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Discussions in Photography




I haven’t been too keen on black and white photography for a while but never say never.  This image was OK as a color photo but converting it to black and white really worked.  There is something about the lighting on his forehead and face that pops.  I used a Lightroom 4 preset from David duChemin from a new book that I am now reading.  More on the book and the author after I get finished with the book. I posted this image on 500px and was pleased that it made the Popular page.




This image looks really good on my calibrated 27″ iMac. When you convert it to the sRGB color space though it sure looks flat. Rather than converting to sRGB I left this image in the ProPhoto RGB color space. I’m sure by the time it gets to your web browser it will have lost something in the translation.


Photographer Self Portraits on a 57 Chevy.

You know those shots where you accidentally included your shadow or your refection, well it’s hard not to include yourself when you are shooting the chrome on a 1957 Chevy. Best to say I meant to do it that way. Counted about five or six self portraits.

Photographer Self Portraits in a 57 Chevy


Photography and The Inverse Square Law

I’ve noticed a number of photography instructors who dance around the inverse square law of light without really discussing it.  Basically they know that when you move the source of light ways from the subject you need a brighter light to illuminate the subject to the same brightness.  They just don’t seem to explain why.

It’s because of the inverse square law of light. The Inverse Square Law states that if the light is moved twice as far from the subject it only shines with one quarter of the brightness.

Say you have a light source 1 foot from your subject and you move it to two feet away, you will end up with only one fourth the amount of light at your subject. If you move the light four feet away you will only have one sixteenth the light falling on the subject.

Inverse Square Law

My crude attempt at drawing a diagram of the inverse square law. The light falling two feet from the source has to cover four times the area of the light one foot from the source.


Macro Or Not (Getting to know your equipment).

I have two prime micro lenses.  With either of these lens I can get really close to the subject. The problem with such close up shooting is the loss of depth of field.  No matter how closed down the lens aperture  is there is going to be some area of the image that is out of focus.  If you have a subject that you are shooting straight on like a painting and you can get your film plane to be parallel with the painting you can get everything in focus and sharp.

February Tulip

If the subject is at an angle to the parallel you will get parts that are out of focus once you get closer than a certain distance.  In some cases you can get pretty close to the macro image with a zoom lens or a longer lens without going to macro mode.  It pays to know how close you can get with each of your lenses.  You need to know your equipment.

In my case I’ve researched all my lens and have put together a list of minimum focus distances.  I keep them in Evernote because I can retrieve the information from all of my devices, computers, ipad, phone.

  • AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8D                                              1.5′  (0.48m)
  • AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G ED VR                    1.25′ (0.38m)
  • AF-SVR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G IF-ED          4.9′ (1.5m)
  • AF Zoom-Nikkor 18-35mm F/3.5-4.5D IF ED                    1.1′ (0.33m)
  • AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm F2.8D                                        0.72′ (0.22m)
  • AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED                    1.0′ (0.314m)

With my 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G ED VR i can move in as close as 16 inches from the subject. At the 85mm zoom I can get some good detailed shots with a lot of depth of field.  I’ve just put my 70-300mm on the endangered list as the 28-300mm now out has a minium focus distance of 18 inches. At 300mm that should get me pretty close.


Shooting Orion

Last night was warm and as clear as could be.  I was out watching the rocket launch from my front yard and realized that it was a perfect night for some star photography.  I set up the tripod, set the D600 to manual (5.6 at 10 seconds ISO 1600) and tried a few shots.  I was disappointed with the results.  It is next to impossible to focus on stars in the dark through the view finder. So tonight being just as clear just about 20 degrees cooler I was back for a second time.  I thought that I might be able to use live view to get the stars in focus.  That didn’t work either.  What ended up working was using a flashlight to make sure that I was focused at infinity and then started shooting.


This image was taken with a 13 second exposure with the 24-85mm zoom at 80mm.  You can see some trailing of the stars.   If you look at the bottom of the image you can see Orion’s sword with the middle star that is the Orion Nebula.  As a second effort I’m please with the image.  For the next time I think I should wait until a little later at night this one was about 1 hour after sunset. I could have waited a little longer.  I think I will also try using a wider angle like 50mm or so to get more sky in.  I should also try 24mm for a wide view of the sky.


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.