At What Point Does Gear Matter?

I read a fair amount of articles around when to get gear, arguments for and against gear and on and on and on….  Most of these articles do make valid points and I’m going to toss my 2 cents into the ring Smile

My standpoint is going to be a little different as I’m not going to approach this from the gear side – closer to the scenario side of things.  Let’s explore this a bit.

To me, photography is about capturing the moment.  If you can capture the moment, in reality, how you captured it, is irrelevant.  Now, in saying that, as one progresses and tries to improve, there is a bit of a natural progression.  You have a camera or perhaps decide to get a new one – the initial intent of course, is to take photos.  In fact, it might even be your phone – doesn’t matter.  Not yet anyway Smile  Soooo.. as one progresses, you may want to get better.  If you follow ads, that latest and greatest camera will get you better photos – right?  Well, it depends…..sort of……  IF you have learned the basics and rules of  photography AND perhaps reached a point where your existing camera simply doesn’t do something you “see”.  At some point you become VERY serious and may trade, or buy your way into your “dream” camera and here you are…..  Soooo….what do you end up with?  Perhaps one camera, a backup and related accessories?  More important here – do you have your camera with you at all times?  If you are a serious amateur, you likely don’t Smile  You may have a DSLR or even a mirrorless perhaps, but there is a strong likelihood you don’t.  Unless. of course, you are not worried about using your phone…..To me, it’s about the moment and the camera is the tool.  What that tool is, shouldn’t matter for the most part.  BUT in saying that, there’s another perspective.  THIS also depends on where you are on the totem pole.

I consider myself a very serious photographer.  I have over 15 years in 35mm film and have now been in the digital space for more than a few years.  From my 35mm days, I do know the basics and despite the fact I’m still developing my brand, I have developed some personal mandates. 

1.  It is about capturing the moment.  I have my own theory around that.  When I started in the digital space and started to acquire my cameras, the intent was to have a camera with me at all times.  The one thing I DIDN’T do, was get rid of my cameras.  And I have a LOT of them – 15+ at last count.

2. I do try to “get it right” in camera.  So what does that mean.  Two things – I know the technical side of the camera to ensure my settings are correct for what I want to do.  I get my composition as close to what I “see” on the shot.  Does that mean I don’t take a lot of photos?  Not really – it goes beyond that.  I will take different exposures, angles. compositions as well.  There’s a reason – reduce post processing time.  Look at it this way – if you are sitting at your computer, you are taking time away from taking photos or time to prepare to take photos.

When I got going on this, I actually got my gear based on what I was doing at the time and as my “direction” changed, I got different gear accordingly.  Everything I do, even to this day, is based on mobility – or having the least amount of equipment to get the job done.  To a point…..  My photography fits into two basic categories.  The casual stuff and the serious stuff to keep it simple.  Casual  basically is the snapshot area.  In other words, everything from social events to reference photos for my properties.  Serious stuff is the stuff that the public sees.  DSLR’s are my primary use cameras but I am not bound to them in some situations either. 

So, why DSLR’s?  I do have a Micro Four Thirds unit – a Panasonic GX1 with a couple of lenses and it does just fine.  I also have a Fuji X10 – another great unit that I still use.  DSLR’s get me “into the game”.  I went into DSLR’s for two primary reasons.  First – image quality – I knew I would be in the space where the larger sensor would become a factor.  As good as Micro Four Thirds is, I do like what the larger sensor returns.  My Nikons are APS-C and not full frame, but all things considered, my preference is still with my Nikons.  The Panasonic and Fuji’s render every so slightly warmer in some situations.  The second was based on circumstance – battery power was a key factor and even today there are times when the extra battery power of  my Nikons reigns supreme.  Does the extra weight get in the way?  Yes, there are times.  And then there are accessories.  Micro Four Thirds, to my knowledge, have only recently been in the high speed sync space.  In mirrorless it’s just hitting a point where the flexibility is there.  But not in all cases. DSLR’s have had that flexibility for accessories for a long longer.  For instance – if I need to use radio triggers for a studio setup or equivalent, I don’t have to worry about looking very far or even spending a lot of money to get them.  I have several sets of radio triggers actually depending on the scenario.  I recently bought a bare bulb flash unit for some very specific work – getting one for Nikon was easy.  If I had been using say a Panasonic GH4 – not a hope.  Try and get a radio trigger release or even a remote release for something other than Canon or Nikon – not as easy as you think.

Sooo.. the bottom line.  Is there a point where gear matters or makes a difference?  To me, yes.  It’s also a judgement call.  You envision a specific type of photo and your current stuff doesn’t quite fit the bill.  Will getting new gear or extra gear make you a better photographer?  No, it won’t make you a better photographer – it will get you the shot though Smile


New Directions–Gear to Fit

Let’s face it – most of us in this space a gear junkies to a certain degree.  I probably have way more cameras than I could possibly use let alone things like studio gear, flashes and accessories.  BUT, in saying that, in order to shift with direction changes or addressing some new markets to ply my “trade”, one needs to ramp up too.  I’ll explain a bit.

In my “real life”, I’m an unemployed Sr. Business Analyst in IT.   For a while now, I’ve been looking at photography as an alternate area.  Yeah yeah – I know – this could be a tough haul.  I know that, but at the same time…..  Indicators are there with the research I’m doing.  There are opportunities out there.

From the camera and lens side of things, I’m at a point where I “think” I’m in good shape to tackle everything upcoming.  Lighting or getting more of it is where I’ve been targeting my efforts recently.

When I’m doing close up work (flowers, plants mostly), I use flash where necessary.  Everything from fill flash to High Speed Sync to multiple units including continuous lighting.  For portraits, I use strobes.  Event work is mostly with flash and my LIghtSphere.  My primary flash is the Nikon SB700, with a Yongnuo as my backup.  For the most part, this works fine.  For a lot of my work in stills, I do use either a remote release whether it be Nikon’s infrared one or their cable release.  I also will use a radio trigger release depending on mobility requirements.  And then… I recently some stuff where the SB700 simply didn’t have the “oomph” I needed to light things up the way I wanted.  Sooo…. the hunt began.  My first thought was the Nikon SB900.  This would allow me to stay inside Nikon’s Creative Lighting System.  That was the first thought Smile  BUT… when I started to look at it closer, I thought there might be other options.  That option ended up being a StrobePro X360 Bare Bulb Unit tied in with a set of radio triggers capable of High Speed Sync. This was a bit of a tough call in it’s own right.

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Ok – this unit puts out at 300 Watt Seconds for starters. That’s strobe territory!!!  It does have a battery pack.  It’s got a lot of pieces, though keeping it partially assembled gets around that.  This is also quite a big unit.  Think SB910 but with a battery pack attacked.  The battery pack will allow me to go over 900 shots on a charge).  Now in thinking about that, I won’t be using it anywhere close to that in real life, but what I was after was power AND mobility.  What this now allows me to do, is increase WHAT I can do.  The tough call part…….

