Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beauty of nature

The beauty of nature is there to behold. It was a beautiful day and I was thankful to be out in it with a camera in my hand.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Leaf study


Monday, February 23, 2009

I Heart Faces B & W

Since I am a Friday Fix-It contributor, I know I'm not eligible to win the contest this week...but I still wanted to join in just for the fun of it! Please go check out all of the other great faces at I Heart Faces and try out the weekly fun yourself.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My stuff

Here we are to answer the question that no one was asking, "What's in my camera bag?". Here's most of my stuff.

Let's start with the bodies. On the right is my old Canon Rebel XT that is mostly my wife's camera these days, but if I need a backup body it's there. On the left is my baby, the Canon 50D. Attached to the 50D is the lens that stays on the most, the Canon 24-105L. This is a fantastic lens, with great contrast, color and range. Having image stabilization really comes in handy too. Attached to the Rebel XT is the first lens I ever bought, the Canon 28-200. The other lenses, starting from the left are the Canon 50mm 1.8, Canon 100mm 2.8 Macro, Canon 70-200 f4L and the Tokina 12-24 f4. My flash is the Canon 430EX and the two pieces next to it are Paul C. Buff wireless flash triggers. And last but certainly not least is my trusty Canon G9. I have lens hoods for all my lenses except the 50mm and I think they essential pieces of gear. Not only do they help to control flare by shading the front of your lens, but they protect it from bumps and scratches while you're carrying it around. Trust me, I know.

Not shown are an assortment of filters; Cokin 3 stop neutral density, Cokin 2 stop graduated neutral density and a B + W circular polarizer. Bag wise I have a Tamrac Expedition 5, Lowepro Nova 3 AW and another small Tamrac Model 515. I've come to realize that there's no perfect bag, but that hasn't stopped me from looking. I also have an inexpensive Slik AMT tripod that's not great, but serves my purposes.

I have extra batteries for both my bodies and varying sizes of Compact Flash cards to go with them. I took the picture with an old Canon Powershot A610 that's on it's last legs. It's been dropped several times and only works when it wants to.

Software wise, I use Apple's Aperture program for most of my organization and post processing. I also have Photoshop CS3 on my main computer for heavy pixel lifting. I recently purchased a new laptop and I installed Adobe Lightroom 2.2 on it along with an awesome Photoshop-like program for the Mac called Pixelmator. Pixelmator doesn't have all of the features of Photoshop, but it does have layers and masks (along with a whole bunch of other cool stuff) to get you most of the way there. Also, for $59, it's a heck of a deal.

I think that's about it. If you got questions, leave 'em in the comments.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fix-It Friday

I was asked to be a contributor over at I Heart Faces this week for their Fix-It Friday post. It's a great idea where several photographers are given the same image and asked to identify the problems and come up with solutions. There are a lot of really creative people over there and it's worth a look to see the many different ways people approach the same image. So head on over and have a look.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Something I've discovered recently. I love taking pictures of cars. I'm also really enjoying my time with Lightroom.




I was considering writing a post about the gear I use; a sort of "what's in my camera bag" kinda thing. Thoughts?

Laid bare



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three light door


Down the street from my work.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Shootin' wide

Panoramas, one of my favorite kinds of images. Once you have some success making panos, you're gonna find reasons to shoot them all the time. Before you think about shooting techniques and settings though, you must have one essential item. Stitching software. If you have Photoshop CS3 or newer, you're set. This isn't to say that panoramas can't be done in earlier versions of Photoshop, but if you try it you're gonna write me hateful emails. It is so cumbersome and the results so disappointing that you'd be better off printing out the images and slappin' them together with scotch tape. Do I sound bitter? The next best option is Photoshop Elements. To the best of my understanding, the tools for making panoramas in Elements are the same as in Photoshop so you'd be set. The third option is a standalone piece of software. The one I've used in the past is called Autopano Pro. This is what I used before CS3 , and it does an awesome job of stitching the images together. In my opinion, the newer versions of Photoshop do an equally good job and have the added benefit of being more full featured software, but I wanted to give a standalone option.

Ok, by now most of you are saying "Yeah, yeah software, blah blah blah, get on with it". Alright, grab ahold of the one you love, we're going in. Your life will be so much easier and your results much more consistent if you're shooting with a camera that lets you choose all the settings manually. Many point and shoot cameras these days will let you do this, and certainly any digital SLR will. The key to making a nice, smooth panorama is consistency between your shots.

So, you've climbed that mountain, or fought those raging rivers (or driven down the street) and your ready to capture that grand vista before you. "What your lens isn't wide enough to capture the whole view? Never fear, Captain Panorama is here!" Ok, that's lame but there you are. Now unless it's going to be a long exposure or some other special situation, I always shoot handheld. (i.e. without a tripod) There are technical reasons why you would want to shoot with a tripod sometimes, but most of my shootin' ain't technical. The first thing I always check is white balance. I know, right "white balance?". If you want to be sure that all your images with have a consistent color or white balance you need to pick one and and leave it there. Auto White Balance is not your friend here. For most of my outdoor shooting I set mine to "Sunny" and just leave it. If the day's overcast you might set it to "Cloudy", but the key is to have them all be the same.

