Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What is it??? – Fun photo ideas


JLK_9606   Are there times when you have trouble coming up with creative ideas for your photos?  Are you getting bored with taking the same landscapes or stills?  If so, check out this shot.    What do you think it is?   Perhaps a field of neon dandelions?    Maybe it’s the Northern Lights.   I guess it could just be an accidental shutter release (yeah we’ve all done that).


Now let’s rotate the picture by 90 degrees CW.    Does it look more familiar now?   Well if you guessed that it’s the dashboard on a car, you’re right.   But wait, it’s not in focus so it’s not a very good shot.   Well, that’s the fun.   Try using timed JLK_9606exposures in low light situations and see what you come up with.    This picture was shot with a 10 second shutter speed @ F8.     Slow enough to capture the low light of the dash while not fast enough to freeze the image.  

The following series of shots were taken in a moving vehicle while traveling down a local freeway.   As you view the shots, take note of the different colors and curves as the road twists and turns and the camera vibrates from the bumps on the road.    Fun  stuff?   Give it a try, you just might like your results.   And don’t worry about whether the results are correct because it’s art, and there are no right or wrong shots.  But please don’t try this while driving.    I want you around to read my next post. 

So what do you think is it art, crap or just plain fun?   Often it’s a fine line between the two.   Let me know some of your fun photo ideas that get your creative juices going.

See you next time!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kuamoo + Oldaker Wedding


It’s early in the morning on the 6th of September and the sun is just beginning to peak over the clouds that blanket the Gulf. But over Houston, the skies are clearing in what is shaping up to be the perfect day for a very special event. On this day two young hearts will become one. Two families will be joined by the bond created when their JLK_8386children are joined in matrimony.

The day before the ceremony the celebration had already JLK_8389begun. The dogs were anticipating that something big was about to happen. Andy and his dad, Kevin, spent some quality time sipping some home brew while watching The Buckeyes/Navy football game.

In the mean time Lani’s family was flying in from Ohio to join the festivities. Okay, so they JLK_8365didn’t fly in on F-15s, but these fighters took off from Port Columbus Airport on their way to a fly-by engagement at the Buckeye football game.

Soon after Lani’s family JLK_8390arrived at the apartment, it was off to a Japanese Steak House for a wonderful pre-wedding dinner. The meal was hot, but come wedding day the bride JLK_8567_Lani&Andyand groom were hotter!!!

Today is no doubt a very special day for all, but for daddy, yes that’s me, I played the dual role as father of the bride and photographer. The dual role, although somewhat complicated at times, is gladly accepted since today I give my princess away to Andy’s loving care.

It’s a grand day full of family friends and even a duck or two.

So check out Lani and Andy’s photo album of their special day and give them some love as you view the festivities. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SIMPLE Photography Chapter 2 - Photographic Zen

In our last chapter we discussed the concept of thinking SIMPLE when approaching a photo opportunity. Your homework was to make the acronym SIMPLE part of your photographic mantra each time you take a photograph. Have you done that? Has it helped?

This week let’s take the SIMPLE concept a step further and discuss how two camera setting interrelate and potentially influence your SIMPLE photograph. To me, the interrelation of camera settings is a kind of Photographic Zen.

To begin this discussion let’s set some primary goals and make one key assumption:

Goal #1 – We want our photograph to have optimum uniform clarity

Goal #2 - We want our photograph to have average lighting and color quality (no extremes – high/low key, etc.)

Assumption – Your camera allows you to manually set aperture and shutter speed

Now, assuming that our lens is clean and we are able to get our subject in focus, there are two primary camera features that can help us attain our goals; they are:

Shutter speed – typically measured in some fraction of a second

Aperture (f-stop) – The size of the shutter opening.  The smaller the number the larger the opening.  

So how do these features provide picture clarity?

- Shutter speed can freeze the actions of a moving subject

Dogs on Run 4x6 Low Res

This picture was shot at a shutter speed of 1/500s which freezes the motion of  the running dogs.



Aperture adjusts the depth-of-field or focal length of the camera

BigBear Silo2

This picture was shot at an aperture setting of F9 in order to achieve a greater depth-of-field.   This setting keeps the not only the silo in focus but also the sky  and clouds above it.

Also note that both features also effect the amount of light that hits  camera sensor

So here’s the Zen:

  • As the shutter speed increases, picture motion is stabilized but the light hitting the camera sensor is reduced, darkening the picture
  • As the Aperture setting decreases (lower f-stop #), your picture will become brighter, yet the chance of uniform clarity in your picture decreases.   In other words depth-of-field, or the range in which subjects will be in focus decreases.

01-21-05 045

This picture illustrates a shallow Depth-of-Field.   The primary subject is in focus, but the rest of the picture is blurred.   The shot was taken at 1/500s @ F4.5


Confused?      Here’s a few practical scenarios:

1) You’re shooting an event and your on camera meter says you need more light. Currently your camera is set to 1/500s @ F8. In order to brighten your picture your first thought is to lower your aperture setting, say from F8 to F4. Doing this gives you the light you need but now your picture clarity does not appear uniform.

2) You’re shooting an event and your on camera meter says you need more light. Currently your camera is set to 1/125s @ F11. In order to brighten your picture your first thought is to slow the shutter speed, say from 1/125s to 1/60s. Doing this gives you the light you need but now your picture is showing some motion blur.

3) You’re shooting an event on a brightly lit day. You set your aperture to F4 to allow maximum light so that you can attain a really fast shutter speed, say 1/1000s, because you really want to stop the action. But you are dissatisfied with the picture because the clarity is just not uniform.

These are three common scenarios with three common solutions. Technically the solutions chosen were correct as they did address the challenges of Motion and Lighting. However the resulting photos did not reflect our Intent, nor did it address all of the challenges of the Subject.      Getting the picture – SIMPLE?

So could we have done better?   Could we have addressed Motion and Lighting while also addressing Intent and Subject?    Realistically you will not always be able to satisfy all of the SIMPLE concepts in every picture, however in the scenarios described above here are some options that will improve overall picture clarity:

Scenario #1 - Rather than lowering the aperture setting which in turn reduces the focal range or Depth-of-Field, slow the shutter speed to approx. 1/400th.   At this setting you can still stop most of the action in a sporting event, increase the brightness of your picture, while maintaining a reasonable depth-of-field at F8.  

Scenario #2 - Rather than lowering your shutter speed, which increases the likelihood of motion blur, try lowering your aperture, perhaps F8. By doing this you maintain a reasonable depth-of-field, increase the brightness of your photo and prevent motion blur.  This is ideal where moderate movement (i.e. walking) is a factor.

Scenario #3 –  In bright lighting, rather than reducing the aperture consider reducing the shutter speed.  For instance, a setting of 1/800s @ F8 will maintain picture brightness, provide a reasonable Depth-of-Field, while providing a fast enough shutter speed to handle most any sporting event.


When composing a photograph, remember that there is a yen and yang balance to the Photographic Zen.   Making a camera adjustment with one feature (i.e. shutter speed or aperture) may address an obvious issue but may have an adverse effect on another of the SIMPLE principals.   If you are aware of this prior to setting up your shot, you’ll make more educated decisions that give you a much better chance of getting the shot you Intend.

In my next post I’ll share with you some of the basic rules of thumb that I use in various scenarios.   Until then keep thinking SIMPLE and find your Photographic Zen.   Happy Shooting!


Got questions?  Have a topic that you’d like for me to discuss?  Your Comments are welcome here or on my FaceBook page at: .   Also feel free to start a new or join an existing discussion on the FaceBook discussion board.