For  a little bit more, I could have got the new StrobePro LED strobe that just came out – it’s a battery powered LED strobe/600 WS  and in reality, easier to set up.  The deal breaker for me was two fold.  I didn’t want another strobe at this point and more important – I would literally have to haul more gear with me.  It’s not that I won’t get it – I can see needing one at some point.  Just not now.  Also for what I wanted to do, I would still need to add the HSS radio triggers anyway.  The X360 plus triggers actually cost less than the base strobe. More important – portability.  I can attach this to my D7200 (though I do have a bracket as well) if I need to.  If I used a strobe, that mobility would be lost.  THAT was real deal breaker.  At this point anyway, I wanted the most flexibility for the price.  Horsepower, mobility and High Speed Synch.  Set up time was a compromise I would have to sacrifice.

Now about bare bulb units.  These aren’t for everyone.  Not cheap by any stretch but if one needs sheer horsepower in a smaller unit – these are definitely a consideration.  Sure there were others out there that were smaller and single unit, but nothing close performance wise.  The X360 comes with a reflector and diffuser.  My initial tests were done with the diffuser and to me, it’s amazing!!!  Even with the diffuser on it, this thing puts out!!!  My most powerful studio strobe is 250 W/S and for most things I do with portraits, I’ve got these dialled down.   From the mobility part  – a battery powered strobe would ALWAYS require a stand.  The flash wouldn’t – I could attach it to my camera or even a bracket if needed that way.  Ideally, I wanted to be able to use this on a stand.  Did I need more accessories around this?  Yes.  A couple of things.

As I mentioned before, I added some radio triggers.  Go figure – I already have radio triggers for my strobes, but they don’t support High Speed Synch.  That’s OK – my strobes aren’t set up for that anyway Smile  When I started to experiment with High Speed Synch, I was working inside Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS).  In reality, this is a REALLY neat thing if you can incorporate into your photography.  I do Smile  When I was looking to get the bare bulb unit, HSS was definitely a consideration.  With the extra power that the bare bulb unit has, it’ll increase my capability to do other things in this space.  I have ideas……. Smile  This was also a consideration when it came down to choosing a higher powered flash – an SB910 or the StrobePro X360. 

Before I continue on…. a comment about power in lighting units.  It’s interesting how your perspective changes over time.  For instance, with my strobes and existing flash units, what I had currently is more than adequate for everything I was doing at the time.  THEN, I started to work in a few new spaces – product displays and still life work. It was then I decided to start changing things up a bit.  The thinking went along these lines….

When you are taking photos for yourself or even for competition, things like setup time takes a back seat.  By that, I mean, we are striving for “that shot”, and so we’ll go literally go to extremes to get the setup correct.   As we become more and more advanced, lighting becomes a little more complex depending on the session involved.  I like to work on the principle of keeping things as simple as possible.  That doesn’t mean I won’t go to a more complex configuration, I will, but then again, I’m constantly striving for a certain look to my photos – part of my “brand” if you want to call it that.  Part of the close up work I do (a lot with plants), involved experimenting with different lighting configurations.  My most sophisticated one for close ups was on a plant, an Amaryllis, where I used window light, a couple of LED lights and electronic flash to create the shot I wanted.  Over the last few months, I had been incorporating more and more continuous lighting into my close up photos.  Again, this was in specific instances.  At the same time, I was also watching what was happening in LED technology.  It was advancing and I started to work with more and more with LED studio lighting.   I had acquired a StrobePro L308 and a Neewer one for “testing” purposes and then, I had to do a larger type of shoot.  I was able to get by with strobes, but I had to take more than a few shots to get the lighting how I wanted it.  I decided that I wanted to get a little more efficient in doing this sort of things, seeing as this was an area I would be spending more time in.  That prompted a hunt that resulted in a StrobePro L1500, a 1500 watt LED studio light.    I went to StrobePro to check it out and play with it and then decided to buy it.  This is actually my first “pro level” light and WOW is all I can say.  That totally changed how I look at product work!!! 

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In the big picture, my existing camera bodies and lenses are more than adequate for what I’m planning to do.  The big puzzle now is the future adventures as I book more gigs.   Onward.

Musings on Getting Better

The other day, I took delivery of a strobe to add to my studio gear.  I have a fairly big shoot coming up and wanted to try a slightly different config for this shoot.  Nothing too fancy here – it’s simply some head and shoulder type shots but they need to be “business” shots.   Nothing cute and fancy about these – for me, that is.   Recently, actually before that even, I got thinking about the various ways I’ve progressed over the years. 

At one time, back in the 35mm days, I was a very serious amateur that did a bit of free-lancing at the time.  I also owned a photo retail store and had quite an interesting career that surrounded photography.  Then, a career change took me away from that for about 30+ years and over the last few years, I’ve regained my passion for this hobby.  Digital made things easier in some aspects, but more difficult in others, but it was nice to see that I could still “see” Smile  My current career as a Business Analyst, has given me the skills to be a little more methodical in my thinking, hence this entry on learning.  Oh – and I also have done a lot of training – not photo though – concepts are the same.  Sooo…. I guess one of the key root questions in photography – How does one get better in the art itself?

In the beginning…. Smile  Thought I would toss that in there…..  I feel that in order to even think about being a better photographer, one needs to have a bit of creative talent.  The ability to see things “differently” for lack of a better term.  To me, it’s one thing to look at picture and ask the question “How did they do that?”, turn around and continue on, and totally another to try to sit there and figure out how they actually did do that. Smile  Like any hobby or creative venture, it’s getting to that next step or at least taking it.

The vast majority of folks who use cameras, use them to simply take snapshots and basically that’s it.  Their only concern is catching the moment (not that that’s a bad thing),  and their world simply stops.  Let’s face it – today’s technology does a pretty good job from the technical side of exposure, etc.  Composing or understanding some of the “rules” – totally different issue.  There’s a big difference between a photo and good photo Smile  I’ve seen some photos that are simply not good and person thought it was a great photo.  To each their own.  I’ve also seen some great shots embedded in a photo and all it took was a little cropping to make it a great photo – they simply didn’t fill the frame.  To me, this brings up the issue of that “line” between the casual photographer and the more serious photographer.  Let’s explore that a bit.

IF one does want to get better at the “art” itself, I feel that there’s this combination of learning the art and learning your equipment that comes into play.  I mean, let’s face it – something as simple as understanding how the Rule of Thirds works and applying it to your camera will move one forward almost instantly.  BUT, in saying that – how many folks even know about the rule?  OR learning the basics of exposure and being able to tie that in with what the camera can do?  Technology, to me, has come a long way in assisting with the exposure piece.  Even the pointy shooties or phones for that matter, do a surprisingly good job, all things considered.  Sooo.. what are some of the “blockers”?

This is a little subjective but in most places, I sometimes think that “other” technologies surrounding our respective lifestyles is HUGE blocker.  We need to make a living, so photography like any other hobby is exactly that – we “dabble” the odd time and leave it at that.  Quite simply, there are other things that need to get done.  Fair enough.  Even with me, I have a surprisingly limited amount of time in today’s world for photography itself.  My knowledge spans over 15 years in 35mm film plus motion picture and now digital.  When I first got going in this, photography was my only hobby.  Today, I’m an IT Consultant, have revenue properties, write blogs, and a myriad of other things and if anything, I have less time now than I used to pursue this hobby, which I am loving dearly.  BUT, I still try to keep learning at every chance.  

