Tip of the Month

April 2017

Sensor Dust:  I never gave much thought to sensor dust, however, the other day I did a test and found 22 spots on one body and 19 spots on the other.  Set your camera to aperture priority, 100 ISO, f-11 and shoot a picture of a plain white wall with a 50 mm lens.  Either enlarge on your camera screen and scroll through looking for spots or import to Lightroom and in the develop module use the visualize spots mode and count the spots.  I bought a batch of cleaning swabs, brand name VSGO, on Amazon for $20.00, they come in APS-C size and FF and after gently wiping the sensor once in each direction, virtually all dust spots were gone leaving only 2 and 4 respectively, good enough for me.  Will repeat the rest from time to time.

March 2017

PINTEREST:  Pinterest is the name of a free web site that post thousands of interesting little facts, info sheets and ideas.  It then allows you to pin them to various folders that you create and name for safe keeping.  It covers just about everything from all aspects of photography, survival, home design, star gazing, you name it and they have a sheet for it.  Just a good way to save info on stuff you may or may not need today, but now have a good place to find it when you want it.

February 2017

Tripod Table Top:  Convert your tripod into a convenient little table top for macro, flora or whatever you are working on.  Simply mount a 1/4 x 20 blind nut into a suitable piece of wood and attach to your tripod with the camera screw, cover with an old T-shirt or whatever and you now have an infinitely adjustable table.

January 2017

Reference Cards:  When you figure out something new or interesting for your camera, write it down on a little 2"x3" piece of card stock and then throw it in your camera bag.  For example after shooting something like the Northern Lights, a rising moon, a particular portrait session or attend a seminar, write down all your camera settings or particulars so when in a similar situation many months or years later, you can quickly see what you did and be ready to start the new shoot with a better chance of success.  Even things like how to access certain settings, etc on your camera can be a useful reminder.  If you didn't note your settings at the time of the shoot, you can always look them up in post in your metadata.and then write up your reference card.

October 2016

Mono-pod:  While on an April back-packing trip this year I started using hiking poles and came to really like them, so while on my latest photo trip I decided to try a mono-pod. I found it not only stabilized me while trekking up and down mountain climbs, it worked extremely well at stabilizing the camera.  It was simple and convenient and coupled with an Arca-Swiss quick release was fast and easy to use and saved the hassle of lugging the tripod.  It cannot replace a tripod completely but it can do a lot.

June 2016

Fine Tune Auto Focus: Wanted to mention something that many photographers may not be aware of and this could help you achieve sharper pictures.  The auto focus on your camera from the factory may not be calibrated as accurately as you think and so there are in many cases fine tune adjustments built into your camera for this reason. I know of at least four companies offering products to help you fine tune your camera; Lens Align, FoCal, Dot Tune and Focus Pyramid. Check them out on YouTube. I am using Focus Pyramid and have made adjustments to all my lenses.

May 2016

Comfort Tape:  Came across some tape that is a fabric and soft and yet has no adhesive so it is easy to remove at some later point with no mess. I am using it to wrap the legs on my tripod making them easier to grab and warmer to the hands in winter. The brand name is McNett and is available at Henry's.  I believe there are other brands available at hunting stores for wrapping firearms etc. and also available to vets for wrapping animal injuries as again there is no adhesive to stick to the fur and yet it holds firmly.

March 2016

Stroboscopic Flash: Not all flash have this feature, but it may be worth your while to read your manual carefully.  Something fun and interesting to experiment with. A typical example might be to have say a 1/2 sec. exposure with the flash firing 4 times so you effectively capture a multiple exposure.  Best results are with low ambient light and your flash will of course have to fire at less than full power in order for it to cycle quickly enough. Since I did not have a 5 year old available to jump off a balcony into the snow while I took the shots, I offer the very poor substitute of billiard balls rolling across the pool table.  This was a fixed camera position at a 1/2 sec. exposure, f-10, ISO 100 with flash at 1/8 power firing 4 times.  Similarly you could pan a moving subject in a reasonably dark environment and get dramatic results.

January 2016

Portraits:  Picked up a good book over the holidays, Peter Hurley's "Head Shot", a very worthwhile read.  Though lighting is a big part of a good portrait, Peter spends most of this time explaining how the big success in good portraits is subject/photographer relations and subject specific poising details i.e. head tilt, face angle, eye position, amount of smile, etc.  As a follow up, check out this YouTube channel: Fstoppers critique Peter Hurley and play along as they critique/analyze 20 head shot portraits and as you watch you quickly begin to see the same things they do.

November 2015

What's In Focus:  Recently a few members were asking how to use aperture and what it does other than let in light.  The two simplistic answers I gave were in say a typical outdoor portrait, a wide open aperture focusing on the subject would produce a sharp focus on the subject of course but result in a very soft non-distracting background.  The other example might be a typical landscape with maybe a leading line or a strong foreground element that required both foreground and background to be sharp.  Here the technique is to frame the landscape, then re-aim the camera and focus on the foreground element or alternately focus 30% into the composition, hold focus, recompose and take the shot using a stopped down aperture of something more than say f-10.  Now both the foreground item, rock, log, flowers or whatever and the background should be sharp and in focus.