See The Light Images: Blog en-us (C) John A. Rice (See The Light Images) Sun, 14 Aug 2016 02:58:00 GMT Sun, 14 Aug 2016 02:58:00 GMT See The Light Images: Blog 120 80 Football Scrimmage with 300 2.8 Back in January, I published my initial thoughts about Canon's EF 300 2.8 IS lens.  I had long heard about its legendary performance, and finally own one myself.  Today, I took the lens out for my first football excursion of the season, and for as much as I was impressed with it in other applications, I am utterly blown away with what it does in the sport of football.  Before getting to that, here are a few things that I saw with this lens in wildlife applications this spring:

Bald EagleBW-9599American Bald Eagle at Blackwater NWR

Autofocus is accurate and fast 

Coyoteuntitled shoot-2810Coyote captured with 300 2.8 + 2x extender.

Given proper technique superb images are possible even with the 2x extender attached.  


The lens has enough resolving power to bring out the details in every image. ... Now on to football:

When I left the house this morning, I determined that I would leave the 100-400 in the bag, but did carry a 70-200 with me "just in case."  TO PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE, I ended up taking a total of four photos with the 70-200.  Everything else was with the 300.  Until today, The 100-400 has been my "go to" lens for football. It gives me enough reach to get across the field, and was "good enough," but I was never really thrilled with the results. However, I always had the advantage of the zoom.  That all changed today.  

First, here is a shot from last year's scrimmage using the 100-400:


Not a bad image.  But, as you read the remainder of this post, keep coming back to this shot for comparisons.  Now, here is one from this year using the 300


©-9952©-99528-13 Football Scrimmage v Paden City

No longer am I "aperture limited."  At 400 mm, I used to be at f5.6, and unless I happened to be at optimum distance, the backgrounds tended to be enough in focus as to be at least a little distracting.  The smaller aperture also meant that shutter speeds were slower, sometimes introducing motion blur.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, f5.6 also meant that the autofocus system of my cameras had less light available and therefore to not grab focus as quickly as with my other 2.8 aperture glass.  Each of those detractors are now eliminated, and I am excited - thrilled - maybe even amazed by the significant jump in performance that I realized today.

©-5776©-5776Crisp details in every shot

In the above photo, notice the detail in the eyes behind the shield ... or the detail in the mesh of the jerseys.  Resolving this much detail is far beyond the capabilities of lesser glass.  Image quality is enhanced by the ability to use a lower ISO and faster shutter speed to capture the same image that I might have attempted previously.  Do I miss the ability to zoom?  of course, but that advantage is dramatically overshadowed by the other aspects of this fantastic lens.  Yes, the superlatives keep flowing!

©-6003©-60038-13 Football Scrimmage v Paden City

NOW ... today's scrimmage was a daylight event, starting at 10:00 a.m. on a mostly sunny morning; next week, I will take it for a test drive in evening / Friday Night Lights conditions where I anticipate that the results will be even more pronounced than they were today.

It is no accident that professional sports shooters use the highest quality, fastest lenses that are available.  They simply resolve far more detail and allow the fastest possible shutter speed which in turn makes for higher quality images.  

]]> (See The Light Images) 300 2.8 Sun, 14 Aug 2016 02:57:57 GMT
EF 300 2.8 IS First Impressions We have all heard of its legendary performance.  Yet somehow, until you actually own one, the 300 2.8 IS sounds too good to be true.  I know that the lens has been upgraded, and the reviewers insist that the EF 300 2.8 IS version II has improved both the Image Stabilization and Autofocus while shaving off weight.  Some even claim that the image resolution is better in the new version.  That all may be true, and if money were no object, I would own that lens today.  But for those of us who do not have unlimited resources, a used copy of the first rendition of Canon’s famous performer is a relative bargain these days at little more than the cost of a 100-400. 

I bought the lens used, and took it out for a test drive to basketball practice the evening that I received it.   It was mounted to a 7DII since I find the 5diii AF inadequate for basketball.  What did I learn?

  1. My gym is small for regular use of this lens at floor level, and my usual arsenal from 24 to 200 mm works quite well for basketball.  I should plan on staying outside the arc with the 300 unless I am trying to make intimate sportraits.  It is good, however for layups from the stands, or defense on the far court, and will be a wonderful addition for volleyball in that gym.  It will also be excellent at tournament time and college gyms that have more room behind the baseline. 404540451-12 Practice
  2. Autofocus, while not instant is fast and accurate.  I did not have a 100% keeper rate, but that more than likely reflects my need for improved technique and better learning the lens.   The lens is hand-holdable, but I’ll get a good workout using it.  Proper bracing and the usual bag of tricks will be important.
  3. Image Stabilization allowed me to capture razor sharp images without a monopod, but its use would have dramatically improved my keeper rate.  A Gimbal head will make an exceptional platform in the great outdoors. 407940791-12 Practice
  4. I accidentally bumped the AF & IS switches several times, and that is not a good thing.  I will tape over them for regular use, just as I have on my 70-200 and 100-400.  Alternatively, a lens coat will prevent them from being moved unintentionally.
  5. Today was just a practice, both for the athletes and for me, and working out with them helped me to get better.  I like shooting tight, and my instincts had me shooting too tight today.  The adjustment to shooting prime rather than zoom will take more than a single practice, and even will dictate adjustments when I step out for baseball this spring.  
  6.     435643561-12 Practice
  7. Before heading to practice, I attached the original 2x extender to this lens, and was impressed with its performance as a 600mm f5.6 lens.  Fast enough for the autofocus to be useful and with enough reach to be meaningful, especially on my 7dii.  I look forward to the bird and wildlife potential of this beauty.
  8. (600 mm, f 5.6, 1/60 sec, ISO 400)
  9.   IMG_0391IMG_03911-12 JV Girls Basketball v Tyler Consolidated
  10. I also did a quick test to see what would happen on macro attempts with this beauty.  The following is the handle from a dresser drawer, shot at about 6 feet on the 300 with 50 mm extension at f8.  At 40 mm wide, it fills the frame.        
  11. 46014601300 mm macro at about 6 feet with 50 mm extension tubes
  12. The image quality from this lens is downright stunning.  Excellent resolution in the areas that are in focus and excellent separation from busy backgrounds add to the depth of visual appeal.  Although I have known that from others’ photos, experiencing it myself is a joy.

456145611-12 Practice

In short, this lens looks like it is going to be a dream to use.  Everything that I have heard about it is true!  I can't wait to put it to "real world" use!

]]> (See The Light Images) EF 300 lens review test Thu, 14 Jan 2016 02:44:42 GMT
7 D Mark II Hands On Review Picking up the camera, it feels solid, even more-so than its predecessor.  It has the “look” of the 7D, (if you can quantify that) with the GPS antenna as a bump in the flash module.  There is something more refined about the texture of the outer skin that is different.  It is more of a matte surface than the 5D Mk III, and a huge improvement over the original 7D.  The camera feels solid, and fits my hand nicely.  Opening up its card slot, it has the same feel as the 5D MkIII, with a CF and an SD slot.  It borrows the same battery compartment mechanism from the 5D MkIII, and that is a good thing.  The new LP E6N battery takes a little longer to charge, but is of the same design as its forerunner, which was used in both the 7D and 5DIII.  I am a little upset that the new battery grip is not out yet, but it will follow shortly. 

The ON/OFF switch and mode control dial is the same style as the 5DIII, though I think it is stiffer.  Turning on the camera, you are presented a simple time setting menu, which now allows for Daylight Savings time and time zone support.  Maybe now I can keep proper time on my camera!  Mine came preset to the “P” mode, making it simple for just about anyone to open the box and take a decent exposure. 

Naturally, I started to think about how I shoot, which is normally not in the “P” mode, but most often either AV or MANUAL exposure.  So, I switched the mode dial, looked through the viewfinder, and began experimenting … what I saw next is perhaps the most mundane yet most welcome addition.  Any of the changes made with the top buttons now appear in the viewfinder as well as on the top screen.  Formerly, only ISO and Exposure Bias appeared.  When changing the AF mode and type (One Shot, multi, or rapid), White Balance, or metering method, these appear as red icons on the screen.  ISO and Exposure Bias remain on the bottom where they formerly were located.  Already, each detail of the camera feels more and more professional!

By now, it is dark, and my office is lit only by a single 40 watt bulb.  Peaking out the window, I see the street light is on, and I focus across the street on the awning of my neighbor’s shop.  The FLICKER  warning appears, and I wonder how badly this is going to slow down my picture taking.  I must confess, if it did slow me down, that time was imperceptible.  At the same time, I notice the new AF symbol and  Exposure meter on the right side of the viewfinder, ala Nikon, as I am in MANUAL mode.  I despised my brother’s Nikon, and this new way of seeing the actual exposure is going to take some getting used to.  The size of the bottom display where the exposure setting information is displayed is about the same size as the previous camera, and the right side exposure information is a bit smaller.  The advantage of having both displays is that you can see where you are set AND where the exposure will land … not always the same, so this is a nice addition, but will take some adjusting to use. 