In understanding the “art” and basic things to getting better at photography.  To me there are two pieces to this.  The first, is getting the information about the art.  The second is implementing what you learned.  In other words, getting out there and using your camera.  Todays technology make this a very inexpensive proposition to the film days, so taking a lot of photos shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Results are instantaneous.  A big part of your learning should follow along these lines.  You take a photo – it didn’t come how you thought.  Was it you, or was something set wrong in the camera?  OH – do you know what your camera is capable of?  Smile  To me, it’s amazing how many folks I run into that  tell me that they are having trouble using their camera because they had trouble with the controls.  What – they didn’t read the manual?  They didn’t try taking photos with the settings to see the result?  To me, the term point and shoot, can be a but misleading.  Those little pointy shooties can be surprisingly complex.  the other thing.  When they say point and shoot, did you know that basically meant a sunny day or using the flash (within their limitations).  Not necessarily those cloudy days, or funny lighting conditions.  To me, creativity is one thing – knowing your camera… well… you need to know.  We seem to always be in a hurry  and one wants to be good instantly.  Sorry – doesn’t happen that way.  It comes with time.  Sort of like buying your first set of golf clubs and expecting to qualify for the pros Smile  Sorry again…..

For me, it sort of goes along this path.  From the photo side of things first.  I may see a photo or perhaps a technique that interests me.  I try to figure out how the shot was done and then figure out how I would take that shot.  I usually can’t duplicate the shot due to location, so I have to apply the same technique to something different.  OR, I look at something and it dawns on me that there’s a shot hiding in there Smile  Same thing – How do I pull of the shot I “see”.  Then, I grab my camera and take the shot or shots.  Sometimes….. I get the shot.   Many times, I don’t get the shot right away.  Some of the factors – lighting didn’t come out, exposure might be off a bit, composition wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.  Sooo… I start to experiment.  Adjust settings. bracket the shot, change  composition – maybe set up an external flash, add filters.  Oh yeah – I also take notes Smile  Sometimes, I can only get close and have to rely on software (though I hate doing that).  All breaks down to understanding your camera and also what YOU know about getting that shot.  AND I take as many photos as I need to.  Deleting stuff after is easy Smile  Notice I said after.  Yes, I’ll punt the shots that were simply bad right away.  The rest – well, I’ll leave them until I get  a chance to see them on screen.  I’ll give some examples.  I went looking for a location one day to get a cityscape of our skyline.  I found the location, the lighting was what I wanted.  I took about 20 shots that encompassed location more than exposure and got what I wanted.  My wife has plants.  She had this one rose that I wanted to capture a pic of.  The lighting wasn’t ideal and I ended up using flash with hi speed synch to get the shot.  That shot took a couple of hours and close to 100 photos to capture a couple that I thought were good enough to show anyone else.  I kept about 10 and punted the rest.

And then there’s the equipment.   I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen people jump to DSLR’s because they thought it would get them better pictures Smile  Quality is one thing – yes, the DSLR will get you a high quality image but so will a pointy shooty if taken in the right context.  It ain’t the camera!!! I have a lot of cameras – we won’t get into the extra stuff I have for the moment.  What most folks don’t seem to understand – a DSLR has a LOT of extra functionality.  That functionality takes a long time to learn – if can’t take advantage of that, it’s gonna sit in your closet colleting dust because it was either too bulky or too complex to learn.  Even the entry level ones aren’t necessarily that easy to learn.  More important – you don’t get one of these to keep in “Auto”.  You can actually get a camera that does more, is smaller and likely less expensive.  A DSLR can actually do more but you need accessories – that means more money.  AND more bulk.

Let’s assume you already have a camera.  Or maybe you are looking at moving “up”.  Perhaps even from your smartphone.  What typically will happen?  We happen to be going by the camera section at a department store and the thought occurs – “I should get a new camera.” Smile  It’s only then, you try to formulate in your mind the “why”.  Some questions here – have you figured that “why”?  Have you hit the limits of your camera?  Are those limits enough to justify stepping up?  Yeah, it can be a tough call, but it’s a good reality check too. 

When I look at new gear, there’s very little impulse – well sometimes there is Smile  I buy gear to fill some specific thing that I can’t currently do easily.  Notice – I said “easily”.  When it comes to cameras, I stepped up to DSLR’s in very small steps.  I knew I ultimately would end up there because of my history – I just wasn’t in a hurry to get there.  When I decided to move up from the pointy shooty class, it was because I wanted something that could deal with low light.  It was a big shortcoming on a vacation I took, and when I got back, the hunt started.  My thoughts were to get a camera that was advanced enough to handle low light but at the same time, for me to grow and find out more about the aspects of digital photography in a more serious manner.  The camera I got was the Fuji X10, which, at the time, was one of the more advanced cameras out there for a compact advanced camera.  I  still have that camera and still use it Smile  I used that camera for about 6 months exclusively.  Two things came out of that – for some of the stuff I was doing, I was running out of battery power, coupled to flash range on some events I took photos at.  Second – it only had a 4x zoom, which was a bit of a restriction for a few things I wanted to do.  I got extra batteries – fine.  I then looked at units with a larger zoom.  That prompted my journey into travel cameras.  At the time, I was commuting and time was a huge factor, so being able to stuff a camera in my daypack was convenient.

Between the two, my passion for photography began to grow and I started to do more and more, and with that came more cameras.  I wanted to get more serious, but DSLR’s were still a bit “out there” for me.  I wanted a more advanced unit, but wasn’t sure where to go and one day, I chanced on a Nikon 1 J1 on a clearout.  This is an interchangeable mirrorless unit, but it was pretty well fully automatic.  It was a cheap buy as I got two lenses and the body for under $500.  It was a chance to play in larger sensors to see what they could do.  There were certain aspects that caught my attention immediately.  For certain things I did – scenery, close ups – the colors were richer.  Image sharpness was the same at normal viewing but when I enlarged to crop – the image quality held up.  I used that for about 3 more months, and then I had an opportunity to be a backup photographer at a formal event.  I knew I would need way better gear and I made a decision to stay with mirrorless.  I got the Panasonic GX-1 with two lenses and spare batteries.  I got the gear about two months in advance of the event to ensure I would be comfortable with it.  Wow!  What a difference to the Nikon in performance.  Mind you – the extra control was what I was after.  BUT, the big shortcoming there was flash power.  I was restricted to about 20 ft. and around 100 flash shots per charge.  That meant a lot of battery swaps.  I had the Fuji X10 as my backup.  This event prompted my move to DSLR’s.  I got chatting with the pro about her gear – she had Nikon.  What I did notice were a couple of things – her flash cycle times were literally nil compared to me at a couple of seconds.  No battery swaps – she didn’t miss a moment.  She also mentioned that I did a good job with what I had.

I had to make a hard call here.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in this direction and moving to DSLR’s was too early.  I knew that.  BUT this event got me into another one about 4 months out for the same group.  A couple of weeks later, I found a sale on the Nikon D3200 with a kit lens so I got one to “dip my toe in”.   THAT put me into a whole new space and from there, it basically “got me back”.  It also flushed out certain things I wanted to do.  I love my scenics and close ups, but one area that wanted to explore was portraits.  I decided on flash and strobes.  I already had the flash units and strobes were a natural migration.  I now have 3 bodies and a bunch of lenses and a pretty full blown portable studio.  I do a fair number of events. Some paid, some volunteer but it’s also carving a possible future path.  Still out there on that one.

