Photo Graph

Discussions in Photography


On Smoke

Tonight was my first attempt to photograph smoke.  The results were not bad for a first try. The biggest issue was finding a store that had incense for the smoke. I  did find more than I needed at World Market. Kind of felt like an old hippie (wait I am an old hippie) going in and asking for the incense aisle. The first results weren’t perfect but gave me a starting point.

Smoke (Series 1) A

The camera was a Nikon D600 with the AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D  lens set at F13 and most of the images were shot at 1/125 sec.  I used a Westcott Strobelite 300 watt strobe positioned to the right and just back of the incense stick.  On a couple of the images I used white foam core for a fill light from the left side.

Smoke (Series 1) BSmoke (Series 1) B

I left the camera in Auto White Balance which may have picked a bit to blue color.  I did some color adjusting and found that the color really doesn’t matter.  Some of the images I warmed up considerably. Smoke looks good in any color. I think Smoke (Series 1) C below is closest to the real color.

Smoke (Series 1) CSmoke (Series 1) C

I set the incense too close to the background, I had some spill from the strobe which was hard to adjust out without losing the detail in the smoke. Moving the incense away from the background should have darkened it down more.  I think that might have given me a better angle for the strobe. I was at about 30 degrees behind the smoke and probably could have gone to 45 degrees. Smoke (Series 1) D

Smoke (Series 1) D

You may notice that all these images were cropped to a square format.  I had some spill at the edges and the 1 to 1 crop looks pretty good. Development was done in Lightroom 4 and really only has Basic panel adjustments.  I didn’t have to change the exposure and the changes were mostly increasing the contrast, highlights and whites, and decreasing the shadows and blacks.  I did increase the clarity to varying degrees.

I did do this shoot a night in a fairly dark room as I think it helps getting the background black. Also make sure you have the incense on something that doesn’t burn as the ash falls off the incense stick pretty quickly.  I moved the air around a bit in some of the images to get different patterns.

Smoke (Series 1) ESmoke (Series 1) E

All in all things worked out pretty well. I have a number of things to set right on the next smoke shoot.  Below is the setup._DSC0735


Facing the Fog

Facing The Fog

Usually I don’t get to be someplace neat when the early morning fog is around. The big gray in this picture is Bay Lake.


Aspect Ratio For Panoramas in Lightroom

Aspect ratios in photography refers to the ratio of the width to the height of an image. An aspect ration might be 4 to 3 (standard DSLR image) or 1 to 1 which gives you a square image.

I was watching one of Scott Kelby’s videos, not sure which one as they sometimes seem to blend together. In the video he was talking about what was the proper aspect ratio for a panorama.  While there isn’t any real rule for the perfect pano, he did come up with an aspect ratio of 2.39 to 1.  To transform you image into a panorama you need to change the photo’s aspect ratio. To set up a custom Aspect Ratio in Light room select a photograph and press the R key or click on the dotted line box under the histogram when in Develop mode.

cropandstraightenNext to  the lock is the current crop ratio (2.39 x 1) in this instance. To add a custom ratio click the up/down arrows between the current ratio and the lock which will pop up the select an aspect ratio menu. There are some standard ratios already defined for you. You would use the 1 X 1 ratio to crop to a square.

ratio_2_39x1To add a custom aspect ratio click the Enter Custom… menu item and enter the desired aspect rations .

EnterCustomAspectRatioWhen you click OK the aspect ratio will be saved and can be used any time you want.  Remember it is an aspect ratio and is not related to at actual pixel counts of the crop.  All the 2.39×1 aspect ratio says is for every 1 pixel high the selected area is it will be 2.39 pixels wide.

And here is a standard D600 full frame image cropped down to the saved panorama aspect ratio.


While panoramas most often bring to mind landscapes, this aspect ration can be used with a still life too.


I think the 2.39 x 1 aspect ratio is quite pleasing.  It’s a good place to start if you have an image with a boring sky or maybe to much yawn inducing foreground.




Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens – First Impressions

The Nikon D600 kit I bought came with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens. I had convinced myself that I really wanted to get the 28 to 300mm zoom lens but when I realized my 70-300mm was an FX lens and I could save the $1000 for other things like food and rent, I went ahead and purchased it.  It will be pretty much my standard, on the camera lens, for now.

I’ve had it a couple of weeks now and it is not a bad lens at all.  Pretty nice actually.  The D600 with this lens weights about as much as my D200 with its 28-105 mm lens. The lens helps render some pretty true to life colors and has decent sharpness throughout the range.  Here are a couple of test shots I did today to give you an idea of how well the lens works with the camera.  All images were taken with the camera on a tripod with an ISO of 100 and Aperture priority mode set to F8.0.  There is more vignetting than i expected and some distortion in images right from the camera. You can see the difference which is subtile when being shown 600megapixel images in sRGB color space. Vignetting and distortion are more prominent at the 24mm end of the lens. Nothing that is not fixed in Lightroom with the standard Adobe supplied Lens Corrections.

