebu Philippines, about 20 square meters and a nice view of the city) and that’s the equipment I used. I shot flowers, insects, environmental portrait with off camera flash, sweeping city vistas, a sunset, lovebirds, tourists, a chair, a radio tower, textured wall, architecture, patterns, a cup, a plant… When the sun went down I shot the city against a night sky. That’s the image I planned to get when i got there. Had I only taken the lens I needed to get the shot, I’d have missed out on 99% of the images I DIDN’T plan on getting while I was waiting for the light to be right for the one I did. I DID use every piece of equipment I had. No matter what you bring, you’ll find a way to use it to produce a unique image.

The quickest way to stifle your creativity and produce boring photos is to take one “do it all” kind of lens. Do it all, do nothing well. If your lens doesn’t do anything well, you’ll rarely get unique images

Notice I haven’t actually “named” any equipment that I used. Thats because equipment is largely incidental. I saw a subject i wanted to shoot and chose from what I had the best way I thought to shoot it. Had i not had that piece of equipment, I’d have chose a different way to shoot it. If I had no macro capability, I’d not have looked for macro shots, Had I no off camera flash, I’d have used on camera, or simply flash be damned. If I “had” to have flash and didn’t have it, I’d have used technique instead, Expose one frame for the person and another for the background and worked it out in post. Don’t forget post as a powerful way to AUGMENT your equipment ( not replace it ) Cameras have a crappy dynamic range. Knowing how to layer in post to increase dynamic range is ESSENTIAL skills. If you don’t know how, drop everything and learn it. You’ll be glad you did.

I will say this one more thing about equipment simply because you’re looking at perhaps buying some…

A great lens only does ONE thing well. If it does lots, it does nothing well. Look at your 55-200 for example. It has a fantastic focal range… but that’s it. its slow, not very sharp, the contrast is simply “ok”… even the build quality is nothing special. There is absolutely NOTHING this lens will give you that another lens couldn’t do better.

The 18-55 is the same.

Your 50mm 1.8 isn’t as versatile as the other 2 lenses in the least. You might think that because the lens isn’t as versatile, then its not worth taking on a trip. You’d be wrong. the lens might not be versatile, but it does one thing VERY WELL. Portraits. Its sharp, it has great bokeh, its good in dim light. All things the other two suck at. When you shoot a portrait with this lens, it will be a GOOD photo. (limited by your own skill of course) You could use either of the other lenses at 50mm and neither would take as nice a photo as the 50mm 1.8 because those lenses are medeocre. They exist only because newbies don’t understand lenses. Its easier (and more profitable) to just sell them a “one size fits all” lens and send them on their way.

I said all that to say this… When you go out to buy a lens, buy the lens that does the ONE THING best. Next time you buy another lens, buy another one that does ONE THING the best again. (probably one thing different than the last time ;D )

Eventually your going to have a selection of lenses that do awesome things. Then you can choose which lens you want to use for different kinds of images.

This is what I recommend for you on a trip like the one your planning…

Portrait lens. (it would be nice to have a high quality portrait zoom for controlling backgrounds, but they are expensive. The prime you have is good for portraits, but not “environmental portraits”. You’d need 3 prime lenses to cover environmental portraits well, or a high quality zoom… either way, not possible for this trip without spending lots of cash.) I recommend sticking with the prime for regular portraits, and the 18 -55 and 55-22 for environmental portraits. They wont look special, but you’ll have something anyway.

One ultra wide zoom. You mentioned the 10-24mm nikkor. Its a specialty lens for landscapes and very wide vistas. Its an EXCELLENT choice for landscapes and vistas. It does those extremely well. I don’t have one, but I’d imagine using it effectively will take some time and practice because its not a particularly good lens for anything else. You have to know what it does well, and only use it for that. Its part of knowing your gear, and its limitations. I think that this lens is the real reason the Canon to Nikon adapters actually exist lol, many professional Canon landscape photographers use this lens.

Macro… of some kind. I use extension tubes for my macro shots. Extension tubes are a much cheaper and much more versatile for close up and macro photography vs buying a dedicated macro lens. They work by allowing you to focus your lens much closer than normal. Any of your lenses can use the extension tubes, so they essentially make all your lenses macro lenses. Which is great when your on a budget and traveling. They have no optics, so they do not affect your image quality in any way. They will cause lens flaws to become more apparent though. Soft lenses will be even less sharp because your magnifying the problem. Your 50mm lens would make an awesome macro lens with extension tubes, though I’d not recommend the other two except in a pinch.

A GOOD LIGHT tripod. Absolutely essential for low light and landscapes. Ultra wide images are “typically” taken low to the ground to maximize the look of depth. Unless you want your knees to be perpetually dirty, get a tripod that sits very low. Lower than 12 inches.
A flash is always good to have, but not always so important while traveling.

If you were to buy the 10-24mm nikkor and a set of extension tubes, I would say you’d be pretty much set for equipment capable of producing magazine quality images. Not that I think you will, but what I mean is that you’d only be limited by your own ability.