Did I stop using my other gear?  On the contrary – NO.  In fact, I didn’t sell any of  my gear – I still use them (so does my wife).  I look at it this way.  As much as I love my DSLR’s, I’m not tied to them either.  There are times when I need them for their versatility and functionality.  BUT – for other stuff, I don’t need them.  ANY of my other gear will do just fine.  Even when I take my DSLR’s, I’ll take one of my travel cams with me and in many instances, use the travel cam first.  For what I shoot and use photos for, the others are more than adequate.  I get the results I want and that’s what counts.

I can be impulsive at times, but when I need a piece of gear, it’s at the point where my purchases are very targeted.  They have to fulfil a very specific function.  Have I made some bad buys?  Sure – who hasn’t.  BUT in saying that, I’ve also made some buys that have moved my photography to a whole new level and expanded my capability too.  Here’s a good example of moving up.  I was at an event taking some casual photos for my reference.  I noticed this bulb thingy that was on top of the pro’s flash.  I asked about it.  It was the Gary Fong LightSphere.  For me, up to that point, I was using reflectors and softboxes on my flash.  His comment was to the effect that if I got one of these, I could probably get rid of the rest in most instances.  I started to research and got one.  Man – was he right. What  wonderful things.  I have two plus all the accessories.  That was one thing.  The other big thing came out of the research.  One of tutorials was about Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) and using High Speed Synchronization.  After seeing that, my mind went nuts on how I could use that.  The blocker – my D3200 and D5100 didn’t have high speed synch.  I would have to move up to the next model body – a D7100 or D7200.  I found a demo D7100 (saved me about $700).  This was on a clearout and last years model, but it got me “in the game”.  And WOW!  I couldn’t believe the extra functionality I got!

Learning curve – this camera is targeted at the serious amateur and possibly semi-pro category.  After about 5 months and more than a few thousand photos, I’m still finding out stuff.  But, I can do the stuff I normally do without blinking.  For the novice – they could be out taking photos instead of trying to learn.   One of the big pitfalls I’ve seen, is that most folks quite simply don’t take that many photos.  Interesting in one sense, as more photos are being taken more than ever, but at the same time, I feel that many simply don’t take enough photos to get familiar with even their cameras let alone try to learn.  To me, I think this is a very common thing.  One wants to “look the part” without the knowledge backing it. 

Anytime I get a new piece of gear – back up.  Let’s look at what I do when I get a new camera – maybe this will help more.  I’ll use the example of my most recent “smaller” cameras that I got.  It was the Nikon S9900.  The reason I got this one was two fold.  First, it has an articulating viewer – handy for doing low shots.  Second was the 30x zoom.  It’s also quite a small unit, so handy too.  Once I set  it up.  The first series of test shots were to ensure that the metering was consistent to my other Nikons.  I normally set my ISO to 200 and put the camera in Programmed Auto mode with matrix metering as well as matrix type autofocus at the beginning.  This gives me a good idea of how the camera sensor renders generally.  I also set the camera to the “vivid” setting.  I found that overall color rendering with my Nikons is pretty well the same across all my cameras.  I find the photos “bright” with a slight emphasis on blue – not noticeable if you haven’t shot across various brands.  Once I get those shots, I will try the under and over exposure setting to see what they do and ensure that the EV values are what I expect.  And then, I’ll fiddle with the zoom – perhaps take a few shots at various zoom levels.   At this point, I will know what I can do with the camera under normal conditions.  THEN, I’ll grab a coffee and start to go over what’s in the menu to see what else is hiding there that might be useful and to familiarize myself with the menus themselves.  What I am after at this point, are the places where I need to get at changes fast.  ISO, metering, autofocus, etc.  The things that I may change “on the fly”, so to speak.  I do look at the Scene modes, though I rarely use them.  For me, I target myself to start using the camera as fast as I can. 

Once I get fairly comfortable with the camera itself in being able to use it for most normal things, I’ll then start looking at the more advanced functions.  Some of them I may use, others I probably won’t.  Like Wi-Fi and GPS – no use to me at this time.  Generally speaking, there is a bit of a charge in the battery, so I’ll use it for a few shots or until the battery is drained and then charge it overnite.  Then, I may or may not use it the e next day – it depends on what else I have on my plate.  If I can I will, if not I don’t sweat it.  On a smaller unit, I’m usually not concerned with learning a lot at the beginning – I’ve done this for more than a few cameras (I own 15+), so it’s come naturally.  BUT, if it’s something I’m trying to learn on my DSLR, that’s a different story.  It sometimes takes a bit of scheduling but I will try to block out several hours if  I need to learn a new technique or something like that.  I count on the fact that I will be taking a lot of test shots to perfect the technique.  I’m at that point where if something like portraits needs some tweaking, it’s worth taking the time to learn and be good at it. 


As Spring Rolls In…. Thoughts

Wow!!  Does time ever fly!!!  Over the last few months, I’ve been taking a bit more time for photography than I normally have been.  I’m a consulting  IT Business Analyst  and have been sitting in between contracts for a bit now with the Oil and Gas industry pretty well grinding to a halt Sad smile   It’s been both good and bad, in one sense.  The good part, is that I am able to get caught up on “stuff” that normally doesn’t get done as well as focus on photography a bit more.  The bad part, is that I’m not working.  Am I worried?  Well, sort of, but at the same time, I’m happy for the extra time.

As an IT type of person, I’m in a “busy” career path if you are familiar with this career path or know of people in this business sector.  I’m very technical for a Business Analyst type – pretty “geeky”, and getting on in my years.  HOWEVER, in saying that, I leverage my past experience for everything it’s worth in today’s world.  When I got back into digital photography about  three years ago, I came back in with roughly 15 years of 35mm film experience with a background in retail/distribution, purchasing, free lancing, darkroom work.  We should also get something straight right off the bat.  I never really was without a camera.  I was in that mode of “casual” photography.  Mostly of the kids, family events, “simple” vacation photos – you know – the simpler side of things from the photo perspective.

I’ve mentioned this before – when I came back into the “craft”, it was from a very different “angle”, if you want to call it that.  It came from both wanting to be able to take more photos again, but at the same time, being mobile.  My life has changed quite radically from the 35mm days and in today’s world, “busy” has taken on a whole new meaning Smile  I’ve been in the computer space for the most part since the beginning of  the PC and even though there were a few bumps in there, it’s been good to me.   Going into the consulting side of things over the last 8 years or so has allowed me the comfort of being able to afford to move quickly to try things.  And I did when it came to photography – I acquired gear like crazy trying to figure out the digital side of things.

Back to the spring thing.  Over the last month or so, I started to work in RAW with the cameras I own that can shoot RAW.  This was prompted by a few of my pro friends pushing me there plus some research plus an upcoming course where I will have to know about RAW.  To explain a bit more….  notice I mentioned cameras.  I own roughly 15 cameras that range from pointy shooties to DSLR’s.  Part of the the 3 year journey.  My DSLR’s are Nikon and my preference is to utilize 2 bodies with two zooms.  I have more lenses, but this is my base gear.  Despite all the stuff I read about pros using primes all the time, the pros I know, tend to use zooms.  Discussions have revealed, that it’s more than sharp enough for most things.  I use APS-C sensor cameras in the D3200 and D5100, which is also adequate should I venture closer to the pro side from what I have been told.