Next is exposure. Exposure consist of three things: aperture, shutter speed, and iso. If you're shooting on a fairly sunny day, probably your lowest iso is the best. For DSLR's it's slightly less critical, but for point and shoot cameras the quality is going to be much higher if you keep the iso at a low number (say below 200). Iso set, next is aperture. There's a lot that goes into choosing an aperture for a given scene, but seeing as how you're shooting a panorama, you probably want most of the scene to be in focus. This is as opposed to a shallow depth of field where only a small slice is in focus. I'd say start around f/8 and adjust to taste. This leaves shutter speed. With your other two settings fixed, find the brightest part that will be in your panorama and set your shutter speed so you have a nice exposure. Take a few test shots and see if you're too bright or too dark. With those set, you're ready to start shooting.

ALWAYS shoot from left to right. Every program for stitching panoramas is going to expect your images to be in sequence from left to right. Trust me, going back and renumbering all your shots so there in that sequence is a pain in the butt. Save yourself the trouble and shoot from left to right. You'll want to leave a bit of room above and below whatever is most interesting in your image to account for slight variations in the images. Don't shoot as tight as you might normally. You will be cropping later, so give yourself some leeway. Oh, I almost forgot, before you start shooting, set your focus where you want it and don't change it. If you're on a DSLR, set the focus then switch the lens to manual focus. If you don't have a manual focus setting, try to focus at the same distance for each shot. I know this sounds like a lot, but once you get in the habit, it's no big.

So you take your shots (from left to right), leaving a little extra room above and below your main subject and a bit on either side for good measure. Try to overlap the images by about 30% to give the software a good chance of lining them up. I find it helpful to take a shot of my hand after shooting a panorama so it's easier to find the shots that go together later. For your first few panos, I'd say don't take more than 4 or 5 images.

Hard part's over! If you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, fire them up and grab all the images for single panorama. Go to File -> Automate -> Photomerge. Under Layout the setting that seems to always work best is Cylindrical.

Doesn't make a whole lotta sense to me, but da pictures don't lie. Click "Add Open Files" the hit "Ok" and Photoshop will do the magic. When it's done you'll see that are some ragged edges that need to be cropped off, then you can do your normal image processing (levels, saturation, etc.).

That's it! You did it! See, not so bad right. Right? Hello? Well, for all of you that are still here I thought I'd throw in a panorama that I shot today. Here it is. And as always, click here for the larger version.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Going for broke

Ok, this is my last pano for at least a week...maybe. I went for maximum resolution on this one with 34 vertical images. For any of you geeks out there, the final stitched pano was 27576 x 4106 or 113 megapixels. I had to restart Photoshop after every change I did because it kept running out of memory. I don't know if that's a testament to file size or the sad state of my computer, but it was a first for me nonetheless. Here it is.

Please do me a favor and click here to see the BIG version. When it comes up, click the zoom icon and check out the detail. I wish I could have posted an even larger version, but neither Photobucket or Flickr will allow very large files. This is my first time shooting panos in this way, and I'm totally blown away with the level of detail that can be achieved.

I was thinking of talking about my process for shooting panos in the next post. Please sound off in the comments if you'd be interested or if you've had enough of panoramas for a while.

A plethora of panoramas

We've gotten some much needed rain here the past few days. And as always, with the rain comes the clouds and the opportunity for some great stormy weather images. I went a bit pano crazy today, but that seemed the only way to capture the scale of what was happening. Under each image is a link to a much larger version for your viewing pleasure.

Larger version

Larger version

Larger version

These images brought my poor computer to it's knees. It took about an hour to get these stitched together and I had to keep restarting Photoshop to gain back memory. The middle one is made up of 17 vertical images, and the detail in the original size is pretty awesome. In the third image you can see the Pacific Ocean in the bottom right hand corner and Hollywood is just on the other side of the left hand hills.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Vintage sky

An AT-6 Texan from the Condor Squadron on approach to Van Nuys Airport.

By the way, the image that people liked from yesterday with the car and moon was two separate images. There's no way to have a foreground object (the car) in focus and have such a distant object (the moon) be in focus as well. I just took two shots, one right after the other. The first had the car in focus and the second, the moon. It was a simple matter then to drop the in focus moon into the in focus shot of the car. Voila, have you cake and eat it too.

Are you lookin' at my bum?

Yes I'm still in love with my new car. I even allow myself to keep thinking it has that new car smell. She is pretty, no?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I love morning glories and this pair seemed to be locked in a warm embrace.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Desktop calendar

Well, you can't win if you don't try, right? I'm a big fan of the website Smashing Magazine. They're big on free stuff (icons, Wordpress themes and templates, wallpapers, etc.), but they also have a lot of good insight into design and style trends. For the five or six months I've been following them I've been really excited at the beginning of each month to see the new desktop calendars they put up. These are all user created images given away free of charge and, on the whole, are pretty rockin'. Anyway, I thought I'd have a go at making one for February. I put something together and sent it in at the end of December because I was so pumped about it. I didn't know if they told people whether they'd been chosen or not, so I anxiously awaited the beginning of February. Well, today was the day, and out of 70 wallpapers, mine was nowhere to be found. Sigh. The ones that were there were pretty fantastic though, so I contributed in good company.

All that to say this. Why should I let all that work go to waste? Why don't I offer them up on this here blog? So here ya go, in a multitude of resolutions and with or without the calendar. Enjoy.

With calendar:

1920 x 1200
1680 x 1050
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960

Without calendar:

1920 x 1200
1680 x 1050
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Marching on