How do you photograph falling snow?

Snow in downtown San Antonio

Snow in downtown San Antonio

So this week I learned a new lesson on how NOT to shoot photographs of falling snow. I took one shot and realized that I needed to crank up the speed of my D40. So I cranked up the ISO instead and still had no luck. So what I have discovered is that I was on the right path but you should try using flash and shooting against a dark background as much as possible. In the end it is smarter to crank your shutter speed as fast that it will go. Then, in Photoshop, GIMP, Lightroom, or Appature open the image and crank up the contrast. I tried those thing and prepped this image in Lightroom and you be the judge. Drop me a line if you have better ideas on how to get the snow to look less like heavy rain.

Did you get a new DSLR for the holidays?

You knew it would happen. You got the camera you wanted and it’s a beginner and maybe the lens(es) that come with it are not exactly what you were hoping for but believe me, they will work well while you learn.

The first thing you need to do now is find a challenge for yourself on that camera. Go out and use it and shoot images of something. Kids playing in the park, deer eating your neighbors’ flowers, maybe even hit the local sporting facilities and shoot photos of athletes doing their thing.

Just use the camera.

The next thing you should do is learn the main rules of good photography and composition that you can get from here:  http://www.picturecorrect.com/tips/photography-the-rules-of-composition/

It’s important to learn how to take photographs well. It gets boring seeing the same setup on every single photo. First rule…do not center every photograph and go on and get close to where the action is. Headroom is one thing but footroom and composition is very important.

Let’s talk about another area of focus…tools. Right now the only tool you need is you. You are equipped with everything you need to take good photographs. You do not need to buy a $200 tripod nor a $10,000 lens nor a $1000 flash. Step back…buy those things only when you need them and if you’ll use them more than once.

If you’re only going to use the camera component once or twice, consider renting. What? You can rent lenses, flashes, and tripods? Yes…and you can even rent another camera.

Just do a Google search for camera rental and check out the vendors. You can also check in your community. Stores like Camera Exchange in San Antonio, rent equipment and should you decide to buy it, they apply some of your rental fees to your purchase.

Next time…I’ll update you on when you can go wildflower hunting and where you can get the best clusters. Hint: you will need to get in a car and drive. Sorry…your backyard isn’t going to cut it unless you live on a farm.

Using Adobe Photoshop online

Sunflower in my backyard editted in Adobe Photoshop.com

With some mild fear I decided to try out Adobe’s online image editting solution, Photoshop.com. Now this is a nicely crafted site. It has many of the features that sites like Piknik and Picasa offer with something that are decidedly Adobe.

The first thing you should know is that the basic account is free. It’ll cost you an email account but that email account that I used to sign up with has yet to see one single piece of spam from Adobe or Photoshop.com. The basic account will let you hold up to 2GB worth of images. That sounds like a lot and it is for most point and shoot camera users.
If you are using a high end Canon Mark V with the default 77MB file sizes, then you know what your limits are and you probably are not looking for free online storage solutions for your photos.
Now let’s talk about free solutions for a minute. It is important that you do not store precious and rare photographs only on your home PC. Heaven forbid that a catastrophe strike, you will lose those memories. It is okay to do backups of your home pc files, pictures, and video on to DVD’s or some other onsite storage solution however, you should also make use of Flickr, Picasa, Photoshop.com, Photobucket, SmugMug or the plethora of online storage offerings.
So now that we have established that it is wise to move your photos off of your home PC and on to a storage site where backups are done routinely, let me add that you should have a copy at home too.
Now Photoshop.com gives you many tools for editting, cropping, and in many other ways manipulating your images. It does not give you all of the tools that you would get with Photoshop CS4, CS3, or any other Adobe Photoshop boxed software offering. It does however give you just enough tools to take a plain image and spice it up a little or maybe get rid of those demon eyes your puppy gets from the flash bulb.
It also lets you integrate your images with Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook and possibly more coming soon. You can choose to share photos on Photoshop.com with friends or ban outsiders from viewing your work.
Adobe also makes available paid versions of this site which offer you more storage. You should check the site for pricing as it may change from the time I write this and the time you read this.
I really cannot applaud this product properly. You will have to try it for yourself.

Deciding on a new camera

I have a nice Nikon D40 DSLR camera that I have had now for almost two years. While I certainly am not ready for a D700 or D300s, I would like to get input from you as to what kind of camera I should get next.

I am leaning towards the D90 or maybe a used D300 if I can get the price right.

Since I shoot a lot of sports and nature stuff, I would like it to have a fast shutter speed for continuous shooting, >4 frames per second in burst mode but I’ll be practical about it and can hang with this one a little longer under someone knows of a better camera down the pipeline.