The whole back of the camera looks exactly the same as the 5DIII with the lone exception being the additional AF toggle switch added to the joystick.  This is a new feature which should add some ease of access to the functionality of the AF system.

Finally, I am ready to dive into the camera’s menu system, and I immediately feel familiar with the layout.  Even though some items have been added, the menu system is essentially the same as on the 5D Mark III.  Quickly running through the additions that stand out to me:

  • Lens Aberration Correction - (peripheral illumination, Chromatic Aberration, and Distortion correction can be applied in camera)
  • Interval Timer, Bulb Timer, and anti-Flicker shooting
  • Lens electronic MF
  • 65 selectable AF points
  • Initial AFpt() AI Servo AF
  • Auto AF pt sel EOS iTR AF
  • AF Point display during focus
  • Photobook setup
  • EYE FI settings
  • Increase # bracketed shots to 7
  • Set Shutter speed range; Set Aperture Speed Range; Continuous Shooting Speed

The advanced AF system in the 5D Mark III necessitated that every owner read the manual to figure out the capabilities of the AF system.  That system has been expanded on the 7D Mark II.  This is a professional level camera with very sophisticated controls.  It can easily be the best point and shoot camera you can currently find, but once you dig in, the treats will make even a pro sports or wildlife photographer very happy. 

With no additional tweaking, I pressed the shutter button in my dimly lit office, and the autofocus was quick to respond.  At ISO 3200, the on-screen display of the shot looks like ISO 800 of old.  That is VERY impressive!  The color depth and line resolution at ISO 5000 are very usable, and even ISO 6400 is able to be pushed two stops without too much image degradation.  On the down side, I will probably have to upgrade Lightroom in order to process RAW files. 

If you are looking for a crop factor camera that has excellent low-light performance, strong auto focus system, and more features than you will likely use, this gem will serve you well.   At $1799, it is not for beginners, though it will be a strong performer for them too.  This camera is a tool designed for sports and wildlife shooters, with benefits for anyone who does not demand full frame.  I cannot wait for my next game!


11-19-2014 EDIT:  The BG-E16 grip arrived today.  It is visibly better weather sealed, and matches the contour of the camera body better than previous grips, and the battery trays appear to be better designed.  If I were to venture a guess, I'd say that Canon got a new "hand model" for the grip.  It is bigger and heftier than its cousins, and the result is that my finger goes to the MFn button automatically rather than to the shutter release button.  It will take some getting used to.  While the grip adds all of the necessary functions, it is the first one that I have had that feels like an "add on" rather than an intentional piece to the camera. 

FIELD USE:  the auto focus system in this camera is killer!  I have never used a 1DX, so cannot make a valid comparison, but it took very little time to adjust to this system from previously using both a 5D Mark III and a 7D.  So far, I have only used the JPG files from the camera at the default setting, since DPP is a royal pain to use and Adobe has not yet released their support for the camera.  That being said, I found ISO 3200 ideal for night football -- see photo below.  (with flash.  I wish the OCC 2 supported in camera control or the 600RT)

_D2_8162_D2_816211-7 OPCHS Football v Dodridge County




]]> (See The Light Images) 7DII Sat, 01 Nov 2014 00:54:14 GMT
Editing Photos It has been quite some time since I wrote anything here because of significantly increased time demands from other things.  Today, I find myself here inspired by Matt Kloskowski's month-long project of posting a picture a day edited only using Lightroom.  Those who know me (photographically) know that I use Lightroom extensively, and as my primary post-processing tool.   I believe it to be excellent for ingesting, cataloging, developing, and displaying my images.  YMMV, but that is not the point of this post.

My point here is that there are two components to being able to "properly" develop a photograph, no matter the technology you are using.  First is the artistic vision to know what you intend the outcome to be.  Whether it is palatable to others is a completely different discussion, albeit an important one.  But the fact of the matter is that you have to have an understanding of what you would like to have your photograph  look like when you are finished manipulating it; some would say you should know this when you press the shutter button.  What "general" fixes you want to make, as well as specific details like lightening only a face or bringing out details in a distant mountain help to make your pictures stand out.    Those artistic decisions will, in turn, determine the tools you need to do the job.  I have been using Lightroom for about 95% of my work for the past five years, though Photoshop, NIK software, Paint, ProShow, Noise Ninja, Pano Tools, Photomatix, Helicon Focus, DPP, and more occasionally make it into my workflow.  Each tool has a specific task to help achieve my vision.


The other part of the formula is the technical mastery of the tools you are using.  Back in the darkroom days, we had to know chemicals, papers, timings, etc.  If you are still working with film, that technical knowledge is still required.  If you have migrated to the digital age, the tools to accomplish the job have changed, and you need to know your way around the "digital darkroom."  Just as technical knowledge is required at the time of image capture to determine shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO to make proper exposure, so it will be required when you finish working out the details in post-processing.  It is not enough to know what contrast, tonality, and coloring you desire others to see, you now have to know how to make that happen. 


Both of these skills take time to develop (pun intended!).  That means we need to practice developing photographs just as we need to practice capturing the image!  Just as most photographers will tell you that great photos do not depend on the brand of camera used to make them, so too your choice in software for post-processing.  Choices have consequences in your capabilities, but there are many products that are available these days.  Aperture, Lightroom, and Photoshop Elements are going to be the basics recommended by most people.  Choose one and learn it the same way you learned your camera.  Once you have mastered one, try something new ... the  skills you learned will transfer even if the details are a little different. 


If you want to see what is possible using only Lightroom, take a look at Matt's website and scroll through the "Lightroom Only Month." 

]]> (See The Light Images) darkroom lightroom post processing Wed, 29 Jan 2014 10:30:00 GMT
Outside the Park Where do you go for a day of landscape and nature photography?  Most of us have a handful of select favorite places that are often the same places that other like minded individuals tend toward.  Tucker County is one of my such places. 

©-2068©-2068Dolly Sods

With Canaan Valley State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge, and the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area so easily accessible, it would seem there is little need to look outside of these great photographic destinations. 

©-2547©-2547Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area

And while there are, no doubt, many opportunities to set up your tripod in these areas, there is still more to see!  Let's not forget that nearly all of Tucker County is in the Monongahela National Forest, and almost any drive is going to be scenic.  A simple venture out of the park on Freeland Road brings you quick access to the Wildlife Refuge.  A trip down Cortland Road crosses through scenic pastorals. 


©-2694©-2694Canaan Valley WMA @ Cortland Road


Simply getting out of the car and walking around a little bit will introduce you to breathtaking places.  When I explored this area, I found the "living room" to a popular campsite overlooking the Blackwater River:

©-2562©-2562Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area

Or you might choose to get up close and personal with the flora and fauna of the region.  A little stand of cotton grass and Rust Ferns absolutely fascinated me, and I spent about an hour in the bog enjoying them and the reindeer moss. 

©-2489©-2489Tucker County

But not all of your photographs are going to be found where every other photographer has trod and planted their tripod legs.  Knowing that I was short on time and needed to start towards home, I decided to take the long way, exploring WV Rt 72 to Parsons.  I highly recommend this trip and the many potential side trips that lie within. 

©-2885©-2885Tucker County - Jenningston Farm - DryFork -- (WV72 behind Canaan Valley Resort)

Here you will encounter the locals and find some great fishing and hunting camps.  These are the real people from the area who can fill you in on the details, like why the maples are turning so early this year.  The old timer that I spoke with had lived on the same farm for 86 years. 

©-2925©-2925Tucker County - Jenningston Farm - DryFork -- (WV72 behind Canaan Valley Resort)

If you dare to venture off the beaten path, you might be lucky enough to encounter some of the beauty that is West Virginia!

©-©-Canaan Valley WMA @ Cortland Road







]]> (See The Light Images) Canaan Valley Virginia WV West landscape mountains nature scenic valley Sun, 22 Sep 2013 23:37:27 GMT
Photographer of the Year Thanks to the membership of the Charleston Camera Club for voting me the Intermediate Photographer of the Year.  Getting there does not come easily, yet it has been a joy!  What was the last step to put me over the hurdle?  Learning to print my own work.  Here are the pictures that got me there:

First is Germany Valley.  I took that photo because I had recently learned that this was the place in West Virginia that my ancestors had first settled.  I went looking for this place and this photo to say welcome home.  When printed on the back side of photo paper, the ink puddles and  it comes out in a modernist painted kind  of look.  Some prefer it just the way you see it though.



Then there was the Monochrome Beauty.  I learned a very important lesson with this one:  display matters.  A 90 degree turn would have  moved it to first place.

