See The Light Images: Blog en-us (C) John A. Rice [email protected] (See The Light Images) Mon, 24 May 2021 00:40:00 GMT Mon, 24 May 2021 00:40:00 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 

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.  

[email protected] (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)
  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.        

  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!

[email protected] (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




[email protected] (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." 

[email protected] (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







[email protected] (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!





[email protected] (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!









[email protected] (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!










[email protected] (See The Light Images) cass snowshoe Fri, 07 Jun 2013 13:39:20 GMT
HDR 1-2-3 New River Gorge Bridge 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!



[email protected] (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!
[email protected] (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!






[email protected] (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. 

New River Gorge Bridge

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.


Gauley Bridge Rail Tressel

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. 


Railroad Bridge at Gauley Bridge


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! 





[email protected] (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!



[email protected] (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. 





[email protected] (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!



[email protected] (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!







[email protected] (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.   :) 


[email protected] (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.


[email protected] (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. 


[email protected] (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?


[email protected] (See The Light Images) Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:00:00 GMT
5D Mark III Initial Impressions Having just received the camera, I took it out of the box and used one of my 7D batteries to get it setup before taking any pictures.   To do so, I accepted the date / time settings, checked the firmware, then attached it to my computer for accurate date & time settings that would be in sync with my other cameras, then methodically went through all of the available settings through EOS Utility software.  Once that was completed, I did the same thing with the camera’s menu system.   Determining your optimal setup will go a lot faster if you take the time to read the manual (you will also understand the limitations and possibilities of the camera much better!)  There are so many variables that you can adjust, and most are straightforward, but some of the naming conventions need more explanation than can fit on a 3” LCD screen.  Others are complex, like the AF Cases, and need detailed explanation and experimentation to figure out what they do.  That being said, Canon has produced an excellent PDF guide to all of the AF menu settings for the EOS 1DX, which is identical in this regard to the 5D.

In an ideal world, I would like to be able to use EOS Utility to set ALL of the camera functions and menus via my computer, not just the few currently allowed.  This would give the distinct advantage of being able to spell out the advantages and differences that each setting makes -- and how they affect other settings -- while you are making them.  As the menus grow more and more complex, this really should be on the table for a camera at this price point.  

Viola!  The camera is ready to use.  Well, actually it is pretty much ready to use out of the box.  But now, it is set up the way that I think I want it.  An hour later, I’m off to a basketball game to test things out.  I’ll be shooting with my trusty old 7D and my brand spankin new 5Diii.  Original plan was to use the 17-40 on the 5 and the 70-200 on the 7D.  That plan quickly changed when I realized just how wide that would render my frame!  So I switched things up and put the 70-200 on my full frame 5D and the 17-40 on my 7D, essentially rendering it a 24-70.  Having used that for a game, I can see why it was so popular with sports shooters on full frame or 1.3 bodies … it really does hit a sweet spot under the basket, and I may just keep using this setup for a while! 

The 70-200 felt comfortable and responsive on the 5D, but it was difficult giving up that little extra reach I have enjoyed with this lens on my 7D.  Due to the layout of the gym that I am shooting in, I am extremely close to the base-line, and doubt that I practically gained much on the wide end, but time will tell. 

Shooting tonight was not my typical night out.  I was testing a new camera and trying a new technique (back button focus) while using a new lighting setup.  Lots of variables, and lots of potential for things to go wrong.  My first impressions:

  1. 5D Mark III camera is amazing.  It feels a little heavier than my 7D, but fits my hands well, and feels rock solid.  It operates that way too.  After getting it set up, it just works the way you want a camera to.  Everything is in the right place, and the viewfinder is nice and bright.   I particularly like the new “lock” button on the mode selection dial, and the fact that when I lock the other dials, I can lock both aperture and shutter knobs from being accidentally changed.  Battery life looks like it is going to be good - after 428 shots, it still has a 75% charge.  Some speed junkies will complain that the “motor speeed” is only 6 fps.   Even with sports, this is not a limitation to my style of shooting, since I rarely “machine gun” a target.   I was a little concerned that my max sync speed was reduced to 1/200th, but that is not an issue.  Those coming from a crop body will be impressed by the full frame coverage, and previous 5D owners will be stunned with the very usable AF system.   AF is fast, but does not feel much faster than my 7D with the 70-200.  It is, however far more accurate a greater percentage of the time.  When going through my images later, very few were deleted because they were not in focus.  I do think AF is going to shine when paired with lesser lenses, and may improve once I experiment with the AI Servo cases.  I should, however, be careful in passing judgment on the AF performance since I was also trying Back Button AF for the first time. 
  2. Speaking of BBAF, it worked much easier than I had thought.  Previously, I was using the shutter button for AF, metering, and release, and the * button as AF-Stop.  That was working pretty well, but after just one game,  I have been sold on the Back Button AF method.  My only gripe about it is that changing the AF points is not as easy now since my thumb is already occupied.  I also think I will go back to “normal” AF with wide angle lenses.  Back button seems more suited to the long lenses.  (see the Canon Learning Site for more information on BBAF)  My major limitation tonight was not BBAF, but that my grip had not arrived in time for the game.  There is good reason that the 1 series bodies have a vertical grip built in!

As I start looking through my images in Lightroom, I am absolutely stunned.  Shell-shocked.  Flabbergasted.  The list of adjectives could go on.  There is simply no comparison of these images to those that came out of any digital camera I have previously owned.  I knew to expect better subject/background separation because of the full frame body, but I was not expecting the superior file quality in absolutely every respect to be this dramatic.    A love affair is beginning!  Let me count the ways:

  1. ISO - I shot at 800 tonight, and there was no perceptible noise.  I could see the smudges on the backboard, but not the usual digital artifacts adding to it.  That means that cropping in tighter will not be a problem …. Except that I usually shoot pretty tight to begin with!
  2. Skin tones are beautifully rendered.  I think this is the first time I have had perfectly rendered skin tones right out of the camera.
  3. Details are far superior.  Not just because I have more megapixels to record them, but have less noise, moire, CA, and pretty much any other kind of aberrations or artifacts.  This camera makes use of the higher LPM resolution of my “L” glass.
  4. Dramatically better Auto White Balance means less tweaking later.
  5. Bokeh - not just the circles of light in the out of focus areas, but the way that subjects stand out in front.  They become more three dimensional.