From my experience and learning from the 35mm days,  I am a firm believer in “getting the shot right the first time” and still am.  As a result of that, I’ve shot JPEG’s along the way.  The other thing that I have found is that the digital space is very different from the world of 35mm.  Some discoveries:

1.  The “Art” itself hasn’t changed that much in one sense.  The basic “rules” still hold – a good photo is still a good photo.  Digital has allowed very different things that can be done with the art.

2.  Technology has made it easier to take photo’s.  The sheer number of photos that are being taken is mind boggling.  Good that more people are taking photos, but what are they doing with them.  The quality is also there for the most part.  Surprisingly good.

3.  Social media and the internet make the world accessible.  If you have thoughts of going pro, it’s a very different market  now.  A photographer today, has to not only understand their gear, there’s software and the internet to deal with.  More complicated in one sense.

4.  Once you hit the serious amateur side of things, there seems to be this tendency to “pixel peep”, or become a little more concerned about sharpness and noise.  Almost to a fault.  The camera manufacturers keep putting out more and more advanced “stuff” to cash in that obsession.  When I was shooting in 35mm and in low light with high speed Black and White, getting the shot was the important piece, grain was second.  Today, we call the grain “noise” if I got my understanding right Smile  Back then we used that grain to enhance the “mood” of the shot. 

5.  There is a lot of time that can be sucked up doing post work.  In learning more about RAW and the software associated with it, I am REALLY glad that I have a bit of time to learn about this.  I’ve also found that RAW  isn’t necessarily RAW.  Each manufacturer has it’s own version and “It ain’t the camera”, and I really agree with that.  A little more later on that.

So – back to spring.  It’s here!!!  Stuff here in Calgary hasn’t started turning green yet, but it’s getting close.  I am so looking forward to getting out and about more.  For the first time since I got into this, I feel I’m at the stage where I was back in 35mm with my DSLR’s.  It’ not that I’m ignoring the rest of the gear, is more being able to do certain things with the DSLR’s that I can’t do with the rest of my gear.  One of them is the super wide angle stuff – landscapes and scenics.  As nice as it would be to have something for my Panasonic GX1, it really didn’t exist, so I went to a Tamron 10-24 mm zoom.  In 35mm terms, that give me the equivalent of 15mm to 36mm.  Back in the day, the majority of my landscape stuff was done with the 17 and 20mm lenses.  Interior work was done with a 24mm and other stuff could be managed with the 28 or 35mm lens.  I have that with this zoom.  This was actually the one lens that actually held me back in some respects. 

Am I going to add more gear coming into this season?  You know – I really don’t think so.  A few accessories, maybe, but from the “big stuff” standpoint, probably not.  If I do, it’ll be to add a third body – a D7100 with an 18 – 140 to get the extra horsepower and functions.  The one thing I’ve found in shooting in RAW, is that under certain conditions, especially when I do sequence shots, the camera (D3200)  becomes unusable for about 10 seconds while the buffer writes out.  The D5100 is better, but file sizes are smaller too. Faster SD cards hasn’t helped – it’s simply a processing issue – the processor isn’t fast enough to handle this.  To make matters worse, I’m also set up at the moment, anyway, in RAW + JPEG Fine, so that doesn’t help either.

Now – about RAW.  From my understanding of this format, it’s all the data that the camera sensor captures. JPEG’s are what you get with the camera settings in place and what the processor “thinks” is a good photo.  Soooo… in reality, if you set the camera up correctly, there shouldn’t  be any difference between the JPEG and the RAW.  What the RAW does give you though, is all the data not just what the processor settings were, so the file is much larger.  Because you have so much information, you have more flexibility in post processing.  Whew!! That was a mouthful eh?  (Had to toss that in – Canadian Smile)  What I have been doing, is shooting with both formats to compare and ensure I’m doing stuff at my end right.  The good news – I am Smile  BUT, in saying that – RAW still has advantages.

This is where the post piece starts to come into play.  Yes, I can do more with RAW, but the cost is time.  TONS of time.  Granted, I’m still in the learning side of things, but the time factor is significant.  What it does emphasize though, is how important it is to learn how to do it right the first time Smile  Before I forget, I am set up with computer equipment that can handle those larger files Smile 

Soooo…. coming into this spring – the attack plan.  I will likely continue to use my DSLR’s set at both RAW +JPEG Fine.  My other two units, the Fuji X10 and Panasonic GX1, I’ll likely leave them at JPEG Fine.  I do some free lancing and when doing those, I will likely shoot exclusively RAW, but we’ll see when I get there.  I also want to expand WHAT I take pics of.  I’m only 45 minutes away from the Rockies and some of the most beautiful mountain ranges around and don’t get there that often.  That’s gotta change.  I’ve designed some new stuff to test for my outdoor plant stuff – can hardly wait to try it outdoors.  I do want to get some studio “stuff” – backdrop and lights, but it’s not a priority yet.  Likely for this fall.  More consistency in my blogs – I have a lot started but nothing finished  – that’s gotta change.


Reflections on 2014–Looking Forward…..

As the saying goes “Another one bites the dust”.  Wow!  Where did 2014 go anyway? 

I’ve got a couple of entries sort of done and they’ve kinda dead ended, so with XMAS wound down and with the New Year coming into play, I thought I would “reflect” a bit on this last year.

Generally, it was this combination of discovering, acquiring, building new stuff from the the photo standpoint.  Let’s not forgetting taking a pile of pics along the way.  Sooo… here we go Smile

For me, this year, the focus was more around what I wanted to do with DSLR’s and where I could use them.  I did start to do a bit of free lancing, but the big area was in simply trying to get better in the areas where I “played”.  These were new from my days of 35mm.  I’ve always done close up work, but I wanted to expand in that space. I started to do light box work.  Not as much in scenic space but a bit more with architecture. I wanted to “get back” Smile  Sort of …..  I also wanted to simply take more photos – lots more….. simply see where my interests would end up.

Base Equipment

Despite the fact that I did acquire a fair amount of stuff, it wasn’t in the area of cameras, but more in the accessories.  I actually didn’t go on a monster camera buying binges this year per se.  Not like the year before.  It was a little more planned Smile Equipment purchases fell around trying to get more efficient..  There were two areas that I focused on.  First was on some event work stuff.  I added a new body in the Nikon D5100 to complement my D3200.  I also added a bigger flash so I now have the SB400 ad SB700. 

Flash Units

Huge time saver having two cameras on a shoot Smile 

From a lens standpoint, for the DSLR’s, I was looking in two areas – one was for close up work, and I acquired a Micro Nikkor 40mm f2.8 for that to start.  This was a great addition for me and I also added a Tamron 28-200 which I ran into by accident and cheap.  This was for an FX type camera so everything about it was manual, but it did give me a little more flexibility.  In being manual though, it also meant longer set up times.  Works OK, though it is a big lens.   wanted to keep the lens count down too and use zooms as much as possible.

The other area evolved around the concept of taking a DSLR with me all the time, instead of my smaller cameras.  I did this a lot in my 35mm days, but this time around, I went a different route and had a bunch of small cameras.  I took the path to DSLR’s in very methodical and sort of progressive way and so in reality, the DSLR was the last thing I wanted for every day carry.  I had developed other ways and means around using gear during my daily commute.  Before continuing on I should make myself very clear about image objectives.  For starters, one of my main goals was to be mobile (as in gear small enough for my daypack), and still get good quality images for what I do.  In other words – I’m not fixated on DSLR’s Smile  I use DSLR’s obviously every chance I get, but at the same time, have no qualms about grabbing a pointy shooty or something else to get the shot either.