4625-Monochrome Beauty


Sometimes serendipity rewards you.  Ernie Page had led me to these Pink Ladies Slippers in the Smokey Mountains on my birthday.  After shooting them for about a half hour, I had to get up and stretch.  When I turned around, there was a butterfly taking advantage of the pollen of this beautiful little orchid.  In itself, this tells the story of the Delicate Balance in nature that literally is the hinge of life.  Thanks be to God for camera remotes!

4116-A Delicate Balance


One of the best ways to find pictures is simply to ask.  Last summer, I decided to head east and explore the area around Richmond, Virginia.  I really did not know what was there, let alone what would be photogenic.  I stopped at a little diner that had a  great reputation and asked my waitress.  Of all the possible places to go, she recommended a cemetery.  I thought it was a little weird, but when I got there, I quickly understood why she recommended the Hollywood Cemetery.  I would also commend this place to your photographic adventures.  You can see the blog post that I did back in December on Remembering.


Almost every great photographer I know, have heard about or read will remind you that "luck favors the prepared."  That quaint saying has born itself out in my pictures as well.  When I have taken the time to do a little research, it sometimes pays off.  Such was the case when I was asked to photograph this little church in Williamsburg, WV.  What could have been just another boring picture of an old building ended up being a dramatic statement about the effectiveness of the institution and one of my personal favorites.

Darkness and LIght

Other times, it pays to just stop and look around.  Over Thanksgiving, I had taken my nephew out shooting around the Blackwater Falls area.  It was a cold, wet morning, and his first visit to the area.  While he was busy with the big water coming over the canyon wall, I looked at the intimate details.

3923-Wall Detail Blackwater Falls

Other times, you might be rewarded with more dramatic lighting effects in nature.  This tree in the Tygart River Valley is lit by the late afternoon sun as the mountain behind it falls to darkness.  Some want to see more of the detail behind the tree, but the natural lighting highlighting the tree itself is what made the scene stand out in my mind.  Sometimes, mother nature provides the best lighting to separate subject from background! 



Finally, All of the elements come together to make the picture of the year.  Being there to press the shutter made this photo worthwhile even if it never came out of the camera.  But how much more joy comes from being able to share it with you!

Meigs Falls


Now begins the journey to the next level!





]]> (See The Light Images) competition Mon, 17 Jun 2013 23:30:00 GMT
Macro World A wonderful way to explore familiar territory is to look at it up close.  I mean really close.  That takes you into the world known as Macro Photography.  Technically speaking, "Macro" (in photography) means a 1:1 or larger view.  The image is rendered it's actual size on your camera's sensor.  To get an idea of what this means:  a quarter would fill the frame of your viewfinder. 


There are some challenges inherent in this type of shooting.  When you get that tight on your subject, every movement is magnified.  A slight breeze looks like a gale force wind tossing your flower in and out of the frame.  Photographing this single Rhododendron blossom took about an hour by the time I waited for the wind to settle enough to make the picture. All of the images on this page were taken using only natural light -- only because my flash was not working that day.  You may wish to use some form of lighting to augment Mother Nature or to shoot in a studio where you can completely control the lighting and how much wind gets to affect your subject.



But this shot was not really a true macro, it was more of a "close-up."  I used a 70-200 mm lens at 200 mm with 50 mm of extension tubes at f 14 for 1.3seconds.  The extension tubes allow you to get in closer using your long lens.  It helps bring the subject in, but if you know how big a Rhododendron blossom is, you know that I did not achieve a 1:1 ratio in this image. I did, however, fill the frame with it, which was my goal.  I was able to use the hillside of the forest floor behind it to simplify the background since my polarizer would not neutralize all of the wet leaves that day.



Getting in this tight allows you to see details that you might miss on an ordinary day.  Notice how shallow the depth of field appears in this shot.  Even though I am at f11, the range of apparent sharp focus is very shallow.  At 145mm with 50 mm of extension tubes on a full frame camera body, depth of field is measured in millimeters.  Only a very narrow band will be in the area of apparent focus, allowing everything else to fade into non-subject. 

The same rules of composition apply as in any other type of photography.  You need an interesting subject placed in the frame in such a way as to hold the viewer's attention.  Contrasting colors was a compositional technique that I played with to make the fly's eyes be the subject of this photo.  At f 3.5 on a 100 mm macro lens, you can easily see the very narrow depth of field.  Only the eyes and a narrow strip o  the leaf are in focus.  Yes ... this is a fly in the wild!

The Fly's Eyes


and this is a grapevine snail that I found on the trail.  Be careful when laying down on a trail to take a picture of a snail though.  My position evoked admiration from a fellow photographer, but the concern of another citizen who thought I might be in dire need of help!  This little critter kept moving, so my shutter speed of .8 seconds at f 8 was a little long for many of the frames I clicked.  Fortunately, there were a few that were still crisp and did not show movement.  But even at f 8, notice how shallow the depth of field remains.  Of course, the lens is only about an inch away from the snail! 

Grapevine Snail



All four of these images were made at an area that I visit regularly looking for larger landscape images.  But capturing the intimate details forced me to stop and look around in a different kind of way.  I had to turn off the auto-pilot and keep my eyes open for interesting things around me. The possibilities are endless!









]]> (See The Light Images) learning lesson macro photography technique tutorial Wed, 12 Jun 2013 01:54:05 GMT
Spring at Snowshoe  

I had the good fortune of spending a few days at Snowshoe resort in Pocahontas County WV this week, and got out to make a couple photos while I was here.  All I had to do was lookout my window Tuesday morning to see the valleys below filled with fog



Later that evening, we were treated to a wonderful sunset as the clouds started moving in



Wednesday is the tradition train ride day, and several of us took the Cass excursion to Bald Knob on the open air steam locomotive powered train. 



I also managed to get away and find a little bit of nature in the mountains



I know several of my photographer friends are getting away to Canaan Valley this weekend, just in time for Nature Photography Day.  I hope you too are able to get out and enjoy some of what our beautiful natural world has to offer this weekend!  Then don't forget to enter your pictures on the Nature Photography Day page on Facebook!










]]> (See The Light Images) cass snowshoe Fri, 07 Jun 2013 13:39:20 GMT
HDR 1-2-3 West Virginia Does your camera have an HDR mode built in?  If so, here is a cool trick I discovered: 


BUT FIRST ... WHAT IS HDR?  For the uninitiated, HDR is the technique of compositing several individual photographs into one in order to record the broad range of tonalities that your eye can see, but your camera is not able to natively record.  In plain English:  We can see about 10 - 13 stops in the range of the visible light spectrum, but our camera's sensors can only record about five of those stops.  In order to record the full range of light, we can take several bracketed photos of the same subject and meld them together, compressing the tones that we have recorded into the range of tones able to be printed on paper.  There are tons of resources out there available to teach you how to "do" HDR, and several very excellent software programs like Photomatix and Nik's HDR Pro that can help you put your project together. 

Recently, camera manufacturers have been including an HDR function in the camera body that automates the process either partially or in its entirety.  This feature has made it into both point and shoot and high end cameras.  That really does help to take the guess work out of doing it yourself, though many allow you to still do any stage or the whole process manually, as well as in camera.  One annoying limitation that I am stuck with (EOS 5D Mark III) is that I "only" get three shots auto bracketed.  If I want to use more - seven for example - I have to do that manually.  Check your camera instructions to learn more about how your camera does this trick. 

Some use HDR to produce over-saturated contrasty images. other strive for  more natural appearance when blending.  The "normal" approach is to mount the camera on a tripod and shoot your bracket, whether manual or auto so that every recorded detail is crisp. 

Almost Heaven

The fun variation that I was playing with today is to hand-hold the camera, holding it steady for the first two shots, then moving it for the third.  I think this would probably work better with a camera like the D800 that allows up to seven shots.   Here is one I played with today:


Everything you see was done in camera.  The only post-processing applied in Lightroom was the crop to square.  There is still some work to be done to finish this off, but it is a cool new trick with the soft edges giving a 70's painterly effect.  It almost reminds of mom's old wallpaper!  Some things that I didn't particularly care for include the -grayed out- areas, but that would easily be fixable.  Soon, I will have to try the built-in multi-image function!



]]> (See The Light Images) Creative HDR art fun technique Thu, 06 Jun 2013 17:43:56 GMT
Nature Photography Day 9580-Peterman

Mark your calendars!  June 15th is Nature Photography day, an event promoted by the North American Nature Photographers Association that is open to everyone.  The following is copied from their website:


The eighth annual Nature Photography Day will be observed nationally on Saturday, June 15. This day was designated by NANPA to promote the enjoyment of nature photography, and to explain how images have been used to advance the cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes locally and worldwide.

In 2006, NANPA celebrated the first Nature Photography Day and placed it in McGraw-Hill's reference work, Chases's Calendar of Events. Many media and websites took notice. Since then, people throughout the North American continent--from overseas, too--have discovered numerous ways to observe and enjoy the day.