There is great truth in the saying that you should invest in quality glass rather than chasing camera bodies.  The Lens will make or break your image no matter the black box it is attached to.  Quality lenses will be a requirement when using a camera of this quality.  It will show the weaknesses of inferior lenses, and I am glad I have the “L” glass for this camera simply to keep up with its resolving power.  That being said, there does come a point when the camera body itself makes a difference.  Going from a crop body to a full frame body makes a huge difference in your lens performance, especially in the out of focus areas that make a picture pop in just the same way as stepping up from a Kodak Instamatic to a 35mm to a 4x5 camera did in the film days.  It makes a great deal of difference in pixel density and pitch and all kinds of technical ways that I am not qualified to talk about but influence the quality of the output file.  You’ll notice smoother gradations in color changes, better detail  bright whites, less noise in the shadows, and faithful color representation throughout.  In short, you finally will capture what you saw through the lens.   What I can say without reservation is that stepping up this far makes a difference in the pictures that you are able to capture.   

Be forewarned that processing the RAW files from this camera will require a fast computer and lots of hard drive space.  The provided software will yield optimal results in processing, but Lightroom 4 (ACR 7.3) does a pretty good job at rendering them as well.   This camera is for the serious photographer who is willing to invest not just the money to buy it, but also the time to learn to use it properly, and appreciate the results it helps produce even if others cannot see the difference. 

[email protected] (See The Light Images) 5D 5Diii EOS Wed, 09 Jan 2013 16:24:46 GMT
Winter at Canaan Valley So you've arrived at your Christmas Vacation.  A time to relax, take a break from all of the craziness of the last couple weeks.  No ball games to worry about, the work is almost done for the year. Of course, being a photographer, I scouted the place when I got here.  The deer are photographer friendly, and some may even pose for you. 


And then the snow comes.  My plans for soaking in the hot tub have been interupted.  (I still soaked every night after shooting all day)  Actually, I was rather ecstatic that I could get a few days of exercise without having to pay my physical therapist!  Doing therapy this way is a whole lot more fun than visiting an office, and for those who have been following my recovery, this pushed my limits to the extreme, and gave me confidence that the recovery is doing what it is supposed to.  Every muscle in my body got a workout!


But I digress ... I decided to avoid the food and beverage snaps I saw my breakfast buffet companions sharing.  The slopes wouldn't open for three more days, so no photos from the slopes or sauna, just simple landscapes.  What do you see when it is 20 degrees and snowing with a strong wind trying to blow you over every step of the way?  I pretty much tried to stick with patterns and simple compositions, attempting to reduce each scene down to its essential elements.   ...   There was a cluster of trees I had spotted the night before that could tell the story of winter very well by themselves. 


As I said, patterns stick out this time of year




But then came along another view:


I think it's the first image that I have taken that shouts BLIZARD!  This was taken at mid-day, with snow flying in the 30 MPH breeze.  And you can feel the cold - heck, I just shivered uploading the image!  Now, all I had to do was get the car back to the road .... it only took two hours to go 50 feet. 

Then as I explored, I was reminded that life goes on, even when the temperatures fall and modern conveniences are most appreciated.  I wished that my insulation was as good as the cattle's, but as you can see, most of them are smart enough to stay close to home .... unlike thier photographer of the day!


The National Widelife Refuge is an essential part to Canaan Valley, and while I did see a flock flying overhead, I didn't spot any of the smaller birds while I was here


The trees which will soon bloom and bear fruit again are barren


and down the road, water continues to flow over Blackwater Falls



But make no mistake, the road to get there is not easy to travel


I guess putting it simply, winter photography is no picnic, but well worth the effort!


So get out there and shoot this winter, bring home some pictures you'll be proud to hang on your wall and be able to brag to your friends ... "Yeah, I did that!"



[email protected] (See The Light Images) Canaan Valley WV snow winter Fri, 28 Dec 2012 05:20:21 GMT
Remembering How do you incorporate ideas into your photography?  Photography is a visual means of communications, and many of us want that communication to be quite literal.  We like pictures of our smiling children playing with thier young canine friends.  I recently took on an assignment to photograph a "part of the whole," and used a piece of history do so. 



With the theme "Parts of the Whole" in mind, what do you see? 

When the image was presented, some thought perhaps the tombstone was only part of the whole cemetary.  That was about as far as the assembled group managed to see the theme.  Allow me to explain why I selected this image:

Parts of the Whole echoes through this image both literally and figuratively, and may well be an insight into the collective imagination of our country.  The literal display of parts includes the obscured tombstone:  you cannot see the entire thing, nor can you see the entire name or even dates of birth and death.   Even the flag that blocks the details can only be partially seen because it is curled over upon itself.  The back - side light is only partially visible ... notice the prominence of shadows in this image echoing the tombstone's symbolism of death.  Of course, it is only a very small part of this cemetary, much as the Private is only a small part of the entire army he was fighting for.  All of these literal elements are right in front of your eyes.


But the literal interpretation is only the beginning.  The image was taken at Hollywood Cemetary in Richmond, Virginia.  On my recent visit there, I was impressed with how dearly the citizens there hold on to thier Civil War memories and heritage.  Yes, this to me that it not be made into a moody presentation, that would obscure the vividness of the the conflict that is so real to the people of this region.  To them, it is not something that happened in the distant past, but a very present reality that continues to shape who they are. 

How is it that this young soldier, killed in battle 150 years ago is still so magnificently cared for?  Certainly this young man's life was more than "soldier."  The lawn is meticulously mowed, the flag carefully placed, and the marker looks as though it could have been planted this year.  We can say what we want about "those southerners who hold on to the idea of the War of Northern aggresssion," but they do honor thier dead.  They do remember thier past.  "Remembering Our Past" was the title that I assigned to this photograph.  Speaking figuratively, this photo convicts each of us of our own prejudices, whether positive or negative.  That flag itself is a strong emotional component no matter which side of the idea it represents we might find ourselves.  Even the Confederate flag denotes a part of the whole, for though for a time our nation was divided, all who lived under that flag both before and after lived under another standard, the Stars and Stripes.  We tend to hold on to and treasure selected parts of our memory, both individually and collectively.  Some who have seen this photo were moved to tears when they recalled distant relatives lost in the Civil War long ago or even in recent conflicts around the globe.  It brings into consciousness the sacrafice that young men have been willing to make for thier country, which in itself is part of our whole history. 