Nikon’s newest big toy

Okay…so I have sent off to Nikon asking them to test drive their new D300S DSLR camera. This thing is a huge step up over my current D40. For starters the new D300S takes up to 8 pictures per second and it gives the user more control over the camera than my D40 does.

It shoots with 12.3 megapixels of clarity in your images plus it also offers 51 autofocus points which is substantially more than my D40.

The camera is a professional grade camera. It has a remarkable movie feature but my understanding has been that it can only shoot about 5 minutes worth of moving video. That’s apparently the most a 4GB memory card can hold but surprise! This model features both a compact flash and an SD card slot.

In actuality, Nikon unveiled several DSLR’s as well as a number of new cameras in its Coolpix line of cameras. I have one of the lower end Coolpix models and it takes very good photos and it is a great point and shoot camera.

I don’t expect Nikon to say yes but it’s worth a shot.

Paying to access beauty

Now we all know that as photographers we have to jump through hoops and hurdles to get the right shot. We have to wait numerous cycles for the breeze to unfurl a flag just right or for the child’s eye’s to give that “plugged in and lit up” look.

Sometimes, we have to sign forms stating that we know we’re walking into a dangerous area and that we won’t sue the owner of the facility/property if we get hurt. Well it’s become that time of year in Texas where wildflower shots are readily available.

There are hundreds of free places to get these shots…like IH10 just outside of Seguin on the way to Houston. There are tons of locations around San Antonio too. But the places that I want to hit are the places that are forbidden unless you have the wallet for it.

Take for instance, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. It’s a gorgeous place filled with the beauty of wildflowers year round. They charge you to access the facility if you want to look but if you pack a camera, look out. You can be slapped with an $100/day camera fee.

There is a new canyon at Canyon Lake and it has some awesome views as well. If you want to walk down that trail, you have to hire a guide and you have to also pay a fee. Combined, it can also run you about $100 and that includes LIMITED access to the area.

So please take this warning. If you are going to a favorite location and plan on taking your camera to capture some of the beauty, you better pack your credit card or a lockbox for your camera because cash strapped facilities are looking for new and better ways to generate revenue and our love of nature’s raw beauty and power is going to cost us.

A digital photographer has lots of help today

A podcast is a simple audio or sometimes video file that provides you with any of a long list of items that can be used to teach you different languages, math, science, and even digital photography.

Some of the best guides and tutorials are podcasts. 

Here are some of them that I listen to:

The main advantage of these podcast tutorials is that you can run them on your iPod or media player while you sit at your PC or in the field. 

If you know of any others, please let me know and I can add this to the list.

The new “I want toy” from Nikon

Nikon released its Nikon D3X camera. It’s a professional camera

Nikon D3X

Nikon D3X

It’s a 24 megapixel and was released for public consumption back in early December by Nikon. It features lower noise on low ISO settings and a great design.

It has two CF card slots to help prevent overflow and since the raw image setting renders 138MB images, you may go through a few of them.

Now this camera is not the fastest of the lineup. It hums along at 5 FPS which is good for most photographic endeavours but you may want something a little faster for sports.

Being a Nikon guy, I would love to own one of these but I will have a problem coming up with the money for an $8,000 price tag.

The D3 is faster at 9 FPS and shoots at 12.1 megapixel. It also costs several thousand dollars less which gives you ample space in your wallet for some new faster lenses.

Nikon D3X side view

Nikon D3X side view

Nikon D3X LCD/Back view

You can read more about the latest way to drain your credit rating here:  http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/Product/Digital-SLR/25434/D3.html

There’s nothing like high school–

So I made the dumb move of joining Facebook. People I don’t even know are clamoring to be my friend. Who are some of these people?

Anyhow, an old friend from high school showed me my alma mater’s group in there and like a dummy I joined them. Why did I do that?

These are good people that bring out the absolute worst in me. I go from being the intellectual and overly intelligent person that I am normally to this freak who is scared out of his wits of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, or just breathing wrong. These people intimidate me for no reason other than they have always scared the living bejesus out of me.

Like I said, these are good people with warm hearts and so very friendly. They never, ever talk bad about someone and it’s because of this niceness that I feel so very out of place. I don’t belong, or at least I think that I don’t. Some of these young ladies that I went to school with 20+ years ago are the same sweet and wonderful ladies I met that first day I walked through the gym with another sophmore.

Anyhow…so how do I go from a guy who is so rock stable sure of himself to a buffoon who second guesses every single thing about himself and his actions especially.

Okay…the venting is over. I’m going to go watch House and remember what it’s like to be a jerk again. Thanks for listening.