24mm F8.0 OriginalThis is the original 24mm image with no adjustments.

24mm F8.0 CorrectedThe 24mm with Lens Profile applied you can see it’s a bit lighter in the upper left corner.

85mm F8.0 Original85mm with no adjustments.

85mm F8.0  Corrected

And finally at 85mm with the Lens Adjustment applied.

I’m getting used to the camera and lens still but I’m really loving working with a full frame camera.  The lens is fine for my everyday shooting. I’ve got a number of lens to try including my little 50mm 1.8 lens which I’m expecting big things from. In the mean time the 24-85mm will do just fine.   I’ll be doing a First Impressions on the D600 soon.


Why Photography

I developed my first roll of film somewhere around 1971. I seem to recall purchasing or procuring and Ansco development kit that had an adjustable tank for developing film and a small (about 2” square) contract printer thingie. I was a small metal box with a small amber light and a larger white bulb. The box had a clear glass panel on top with a door that would close to hold a sandwich of a negative and a small sheet of photo paper. You would put the negative on the glass, then place the photo paper, and finally close the little door to keep the film from moving. You would press a momentary switch on the side of the box that would turn on the light exposing the photo paper. You would then process your image in the usual developer, stop bath and rinse. In several minutes you would have an image. I used a Kodak Brownie something or other and exposed, developed and processed some pictures. The first one I remember was a picture of number one daughter in a stroller. It was pretty magic stuff.

This was a time when there wasn’t such a thing as a personal computer so other than ham radio there wasn’t a lot of things to keep a tech geek occupied. I fell in love with photography. As I do with just about anything, I immersed myself in all things photograph. I read every book that the library had on photography and photographers. I still have a complete set of the Time Life series on Photography. I learned about the technical side of making pictures. I somehow found the money for a Nikon Nikkormat camera and a couple of lenses. I cobbled together what I could for a dark room. Developing film in the bath room in the dark hoping that no one would turn on a tap some where and change the temperature of the water I was using to keep the chemicals at the right temperature.

It was a lot of work. It was more work because before each session I had to build a darkroom and then dismantle it into the bathroom, bedroom, or laundry room it was supposed to be. So for a long time I stopped doing photograpy. But I never stopped being interested in photography and the photographic process.

Around about 1999 I received a Kodak digital camera as a gift. I found a 256mb compact flash card so I’m pretty sure it was for that first digital camera. I could create 640×480 jpegs and process them with PC software into something that was a photograph. I was back. When Nikon came out with the D100 I was again (with many hints) gifted with a “real’ digital camera.

Since that time I’ve been back into photography with both feet. It is not what I do for a living but it what I do a living for.

I love looking at photographs. I love the feel of the photographic print. I love the look of an image presented well in a monograph, or as a print, or more likely as a book. I study the images, decide why I like them and why I don’t. And finally I am building a vocabulary that I hope I can use to discuss photographs in and intelligent way.

I’ve been spending a lot more of my photography time learning from video’s from well know, and some not as well know photographers. I’ve been learning their vocabulary. Now I can begin to take photos that I can judge for my self as good, still waiting, and can hold a conversation about photography good or bad.

I love that you can, through process, create an image of technical excellence and emotional value. I love that you can take that image and produce exact copies again and again. I love photography. Now all I have to do is learn photography.


Shooting in Sh*tty Light

The top 10 worst lighting situations and how to conquer them.

The top ten worst lighting situations and how to conquer them.

Interesting title for an interesting book. Unless you only shoot in a studio with complete control over your lighting you most likely shoot in light that is less than perfect. “Shooting in Sh*tty Light” by Lindsay Adler and Erik Valind takes you through 10 of the toughest lighting situations and explains best practices for getting the best shots out of each situation.
This is a easy to read book with plenty of illustrations of the ways to make a good image out of bad lighting situations. When most books talk about lighting it is usually about waiting for the golden hour or working in a closed environment. This kind of lighting doesn’t happen very often. The book takes you through the options for getting a good image in all sorts of situations.
Whether you are shooting in noon day sun or under low light situations where flash is not allowed this book explains ways to get the shot. Using light modifiers like diffusers and reflectors and small flash you can get good images in bad light situations. The authors have made this book very camera brand agnostic which I think is a big plus.
The first chapter is about shooting in Direct Sunlight. I’ve seen Lindsay Adler’s hour long Kelby Training video on Shooting in Direct Sunlight and the book covers just about everything in the video. There are plenty of images of the good and bad results of each topic.
This book has a number of good examples of how to tame the light with many examples of how the image comes out before you modify the light as well as the finished image. There is a lot you can do to take control of the light and each is explained well by the authors. In the end you realize each situation requires you take control of the light and gives you ways to do it. Good book by two good photographers.