Images that are strongly composed rarely settle for the literal interpretation that we want to first assign to them.  The author wants us to see more, ususally something about ourselves or about an important cause.  The next time that you encounter a piece of art that you cannot understand, stop.  Try to understand the image in light of the things you do know about it:  What is the Title, What is the theme?  What is the apparent subject matter?  What is the author trying to say?  Then step back and let it sink in.  Allow the cognitive functioning that God gifted you with to churn about and see where that takes you.   You might just be stunned by what the photographer, the painter, or the sculptor is saying.  And if you are really lucky, you might learn something about yourself in the process!


[email protected] (See The Light Images) cemetary confederate history remember tutorial Wed, 19 Dec 2012 12:30:00 GMT
Review Time! As college students are preparing for thier final exams, I thought this would be a good time to look back and review myself.  I took advantage of a home-bound day to go through some old images. and boy was I surprised! 

When you actually stop to take a look at the pictures, it is actually pretty easy to see the progress (or lack thereof!) that you have made.  The evidence is right in front of you!  I had a lot of opportunities to shoot back in 2006, so I got out that year's collection.  What amazed me was the amount of images that I had decided back then might one day be worth another look.  I ended up deleting almost 1/3 of the pictures that I had kept!  Some were poorly focused, others simply lacked focus; some were so far off on exposure that they were not even worth thinking about salvaging.  Composition was poor in many, and the list of photographic errors of the bunch was just too long to enumerate!  If I was really honest, many of the ones I saved were more memories than photographs.

Here are a few of the ones that I deleted today:

spring rain



Like I said, I am embarrassed that I even kept these!  Even with that, not everything I shot back then was a disaster.  There were certainly more than a few shots that I got to see again for the first time and am am glad that I kept:




Why do I admit this publicly?  Well, its a lot like the exams our students are taking.  We cram in so much stuff that it really does not have time to sink in and make a difference at first.  Even though I "knew" what makes a good exposure and composition, I had not mastered the technicalities of making it happen consistently.  I really had not developed my own eye or way of seeing. If I was really honest, very few of my images from back then were very compelling.  Most were just a guy with a camera exploring.  That is not to say that they were snapshots -- far from it!  Some succeeded, some were mistakes; some were very horrible mistakes.  But it is through this trial and error process that we learn our photographic vision and skill.  Just like in the moral life though, I am not advocating that you go out and try to make mistakes -- plenty will come your way! 

But you cannot sit around and just wait for photographic skill to pop into your head.  You have to try things.  Some will fail, some will succeed.  And when you undertake these projects, you will not know which is going to be which until you have tried.  And if you then take the time to look back and see your journey, you will learn even more. 

3968 Brandon on the Beach

One of the most helpful things you can do is to hang out with other like minded people.  We do it all the time in our clubs and churches and it seems to work well there.  So too with photography.  Hang out with photographers who can help you learn.  Join a camera club.  Participate ina workshop.  Ask the opinions of people who will give you honest feedback.  They will help you to improve far more than browsing some internet sites.  And chances are, you'll have a lot more fun!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) learning review Thu, 13 Dec 2012 03:22:05 GMT
Team Photo Day I got to shoot the VHS Boys Varsity team photos today, and what a great experience!  First, hats off to what looks to be an awesome team this year.  They have some good leaders back and have added a little size up front.  Play smart, and you'll be on a roll! 

For the shoot today, we had to take the standard picture that you see in every basketball program you have ever picked up.  Not very exciting, but necessary for the upcoming tourneys.


Then we moved on to make some great pictures of these young athletes.  I used a processing technique to give them a gritty edge that will be needed for the team poster.   All it takes is a few mouse clicks, and Spencer looks 10 years older!


Dante gave me this look on the very first click of the shuttter!


These guys made it so easy, all that was missing was the sweat.  I can't wait to see the poster!  Check this year's team out at


[email protected] (See The Light Images) basketball sports team Wed, 28 Nov 2012 01:56:07 GMT
Printing your pictures Eventually, you get to the point where Walmart and Ritz simply cannot match the quality you expect in your photographic prints.  The quandry then is what to do?  The first step I took was to go to an online photographic lab.  They allow you to upload your photos and will promptly ship them back to you.  Prices and quality will vary greatly, but there are many great labs available.  I have used MPIX ( for my mail order printing needs for many years with great success. 

If you have a special photo that you need printed to hang in a musem, or are a wedding photographer that does not want to mess with the details of printing, I reccomnend going to PPS ( in South Charleston if you are in the neighborhood.  Clayton and his associates will take very good care of you.  It is what I do when I need to make a print larger than my printer can handle, and where I used to go for all of my fine art printing needs.  There are many other high end printers out there, but I believe in supporting local businesses when I can. 

This summer, I got a great deal on an incredible printer (Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mk II). After the rebates, the price of my wide format printer was free! Now that can be a dangerous thing for a photographer! Why? Well, since getting my printer, I have been experimenting, learning the differences in papers and what the different settings will do. The cost of paper and ink will add up!  OK ... I know that I am not most people when it comes to photography; most people will simply use thier home printer to crank out a bunch of small prints and be very happy with the results. Of course, most people would not be spending $500 on a printer either, but like I said, I am not most people, and most who read this blog know that!! Come to think of it, if you have read this far, you aren't like most people either!

At this point, I have to confess that I am still very new to printing photographs, and there is much to learn.  But I also believe that the process of getting here is similar to that of most photographers.  As you grow in this craft, you learn that the more control you have over each step of the process, the better the end result.  First, its a point and shoot where we learn to press the shutter button, then we learn the details of exposure and composition.  After that we move on to developing our pictures and posting them for others to see.  Finally, we delve into the art of print making, matting, and framing. 