My current gear includes several pointy shooties that include some advanced units, some travel cameras, a bridge camera, two Compact System Cameras and my DSLR’s.  I think I have roughly 15 cameras or so. The end goal was DSLR’s and it took about 3 years to get there.

It was a little later in the year, roughly September’s  when I started to entertain the idea of moving outside of the daypack and seeing if it would be possible to commute easily with yet a second bag of sorts.  Sticking a DSLR in my daypack was totally out of the question as I already had too much work stuff in there.  I started to look at various types of bags and one that I ran into, was the Caden triangular sling.  Now, this one was an option and in trying it, it actually works well, but at the time, I didn’t have a lens that covered the range I wanted, so the bag sat in a corner for a while.


I did try it on weekends where I could get away with the 18-55 and as long as I didn’t do anything crazy, I was fine.  BUT, in saying that, I did want more range from one unit.  In the end, I found the 18-250 Sigma, but more on that in a bit. 

Another area that totally fascinates me, is in the area of super zoom type camera and I have a few of the travel cameras that are in that 20x zoom.  For me, this is a really fun area to exploit.  One of my co-workers at the time got a bridge camera and the more I thought about it, the more I figured it might be worth investigating.  In the end, I got one Smile  I didn’t want to drop big bucks and wanted it to actually cover off as much of what I do as possible.  I ended up with the Nikon P520.  It was on a clear out because it was last years model, so cheap at $300.  It had an articulating mirror so I could use it for close up work.  AND it was out at 42x zoom!  What caught me off guard on this unit was image quality.  I was REALLY impressed with it. 

Ninkon P520

Here’s a shot from my light box using the P520:

USB stuff

This unit actually had the range I was looking for, and so I tried using it for a few weeks with the Caden sling during my daily commute.  Two things popped up right away – I could pull a camera faster this way than trying to dig one out of my daypack.  It was actually not too bad lugging this bag along on my daily commute.  I actually taking the P520 AND the D5100 and found I could Smile  IF I really needed to.

The other issue was finding some sort of a lens I could put on one of my DSLR’s to give me the versatility I was looking for. In the end, I did acquire a lens for my DSLR’s – it was the Sigma 18-250.  It normally resides on my D5100.  Why the D5100?  It has that articulating LCD viewfinder.  Heavier than my D3200 but at the same time, gives me the functionality I want.  BTW – I got the D5100 instead of the 5200 due to a price point.  The extra functions the D5200 had were not worth the money to me.  The price difference in reality, got me the Sigma zoom.


After researching a bit – the sensor size was about the same, and so the difference between 24 mp and 16mp wasn’t going to impact enough to make a difference.  I didn’t need GPS.  Metering was little better on the D5200, but not enough to make a difference. 

And then there was the issue of  bags Smile  I think that once one starts to accumulate more and  more gear, the question around storage and the question of  “What do I want to take?” and “What do I want to carry it all in?” rears it’s ugly head.  Sort of Smile  The quest for the perfect bag for that particular shoot, I think, is one that is always a hard one to solve.  Even for daypacks.  I’m a consultant, and my contracts vary anywhere from a few months to a couple of years.  Each one, so far has required me to have different pieces of equipment for both the job and for commuting. 

Getting back to bags.  I want to be able to have equipment “at the ready”.  I need to be able to store stuff at home.  I need to be able to take only certain pieces of gear with me in a given instance.  For home, I keep my gear set up so there is a bag for each system.  This is mostly for my Compact System Cameras and DSLR’s.  Sooo.. I keep all my stuff for the Panasonic GX1 and Nikon 1 J1 in separate bags.  I have lenses and spare batteries for each.  I have a larger LowePro bag to store my DSLR’s.   This one is the AW250

Big Bag - InsideBiig Bag - Front

I didn’t want to spend big bucks but there was no choice.

If I have a big event, and I have had a couple – I simply take this one.  Otherwise I have a bigger Kata sling where I can take my other cameras too.  I use these bags where I don’t need to set up quickly. 

The other side of this, is if I’m doing an “out and about”.  What I normally do, is take something with me on my weekend “chores”, like grocery shopping, banking, whatever.  Usually a camera or two with one of my tablets.  I have a Fossil Sling for that.

Fossil Sling and stuff

I actually have several of these “man purses”, and even though this one was expensive, it’s more than paid for itself over the last couple of years.  There’s a lesson in there about money vs quality Smile 

When I got the Sigma 18-250, it changed things.  When I stuck it on the D5100, I now had a unit that I could take just about anywhere and just deal with one lens.  I COULD still have my travel cams but I also wanted to have the Nikon P520 too.  Soooo…. I wanted a bag that would be easy to carry and at the same time, be able to retrieve any camera quickly.  One of the thing I’ve found with most bags, is that you can carry multiple cameras but one is always gong to take longer to get out.  What I found that works really well is this one I got from Amazon:

ohuhu frontohuhu inside

Cheaper than others at around $36, I think, but very well built.  It has a waterproof insert and enough room to carry spare batteries, a tablet or whatever and be accessible.  I have my D5100, P520 and SB700 as well as accessories.  A little big, but very manageable and can get a camera out quickly.  I can get either one out fast, which is something I wanted.   From the standpoint of having the gear for my “regular” stuff, I’m in a happy place Smile

Specialized Gear

One of the big things for me that was very different from my 35mm days, was the type of shooting I’m doing now compared to the 35mm days.  I did a fair amount of free-lancing and in the photo journalism side, so I did have tripods, but they were more for the the studio things I did.  Back then, everything was hand held. 

Away from the “usual” stuff of taking photos of social events, I love working with plants and doing small object photo stuff (light box work).  Sure, and  the other usual things like landscapes, etc.  I found myself doing a fair amount of  interior shots from the revenue property side of things and that’s  also one of the reasons for going with the smaller cameras.  And definitely more in the big zoom stuff. 

This time around, a tripod became more of a necessity.  I had an old tripod from the 35mm days, but it wasn’t what I wanted for what I was doing.  I started to hunt.  Talk about sticker shock!!!  I was looking for something that was mobile and at the same time be sturdy enough to hold a DSLR with a zoom.  AND I wanted a ball head so I could set up a little quicker.  The tripod I got was the ProMaster 2 carbon fibre one – 5 section. That set me back $250.  The first ball head I got was the Milano B-2 head.  It was fine to a point and for the most part it worked.  But in using anything bigger than the 18-55, it didn’t work that well.  I ended up having to go to something bigger.  I didn’t want to go to any sort of pan head because it would then be too bulky.  If I go bulky, it might as well be a BIG tripod at that point Smile  I got a Manfrotto head.  Another $130.

sManfrotto Head


This, for the moment, anyway, seems to handle everything I’m doing.  I find that I’m using a tripod more and more, but then most of the things I am doing, the tripod helps.

One of the things I started to look seriously at was lighting beyond what I had for my light box.  There were a couple of reasons.  For starters, this time of the year and this year in particular, for some reason, we haven’t gotten too much  sunlight here in Calgary.

