Tuesday, October 30, 2012


These two pictures were taken within seconds of each other, but lens selection, framing, lighting, and some post processing change the entire mood of the pictures.

This shows that a photograph depends largely on the person behind the camera, not just the person in front of it. 


 My wife and I were looking at the exact same thing, standing in the same place, at the same time, and took two completely different pictures. Neither one is “better” than the other, they are just different. 

 She went for a clear, sweet, lighthearted picture. I, on the other hand, wanted a more dramatic picture. We each adjusted our cameras and lenses accordingly and we each got what we wanted.

 Next time you are photographing, take time to think of what you want, come up with a vision or a mood for your photographs. You don’t have to let the subjects in front of the camera determine what the end result looks like.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Night Sky Photography

I was asked to write about how I took pictures at night.First off, it is incredibly easy to achieve beautiful results. You don’t need a top of the line DSLR or expensive glass. All you need is a camera that you can adjust the exposure manually and a tripod. 

Obviously, you need a clear night, but a few clouds is actually a good thing. A wide angle lens is usually best, a kit lens set at 18mm will work just fine. Mount your camera on a tripod, put it in manual mode, and try these settings. Turn your iso up to 3200 (it might only go to 1600), open your aperture to F/3.5, and set your shutter all the way at 30 seconds. Put your camera in manual focus and turn it all the way to infinity. If the image is too bright, turn your iso down, if it is too dark, turn it up. Find a place in the sky where the stars are easily visible but there is also some sort of subject; cars, cityscapes, lonely trees, airplanes, and anything else interesting make great subjects. Look for other light sources or moving objects that might be interesting as well. Anything that is moving will be blurry or even not existent in the final image since your shutter is open so long. Just to the right of the image I shot was a warehouse with bright lights, which is why the bottom right of my image is so bright. I shoot everything in RAW which allows me much more flexibility in post processing. For my image, I adjusted it in camera RAW and then opened it in Photoshop and turned the contrast up and did an exposure adjustment layer. 

Go out and try it. Let me know if you have any questions :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tokina 11-16 F/2.8 DX ii lens review

Tokina 11-16 DX ii

 I just received my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II from Amazon. I usually don’t review lenses but I decided to review this one because I could only find a handful of reviews on it myself.

Tokina 11-16 DX ii next to tamron 18-270 and Rokinon 14
I own many wide angle lenses and I have tried to avoid buying this lens, but it fills a niche that no other lens I have can fill. Just so you know, I carry the Tokina 11-16 in my bag over my full frame14mm F/2.8, every nikon 18-whatever kit lens, Nikon's own 10-24, and Tamron's super zoom 18-270mm. 

 First off, this lens is not for everyone. Obviously, it is not a full frame lens (even though it fills the frame at 16mm.) This lens is also not for the casual photographer who wants another cool lens. In my opinion, this is a specific lens to fill a specific need; in my case, 
I needed it to be able to shoot SHARP pictures in LOW LIGHT from the front row of a wedding. 

IT IS WIDE! A kit 18-?? lens is just not wide enough to get an entire bridal party from the front row. I could use another wide lens but they are lacking in the areas bellow.

IT IS SHARP! Tamron, sigma, and Nikon all offer similar options. Nikon has a lens with more zoom range but at the cost of Sharpness. Tamron and Sigma offer some close competitors in zoom range and aperture but they are just not anywhere close to as sharp as this one.  My 14mm full frame lens is sharp, but shooting with a full frame lens on a DX camera kinda defeats the purpose of a wide angle...  Anyway, this lens is SHARP!

IT IS BRIGHT! At F/2.8 all the way through, I can let a good amount of light in. The kit lenses and many of the other zooms are F/3.5 or F/4 wide open, and when they are wide open, they arnt sharp. The Tokina is nice and bright, but also sharp wide open.

