Friday, April 30, 2010

21 Signs You’re a Real Photographer Now

I found this post today and it gave me a really good laugh:
21 Signs You’re a Real Photographer Now

I answered "yes" to many of these, so I guess I'm a real photographer now! :-)

I found #20 particularly amusing...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sanity prevails!

I posted earlier on this site about the Cape Cod wind farm project, and how I thought it was a great idea that should be approved. Today, I'm happy to follow up that post with this additional article stating that the project has been approved and could be generating power by 2012! Great!

Article on MSNBC: U.S. approves Cape Cod wind farm

Article on CNN: Nation's first offshore wind farm approved for Nantucket Sound

Sanity prevails over people looking to protect their views! And the U.S. government gets a backbone and steps in to resolve the controversy.

Let the wind blow!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Canon AI Servo AF Custom Function & ISO Speed Settings Guide

These days, DSLR cameras are getting so complex that the manuals that come with them can't possibly do full justice to exploring the deep capabilities of these cameras. They tell you what the functions are and what they do, but don't necessarily have the space to provide real world examples of when and how to use some of the more complex features.

The newest Canon auto focus systems are a perfect example of this. The new AF systems on the 1D Mark IV and 7D are fantastic, but they are also so complex that you could probably write 50 pages just on this one feature of the camera alone....which is just what Canon did!

In order to expand on their manuals and help photographers get the most from their cameras, Canon often publishes supplementary white papers that provide a wealth of knowledge on the given topic.

Although this guide, the Canon AI Servo AF Custom Function & ISO Speed Settings Guide is written for the 1D Mark IV, almost all of it is also applicable to the 7D. If you own a 7D, you'll know which parts don't apply to you.

I hope you get as much out of reading this helpful guide as I did. After reading it, I changed a few AF custom function settings on my 7D and was instantly able to capture better action pictures at my son's soccer matches.

Since these guides are often hard to find on the Canon USA and Canon Europe web sites, I'll post those that I find helpful here on my blog in the future.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The people-problem with progress - "Wind farm fight splits Cape Cod"

Although my blog at is typically about photography and I try not to soap-box, I couldn't resist commenting on this story on CNN:

Nine-year wind farm fight splits Cape Cod

The U.S. just went through our worst economic downturn in decades. People were complaining about our dependency on foreign oil, the high price of gas, we use too many fossil fuels, how are we going to solve this problem, this is the worst it's been since the 70's, oil is really why we went to war, my SVU uses too much gas, etc, etc, etc.

Everyone made a big deal about the energy crisis. It was a major presidential election topic. We pledged to use alternative energy. We elected a forward-thinking president. Then what happened? Very little...

But in my opinion, what makes this situation a lot worse is when mostly acceptable solutions like solar power and wind power stare the U.S. and other countries in the face and we turn our backs on them again and again. Many other oil-guzzling countries do the same thing...

Why can't the U.S. learn something from the successes that other countries have achieved with alternative energy?

An example of this problem is this Cape Cod wind farm situation mentioned in the article above...

Even considering the minimal (in my opinion) impact to a limited percentage of ocean views from certain points of Cape Cod, why would reasonable people object to an energy solution that could supply cleaner power to 75% of a major chunk of the Northeast US?

The U.S. needs to learn some lessons from other countries that have embraced alternative energy and the differences that it has made. I saw this first hand on my recent trip to Germany where there are wind farms on top of the peaks of many of their remote valleys powering the small towns down in those valleys. They don't look intrusive. In fact, they look kind of cool. Like giant sentinels protecting and watching out for the towns below...

The U.S. has a real opportunity to make a showcase of this Cape Cod wind farm and how successful it can be, and we're blowing it because people are concerned about a small impact to their views.

This is the people-problem with trying to make progress. People often can't see the forest for the trees and major progress gets held back because of that. It's time for the U.S. to put up or shut up with regard to alternative energy. This project is a prime example of how we can move forward and demonstrate how effective a completely acceptable and feasible large scale alternative energy project can be.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So John, where are YOUR pictures?

So John, where are YOUR photos on YOUR photography blog at

A good question, to which I have a good answer!