It is an art, and I know people who have earned advanced academic degrees in this one discipline.  I am not there yet!  But, here is a short list of the things that I have learned about printing over the last couple months:

  1. Prints are prints.  Sounds simple enough, eh?  but here is the reality:  we are mostly accustomed to looking at our digital photographs on an electronic display of some sort.  Whether it is a computer screen, HDTV, or the latest hi-res mobile touch-screen, they are still screens.  When we put those pixels on paper, something magical happens.  They take on a feel (literally an figuratively!) that is not on the screen.  I have also found that details of the picture are reproduced differently on paper too.  Some of that has to do with the brightness of our displays as compared to paper, but other things can also jump out too.  Distracting details become the center of atttention and essential elements disappear.  When we were satisfied with glossy prints from someone else's printer, those things never really mattered because it took days to get the picture back.  Now, I see it in minutes and can quickly determine if it was teh result I wanted.
  2. Color Management is essential and complicated.  It is not enough to calibrate your monitor, there is also profiling your printer and paper if you want the colors to be precise.  Learning to use the complex tool that is your printer actually has a steep learning curve, and the printer driver alone will make your head spin.  There is the "easy" button, but you will not have fine control unless you go through the painstaking process of learning the details.  In the end, you can produce the same result every time only by learning the nitty gritty details.   
  3. Papers matter.  If all you have ever seen is a Ritz print, you will never know the joy of a great photograph.  Every paper reproduces your picture in a slightly different way, and the hunt for the perfect paper is a challenge in itself.  Fine art papers produce stunning results (if you have a good photo to start with!).  4x6 glossy becomes a thing of the past.  The paper can add life by the subtleties of its texture and the way it disperses ink on the page.  Let's face it, we're not talking about newsprint or copy paper here! 
  4. Different sharpening needs to be applied to your print depending on output size and paper type.  I have known this for a long time; I read Bruce Frazier's book several years ago.   I even used the theory when sending out prints to the lab.  Now that I am printing myself, I can see it in action and decide PRECISELY how much sharpening to apply. 
  5. As a practical tip, buy or make 4x6 sheets of each paper that you use.  I use these for test prints to see how close I am to getting the results I want. 
  6. Every printer has its strengths.  I love my color laser printer, but would not even dream of using it to make a photographic print!  Conversely, I would not dream of using my Pro 9000 for printing documents, the ink cost would kill me!  It does excellent work, but I know that it is not the best at black and white prints, Epson does much better there.  The point is this:  make sure you know what your needs are before you spend big money on a new toy just to find out it is not right for you. 

If you are interested in learning more about the art of fine art printing, I suggest the Rocky Nook book "Fine Art Printing for Photographers."  It is a couple years old (2008), but presents excellent and detailed information that is timeless.  The other book I mentioned is Bruce Frazier and Jeff Schewe's "Real World Image Sharpening."  both are excellent resources that will guide you to making the most out of the already excellent photographs you have waiting to be put to paper!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) learning printing tutorial Thu, 15 Nov 2012 23:45:00 GMT
Football 2012 is over The boys at Valley gave a good run this fall, and all of us are proud of you!   It was my pleasure to cover the teams once again and record some memories for many of you.  They were carried in the newspaper, some may show up in the yearbook, and thanks to the parents who buy prints to support me in this endeavor.  We were all treated to some great memories thanks to your efforts:

From the first snap of the game



On Offense 











or defense







you certainly brought us excitement all season long!



Thanks for the memories guys! 


Each game has its own gallery and can be found online at



[email protected] (See The Light Images) football Tue, 13 Nov 2012 03:32:53 GMT
An amazing lens! Thanks to Paul, I was able to use the most amazing lens the other night for football.  I am talking about Canon's 400 mm f 2.8 monster.  11 of the 15 photos I submitted to the paper this week were from that lens! 


To be sure, there are certain limitations to using this beast.  It is heavy to lug around and and does not offer any zooming capabilities.  That means that you do not move around following the action in the same way as with my usual arsenal.  BUT, these design limitations also bring out the strengths that this lens gives the sports or wildlife photographer.  My venue was a very darkly lit HS football field (ISO 3200, 2.8, 1/250th in the bright areas, ISO 6400, 2.8 1/320 in the dimmer places for you photo geeks). 

There are a couple downsides to using this lens:

  • It is large and heavy, about 18 inches long and 12 pounds before you attach a camera to it. You absolutely need a good monopod, because all movement will be magnified, and that includes camera shake.  I turn off IS, but YMMV.
  • Being stuck at 400 mm  means you are literally watching the game through a straw.  I missed a few shots because I was watching the action unfold through the lens.  To master this lens, you really need to use both eyes.  And to shoot the game, you really need a 70-200 (which I traded to use this lens  :) in addition to the 400.  Pro sports photographers lift weights and juggle to get ready for game night!  Where I normally carry two cameras, I now understand why the pros carry three. 

What made this lens such a joy to use? 

  1. Instant acquisition of focus.  There was only one time that the lens had to hunt for focus so long that I noticed it.  If I owned the lens or used one regularly, I would very much enjoy the <Focus Preset> feature and <AF Stop> buttons on the lens. 
  2. An aperture of 2.8 means that the backgrounds were beautifully blurred, eliminating all the distractions that ordinarily hide back there.  That translates to sharply focused subjects that are easily separated from the background.
  3. Incredibly sharp detail.  Yes, calling this lens "razor sharp" is appropriate.  Since my personal style is to shoot "long and tight," I can quickly see the difference between this beast and the 100-400 that I normally carry.  
  4. Color faithfullness.  Not only were the details in sharp focus, but the color distrtibutions were correct.  This was perhaps the first time that I did not have to color correct a whole bunch of pictures when I got home.

You really only notice these things when you can actually compare the results you get with inferior equipment.  I usually use a 100-400 mm lens that is pretty good, but much slower than the EF400 2.8.  Now I know what my pictures would look like if I had the better gear .....


I guess its time to win the lottery!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) learning photography tutorial Sun, 04 Nov 2012 02:35:23 GMT
A Little Fun The other day, I got to shoot soccer ... specifically, a U8 league team!  Most of the time these days, my photographic time is tied up with the older kids.  You see the updates quite often are in the middle school, High School, or college level sports pages on my website.  But every now and then I get an invitation to cover something a little different. This time it was 2nd grade girls playing soccer, and boy was it fun!

The girls were having the time of thier lives.  Everyone on the team got to play about the same amount of time.  Some were focused and competitive, others just playing in the mud.  It was so refreshing to see the sheer joy on a little girl's face when she scored a goal or did some other amazing feat. It was also a pleasure (at least in the game I was shooting) to see parents that were supportive rather than critical of thier kids and coaches. 

As they get older, we see more and more parents living vicariously through thier children and grandchildren, unable to accept defeat, and being very poor sports.  Some days, I wonder whether I am at a school event or a longshoremen's gathering.  It was downright refreshing to see coaches laughing with the girls rather than yelling at them; teaching rather than ridiculing.  It brought back my own memories of Little League when we got to go out for ice cram after the game no matter what the score was.  I stand in admiration of those adults who give up thier time to be with a bunch of kids that they may or may not have been familiar with prior to thier current gathering.  These adults set a model of service to the children that will not be forgotten, and if they do thier jobs well, will teach them how to win no matter what the scoreboard says. 