AUTO FOCUS is FAST. I wouldn't expect anything different from such a wide zoom. The focus is accurate and locks on quick. The push/pull mechanism they use to switch from manual to auto focus is weird and it takes some getting used to, but I rarely switch back and forth so it is a non-issue for me. This older Tokina 11-16 did not have an autofocus motor but this one does :)

It is heavier than a kit lens but it is nowhere near as heavy at my 70-200 F/2.8 so the weight does not bother me a bit.

I really don’t know why Tokina decided to make this a ZOOM lens, but I’ll take it :) 90% of the time, people buy a wide angle lens to be able to shoot at the widest angle possible... I guess it would bother me more if the lens wasn’t tack sharp or if it caused a variable aperture; Since the lens is sharp all the way through and has a consistent aperture, I actually like the little zoom I have.

This Tokina has very LOW DISTORTION. Straight lines stay straight. The only time I’ve noticed some small distortion is when the subject is in the far corner (but with a lens this wide, distortion is to be expected.) Some of the other competitors have much worse distortion. 

Tokina 11-16 DX ii vs. 18mm and 14mm
 This is just a comparison of a few different wide angle zooms. There is a HUGE difference in an 11mm lens and a 18mm lens.

This Tokina 11-16 F/2.8 DX ii lens is the best DX wide angle lens on the market now. No other lens can match it's sharpness, wide aperture, and price. At $750.00 it is cheaper than many of Nikon's lens but still out performs them. With the added addition of an autofocus motor, superior build quality, and this lens just being ridiculously sharp, this lens will fill a spot in my bag for a long time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to photograph fireworks!

Fireworks are awesome.

I will tell you how to get great pictures of them. 

The beauty of taking pictures of fireworks is that you don’t have to fumble with settings, just set your camera on what I tell you, and shoot. 

First, you need a tripod. Without a tripod, it will be near impossible to hold your camera perfectly still. A shutter release cable or remote would also help, but is not necessary. Next, put your camera in the “M” mode. This is full manual mode (don’t be scared.) Since there are so many cameras, the next set of instructions will vary depending on the model. If you do not know how to do something, simply do a Google search for “how to change _(ISO, shutter speed, aperture)_ on _(Nikon D3100, Canon Rebel, etc…)_ and just put in your camera model. 

-Set your ISO to the lowest default setting (100 or 200)
-Set your shutter speed on 5 seconds
-Set your ISO on F/8
-Put your camera on manual focus and turn it all the way to infinity (either all the way to the right or left, it should be focused on things reallllly far away)
-Mount your camera on the tripod facing the fireworks.
-Plug in your cable or set your camera to remote mode (if you have one)

If you take a picture before it is dark, it will be super bright. Don’t worry, when it gets dark, you will be fine. When the firework first shoots off, hit your shutter button, your shutter will stay open for 5 seconds, capturing the entire flight and explosion of the fireworks. Experiment with different shutter speeds. If you change it to 30 seconds, you will capture every firework fired off within a 30 second time frame! 

 Try not to move your camera when pressing the shutter button. If you want your picture lighter or darker, change your aperture (smaller number=brighter picture)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nikon's new D3200 and the D600 rumor.

There is a rumor going around that Nikon might be announcing a D600. I am reading a lot of complaint/arguments over where it will fit in the lineup. What camera is it replacing? What camera will it out shine?
Ive realized that where a camera "fits in" and its price tag DOES NOT determine image quality!

With the way technology has progressed, it is almost impossible to release a “bad” camera now. Look at the brand new D3200. Nikon's full frame D700 is nearly $3,000. It is a good camera, don’t get me wrong; In fact, it’s a pretty great camera. BUT it is nearly four years old. Nikon's brand new D3200 is the bottom of the line camera, the entry level DSLR… It is 24MP while the D700 is 12MP. They both go up to ISO6400. The 700 has more FPS and more easily accessible controls but if we are talking pure image quality, the images will be nearly indecipherable, and the $899 D3200 image will be able to be enlarged much larger.
The quality of a camera cannot be based on its price tag. I don’t see the need in placing cameras in a nice and neat line from best to worst. Wherever the D600 fits, I promise it will blow the 4 year old $5000 D3 out of the water. 