I've been spending a lot of time on my photography lately and I was trying to decide on a way to begin to include some of it on this blog. To that end, I've decided to start a Photo-A-Week project.

The goal of this type of project is to spend some time each week deliberately thinking through the process of taking an effective, expressive, creative picture....and then taking one! It's a fun process that reinforces all of the things that I'm learning and trying to do with my photography, and at the end of the year I'll hopefully have 52 good photographs to show for my efforts.

Of course, the other interesting thing is to make it compelling enough for people to want to stop by briefly once (or more) per week to check out the latest entry in the project. I hope I succeed there.

So...The project will be coming shortly and will be linked to off of this blog, so stay tuned!


Camera shake and motion blur, be damned!

Camera shake and subject motion blur have become a little bit of an issue for me lately when shooting with long focal lengths on my new Canon 7D. I’ll explain why further down in this post, but suffice to say that the reason surprised me.

Camera shake is precisely why I buy and use Canon Image Stabilizer (IS) lenses or use a tripod whenever I can. All manufacturers have a different name for their image stabilization technologies, but they all have them.

There is absolutely no doubt that IS lenses improve the sharpness of all of my photos. If you have any doubt about the capabilities of this great lens technology, try them for yourself to see the difference. Buying IS lenses is worth every penny of the extra cost.

I thought I had a pretty steady hand-holding technique, but when I see my hand-held IS images versus my hand-held non-IS images on a computer screen, the difference is clear. The images taken with IS are always sharper. Maybe I drink too much coffee that causes me to be jittery??!! Maybe I just need to improve my hand-held shooting technique a little bit…

But even with IS, some issues with camera shake and motion blur are still around. The point of this post is to make people aware of a simple factor that might be playing into your photography.

So what surprised me?

The APS-C sensor is the type of imaging sensor used in almost all DSLR’s except the pro level models.

Camera shake and subject motion blur are magnified even more on higher megapixel APS-C chips (e.g., 18 megapixels) than they are on lower megapixel APS-C chips (e.g., something like 12 megapixels). This is something that I was previously unaware of. Even Canon states this in their own technical white paper documentation.

In other words, as you go up in megapixels on an APS-C sensor, steadying your camera and using higher shutter speeds to prevent subject motion blur become increasingly important to achieve sharp photos.

The above statement from Canon (which applies to other manufacturers as well) is one of the reasons that I’m against pushing APS-C sensors up toward 20 megapixels. I think it creates many more problems than it solves and most people would be happy with 10-12 megapixels on an APS-C sensor in a DSLR. But camera manufacturer marketing mayhem prevails, and I can only expect the megapixel ratings on APS-C sensors to continue to increase because they think it’s “what the people want”.

So what does this mean in everyday use?

Well, for me (and I suspect other people using other cameras in the megapixel class of the 7D) it means that I can no longer reliably handhold a lens like my Canon 70-300 when it’s zoomed all the way out to 300mm using previously appropriate shutter speeds. On the 7D, the 300mm end of that lens is really 480mm due to the 1.6x crop factor of the APS-C sensor. Combining that long focal length with the 7D’s 18 megapixel rating on the APS-C chip, and suddenly I have a problem with camera shake and motion blur that I never had before on my old 8 megapixel Canon 30D camera. Nothing with me has changed. The problem is that it’s technically inherent that higher megapixel APS-C cameras magnify the effect of camera shake and motion blur more than lower megapixel APS-C cameras. Bummer!

So what can you do about camera shake and motion blur on high megapixel APS-C cameras?

1) Shoot at higher ISO’s so you can raise your shutter speeds even farther than you normally would...

2) And/or use IS lenses or a tripod...

3) And/or improve your hand-holding technique...

4) All of these things...

The basic point is to get the shutter speeds way up and steady the camera with IS or a tripod when you're shooting in conditions that may result in camera shake or motion blur with a high megapixel APS-C camera.

Moral of the story: Don’t be too quick to blame a camera’s auto focus system or a lens if your hand-held images are frequently blurry. I read posts on camera web sites from people complaining about the blurriness of their hand-held photos all the time. These days, it might very well be caused by a combination of your hand-holding technique and shooting on an APS-C camera with a high number of megapixels.