[email protected] (See The Light Images) Mon, 22 Oct 2012 13:58:49 GMT
Sports Schedules I have added a link to the VHS page on Maxpreps (CBS Sports High School coverage site) so that you can easily check the upcomingf schedule for Valley High School!  Just click the link on the top of the page to get there!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) Mon, 22 Oct 2012 13:55:55 GMT
Some technical details Those who have ordered photos from this website have discovered that there was an approval step after you placed your order.  I pray that you have been satisfied with the result when you got your prints.  Be assured that I did not arbitrarily add this step, nor do I take delight in delaying the processing -- as a matter of fact, I usually have orders approved and sent to the printer within hours, and the delay is not even noticeable by the time you get the prints delivered to your front door!

There are actually technical reasons for needing to "approve" your order.  Actually, it is not so much approving the order as it is making sure that I have properly processed the photo you desire.  My standard workflow is to hurry up and get images uploaded following a ballgame so that parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, and you can see the photos as quickly as possible,  (even before you can see the game, I have sent pictures to the newspaper!)  In order to get them uploaded quickly, I size every photo as a 4x6 print, and make the adjustments accordingly.  So, if you order a 4x5 or 4x6 print, everything is already done and I usually can approve the order from my phone!  

On the other hand, if you are ordering a larger print, the picture needs to be re-worked, especially with a dimension of processing called sharpening.  The term itself comes from back in the film days when a mask was used to accentuate the edges in a picture.  In the digital era, your point and shoot camera automatically applies sharpening to your image when you take the picture.  BUT Professional photographers like to control every detail of the image making process rather than let the camera or computer make decisions for them, and we have learned that sharpening is best applied to an image based on the output size rather than the picture dimensions at time of image capture.  That makes details crisp in the image while also eliminating ugly halos and artifacts.  

What practical difference does that make for you?  Well, when you get a larger print, I can control where this sharpening (as well as color casts, brightness, tonal contrast, blur, etc) is applied to the image.  Very often when I go back to process a photo for a larger print, I discover more things about the picture that I can fix prior to delivery.  For example, a chain link fence in the background reflects the flash I used and can be terribly distracting.  When processing that file, I can minimize that fence, highlighting the scene you really wanted to see.  I'll also double check to make sure the colors are accurate and the exposure is where we really wanted it to be as well as cropping it to the size you want.  Although the file I originally uploaded was a 4x6, the actual file from my camera is more like a 20x30 inches.   As a matter of fact, I have had pictures used for billboards, so there is a good deal of wiggle room on many of the pictures you see.   Whether printing for a billboard or a wallet sized print, the trick to getting it right is to process the file for the print size:  how people will view it.  

Remember that chain link fence I talked about?  If we simply told the printer to use the same file that I uploaded as a 4x6 to make your 8x10, it would dramatically stand out, and the details that you wanted to see in that photo would be "soft," maybe even appear out of focus.  We might get "posterization" or "pixelation" because there was not enough information for the printer to use properly.  By sending a full sized version of the file to the printer, I can avoid these problems and get the best possible results for you.  After all, that is what really matters!


[email protected] (See The Light Images) learning printing tutorial Thu, 04 Oct 2012 19:47:57 GMT
Football Memories Sammy ... pregamegame_1078 As I was going through some old photos tonight, I ran across the galleries from years gone by, and they brought back some awesome memories.  Sorry, none of these are available to you unless you are in the photo ... in that case, call me!  I pray that your season brings many great memories that you are able to share with your friends and families for a lifetime.







fiesta_-191 4783




[email protected] (See The Light Images) football sports Tue, 28 Aug 2012 02:53:20 GMT
Fine Art Galleries Updated What can you do when you are forced to sit around for three months?  Since I was unable to get out and take pictures this summer, I took advantage of my recuperation time to update several of my Fine Art galleries.  Here, I have selected the best pictures from various themes and included them in the newly edited galleries for you to enjoy.  those galleries include: (click on the name to open in a new window!)

     Appalachia Landscape

     Appalachia Nature

     Western Landscapes -- Yosemite and Death Valley

     International Destinations:  Italy

     Nature as Art  - - some traditional and some less than traditional interpretations

Of course all of the Fine Art purchase options are in place, but I might suggest that you enjoy them by pressing the SLIDESHOW button on the gallery display.  Facebook, Google +, and Twitter options are on each page for you to LIKE or SHARE these photos.

[email protected] (See The Light Images) Sun, 19 Aug 2012 22:45:19 GMT
Football Season Approaches With football season just around the corner, many of us are getting ready for the Friday Night Lights.  The boys have been practicing for a month now. and coaches ... well, they never stop.  For those of us priveleged to photograph the big games, theree is also a bit of preparing to do, and unfortunately, this is one of those sports that will help you justify all that gear envy.  No doubt about it, better AF systems and faster glass will help you get more usable shots.  But even if you don't own a 1DIV and a 400 2.8, you can still get some excellent results using the gear you already have.  Here's how:


First off, do your research.  Know what to expect from the teams you are covering and who is going to do what.  Mom's and dads shooting from the grandstands will get thier kid, and they'll be happy.   But nine times out of ten, great pitures are not made while shooting from the stands. Besides, that long lens will get in other people's way and you'll be known as a nuisance.  Wherever you are shooting from, make sure you are safe and able to get the shots you need.  Vey often, the best vantage point is at the level of the playing field, but be sure you have permission before you venture onto the field.  Depending on the level of play, you may be restricted to certain areas.  If you are on the field, remember that the kids game comes first, your safety, THEN your pictures.  Also, be aware of other photographers working the game.  You are each there for a purpose, and no, your picture is not more important than the other guy's.  In other words, don't step into some else's frame!


If you are limited, it is usually to the press area that is on the goal line side of the 25 yard line.  This does give you lots of room to work ... its just that you have to have either a really long lens or wait for the action to get close enough to shoot.  On restricted fields, those 50 yards in between belong only to the players and coaches (and they have to stay within those lines!) though you can go behind the team area to get to the other end of teh field.  Remember too that the end zones are great places to shoot from.  There, the action is coming right at you, and if you have a lens longer than 200mm, you can often get some really cool shots as they approach.  When working a goal line situation, I ususally swithch to my 70-200 and shoot from behind the end zone.  One little trick that I use is that I always try to be where I can see the facces of the players I am shooting -- between 5 and 35 yards from the line of scrimmage, depending on the picture I am working on. 