Point of the article: Whatever the name of the new camera is, D600/500/400, it will be awesome, simply because it's new. Don't worry about where it fits either. Just buy a camera and go shoot stuff...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Focal point

Every image should have a clearly defined focal point.
When you look at a picture, you quickly (and without thinking about it) scan the image and your eyes rest on a point. In portraits, this is usually the eyes.
The focal point of a landscape is usually the brightest spot of the image (the sun for example.)

While I was framing this shot, there was a clear focal point, the cars head lights OR the lightning.
(I was yet to capture them both at the same time)
So the images were good. It had a clear focal point and it was interesting.

I took hundreds of exposures before I caught the lightning and cars passing simultaneously.
I was ecstatic, I even changed our Facebook status!
I ran inside and pulled up my images in bridge to check them out.
As soon as I saw the image, i realized that the lightning actually HURT the image!!

Close your eyes, then look at the picture. You will notice your eyes bouncing from the lightning, to the the car lights. There is no good focal point, your eyes don't know where to rest.

I quickly "photoshopped" the lightning out so you could see the difference.
With no lightning, your eyes immediately find the focal point.

Moral of the story, make sure your images have a clear focal point. Your eyes should quickly rest on a single spot. Lines (such as moving headlights) help draw your eyes to the focal point.

So what do you think. Lightning or no lightning??

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Freezing time...

In this blog/video tutorial I will show you how to use your camera flash to freeze water drops in motion.

The cool thing is, you don’t need to have thousands of dollars worth of gear to get great results.

You can watch my video, read the blog, or both :)

This is my first video, I realize that it is super long... I'll try and shorten them next time. If you have request, let me know!


All you HAVE to have is your camera, some liquid, and something to drop in the liquid.

I recommend having,

Camera, tripod, shutter release remote, off camera flash, glass container, black background, colorful paper/fabric, color gels, food coloring, etc…


Place your glass container on a table, you want the container as far away from your background as possible. If you are using fabric or wrapping paper, place it under the glass.

Mount your camera to your tripod and line the camera up level with the container

Use your longest lens and move it as far back as possible while making sure your subject takes up the majority of the frame

How to set up your camera-

You will need to turn your camera to the “M” setting, this allows full manual control. Start by putting your ISO on 200. Doing that depends on your camera model, you may hold down a dedicated ISO button and rotating your thumb wheel or you might have to press the info button twice and change it from that menu. If you cant figure it out, look it up :) Then put your shutter speed at 200, this means it is 1/200th of a second. If you are setting it on the back LCD screen, it might actually say 1/200. Set your aperture to F/8. Set your flash to 1/6th power. Last, set your white balance to flash, or the lightning bolt. If you are unsure how to set those settings, look it up on google or your manual.

Remember, these settings are what worked for me, in my house, with my lights, at my working distance… it might be different for you. Change the settings as necessary. I recommend changing your aperture to adjust the exposure.

Close your flash, take a picture, it should be almost all black. Your flash should be the only light source.

Next, you are going to want to have a IR remote or a shutter release cable, if you don’t have those, have someone else drop the object in the water. If you don’t have a friend or a shutter release, you might be able to get by with the self timer.

If using off camera flash-

Set your flash to remote or slave mode. Place them on either side of the glass and out of the frame, pointing towards your glass but not straight into your lens, about a foot from the glass. I set my popup flash to 1/64th and my two remote flashes to 1/32 or 1/16

Again, all situations are different, adjust as necessary.


You’re all set, start dropping stuff! Timing is critical, just keep trying.

Post processing-

Honestly, with these types of pictures, there is a lot that can be done in post processing. I shoot all my images in RAW (which I will most likely blog about later) which allows my to produce an image the way I like it, not the way my camera thinks it should look. I recommend you turn the contrast way up on these kind of shots and adjust the curves dramatically. I might talk more about this later.

-Feel free to ask me questions. I am passionate about what I do and I can talk about it all day!