Try the four points listed above and see if your images get sharper. I bet they will!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why do I take photographs?

I take photographs for many reasons.

Capturing interesting images is a fun hobby, a good creative outlet, and certainly I enjoy sharing my vision of the world around me with other people who might be interested in "what I see". It's also a great vehicle to get outside and do things whether it's traveling, local day trips, a simple hike, a vacation, or whatever.

Then there's the aspect of photography that involves capturing and preserving family memories with images. Major events, minor every day things, funny things, etc. The memories of a lifetime that make us all who we are.

I've never really thought of expressing that aspect of why I take so many pictures of my family, but then I stumbled across a blog called "Little Moments Frozen In Time" which is authored by Kelly Bigsby Lederhouse. It's a family blog that shows some of their life's moments with nice images.

On the front page of her blog is the statement below which perfectly reflects why I, and I'm sure many other people, enjoy taking family photographs. The statement "...Memories that are brought back to life every time I look at one" is very true. Upon seeing any of my photos, I can almost instantly recall what the picture is and where/when it was taken, and a flood of small memories associated with the image come back to mind. It's an enjoyable experience every time it happens....

That is the essence of photography for me...

Kelly Bigsby Lederhouse:

"A picture. A memory forever frozen in time. A second of my life captured in a photograph for me to treasure for all of time. Your children and their children can have this memory that was once yours. A second of your life, with the click of a camera, forever captured in a picture. A single moment that no longer exists is now yours to keep. How amazing is that?

You can look at a photograph and take a look back into time. Children grow and life changes. Moments come and go, and moments are sadly forgotten. But attached to each and every photograph is a memory and a feeling that will now be remembered for all time.

Life goes on, but those moments stay behind. New moments are constantly being created, and sadly moments are forgotten. My favorite photographs are in this blog. Each one I took and each one holds a special place in my heart. Memories that are brought back to life every time I look at one".

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Robert Rodriguez Jr. Photography

This is a short post to point you to an amazing photographer specializing in the Hudson Valley area of New York, which is where I live. His name is Robert Rodriguez Jr.

Robert's images are truly terrific. He also has a great web site and blog that I encourage you to visit. Not only can you see and buy his photography there, but his site and blog are filled with a lot of personal information, stories about the photos and Robert's journey as a photographer, information on his workshops, etc.

Check out this truly great local photographer and enjoy his work!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Canon 7D kicks serious ass!

I've been using my new Canon 7D for a few weeks now. I've given most of the features a good workout and I can surely say that this camera kicks some serious ass.

Having worked my way through several Canon DSLR's over the years, I've always felt that there were things that Canon could have done better. The 7D is finally the one high quality camera that I've always been waiting for to fit all of my needs in one device. Well worth the money!

I've customized the camera for my shooting style and found that it frees me from fumbling with settings and buttons to get to the features I want. It allows me to shoot and have fun, get optimal images straight out of the camera, and not have to spend time screwing around with its many settings and options.

More specifically, the auto focus system is excellent. I mentioned the AF improvements in my previous post, but now that I've given them a good workout in all kinds of static and dynamic situations, I can see the genius of this system. Great!

Check out this quick video on the 7D's versatile auto focus system.

This post is about supplemental material available on the web to help people learn more about the 7D, what it can do, and how to get under the covers to make it work for you. These web sites go beyond the material in the official 7D Manual and present it in a more user-friendly way.

Here goes...

Canon Digital Learning Center - Shooter's Insight: EOS 7D, featuring David Stoecklein
All of the 'Episodes' on this site are worth watching, but also spend some time going through the 'Product Tour' in the navigation. Nicely presented information that shows what a powerhouse the 7D is.

Canon Digital Learning Center - EOS Digital - 7D
The Canon Tips, Product Info, and Tutorial sections are the tabs to pay attention to here. There are many videos about the 7D and its functions, and also helpful articles like "Harnessing the Power of the EOS 7D’s Video System". Unfortunately, and strangely, this information is also mixed in with generic photographic articles like "How to Take Pictures of Holiday Lights", but it's worth going through the list to find the info about the 7D and its features.

I hope you find this additional 7D information useful. I'll update this post as I find new things.