NANPA encourages people everywhere to enjoy the weekend by using a camera to explore the natural world. A backyard, park, or other place close by can be just right. Walking, hiking, and riding a bike to take photos are activities that don't lead to a carbon footprint. And fresh air can do wonders for the spirit!

Nature Photography Day Event

NANPA will be supporting Nature Photography Day by hosting a Facebook event page for your nature photos taken on June 15. Just get out there and take some photos, and then upload your best shot to the Nature Photography Day page. One photo per person, please.

You will need to have a Facebook account and you must "Attend" the Nature Photography Day Event. Facebook will accept photos up to 2048 pixels (on the long side), but these photos are downsized to 720 pixels for presentation with a link to the high-resolution version. So, unless you intend to make your high-resolution image available for public download, NANPA recommends you size your photo to 720 pixels on the long side before uploading.

This is not a contest, and no fee is charged for submission. Photos must be taken on June 15, 2013, within walking (or biking) distance of wherever you are. The time frame for uploads is June 15 through June 21.

Start making your plans for this year's Nature Photography Day! Here are some ideas:

  • Even before June 15, get inspired by reading about the work of naturalists as well as pioneers in nature photography.
  • Pick something that you've never photographed before, and then make plans to photograph that subject or scene every June 15.
  • Take your kids and grandkids on a nature trek, and show them how to photograph trees, flowers, birds, and more. Then print some of their photos and present them, in a mat or frame, to those young photographers.
  • Why not experiment? Look for something that detracts from the beauty in nature--images that show how human beings sometimes adversely affect our environment.
  • Finally, ask yourself how your images can help to bring positive changes to your world!
]]> (See The Light Images) Sat, 01 Jun 2013 20:27:23 GMT
Sports Posters It seems that just about everyone has a camera these days, and those little digital cameras make some mighty fine photographs!  They are even very capable of making excellent sports pictures ... something that not too long ago would have been thought impossible for the average parent.  Yes, today, everybody can be a professional sports photographer - at least for their own child, and especially in a sport like baseball where there is plenty of light to get the shot.  So what do you do to make something beyond ordinary? 

That, of course is the difference between the parent and the pro.  I have already posted "How To" tips for shooting baseball, basketball, and football; that is not what this article is about.  This article focuses on what to do with those photos once you have them. Sometimes a special moment will stand out, like this first collegiate touchdown.

Cody Sneed Poster

For the past couple years, I have provided a custom poster to each senior on the baseball team. 

It is a memento like none other they will receive.  Each poster is unique to the player, yet it has common elements.  My only directive from the coach was that it had to fit in an 8x10 frame.  Knowing your limitations and intent is the real key to putting together a successful poster.  Just like taking a picture, a sharp image of a fuzzy concept is not going to be successful. 

First, select the photos you want to use.  For the this one, I chose a picture from each of his four years in High School.  Each of the photos must be able to stand on its own if your poster is going to be successful -- in sports images, that usually means that action, eyes, and the ball are in the shot.  In creating these posters, sometimes I have had to limit the drama or tension in original so that focus is retained on the individual.   One of the downfalls I have seen -- and been a victim of, is to clutter the page with too many pictures. 

Drew Jones-2013

Placement of the pictures gets you into design territory.  “The basic elements of design include color, line, shape, scale, space, texture and value and these are the fundamental pieces that make up any piece of work.”  Graphic Artists go to school and specialize in things like this, but there are a few simple rules that can help anyone design like a pro:

  1. Use an odd number of photos.  Even numbers tend to make it look stagnant.
  2. Keep the viewer's eye on the page. The principle of closure sounds simple enough, but there are literally hundreds of tricks to do this, and the better you get at visual communication, the more likely you will get paid for your work!  The same compositional rules that you use for taking photographs applies to making composites ... the rule of thirds, golden mean, Fibonacci Spiral, color contrast, complementarity, etc. all developed from successful visual artists like Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Monet, Wright, and Brockmann.  
  3. One thing you do have to be careful about is consistency of exposure and color balance when you are putting multiple photos on a page.
  4. Since these are specifically action posters, make sure the action always directs inside.  ie:  don't have the player running or throwing the ball off the edge of the page!

You probably also notice that there is a background, not just a plain color that the photos sit on.  I will take pictures of abstractions of the sport throughout the season to build a library of possible backgrounds to use on poster like this. Sometimes, the background provides enough information that more text is not necessary!  In this example, the WVSSAC logo on the baseball fills in the blanks.  Likewise, the blue is close enough to the team colors to be meaningful, but different enough to allow the jersey to stand out.

Other considerations you will get into include font style and size if you are going to place text on the page.  Kent University has a good, easy to understand page for getting started with design, including typography.   Of course, you will need the software to assemble all of these elements!  Although others also allow you the flexibility and freedom to make these posters, the standard that is used by graphic artists around the world is Photoshop.   you want to learn Photoshop?  That is an endeavor that will take much longer than a blog post!






]]> (See The Light Images) design keepsake memento photoshop poster sports Thu, 30 May 2013 10:45:00 GMT
Bridges Living in a river valley means that I have bridges all around me.  Most of the time, I take them for granted.  As a matter of fact, I drive across them every day!  Yet, if I step back and take the time to actually look, these structures of wood and steel can provide some interesting material photographically. 


One of the bridges in my neighborhood just happens to be a very significant tourist attraction.  I guess that happens when you are surrounded by natural beauty.  The New River Gorge Bridge, near Fayetteville, WV forever changed the face of the local economy and made travel through southern West Virginia much easier -- some would even say possible.  Today, thousands of vehicles cross that bridge everyday, and most of their drivers think nothing of it even though it is the longest single span arch bridge in the western hemisphere. 


New River Gorge Bridge

There are a few people who will venture into the gorge below now-a-days that the journey is not required.  Most travel by tourist bus to and from their rafting site, though some who cannot or will not take the plunge purposefully experience the 40 minute drive that used to be the norm in order to cross the river.  Either way, those adventurous souls get to see the bridge from a different angle. 

West Virginia

Now that I am not able to take the whitewater adventure trip, I really wish I had my camera with me way back in 1980 when I first experienced the view from the river.  It was the most perfect optical illusion I have ever seen.  For the above photo, I am standing on the old bridge about a half mile upstream from the Gorge bridge.  The first time I saw this sight, I was finishing up my first whitewater adventure, and the illusion that the smaller bridge was directly underneath the large bridge persisted until we were literally underneath of it.  That was perhaps the beginning of my learning to see.


If we choose to, we can view common everyday objects from a different vantage point.  Take the next photo for example.  It is an interstate bridge that I have traveled quite frequently. It is functional; it gets me across the river without getting wet, and many might be content to see and experience it in that way.  But if you look for beauty, even in the functional things around us, it is likely that you might just find it!

Kanawha River - Haddad Park


But living in southern West Virginia means that there are streams that must be crossed all over the place.  Not all of the bridges that we have are meant for vehicle traffic!


West Virginia


Though I had been in the neighborhood several times, I recently discovered this beauty in the middle of the forest thanks to a tip from a friend and fellow photographer.  Ironically, one part of learning to see is learning to listen!  She told me how to get there, and so I ventured further than I had previously gone and was greatly rewarded.


West Virginia


On that same day, I continued playing with my newfound fascination with bridges.  And on the way home stopped at an old familiar site.  Railroads were central to the economic development of the area in the 1800's through the modern day, as that is the best / easiest / most cost effective way to transport the coal out of the region. 

West Virginia


But, as I said previously, there is beauty hidden within, if we only open our eyes to see.  Here, I used a fisheye lens to present this standard subject in an exciting way.  It tells an especially important tale of how long the history is with these bridges, how difficult a task it could be to traverse the rivers underneath, and the challenge of moving through the mountainous terrain.  Yes, bridges are a crowning necessity in southern West Virginia!  They have carried us forward for many years.


West Virginia

The old train depot at Gauley Bridge is a fine example of the past leading into the present.  As we see the grass growing through the little used section of tracks, we begin to visually understand how a once thriving industry and economy has all but abandoned the present. 


West Virginia


As the steel rusts, and the grass grows taller, we are reminded of the strength of the people who have gone before us, and the robust mining economy that once existed in these parts.  If we have eyes to see it, we also can experience the vision of a bright future, one that lies just beyond the bend of the old tracks that have brought us this far. 


But I speak of pictures of course! 





]]> (See The Light Images) HDR appalachia bridges coal economy hope railroad river train vision water Fri, 17 May 2013 13:34:47 GMT
My Camera is on the kitchen table I ran out the door quicker than I should have, and as I was driving down the road to hear Lewis Kemper speak, it suddenly occurred to me:  "My camera is on the kitchen table."  That thought would come back to haunt me.  I had meant to grab it on the way out, but sometimes these things happen.  I got delayed leaving home, and still had at least three visits to make before the 4 p.m. talk.  Mr. Kemper gave a nice talk on how his career unfolded along with a nice showing of some of his work.  Then at the end of his talk, he unexpectedly issued an invitation to all present to join him for an evening shoot at the state capital. 