If you are shooting midget league, you are lucky ... the action is usually slow enough to follow and the games are played during the daylight hours.  Early season Middle School is not too difficult because you still have enough light.  For those kinds of games, a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 is required to freeze action.  Once you get to High School games .... watch out!  Even places with good lights are photographic balck holes.  You will need a camera capable of high ISO and know how to use your flash as well as fast glass.  Auto focus systems are easilty fooled under the lights, white balance is a nightmare and freezing action can be a challenge.  Many of us end up using our speed lights to help illuminate the situation and freeze action, but here again, you've gotta be careful.  It is very easy to create ugly shadows or to have ghost images if your flash is not properly balanced.  Most experts will tell you that you need to ioverpower ambient by 3 stops in order to avoid ghosting.  That can be a challenge at 1/250th!  Another solution is to use your flash only as a fill light, but this requires a dedicated system flash setr to High Speed Sync.


The best word of advice is to find an experienced sports photographer to mentor you.  Share your successes and failures and learn from them.  Anyone who has been around the block a few times can point out what is happening in your pictures.  Some of us even have come up with solutions to make those errors disappear!  In the end though, getting winning pictures takes teh same effort as winning the game ... it simply takes a lot of practice!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) football sports tutorial Sun, 19 Aug 2012 01:30:00 GMT
Digital Downloads As of today, AUGUST 17, 21012, Digital downloads no longer need to be approved before you are able to download them (except for the fine art galleries).  In other words, you can download your pictures immediately after checkout!  I am glad that I can finally offer that immediate fulfillment for you. I hope that some time soon I do the same for 4x6 prints, but this is all dependent on my web hosting company. 


For trhose that are interested, I use as my web site host and print fulfillment team.  THey handle all of the details behind the scenes so that I can keep on shooting and not have to worry about the businesss side.  If you want to use ZENFOLIO for your own photo hosting, feel free to use my referral code for a nice discount on your first year's subscription.  My code is:  Z8X-U4Y-SEZ

[email protected] (See The Light Images) Fri, 17 Aug 2012 23:38:45 GMT
Had to slow down! Most of you know that I have been somewhat restrained recently.  On May 14th, I had five cervical vertebrae fused -- C3, 4, 5, 6, & 7.  The weeks leading up to the surgery saw increasing pain and decreasing mobility.  Since the surgery, I have been quite blessed to have a marvelous recovery.  Though not even close to being back to top form, I am healing well, and thank all of you for your prayers and good wishes.  As of today, I am walking about three to four miles a day, and getting better every minute.  Upper body strength and coordination will be the next thing to work on, but have to wait for the doctor's permission to do anything more strenuous than lifting a gallon of milk -- yes, even that is quite difficult at the moment. 

But, with good doctors and a wonderful community helping me to recuperate, I expect to be back on the sidelines this fall (albeit with a modified approach!) 

[email protected] (See The Light Images) Fri, 08 Jun 2012 01:10:44 GMT
Ordering Secrets OK .... so they really are not secrets.  It is more like tips for new users.  I know there is a help button that walks you through the ordering process, and most of you are more fluent in online shopping than I ever will be, but there are a whole bunch of features on this site that many people don't take advantage of.  Here are a couple that I am sure you will like:

  • Many parents and grandparents have asked me about ways to make it easy for collecting a bunch of pictures from different galleries to order at one time.  This website allows you to do just that!  It is as easy as creating your own secure login to this website.  Then when you find a photo that you want, but would rather wait till another day to buy, simply add it to your favorites collection!  No longer do you have to memorize the locations of your children among the thousands of photos that I have posted.  (currently over 16,000, and that is just from this school year!)  You can create these collections without registering, but then you can only access that list from the same computer and only for 30 days.
    • In order to SELECT FAVORITES, simply hover your mouse over the photo when it is in the one photo per page view. 
    • Hover on the word MENU on the upper left corner, and when the menu appears, click on the heart or ADD TO FAVORITES
    • By clicking on the SHARE button, you can send a link by email, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.  Of course, you'll have to have an account with them to use those.
  • Another advantage of REGISTERING is that you can share the lists you create.  Especially, you can share that list with me if I am making a poster or another special project for you.   
  • As I pointed out above, you can FACEBOOK LIKE any photo.  That's a great way to share them with grandparents or friends.

Not all of the features on this site have to do with the pictures though ... Some of you have asked if it is possible to purchase photos without a credit card.  First off, I have to say that I admire you for taking control of your finances and refusing to pay bank fees!  One of the reasons I switched to my current web host is to better serve you.  Once you determine the dollar amount that you are going to spend, just let me know!  I will issue a gift certificate that you redeem only on this website.  It spends just like cash (because you already gave me that!) and allows you the same flexibility and freedom of online ordering that everyone else enjoys.

Of course, gift certificates are always available!

One of the trickier propositions is ordering a CD, poster, book, or any other custom designed product.  Usually, those are done in person rather than through the web.  They are listed here to give you an idea of the cost involved. 

Something that many have asked for is a file to use on Facebook, MySpace, or on your iPhone.  Those can now be ordered online and downloaded almost immediately rather than having to wait for a CD.  Unfortunately, there will be a short wait period since I approve all orders before they are shipped.  In most cases, you will be able to download the file within an hour or two. 


If yoyu are having trouble logging in to any of the password protected galleries, make sure that you have cookies turned on.  I went round and round with Customer Service for several days before discovering this simple trick!



[email protected] (See The Light Images) favorites help shopping Fri, 08 Jun 2012 01:01:12 GMT
Cardinal Battle Today, someone told me how lucky I was that the birds were all over my house.  My friend had spotted a dove, some sparrows, and cardinals darting about the yard.  What he didn't see was this little encounter I had spotted an hour earlier.

When I looked out the door to my carport, behold!  I was treated to a Cardinal.  This one had found the mirror on my car door, and fortunately, I had my camera handy! 

I know that the shots are not of magazine quality, but I did manage to capture a cardinal looking at himself in my car's mirror.  (shot through the glass of my door plus two car windows!  I wqas a little llimited as to the angle I could shoot from).  These are all un-cropped:

I wonder if birds have the same kind of "self" awareness that humans do? 