My wife works in a garden centre and and it stands to reason we have XMAS cacti  at the house.  A great photo subject Smile


This year, in Calgary, we also haven’t had the snow we had last year either.  Over and above this I had been sort of studying lighting in a bit more depth.  Another project I was working on, was being able to back light some smaller stained glass pieces that my wife had commissioned.  More on that in a bit. 

I initially started with an Optex movie light and then added in a krog qudos .

Optex and Knog1

And then there was the issue of being able to use these lights.  What I mean by that, is things to attach the lights to so I can position them.  I had a GorillaPod that worked for certain things.

Baby Gpod

This one was the small one and I also have the larger one.  This was good when I could wrap the legs or perch it low.  The other issue I ran into, and it was mostly in the house, was being able to light from either underneath or from the top with distance beyond what the lights could enhance effectively.  What I got for this, was the articulating arms from Cowboy Studio.

Articulating arms

I ultimately ended up with an 11 inch and a 7 inch version.  Now these don’ t come cheap, but they are turning into handy little things and work extremely well.

Stained glass setup

TableTop_Stained glass

Once I got going on this stuff, I started to look further into other things that I could use to prop my lights and came up with these:


Because of our properties, we do a lot of renovation work, so I have quite a complete workshop.  I wanted to take some photos of some of the stained glass pieces that my wife got commissioned and that proved out to be a rather interesting project for taking photos of them.  I wanted to be able to backlight them.  Soooo… the first thing I did was build a small platform.

Lighting jig

Next, I needed to figure out a way to set up some sort of a backlighting jig.  I had a wire frame shelf that I had kicking around so I attached it with clamps.  I used one of my reflectors from my light box and some translucent fabric from the fabric store.

Back of frame

Little lighting added from the front

Stained glass setup

And here are a couple of shots

Stained glass2stained glass3Stained_glass1TableTop_Stained glass

These are actually quite small pieces that normally use Tea Lights on the back.

tea light view

In the end, this is a rig I can set up easily and works well, dining room table permitting Smile

Instead of using a conventional light box, I made my own.  Mine is a little different in that I don’t have a lot of space so I use direct lighting.  Simple enough using some bits and pieces I found. I have been looking at something where I can adjust my backdrop depth and what you see here is just sort of a jig.  I have something else in mind, but need to think on it a bit.

Light box

Other Accessories – There are always more accessories as you can imagine Smile  Spare memory cards for instance.  This is also a “depends” thing.  Just how many?  And what size?   I tend to go like this – my smaller cameras use the 4GB ones, more advanced one – 8 GB.  My DSLR’s will be 16GB or larger.  I offload after every project.  Filters – I try to have UV filters on my DSLR’s.  Polarizers for the shots where I need to reduce reflection.  I also have some close up filters.  Batteries – I have spare batteries for both cameras and flash.  For the camera side, I only have spares for the cameras that get used on long shooting sequences where I may run out of battery power.  DSLR’s of course.  I have at least one spare for each camera which gets me about 600 – 800 shots per camera.  My Panasonic GX1 and Fuji X10 as well – they are used a lot.  My travel cameras?  Well, no.  I haven’t used them to the point where I needed them.  I have multiple cameras, so no need Smile  

The Concept of Multiple Cameras

I’ve chatted a bit about this before in other entries.  Does one really need more than one camera?  I’ve gone the way of multiple cameras and probably taken it to an extreme Smile  I look at it perhaps in a bit of a different way, or not Smile  Most of the articles on selecting cameras emphasize the fact that one needs to evaluate what you want to do before picking the camera.  I fully agree with that.  There is also a bit of discussion around learning to use one camera to the point where you know it’s functions.  I agree with that as well.  BUT, what if one camera does something automatically that would take a lot of fiddling or post work with another?  More important – what if you were at the point where you knew those differences?  When I started to look at this, by acquiring certain cameras in something like the travel camera range, some differences showed up.  Granted – the reviews sometimes chat about this, but you know, until one takes comparative shots, its really hard to tell.  In fact, if one didn’t, one would probably never know.

Here’s an example.  I have found that in the smaller units up to the travel camera class anyway, that Fuji and Panasonics tend to shoot a little richer in things like flesh tones and plant life.  Nikons and Sony tend to shoot a little cooler but the image is brighter.  I have only one Canon, the SX270HD and it’s quite neutral.  By that I mean, it’s got a pretty good all around color.  Nothing spectacular about it, but just just does everything pretty well.  However, none of these cameras work particularly well in low light or available light.  I got the Fuji X10, XF1 and Panasonic LX7 for that.

My personal preferences go like this.  When I’m doing an “out and about”, my tendency us to take a Nikon S9400 and Fuji XF1.  The S9400 is very slim as is the XF1 being tiny.  Both fit easily into my Fossil bag.  My all around favourite camera is actually the Panasonic ZS25, but I lost it to my wife Smile  This gives me everything from low light to big zoom at any one moment in time.  IF I want to take bigger gear, my Ohuhu bag is set up with my Nikon D5100/18-250 Sigma and my Nikon P520.  What interesting here, to me, is that it’s quite easy to grab both bags on an outing.  If I am going to some sort of social event – it’ll be the X10 or LX7, usually.  For formal shoots, it’ll be both DSLR’s with appropriate gear and the Panasonic GX1 as backup.  My other cameras like the Sony HX30/FujiF800 and Canon SX270 sit on a shelf.

Now,for me, this is the framework I tend to use.  I’m not bound by it.  If I think I want the DSLR for something, I’ll use it.  When one looks at the technology we have today, especially in cameras, I’ve found that most the cameras today, take a pretty high quality image.  If one has some basic photo knowledge, it’s pretty easy to maintain high quality images. 

Why Nikon?  Well, it was pretty simple in one sense Smile  In my 35mm days, I used Canon but always wanted a Nikon – just couldn’t afford it.  Now I can Smile  For my DSLR’s, it will likely be one of these two brands anyway, despite the fact that there are lots of others out there. 

That “Post Processing” Discussion

My personal preference is to stay away from any post processing if possible.  By post processing, I mean using software to manipulate the image.  Software could be interpreted as the “darkroom” from the 35m days.  In todays world, it’s actually pretty easy to get software to “fix” your images.  Back in the day, it was expensive to get any changes made to your photo, so one set up correctly the first time.  That mean knowing pretty well everything and having the correct equipment to get the shot right the first time.  Composition, exposure – shoot.  AND working on the assumption one had the gear to get that shot.

Because of that philosophy back then, I try to do that in today’s world.  Granted – there are times when one does have to do post work, but I try to minimize as much as possible.  For me, it’s cropping more than anything when it comes from light box work.  Sometimes, the object simply doesn’t fill the frame.  Not that much for exposure compensation or color correcting.  The other side of this,for me, is that I simply am not prepared to spend huge amounts of time I don’t have for post work.  I’ve always worked on the principle of getting the shot right the first time.  That’s also one of the reasons I have several types of cameras.  Each one addresses certain things I want. 

Examples.  My DSLR’s are used when I need the absolute highest image quality.  Things like event shoots where I know I may have to do post work.  The image gives the most amount of data to work with.  I can crop like crazy and still maintain high image quality.  Smaller cameras can’t do that near as well due to their sensors.  My Panasonic GX1 is right in there as well.  I fill the frame with the shot I want.  Composition, in other words.  Some cameras work better in some situations better than others.  For instance – I use the X10 because the shutter is totally silent.  There are times and events where the noise of the shutter can be annoying.  Same with flash.  Equipment to suit the event.