I don't know about you, but its not every day that I get to work alongside a world class photographer.  Even though I didn't have a camera, I reasoned I could just tag along and watch him work.  After all, just to see what he does, how his mind composes a photograph would be an inspiration.  That it was.  A Q&A with him and looking at the LCD on his camera was very revealing.  I might add that it also was very re-assuring!  Given the same common location and situation, he and I composed the frame very similarly. 


When I asked this much-published nature photographer what he did when confronted with common scenes such as the state capital building, he said "I just try something most people wouldn't do.  I used a 17mm Tilt-Shift lens" to get both the dome and the bell on the same plane of focus.  While framed nearly the same as most people who visit the capital, his shot was certainly distinct. 


At the reception, I must have looked dejected when I told a fellow club member that I had left my camera on the kitchen table.  "No problem!" she replied, "you can use one of mine."  My day was brightening up!  Then she listed off what she had available, and one particular camera piqued my interest.  "I'll take the converted 20 D" I told her.  I had been wanting to try IR photography for several years, and this was my shot!  I shot the evening with an IR camera and a kit lens.  I had forgotten how difficult a 20 D could be.  The screen is small and AF slow, but it was a joy to use.  The best camera to use is the one in your hands! 

I have wanted to try Infrared Photography for some time.  The way it renders black and whites is distinctive, and the leaves and spring flowers on the trees at the capital would really set things off. 

Sunset on the Capital

Except the flowers had not yet bloomed, and the trees were not covered in leaves.  That turned out to be a good thing for this shot!  Learning to see the world in IR was what this night had become for me.  One of the things I learned was that you really don't need a speedlight, a flashlight works wonders!  and if you can paint with it, even better

West Virginia



Later, on the UC side of the river, he and I saw the same thing at literally the same moment .... the only difference was that he had the lens to capture that moment with him.


West Virginia


My initial experiments with IR photography have really sparked an interest.  I think I am going to have to save up for one of these!



]]> (See The Light Images) IR attitude infrared learning photography Sat, 11 May 2013 14:54:45 GMT
Meeting a Master I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Vincent van Gogh's Stairway at Auvers.  It was an amazing experience!  Here I was standing in the busy Saint Louis Art Museum with hundreds of people passing me by, yet there was an intimacy with that work. The technical mastery of composing an image on canvas and communicating the calmness of the ladies contrasted so sharply with the frenzied cacophony of pain within the artist that I could not help but to be moved with his work.  And so I stood there.  And stood there.  And stood there. 

van Gogh

How could this collection of paint on a piece of canvas hold my attention for so long?  How could it communicate as much about the artist as it did his subjects?  The longer I stood, the deeper the connection grew and the more questions I had.  But these are not the kinds of questions you would ask, or get answers to, in art class.  These are the kinds of questions that arise the further you engage art -- whether it is your own creation or that of someone else. 


In this encounter, much as those I have had with other Masters, I got to meet a man who died nearly a century before I saw his painting.  Visiting museums and traveling to different places, I have met many of these famous artists, and whether their work is a display of the glory of God or of the terror of living, I have been educated in each of these encounters.  Their art has the ability to draw me deeper into the subject they portray and deeper into myself.  I recall the first Michelangelo statue that I saw, The Pieta (Mary holding the dying Jesus).  Even though I was separated from it by 10 feet, I felt the intimate connection to the story he was telling as well as his own personal devotion and faith.  A little later, I saw a statue of St Paul carrying his cross, and it held my interest in the same way.  Michelangelo knew how to connect with the viewer's emotion as well as his intellect. 

St Peter_3036-Christ-with-cross

The contrast that I want to note is that there was another statue, very well done, across the sanctuary from Michelangelo's.  It did not have the same kind of compelling quality that the Michelangelo did.  It was very well done, but it just didn't have that intangible connection.  The same thing happened with the paintings in the room next to Monet and van Gogh.  I could easily walk away from a lesser artist.  But each of the Masters hold my attention.  They have something to say.  (Whether I want to listen is an altogether different question!)


As I reflect on these encounters, I am beginning to understand my craft of photography a little more deeply as well.  By having the opportunity to engage world class art first hand, we get an education in what the good stuff is really like.  I am able to see  first hand that real art is indeed a form of communication involving not just mastery of technique and showing the subject matter, but also the artist and the viewer, and all three points of contact are essential.

As I was standing in front of that van Gogh, I had to wonder whether the artist meant for himself to be so prevalent in his painting.  And as I ask that question, I am forced to consider how I have inserted myself into my photographs.  Just as van Gogh's thick paint, bright colors, and squiggly lines made himself present in the ladies' quiet walk on a peaceful street, a trained eye can also find traces of the artist in the photographs he takes. 





]]> (See The Light Images) Master art artist communication inspiration photography Sat, 20 Apr 2013 01:13:40 GMT
Primary Issues in Image Sharpness Darkness and LIght

(EOS 7D, 17-40 @ 24mm, f8, 1/600, ISO 400, 5:36 pm)

There is an old saying …. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. That truism holds for photography as well. In order to make a good finished product, you have to start with a quality image. When we are talking about image sharpness, photographers are specifically talking about the definition of edges. Critical parts of the image will be razor sharp … that is, you can easily tell the difference between this and that.

Image sharpness starts even before you press the button on your camera. As Ansel Adams was fond of saying, “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” The essence of photography is being able to communicate a specific moment to those who are not present, or to interpret it for those who are there.  Entire lifetimes can be spent in pursuit of the one perfect image, and many of us have a difficult time translating our vision into a photographic print.  But this article is not about photographic vision, it is about making certain that what we do capture is decent enough to display.

Once you have the concept, exposure, and the composition of your image figured out, there still remain the technical aspects of making a sharp image. These begin even before the shutter is released. Here are some things that can help improve image sharpness:


  • Use a sturdy tripod. The sharpest images are captured when the camera is not moving.  Even the slightest movements of your body are exaggerated by the camera, therefore, we use a tripod to be a steady platform for the camera. If you cannot use a tripod, get as much support as possible to steady the camera. If it is windy outside, use your camera bag as a weight to keep the tripod from moving.
  • You might try using the “mirror lock-up” function on your camera so that the shutter does not introduce movement to the camera.
  • Using a cable release gets your hands off of the camera and reduces the amount of camera shake introduced by pressing the shutter release button. If you do not have a remote control or cable release, try the self-timer.
  • Use as low an ISO as possible.  While higher ISO's are much improved in today's cameras, they still do not resolve as much detail as the base ISO of your camera.
  • Having the proper shutter speed and aperture are part of the formula.
    • The aperture will give you sufficient depth of field so that everything that is supposed to be so will appear in focus.  Or, an out of focus background will help the primary element in your photo stand out.
    • Shutter speed should be at least 1 / focal length, especially if you are not using a tripod, to eliminate blur that can be introduced by lens movement. For macro and super-telephoto lenses, double that speed until you have mastered your technique.

Once you have done everything right and captured a “tack-sharp” image on film (or your memory card these days!), you are well on your way to getting a sharp print. If you have not succeeded in doing that, the rest of this discussion will not really help you a whole lot. There is only so much that can be done to salvage an image that was not properly made.  In other words, the best thing that you can do to ensure a sharp image is to brush up on your field techniques!

West Virginia



The remainder of this discussion is about what to do in the digital darkroom (your computer) once you have properly captured an image. There are equivalent techniques used for film, and that is where these tools and techniques were originally developed, but most people are shooting digital these days.  Most who are shooting Fine Art images shoot in the RAW format so that they can tweak every last bit of information out of the data their camera has captured, and by its very nature, a RAW image needs to have sharpening applied.  It can be argued that it is not needed if you shoot jpg, because the camera has already applied sharpening to your image, but even there, some tweaking is often needed.

What is sharpening and what does it do?  In a nutshell, sharpening enhances the edge contrast to make these edges better define the subject of a photograph.  It makes the differences between tones slightly more distinct so that the line is better defined and appears more dimensional.  Sharpening cannot fix poor focus or camera shake problems, it is limited by the data you present.  Good sharpening, properly done, is said to be invisible.  It simply counteracts the effects of processing pixels to make the edges as distinct as they are supposed to be.  Sound vague?  It probably should.  Until you have seen properly sharpened images, you are likely to think the soft ones you have printed are just fine.  Once you make the adjustment yourself, you very quickly begin to notice the difference.