Judging by this bird's combativeness with his image in the mirror, I doubt it!  He is definitely not trying to make friends with his reflection!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) cardinal mirror Fri, 13 Apr 2012 04:10:11 GMT
Cameras and Lenses Many of you have asked about the gear that I use to make my photos.  I happen to use Canon equipment.  Why Canon?  Well, it just so happens that my first 35 mm camera from back in the film days was a Canon A1, my dad bought it in 1978, and it still works just fine!  In 2004 when I was looking for a digital camera, I tried a variety of point and shoot cameras and found all of them lacking.  That meant that I had to look at SLR cameras.  Canon had a definite lead in "affordable" digital SLRs that were of a high enough quality that I found to be acceptable.  Thier combination of auto focus and a decent sensor made Canon the compelling choice of the day.  They also have an awesome collection of lenses to compliment the camera bodies.  Since that time, I have learned a whole lot more about photography, cameras, and all of the equipment needed to make great photos. 

Shooting family memories can now be done with ease using your iPhone or pretty much any point and shoot camera.  If you are planning on shooting table top still lifes and landscapes, pretty much any SLR camera will do unless you are selling your photos to top end magazines with very expensive requirements.   When it comes to sports photography, there are certainly camera body and lens choices that will help you.  Let's look at a few of those:

CAMERA BODY (Digital SLR is a given) and Canon and Nikon are easily the leaders in this category.  Features that will help you:

  • High ISO performance.  The ability to get clean pictures when it gets dark is important.  I regularly shoot at ISO 1600 and higher.
  • fast, accurate auto focus with selectable focus points.  You need to know that your camera has the ability to focus on moving targets.  Professional bodies actually give you a great deal of control over the camera's AF performance, and there is a learning curve to master it.  
  • Faster frames per second shutter release.  The pro bodies get as many as 10 fps.  You usually will not use it like this, but the fps rate is an indicator of whether your camera is "sports ready." 
  • Weather sealing.  as the price goes up on cameras, they tend to include more and more protection for the internal electronics.  A dusty softball field is a hazardous environment for a camera!
  • Crop Factor - (aka APS-C or H sensor) -- This choice is perfectly debatable, but many sports, wildlife, and bird photographers prefer camera bodies that add some extra reach to thier lenses.  Those starting out will be happy to know that these bodies are cheaper than thier full frame counterparts!
  • Canon:  1D series, 7D, and xxD series. 
  • Nikon:  D3, D4, D800, D7000,
  • Generally Speaking:  only you can know if the jump to a higher priced body or lens is worth it, but each step up does give you a higher level of performance, making it easier to capture the image.  Even a Canon REbel or Nikon 3100 will be able to get the shot, you'll just have to work harder to get the image.

LENS CHOICES - while any lens can help you make a picture, there are some qualities of the lens that will help your chances of nailing an action photo:

  • fast aperture (this means lower f-stop number) - Shooting sports, you need a fast shutter speed.  Using a lower f-stop allows you to pump up the shutter speed.  Using a lens with a faster f-stop (lower number) allows you to do this.  It also has the advantage of allowing your camera's AutoFocus system to perform at its best.  Some AF points need a lens to be at least f 2.8 in order to work or to work faster.  If your lens only goes to f 3.5, you will not be able to use that feature in your camera.  This also has the advantage of throwing the distracting elements in the background out of focus (bokeh) which helps make the subject stand out.
  • fast AF response - the truth is that AF speed is a combination of the lens and the camera body.  The lens must have the capability of performing.  The newest lenses have the latest motors in them, but you'll have to read the nitty gritty details and read reviews in order to learn about the capabilities of your lens. 
  • IS / VR technology -- This one is debatable.  The technology lets you shoot in lower light  when using slow shutter speeds.  Generally speaking, your shutter speeds for sports are fast enough that the technology doesn't really matter.  On the other hand, given the same lens with and without it, the manufacturers tend to put the higher end glass in the lenses that have it.
  • build quality - If you are shooting sports, you are going to be in some tough places, and your lens might take a beating.  Look for weather sealing, metal construction, and the manufacturer's assurance that your lens is able to take some punishment.  Generally speaking, these are the "Pro" level lenses. 

Yes, you can get a decent sports shot with your camera phone.  But you will definitely increase your odds of consistently making great memories by following the above guidelines.  Sorry, I cannot tell you what is "the best lens to use for sports."  That will depend on your tastes and the task at hand.  I use everything from fisheye to 400mm lenses to capture the moment, but here are some good choices:

  • 70-200 mm f 2.8 - whether you choose the IS/VR vesion is up to you.  This is THE basic sports lens.
  • 24 - 70 mm f 2.8 - mostly for basketball, though you can find other uses for it too!
  • 100 - 400 -- this is the long lens for daytime sports without having to break the bank. 
  • 85 mm f 1.8 - I don't yet own this one, but it is a great choice for basketball.
  • 300 mm f 2.8 -- when your budget allows for it, this lens is amazing, and takes extenders very well.

I have used other lenses as well.  But the truth about cameras and lenses is that you will always have to make a compromise.  For me, that compromise is based on what I can afford as opposed to what I would like to be using.  Unless you work for Sports Illustrated or have Bill Gates income, that will probably be true for you as well.  A little research will point you in the right direction, and asking questions of those who have done it will help you figure out the best compromise for your intended usage. 

[email protected] (See The Light Images) Thu, 12 Apr 2012 10:15:00 GMT
NOT your everyday baseball Now that April is here and baseball is in full swing, the mercury in the thermometer is not going as far up as it did the past few weeks!  I guess that means that we are back to some semblance of normal ... at least as far as the weather is concerned.  The start of today's baseball game was delayed a bit so that the medi-vac helicopter could land. 


You can check out the full gallery of the saint flight by clicking on the picture:


Or you can check out the ball game (Oak Hill at Valley) by following this link:







[email protected] (See The Light Images) Wed, 11 Apr 2012 04:55:37 GMT
Photo Sharing Sites As most of you already know, I changed web hosts at the end of the football season this year.  Don't get me wrong, it was good for what it is ... it just was not meeting my needs.  Several of you have asked me about web sites for posting your pictures, so I thought I might give you a lttle bit of a run down. 