Photo Graph

Today I changed the name of the place to Photo Graph. Not sure if it will stay that way but for now it is a two word title. I’ve been thinking about the changes that have taken place in photography since the advent of the digital image.  Thinking back to the challenges of film, the precision necessary to develop film, to the amount of time between opening the shutter to the contact print and I am glad I’m doing things digital.  I once had darkroom equipment, never really had a dark room just a bathroom with a towel under the door.  I would shoot mostly tri-x  as black and white was a whole lot easier to self develop than color film. And if I was lucky I would get one or two images that might be worth printing.

Now  you can look at time image instantly and go back for a second shot if you are out of focus or any of a million reasons why the last shot wasn’t good.  The cost of taking the shot is almost nothing.  Then there was a fixed cost each time you pulled the trigger.  And then there was an additional cost if you wanted to show your images to anyone at all. Now you make one copy of an image and send it electronically to any of number of sites and the one copy can be scene by twenty, fifty or even hundreds of people.


There still is the challenge of taking the good shot, of creating images the evoke emotion in the viewer. I love looking at the old images of photographers who were up to the challenge of creating emotional images and I’m excited by the challenge of creating a few emotional images of my own.


FreeWave Plus Wireless Remote Shutter Release

When I bought my D600 I got in on the last day of some really good price cuts from Nikon. I bought it thru B&H and a bunch of extra stuff was included which was one of the reasons I bought this particular kit.  Included in the kit was a battery grip and a wireless shutter release.  These were not Nikon branded so I wasn’t real sure how well they would work.  While it’s nice to have the Nikon brand on all your stuff, occasionally, money gets in the way. Anyway, I’ve played around with the remote shutter release and since I couldn’t find a review of it anywhere else thought this might be a good place to put one.


FreeWave Plus Wireless Remote Shutter Release for Nikon

The FreeWave Plust Wireless Remote Shutter Release for Nikon (can we just call it the FreeWave for this review) is produced by a company called Vello. It can be used on most Nikon DSLR’s that have one of the two types of accessory connectors that most of the Nikon DSLR’s have.  My D200 has the 10 pin connector on the front of the camera while the D600 has a 4 pin accessory connector on the side of the camera marked as GPS.


In The Box

The FreeWave comes with a receiver, transmitter, cables for both the 10 pin and 4 bin connections, 4 AAA batteries and an instruction manual. The items come in a box with a clear plastic tray that is not heat sealed so you don’t have to have major scissors to remove the items. In fact the plastic case is works well as a place to store the units between use. The case slips back into the box without major incidents. Vello FreeWave Plus

The receiver comes with a hot shoe attachment so that you can slide the receiver on to the camera where it is not subject to bouncing etc. You will only be able to attach it to the hot shoe if you are not planning on using a flash or flash remote. There is no electrical reason for attaching it but it will keep the unit secure while you are using it.


Using the FreeWave

The FreeWave can be set to any one of 16 frequencies but the transmitter and the receiver have to be set to the same frequency (obviously) thru small switched in both units.  I can imagine all sorts of comedy if more than one photographer is using their FreeWave in the same general area at the same time.  Remember how to set them for future reference.

To use the units insert the AAA batteries into the transmitter and receiver and connect the receiver to the camera with the proper cable.

Vello FreeWave Plus


Turn on the receiver by pressing the power button for 2 seconds. Now if all goes well, and why shouldn’t it, pressing the shutter button on the transmitter will fire the camera.  The transmitter can be pressed half way to focus the lens just as if you were pressing the shutter button on the camera. Press half way to focus and then all the way to fire.

Tricks The FreeWave Can Do.

A slide switch can be set on the transmitter can be set for single shot, continuous shooting, bulb shooting, and self timer.  This slide switch does not change how the camera shoots so if you are going to shoot single shot you need to set you camera to single shot and the transmitter to single shot. Using the bulb mode and setting the shutter speed to bulb with allow you to press once to open the shutter then again after an amount of time to close the shutter.  There is also a continuous mode where you set the camera to single mode and it takes a picture every second until you turn it off. In the self timer mode the transmitter delays the shutter for 4 seconds. This gives you time to put your hand down so you are not taking a self picture of your hand holding the transmitter.

The receiver can be also used as a shutter release.  Just plug it in and press it’s shutter button trigger the shutter. In this mode you don’t even have to install the batteries.



The FreeWave is a pretty solid piece of kit with an instruction manual that is straight forward and easy to read (the print is a little small but I think that is my problem).  It works as required and I’m looking forward to using it next time I’m out shooting fireworks from the backyard because I can stay in the screened lanai while triggering the camera that is out among the mosquitoes. You can get it here.






Is This Thing On?

This new site and blog is an extension of one of my long time passions, photography.  Right now it is just called “Photography” which is a rather generic name for a blog but I’ve not received any response to my insistant demands for a clever title to appear out of thin air.  I’m hoping that I can use this blog to explain, enjoy, and learn about what I know about photography as well as what I don’t know.  There is a lot more in the don’t know department so I’m guessing I will have plenty to write about.


So lets get started. I’ve got some new stuff to tell you about as well as some things that have been long on my mind.