There are several methods to choose from when sharpening your images, and like most things in photography, the choice is yours. A simple Google search for “image sharpening” returns over 11 million hits.  You can choose to use only the most basic sharpening that is applied automatically, or you can tweak every last detail. It is a very simple fact that the larger you print, the greater the need becomes for custom sharpening to be applied.  Sharpening is not VooDoo Magic, but it does require some study and practice to perfect.

Bruce Frasier and Jeff Schewe ( are the acknowledged experts when it comes to image sharpening, and Frazier’s book, “Real World Image Sharpening” is still the textbook of choice for digital image sharpening. Without going into detail, (you can read Frazier's book) the principles that he uses are the basis for the sharpening algorithms that are found in several software packages, most notably Pixel Genius’ PhotoKit Sharpener, NIK software’s Sharpener Pro, and all of Adobe’s products (Lightroom, Photoshop, and Elements). No matter which package you ultimately decide to use, it will take practice to perfect your post-processing technique. This includes noise reduction and image sharpening.  A good website tutorial on sharpening can be found at  (check out their full range of tutorials!)

A sharpening workflow includes:

  1. RAW Pre-sharpening and Noise Reduction
  2. Content specific or creative sharpening
  3. Print Sharpening



There are dozens of software packages available to accomplish these tasks, and even the free ones available online offer at least basic functionality. I am not going to argue about which is best, or even appropriate for you. Use the tools you find most comfortable. I am most familiar with Lightroom, which uses Adobe’s Camera RAW engine. In Lightroom, there are several places you can adjust sharpening that correspond to Frazier’s 3 step sharpening theory (I believe Aperture and most others do similar things):

  • Clarity Slider & Details tab. These are global adjustments to the whole image that control local contrast, sharpness, and noise reduction. The Lens Corrections tab also has bearing, as Chromatic Aberrations can also affect image quality.
  • The touch up tools such as the adjustment brush and the graduated filter are for “Content Sharpening.”
  • Print dialogue automatically calculates final sharpening for output type and size

Although Lightroom and Aperture produce “good” results, finicky users are always going to end up wanting more from their images.  Photoshop allows you to use your personally preferred method for both noise reduction and sharpening. You can use one of Photoshop’s built in sharpening methods, write your own action, or buy a plug-in. The built-in methods are adequate, but not excellent. Actions are much faster in the long run, but most still need customized. Plug-ins are specialty tools that have been developed for this function and usually work exceptionally well. I use all of the above, but for everyday use, I find the level of control in Lightroom to be adequate. Only as I print larger Fine Art prints do I need to use the custom tools, layers, and masks that Photoshop provides. Your mileage may vary.

  • Photoshop & Elements.  Filter>Tools>Sharpen (or Noise for Noise reduction).  The tools here have improved dramatically with each new version of Photoshop, and there are many ways to achieve proper sharpening using them.  If you do not have a third party plug-in, you can still get excellent results by learning to properly use what is here.  The Unsharp Mask tool is the preferred choice for sharpening, and you must be very careful with the noise reduction tools, as they will all soften your image.  Even Gimp has a version of this built in, so you really do not need to spend a lot of money to get what you need!
  • Photoshop Actions.  Actions are the way to go for repeated tasks and can make image sharpening much simpler.  There are sharpening actions you can buy, or you can write your own.  I have actions for Capture Sharpening, High Pass, High, Medium, and Low frequency detail sharpening, and Mid-Tone contrast enhancement.  One size does not fit all, and even when using actions, I have to tweak the results.
  • Plug-ins and Stand-Alone software.  These guys specialize in image sharpening and noise reduction, which by now you have figured out is not an easy thing.  There are several excellent titles available for controlling noise and sharpening your image, and most are available for a trial download, so try out a few before you buy so that you get something that is both comfortable to use in your workflow and produces results that you like.

If you are going to spend the money on tools like Photoshop, NIK Software’s Sharpener Pro, PhotoKit SharpenerPhoto Ninja (formerly Noise Ninja), Neat Image, Topaz, etc, know that you are going to have a learning curve and make sure that you are going to get your money’s worth. Work with your tools and try various methods to find out what works best. There is no single tool or method that is exclusively able to produce excellent output, it is the operator who does that! All of the above (and more!) are tools to help you achieve the best possible print from your image. 


  1. Knowing what a properly sharpened image looks like takes a lot of looking. Study the photographs of photographers you respect. Sorry, but online viewing is not particularly helpful in this regard, you need the real deal. Pay particular attention to the details, and what the in-focus part of the picture looks like. Do yourself a favor and also look at poorly sharpened images so that you know what they look like too. 
  2. Apply the correct amount of noise reduction and sharpening. Too much noise reduction, and your crisp image goes soft, too much sharpening and it has ugly halos or gets crunchy.
  3. Use the tools you’ve got. Before investing in expensive software or falling for every advertisement that crosses your screen, learn to use the tools you already have. Most of the time, with a little research you can learn the tricks to do the same things. One of the fundamental rules of photography is to learn to use the tools in front of you before moving on.
  4. Read and study. These are not easy topics, and most of us would rather be shooting, but some homework is necessary. For example, different sharpening is needed for different sized prints, different papers, and different printing processes. This can be a VERY in-depth study.  You might also find that different sharpening approaches work better for specific applications. 
  5. Looking at your images on your monitor is not the same as looking at prints. You will learn to judge what level of on-screen sharpening works best in print by trial and error, comparing your print to the on-screen version. 

Happy Shooting!



]]> (See The Light Images) noise photoshop reduction sharpening sharpness tutorial Thu, 21 Mar 2013 10:30:00 GMT
Baseball is here! By the time the basketball tournaments were underway, folks were asking me about baseball and softball! Sorry I haven't had time to post anything until now.

The "rules" for shooting baseball are the same as for any other sport: combine action, emotion, composition, and light. Rarely do all of these come together in front of your camera though, so try for as many as you can. But the very first consideration is always safety.

SAFETY: Baseballs can be deadly.  They hurt and leave bruises on your thighs and give concussions or worse when they hit your head.  Bats do break, and pieces go flying.  Make sure that you are out of bounds at all times, and be extra careful the closer to home plate that you are. Safety netting will slow the ball down, but will not be of much protection to you or your lens if you are pressed up against it and the ball comes your way. If you get access to the photo wells at Stadiums, be extra careful, as balls do come your way ... usually at 90 mph or faster. One of the best tools for self-protection is to use the dugout as a barrier between me and the ball; I literally hide behind it and use it as a shooting blind! NEVER go inside a dugout without permission. Falsh photography is prohibited, as it can blind the fielders and endanger them.  If you are using remotes, they cannot protrude onto the playing area, even if mounted out of bounds.

ACTION: Fortunately, baseball is predictable as to where things are going to happen. Let's look at some of the specifics:

  • We know that the pitcher is going to throw the ball every time; we even know the direction he is going to throw it! Think about the particular view that you want of the pitcher though. My personal favorites are head on shots taken from behind the catcher. But you have to think of safety too: AT ALL TIMES, YOU MUST STAY OUT OF BOUNDS, Not just off the playing surface. If you are not sure about where that line is, ask me, a coach, or an umpire. Generally speaking, if you want to have access that is beyond where the other fans are able to go, you need permission from the umpire and coach at all levels of play. At tournament time, you'll need a press pass.  Since you need to be so far away, that means that you will need a "long" lens most of the time.  Yes, I have, and can shoot baseball with a wide angle, but if you are going to isolate a player or action, you need something like a 100-400, or a 300 2.8 or longer. For softball and Little League, you can get away with a 70-200.


  • Most of the time, batters are trying to get to first base. That gives you an excellent action opportunity to catch your favorite player running the bases. Try framing the kids running to first base vertically since most of them are taller than they are wide. The bonus here is that you can shoot them hitting, running, and sometimes sliding from the same location ... just behind first base! This position also gives a pretty decent view of the short-stop fielding the ball and throwing to first, and the second baseman tagging the runner.  Be careful though, there are a couple angles where you might be in the line of a wild pitch to the first baseman!


                                                    (sorry I cheated ... this one is running to third base on a base-hit!)

  • Once you get to know a team, you have a pretty good idea of who is going to do what. As a photographer, you have to somewhat think as a coach does, knowing where everyone is and anticipating thier next move. That is particularly important if you are trying to get the shot of a player sliding into third, for example. When will they steal the base? When will they dive back to safety? When will the pitcher check a runner?  Who is likely to hit to the left fielder?  Knowing all of these things will help you learn where to be in order to get your shot.


  • Generally speaking, the positions for shooting are:
    1. Unobstructed access points. It is always better if you do not have to shoot through something!  Fences and netting do soften your image.  That being said, if you have a fast lens and are focusing further away, you can shoot through the fence and not have too much of a problem.
    2. First Base, Third Base, Home Plate. Knowing when to be at each of those locations is the trick!
    3. In softball, remember that the field is shorter, and thus the play is faster even though the pitches are slower.
    4. You might try something from the outfield, but unless you have an 800mm lens, you are only able to shoot the outfielders, and for them, I usually try to be somewhere along the foul line beyond the infield so you can still see thier face.  If you do have that 800, you already know how to use it, and will get a more awesome batter shot than I ever will!