You could use the 50mm for great portraits, the 10-24 for stunning landscapes and vistas and the 50mm with extension tubes for macro and close up shots. Anything else could be done with the 18-200mm lenses. they might be nothing special, but they do fill the gaps.

Also make sure you have a spare battery (or three) that way you can swap out a full batt and charge the other. I recently went on a trip to Romania for a month and had 4 full batteries when i arrived. I forgot my charger. I was able to shoot for 2 weeks before I had to hunt down a local photographer willing to fill them for me. he filled them, and I was set till I got home. I dont think you need 4 batts, but at LEAST one spare is essential. If you have to not buy the 10-24 or extension tubes in order to buy a spare… get the spare. Its that important.

Another important thing is the ability to dump your cards. Don’t say that your going to bring a dozen 8 gig cards and just fill them up because you will fill them all in 3 days and either have to start deleting or buy more. A laptop with a large capacity external drive is the way to go. or at the very least the external drive and card reader or camera cable. then you can borrow a computer at some point to clear the cards. Protect the external drive with your life.
I hope this huge post was worth your time to read, and good luck on your trip! It sounds like it’ll be a blast.

 As you can see this is sound advice for anyone going on a vacation or holiday. Additionally it is also a great list of first lens types to buy as you learn photography. I say this second part because as you learn you need to try different types of photography. Don’t just stick to one type!

In a future week I will post a list of lens to complement this advise that a beginner can afford with out breaking the bank.

Thanks for Reading

Basic Sharpening Settings (Post Process)

I’m sure you have read either in books or online that there are several ways to get your images “tack sharp”. This post is not to rehash about how to do that or point you places to read about it.

This post is to give another place to find some basic Photoshop image sharpening settings for the Unsharp Mask Tool.

Here are the setting I tend to use as a starting guide:

Subject:                              Amount, Radius, Threshold
Soft Subject:                      150,1,10
Portraits:                            75,2,3
Moderate Sharpening:        225,0.5,0
All-Purpose:                      85,1,4
Web Images*:                   400,0.3,0
City Scapes:                      65,3,2

*If you use Lightroom and export your images before uploading them you can just check the “Sharpen For:” box and select “Screen” from the drop down list.

If you are using Full Photoshop:
After you use the above go into the Edit Menu–> Fade Unsharp Mask. Set Mode to Luminosity and Adjust the Opacity lower until hallows in image go away (50% Usually)

If you are using Photoshop Elements it is a bit more complicated:

1. Duplicate the layer you want to apply the
    filter to (unsharp mask in this case).
2. Apply one of the setting above as the filter settings to the duplicated layer.
3. Go to the top of the layers palette (panel)
    and change the layer blending mode of the
    duplicated layer to luminosity.
4. If the sharping is too strong, you can adjust
    strength by using the opacity slider (also on top
    in the layers panel).
5. If you have a bunch of layers underneath those two
    layers, click on the duplicated layer to select it.
    Then go to Layer-Group with Previous (Create Clipping
6. This groups the two layers together so the sharping doesn’t
    affect the layers below.

Note that these are not “be all end all” settings. These are just guides to help you through post process a bit quicker. You will have to tweak them as needed for each image.

Thanks for reading

Need to get more shooting practice? Volunteer!

As any established photographer will tell you then best way to improve your skills is to always take pictures. You do this by take your camera with you everywhere and just shoot everything. However just taking random pictures of things isn’t always conducive to learning.

Sometimes you need a specific subject to focus on as I stated in a previous post on doing Weekly Assignments over at DPS. However this is only a once a week thing and it will not take all your free time to complete the assignment.

To fill up some of that time and give you experience with working for a client one option is to Volunteer.

So how do you volunteer your skills? There are several ways.

First you could do a Google Search for “volunteer photography work” which will give a huge list of links with information on volunteering your skills. If those results give you information overload and want to be more focused you can do look at your local community or work place.

My full time work has a whole department dedicated to something called the “Community Involvement Program”. Where I work they are very big on doing volunteer and charity work so much so they plan large events around things such and UNCF and United Way. Additionally they have a system in place where you can log your volunteer hours so that when you have your yearly reviews you can show how much you volunteer. There is even an event calendar where you can sign up to volunteer at events if you don’t know what you want to volunteer for.

This is how I volunteer my time and skill as a photographer. Different people will have an events scheduled and I go to them and photograph the event and share my pictures with our Community Involvement Office and the Organization the event was at. This way they can use the images for their own promotions and at the same time I get to shoot at different locations and in different environments as well as get my name out there and network.

You can also ask you local charity or not for profit establishments if they need any photography done for promotional items or just for record keeping purposes for their events.

I will warn you however, some places may say you can take photos for them but when you get there you are told you can’t! This happened to me for a charity event where a local Symphony was playing. I was not allowed to take any pictures because the Symphony brought their own “In House” photographer. When I asked why it was because the Symphony sells images of all it’s concerts it does for money so if I took pictures it would hurt their ability to do so. If something like that happens to you just shrug it off and find something else to shoot. There will be other opportunities out there for you.

Either way, I do highly suggest that you volunteer your time in taking photos for organizations that are out there. This way you can not only get practice in you also get your name out there and network with people.

Thanks for reading