There really are four different kinds of web site providers when it comes to photographers:

  1. Sharing with family and friends.  This is simply a place where you put your pictures and anyone who knows where they are pretty much can have full access to them.  If you are mostly interested in keeping gramma up to date with how fast the baby is growing, or sharing bunches of cool vacation pictures with your friends, this is your category.  Sites such as Picasa, Kodak, and snapfish are all pretty good.  Your camera manufacturer may even provide you with some space on the web.  They are mostly free except for any prints you buy.  Those prints are what pay for the website.  It might even just be a gallery on your facebook page! 
  2. Amateur Photographer sharing with friends and neighbors, making occasional sales.  This type of site is great for sharing your work with others, and often includes a possibility of social networking with other shutterbugs.  There often is a free version of the site available to you, and the possibilities look more professional as you pay more.  Usually, these sites are found in the format of .  These types of sites can sometimes even brige up to the next level.  Wikipedia has a decent review of the major sites.  Some of the ones that I know do a decent job are:
    2. -- I also have a free account here
    3. -- my previous provider, allows unlimited photo storage for $30/year and very easy photo sharing. 
  3. Serious Amateur / Entry level Professional.  Once you get here, just know that you are going to pay for a few things.  First off, you will be buying your own domain name, then you will be paying someone to host your site.  Since these are specialized, you will find that there are fewer (but still quite enough!) companies that can get you a nice turn-key website.  You'll enjoy features such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), access to professionally designed page templates,  ability to use your own domain name, photographer specialized tools (such as photo protection), private galleries, ability to sell prints (and sometimes even more than prints), access to several professional quality print labs and original products, optimization for mobile devices, and possibly even host a blog. This is where I currently am, and many professional photographers are quite satisfied with this level of service.  Here are a few reputable providers:
    1. -- that is the host that this site is on.  If you want to set up an account with them, use my reference code Z8X-U4Y-SEZ to save a few dollars, depending on the type of account you choose. 
  4. Advanced Professional.  These guys design thier own web sites from the ground up, and are able to include very specialized features.  It costs a bit to get started because you will need a graphic artist for layout and design ( or learn to wrtite your own!), a web hosting company to host your site, specialized software for selling, and the ability to print your own orders or have a lab that you partner with.  The details of this type of site are way beyond the scope of this article, and I assume that if you are at this level, you already have more information than I could provide. 

Well, that's it!  I hope that clears up a few questions for you.  See you on the field!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) learning photography printing tutorial Mon, 19 Mar 2012 11:45:00 GMT
Fun with the Spring teams! Thanks to the girls for making team photo day really exciting!  I mean, the guys did ok, following directions and everything, and I think you are going to like the end result when the poster comes out, but the girls .... we just had a lot of fun!  It will be a few days before I put the gallery up, and I may even just post the untouched pictures anyways.  But I am really gonna love touching up these precious shots!

I will update this post with a link to the gallery once I get everything uploaded.  See you at the opener on Moday!


[email protected] (See The Light Images) Sun, 18 Mar 2012 01:35:49 GMT
Getting Ready for Baseball Only a few more days until the High School Baseball season gets under way.  Valley's first game is scheduled for the 19th ...


The players and coaches are not the only ones who have to prepare for the season though.  Parents know that they have had to be at the ballfield for practice for several weeks already.  There is much to learn, even for the returning players.  While the Booster club is out shopping for hot dogs, I figured that I had better start getting my ducks in a row as well. 

First off, I am checking my gear to make sure that it is all in operating order.  Had to send a lens in for repair, and am now in the process of checking and adjusting the micro-adjust feature on my autofocus.  It's important that your lens acually focusses properly if you want to get good photos during the game, and many of the higher end cameras these days allow you to fine tune the auto-focus. 

Somewhat related to this, I am ordering a new clip to help me carry my camera.  With the back problems I have been experiencing, I want to get as much of the weight as I can off of my shoulder.  A friend recently showed me the spider camera holster which allows me to shift the weight of the camera and lens onto my waist rather than my back.  I am excited about trying this for baseball, since I usually carry a second camera, and that should be so handy! 

The next thing I am doing is to look back through my notes on baseball and softball.  Yes, I keep notes on these things so I can learn how to get better shots.  I also look at respected photographers to see what they are doing.  Every now and then I get a cool picture idea from Sports Illustrated or ESPN.  Sometimes they work out, sometimes not.  But I really don't  like to stay in a rut where everything is predictable.  Who knows what I might experiment with this year! 

My favorites from last year came from simply knowing where to be at a given moment and having the discipline to get there in time. 

First Pitch©-5998

As you can see, its not always about fast action, but knowing where to be and when to press the button made this memory.

That being said, I do love the expressions you guys give me, and capturing both the action and the expression is what makes the best photos


 I hope to get better this year!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) baseball sports tutorial Fri, 09 Mar 2012 15:15:00 GMT
Seeing Spring Spring is just around the corner, and this year, the blooms are bound to open early with the mild winter we have had.  Some of those who call themselves photographers love to go out and chase the beauty of spring.  There is something about the early spring greens that just cannot be matched throughout the rest of the year.  The very shapes of flowers intrigue us as we literally watch life unfold before our very eyes.  Personally, I love ferns and dogwoods, and have been privileged to be able to shoot both in thier various stages of life.  One glows with effervescent colors while the other intrigues with its curling pattern.  Each as unique as we are!


Yet we usually do not see many of these unique features simply because we don't slow down enough to really see them.  This spring, as life returns to these mountains and valleys, take a few minutes to slow down when something of beauty catches your eye.  Spend some time getting to know that flower or tree or bird or whatever it may be.  If your camera is handy, make some pictures.  One of my favorite images to date comes from an afternoon I spent literally dancing with a dogwood tree - getting to know it from every concievable angle.  By the time the evening light was hitting it just right, I knew exactly the shot that I wanted from that tree .... and she graciously gave it to me.  glowing dogwood04-24-6730

[email protected] (See The Light Images) dogwood learning nature photography tutorial Fri, 09 Mar 2012 00:13:02 GMT
Blog is now up ! I never thought I would see the day, but blogging is now part of my life.  As of today, I really do not know what you will see here, but it is an easy way to follow my photography. 

I will post updates here so you can know when a new game has been added, I'll probably also post some thoughts on the processes of taking and developing pictures in the digital age, and who knows what else might come into my mind.  Join me on my random thoughts!


First up, I shot the Fayette Coounty Middle School semi-finals last night.  The website is undeergoing some major maintenance today, so access might be a little slower than usual.  I got the boys game (Collins and Fayetteville)

uploaded before the server went into shut-down, and I'll get the girls game (Collins and Valley)

posted as soon as I can.  LOTS of Cheerleader shots from those games. 

Championship games are tonight, and I'll see you there!

[email protected] (See The Light Images) Fri, 17 Feb 2012 14:59:33 GMT