EMOTION: shots of players celebrating after a big play are always winners. Shots of emotion after losing can be extremely compelling, but be careful about sharing those. To add drama to ordinary pictures, get up or down. Getting a different angle is a simple trick to add mood. You add the feeling of power and strength by laying on the ground to shoot the slide into third base, for example.

Valley Baseball

COMPOSITION: All of the rules of composition still apply, and your shots will be more compelling if you are able to add compositional elements.

  • The easiest to apply is the rule of thirds ... simply wait for action to happen at the intersection of one of the power points in your viewfinder! Yes, that means that you are not always chasing the action, but rather setting up and waiting for it. Know what you want to capture. You will have far fewer frames to review at the end of the day, but what you do have will be much better shots.
  • Of course, the rules say that you have to have the eyes in focus, and ideally, you have peak action that includes the ball!


Here, the opponent's eyes are in the shot, and the runner's eyes are implied.  Peak action and the ball make up for not having the runner's eyes.  The conflict of the moment is great because the call has not yet been made.  If you already know safe or out, the shot is too late!

  • Remove distracting elements. Many ways to do that! Use a fast lens, get low to the ground, shoot from above, change your camera position.
  • make sure the players have room to move in the frame.


LIGHT:  As photographers, we already know what light can do for an image; the word photography translated literally means "light writing."  Yet, most of our pictures fail to consider, let alone capture this essential dimension.  But when we do .... the results can be stunning!  One of the things to consider with Baseball is how to best take advantage of the light that you are given on the day the game is being played.  Is it bright overcast?  Is it hard mid-day light?  Is it directional light?  Can you be where you need to be to take the greatest advantage of that light?  You might be treated to a sunset colored sky with stadium lights and a field full of activity or you might be given beautiful Rembrandt portrait lighting or you might get bright overcast. Use what lighting you have to your best advantage, because once the stadium lights come on, you are done unless you are at a major league field.



Finally, especially with younger kids, you might want to look for something other than the planned on field action.  They can provide you with much entertainment whether they are playing the game or just being kids!







]]> (See The Light Images) baseball photography sports tutorial Thu, 14 Mar 2013 03:30:12 GMT
Image Review How good are your pictures?  I was going through my collection of pictures from the last few years, and learned alot in the process.  Taking the time to seriously review your images allows you the opportunity to see if you are as good as you thought you were.  I am not.  The more that I learn about photography and art, the more I realize that I really have a long way to go.  In eight years worth of photos, I have racked up a grand total of 11 pictures that I like.  Granted, this only counts the travel / landscape / fine art genre, and I primarily have been shooting sports for the past five years, but still .... eleven?

According to one pro that I talked to a few years back, that is probably a pretty good average.  He said that if he got one excellent photo a year, he was happy.  The thing is, my one may not even rate in this guy's portfolio!  My eleven photgraphs come from a collection of almost 28,000 images taken over the past eight years.  As I reviewed them, any number of reasons kept me from rating images higher than I did.  Some were soft, others were not properly exposed or out of focus.  Some were just plain boring.  I found myself knocking some of the ones I rated a few years ago down a notch or two.  I even deleted some that were marked as keepers because I would be embarrassed to have anyone find them in my collection!   Truth be told, I should probably delete about 25,000 more.  I'd still have plenty of memories remaining, and the albums would be far easier to look through. 

One of the things that I realized was that it took me four years of shooting before I was really able to go out and find an image on my own.  (This is with no formal training.  I suspect that those who go to school for these things might catch on a little quicker!)  That's right, in the first four years, I have exactly one image that I rated a 3 or better that was taken on my own.  I have three others in that same time span that were taken while out with others.  Lesson here:  I do better when playing with others!  You might too.  There is great value in workshops and camera club outings in that they challenge you to stretch your limits.  Do that while your passion is still young and burning, and you will have a great head start.

By the way, my favorite image from that time was taken in Kingston, Jamaica on a Mission trip.  Technically, not perfect, but it is expressive.  We were at a small school on the wrong side of the tracks in third world conditions, and at lunch time, the kids from this poverty stricken area enjoyed playing with the big college guys.  Matt just was not sure what to make of all the chaos, but the girls loved him, and getting their pictures taken.  (ISO 3200, f5.0, 1/80th)

Calaloo School

Lesson two:  ALL of the pictures I have ever taken needed me to learn more.  Even looking at the ones I like, I am confronted with those nagging thoughts about what I could have or should have done differently.  To be at a location at a different time, to use a flash, to move the camera three inches to the left .... the list goes on.  Yet rarely was I limited by the gear I carried.  Yes, even back when I had a lowly 8 megapixel camera with a mid-level lens, it was not the gear that I posessed, but the knowledge and skill that I lacked that limited me.  Same can be said today.  .... so it really is not the gear that makes the photographer.

Here is an example: 

July 16 Tuolmne Meadows IMG_4417


If you look closely, you can see that there really is not much detail in the trees and bushes on the far side of the lake.  I chalk that up to camera shake (I didn't lock the mirror up for the 1/10 second exposure on my 20D) plus the wind rushing across the mountain top kept the leaves moving.   This was three days in to Michael Frye's "Hidden Yosemite" workshop back in July 2005, and I was proud of myself for getting the exposure correct!   

To this day, water is one of my favorite things to photograph.  It inspires me in all of its forms.  Here it is even in this NYC skyline photo. 

City at Night

and again in this intimate photo of violets taken in the Cranberry Glades

West Virginia

To be a nature and landscape photographer requires that you make time to be out in all kinds of weather, sometimes even when people far wiser than us stay home or take shelter.   That is when you can capture the best mood and drama.  Being able to express that mood, what captured your emotions, the reason for triggering the shutter in the first place is what makes for excellent photographs.  The rest is simply the technical expertise that allows us to do so. 

Whether we are shooting people, places, or things, three things coming together at the time of making the image is what will transform it from an ordinary snapshot into a photo that evokes a response in others.  Those three elements:

  1. Strong design.
  2. Expressive moment.
  3. Great light.

Williamsburg, WV churchDarkness and LIght


Low lying fog would have knocked this image out of the ballpark, but even without it, you get a strong sense of conflict with the ominous storm clouds in strong contrast to the brightly lit church.    It is a landscape scene that sets the stage for the battle between the forces of light and dark, aka:  good and evil.  Any other time and this would have been just another quaint country church. 

Now that I have the basics under control, its time to get the creative juices flowing.  My prayer is that when I revisit this task in three, five, or ten years, I will have a whole lot more than 11 images that I like from that time frame.  My guess is that I will.   :) 


]]> (See The Light Images) light Mon, 18 Feb 2013 03:41:00 GMT
Basketball Lights Explained --- UPDATED 2-2-13 Almost anyone who has ever tried to photograph basketball at anything below NCAA Division I levels has struggled with low light conditions that are inherent to high school gymnasiums.  Yes, they are bright enough to play the game and for spectators to watch, but our camera sensor (or film) is not quite as sensitive as our eyes.   I will admit that the newest Pro level cameras do a pretty excellent job, but still not quite there.

ISO 3200, 2.8, 1/400 on a 30 D


That is where sports strobes come in.  Those who have watched me develop as a sports photographer over the past few years have seen me use any number of different setups to augment the light at the venues I regularly shoot.  Each of these has brought varying degrees of success, and today I use whatever I think is going to produce the best result in the location I am shooting.  


The first attempt to provide additional light to the caves called high school basketball courts came in the form of speedlites attached to the camera.  Of course that worked.  It also gave a very definite look.  The suject was bright, sometimes too bright, and there were the occssional weird shadows and persistent problem of red-eyes which meant more time spent after the game at the computer.   Not so much a good idea.  Besides, flash photography is not permitted on the baselines in the NCAA.  Even where it is permitted, I try to avoid it so that players and coaches cannot blame me when they miss their shots.

(This shot is actually more recent, at a D-II game where the lights were almost non-existent.  I used on-camera flash away from the baseline, and you can see the ugly effect it leaves.  If I can, I now prefer to avoid this light.  --- ISO 6400, 2.8, 1/500, 5D III) 


They say the devil is in the details. The detail here is that in order for flash photography to be effective in stopping action without ghosting, you need to be 2 1/2 stops above ambient. With on camera flash, your shutter speed cannot be fast enough to stop the action becuase your camera's sync speed is at most 1/250 of a second, and you rely on the fast duration of the flash to stop the action. Unfortunately, that often leaves the background falling into darkness and un-natural sahdows in order to achieve that 2 1/2 - 3 stop difference.  The alternative is to use the HSS mode to turn your flash into a fill flash at any shutter speed.  That works very nicely, especially in making colors consistent, but you have to use a faster shutter speed (1/640) to stop the action and a flash that will cooperate with you.  Notice in this shot how there is still motion blur in the fingers at 1/500 and softness because I am at ISO 3200, but the ugly shadow is gone.

ISO 3200, F4.0, 1/500, fill flash, 7D


So I got the speedlights off camera with a radio trigger.  Essentially, that is what I have been doing ever since, with variations in lights used and their placement.  Due to limitations of the gym, I used to only be able to hang lights on the side that the spectators were on, and even at that, not always able to get them out of the way where I wanted them.  That always resulted in harsh lighting that came from one side.  In this shot, I am using two Canon 580's mounted at the same location, one pointed to the top of the key, the other aimed high at the wall to reflect some light.  Lots of problems with the image, AF didn't have enough light to work properly, and so it was often slow.  At ISO 1250, only the part lit by the flash is really legible.  The rest has lots of noise because it was brought up in Lightroom.  I just prayed that nobody would really look close to see how poor the shot was!


Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.  Pronounced shadows were a fact of life, and I was never really satisfied.  When I started using sport strobes, I had the power to light the whole gym by bouncing the light off of the ceiling.  That helped reduce the harshness, but I was still limited in what and where I could shoot using that light because of mounting locations.   For example, I usually was not able to get good cheerleaeder shots because they were on the side with the harsh lighting.  When I did shoot them, they were usually nuked. 

(ISO 400, 4.5, 1/250, 7D  --- The sports strobes allowed me to bounce the light, but only from one side of the gym, leaving ugly shadows)



Next, I found a way to hang lights on opposite corners, and that made a huge difference.   I started shooting with two high powered sport strobes on opposite corners of the gym.  The lights are pointed at the ceiling at the top of the key, one with an 8 inch reflector, the other with a deep 11 inch reflector.  I started using the 11" deep reflector so as to avoid the flare of that light in my lens when shooting towards it.  The 8 inch allows me to have some hard light hitting the players while still reflecting light off of both the ceiling and the wall.  The end result is light that sculpts out detail without being overly harsh.  Having light on the far side means that colors are all vibrant and I no longer have a dark background.  It also means I have a backlight to give separation to my subjects.  Still have to be careful about shooting into the light, but it can give some unexpected character and added drama. 

ISO 200, f4, 1/200, strobes on opposite corners



Finally, I managed to get balanced lights by attaching to the conduit on the wall and bouncing off the ceiling to give good, even light to the near side of the court, and usable light to about 3/4 court.  Only downside is that I have to hurry up and move the lights at half time and between games.  That does get to be a bit of a pain, but the light is just soooooo sweet! 



That is the story of lighting one particular gymnasium.  Another gym presents very different requirements.  This shot is using the strobes mounted near the ceiling aimed at the top of the key on the opposite end of the court from where it was taken.  Daytime window light added the backlight I needed.  I upped my ISO from 200 to 500 to shoot down court.   (ISO 500, 2.8, 1/250, 7D)


Every gym that I have tried lighting has a unique solution, and I often try different setups.  Each has particular strengths and weaknesses photographically just as they do for the players on the courts.  Thanks to having another photographer around who knows how to use sports strobes, I no longer take any location for granted, even one that I regularly shoot.  My job is to See The Light, where it is, where it is not, where it can be and what it will do.  When I am successful in doing that, I am able to capture the action in front of my lens and hopefully make images that are memorable.


]]> (See The Light Images) basketball light sports Mon, 28 Jan 2013 12:15:00 GMT
Division II Basketball Out here in small town USA, I Am usually shooting single A high school or NAIA sports venues.  These do not have the lighting standards that NCAA D-I or NBA level courts have.  That goes without saying!  Over the years, I have developed my coping mechanisms to deal with that, and consider myself very much at home under less than ideal conditions trying to capture peak action.  Tonight, I was dealt a whole new deck of cards!

That's right, I got to shoot a game for my alma mater, a Div II school, and the venue was the University of Charleston, another Div II school.  Now, I am not going to say it was dark in there, but the referees were using flashlights.  I have been in community Rec centers that were better lit than that place!  I never thought I would say this, but the lighting in most of the WV single A high schools is better that what I had tonight, and the WVU Tech gym is light years ahead of UC.  (I can't wait to shoot at the state basketball tournament again!)  The light on the floor was uneven, to the extent that it was usable at one end of the court, but almost non-existent at the other. 

I didn't bring my lights tonight, only one speedlight, which I (gasp!) mounted on camera and used about half the time.  The gym posed more problems than usual for me, but I still managed to come out with a couple decent shots.  Thank God for the newer cameras that have managable noise levels even above ISO 6400.  I had to shoot ISO 16,000, 2.8, 1/500 to get a reasonable exposure.  The few lights in the gym cycled badly, so that meant touching up white balance on every single shot when I got home .... Oh, and that ISO 16,000 ... that means 30 MB file size for each shot.  At least there was enough data to be able to use for developing. 

Perhaps the most amazing thing was that the auto focus worked!  Yes, even though there was barely enough light to read a book, the AF system on the 5 D Mark III was able to work.  I can't say that it kept up, since I ended up deleting at least as many I as were in focus.  Yes, it was slower than normal, but it still worked!   That thrills me for the possibilities next year when football season rolls around and I am shooting in those kinds off conditions again. 


]]> (See The Light Images) Fri, 25 Jan 2013 11:15:00 GMT
Getting Organized ©-7376 How many pictures have you accumulated over the years?  How do you keep track of them all? 

These are actually important considerations at the very beginning of my workflow.  In the digital age, it is possible to keep every photo you have taken.  The price of hard drives is now relatively cheap, so the cost of storage is not going to hold you back.  The last few days, I have been without a voice, so I took advantage of the time to clean out my archives and get everything properly organized.  Looking back, I even learned a few things about my photo habits.   Since its all fresh in my mind, I thought I'd share with you. 

First off, I have to admit that I have not always used my current organizational system.  I had read the wisdom of others long ago, and through time have gradually accpeted many of thier recommendations.  Digital Asset Management is not a new topic, and really should be an automatic part of the workflow for any photographer, and it all begins as you import your photos onto your computer.  Hpw you name them and where you store them matters.  Keep in mind here that I am not talking about photo sharing or display, but rather the way to keep track of those pictures that you really want to be able to find when you forgot where you put them. 

There are two parts to my archival workflow:  the physical placement of files and the cataloguing of those files.  Each supporrts the other.  One trick that I have adopted is to use the date in my nested folder structure.  Some photographers use this date code on each picture.  A personal caveat:  I maintain a completely separate physical directory structure for sports images, but it follows the same principles.  Here is how it works, regardless of image type: 


    -  [MMDD-place or Event] ---  image ####.

    -  [MMDD-place or Event] --- image ####.

file structure

If you are simply storing JPG images, they are easily visible in the folders, but if you store your RAW filies, you may not be able to easily see the picture just flipping through your drive.  Besides, if you have an extensive collection, or have retained multiple versions of a particular picture, looking at a collection of jpgs may not be enough for you to easily find what you are looking for.  Especially when you have thousands of images.  That is where my use of Lightroom comes in handy.

Sure, Lightroom is a RAW image processor, but it is much more.  Lightroom allows you to assign "keywords" to your images, and these are stored right along with the picture.  Other programs are able to do the same thing, so program choice is up to you, but Lightroom is both an industry standard and what I am familiar with.  (Mac junkie like Aperture)   I am able to find pretty much any picture, and narrow it down very quickly with the combination of directory structure and keywording.  How does it work? 

When ingesting images from the camera to computer, I apply keywords -- any combination of words or numbers that will be both standardized and meaningful.  I have some files with upwards of 20 keywords stored with them that will help me search later.  For example, the following image


has these keywords: coffee, food, drink, cappuchino, cup, restaurant, cafe, table, Italy, Capri, 2011, travel, heart, vacation, relax.  Your keywords have to be meaningful to you, but consider that you might end up wanting to search for an abstract idea, a shape, or emotion sometime later. When importing, I assign keywords common to all images, then add individual keywords later. 

With over 38,000 images in my VHS Sports folders alone, it becomes fairly important to have meaningful keywords assigned to images so that I don't need to spend hours looking for photos of Tasha from the last four years.  Imagine this project:  you want to make a single "Memory Mate" type poster for an athlete that highlights all four years of High School.  With my system, I can search for the school, sport, and jersey number within each of the designated years.  Since I have also rated the pictures way back when I first processed them, I can also narrow the search down to the best images from each year very quickly.  No need to look through thousands of images, with this system, I only need to check out a dozen or so to find what I am looking for.  How long does it take you to find a single image?


]]> (See The Light Images) Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:00:00 GMT