I’ve actually been in more than a few discussions around the “you can fix it in software” topic Smile  I mean, there are times when you have no choice, but I’ve had times when there have been looks of shock when I reveal how I take a given shot and not have to worry about any post work Smile  I’ve found that a lot of folks tend to use automatic metering without understanding how the metering works in their cameras.  Many have multiple metering modes, and to me, if you understand those modes, you can get good exposures most of the time.  There’s also nothing like experience to get those shots. 

The “Home” Stuff

By this, I mean the “computer” stuff Smile  Most of us probably do have a computer to off load those photos.  Being an IT person, we have a small network at home and probably many folks do, though they may not necessarily view it that way.

For my wife and myself, we have several machines that include desktops, laptops and tablets.  Our home system is set up across two “offices”.  Our downstairs system is used for accounting and printing.  The upstairs one is a “convenience office” and it holds a spare printer and a another desktop plus a couple of notebooks.  Our system is setup around servers and external disks.  When I am doing image processing stuff, I use a desktop machine and save my work to an external disk.  Not the local hard disk.  Once the images are finished, I push them to our central server.  IF I’m working with larger images, I may use the local disk, but not usually.  I also have another server that holds our backups of our desktop machines and other disks.  Our upstairs office is totally wireless and also has a wireless printer for those quickie prints of emails, whatever.   I’ve had motherboards and disks fail over the years, so keeping data on a separate disk has become a habit Smile 

Due to space constraints in our upstairs office (converted bedroom), I have an HP All-In-One with a 27 inch screen.  It uses an AMD processor that is equivalent to an Intel i5 and 6 GB of RAM, so it can handle just about anything reasonably well.  We have a couple of desks that hold laptops, etc.  I have a laptop, actually, an ultrabook, that is dedicated just for consulting.  I also have another ultrabook that I use for my blogging and writing if I’m on a couch or something Smile 

Software – I use Paintshop Pro X7 and Photo Impact X3 from Corel.  What?  No Adobe stuff like PhotoShop or LightRoom?  The reason is quite simple – cost and user interface.  Both of these are very easy to use, and very inexpensive.  With software, I also have my moments.  As much as I would like to use LightRoom, I wouldn’t use it enough to justify the subscription service they went to recently.  And then there’s the time element.  I don’t have a lot of time to spend in post work.  I download as often as needed.  If I need to process – fine.  For web stuff, I use Faststone Resizer to reduce the image size.  I reduce to 640×480 for most shots.  It uploads quickly and at the same time, prevents anyone from “borrowing” my shots and enlarging them Smile 

Recently, I have been doing a fair amount of post work due to my blogs.  The upside on this – I actually do have some time available.  That’ll change in the New Year though. 

Bottom line for the home computer stuff – the technology today has gotten quite inexpensive, but then again, it’s up to you to determine what you need.  Our home system has evolved over a lot of years and expanded as the need arises.  Our system has been designed around our properties and consulting mostly.  My wife does scrapbooking as well as newsletter work, so we have a regular color inkjet, and commercial inkjet and an all-in-one scanner copier.  Across our servers and external disks, we have roughly 8 TB of storage. 

Into 2015

During the holiday season, I’ve had a bit of time to play with my gear and hopefully some of what I’ve found out will be of help to others.  For me – where am I going to land on the next contract?  It’s looking good – I have some very strong prospects and hopefully by January, I’ll be working.

What new gear do I have planned?  Well, I want to add another DSLR – it will be likely be a more advanced unit.  My current gear is in the Nikon DX area so likely a D7100.  IF something comes up where I really need to go full frame, so be it.  I’ll get something in that range, but until the work shows up where I really really need to go to the larger sensor – not likely.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of getting another bridge camera.  I love playing in that space but not sure which one yet – it will be in the 60x zoom range.  Just a thought at this point.

And then a kick ass tripod Smile   I’ll need to think on this one a bit more as it’s going to go beyond that.  This will be purchased in conjunction with some studio gear I have in mind. 

Onward for the moment.

The Quest for Light … When There Isn’t….

I don’t about anyone else, but here in Calgary, especially in the winter months, we get these pockets of sunlight and these overcast days.  I’m constantly looking for various ways to light various things.  Especially when one is caught indoors.  From a “standard” lighting setup, we tend to have a couple of solutions of course Smile  We always have flash and depending on the subject matter, I have my light box.  One of my more passionate subject pieces tends towards plant life.  My wife works in a garden centre and it only stands to reason that our home has a lot of plant both inside and outsideSmile  In reality, one of the tougher things, tends to be able to get better control of light.  The ultimate goal of course, is to get that perfect shot as you visualize it.  In most cases, if you have a bright sunlit day, you can always fiddle with angles, reflectors and fill flash.  Granted, depending on the time of day as well, you time may also be constrained. 

As one gets more serious, have you ever noticed the sheer amount of gear we tend to accumulate in order to get those shots?  Smile  For me, I TRY to keep the accessory side as a minimum.  I try to get that shot the first time.  I do have quite a background stemming back to the 35mm days and back then, we didn’t have a lot of options, so the shots had to be set up correctly.  There wasn’t software back then, and doing your own processing was an expensive proposition.  Getting it right the first time was always the goal.  So what are some of the things that can be done at the offset?

From the Camera Side

The camera and controls are the key to getting your exposure under control.  Your lens controls the composition.  Depending on your camera, the camera may have a zoom lens built in or it may be of the interchangeable lens type.  In the end, the final photo is the end result stems from the gear.  The content comes from you Smile  

The general tendency, depending on where or how far you want to take it, will be to upgrade your gear accordingly.  OR perhaps take a slightly different approach Smile  I got the gear to fit the scenario I wanted to shoot. Yes, I do have a lot of gear but it’s in the sheer number of cameras not so much accessories.  When I jumped back in – everything hinged around mobility and getting a good quality image without tons of gear.  For most of the things I do, I don’t like having a lot of gear with me.  I do, however, want a lot of functionality too Smile  Despite the fact that I do own a DSLR or two plus a bunch of lenses, I also am not married to them either.  The one thing that I have learned in my “journey” from pointy shooties to DSLR’s, is that todays technology can deliver a pretty high quality photo. 

My favourites for most things I do, are travel cameras and the more advanced cameras.  My advanced cameras are the Fuji X10 and XF1 and Panasonic LX7.  The reason for these, is that have fast lenses for low light.  They are small and more than get the job done.  My travel cameras get me in the area past 4x zoom while still delivering a high level of functionality.    Generally, I will have the XF1 plus either a Panasonic ZS25 or Nikon S9400.  If I anticipate something that requires a bit more control, I have either a Fuji F800 or Sony HX30V that can manage that.  My Fuji X10 used to be my primary camera and it does still get used that way for certain things, but for more advanced work, I have my DSLR’s and Compact System Cameras.  My DLSR’s are a Nikon D3200 and 5100 with several lenses.  My Compact System Camera is a Panasonic GX1 with two zooms and a macro primary lens – 60mm f2.8.  These tend to be used when I free lance or require I require absolute top notch photos.  It’s not that the other can’t deliver that, they can but aside from additional functionality, DLSR’s have battery and flash power that the rest simply don’t have. Back to light or lack therein…..

Exposure and Light

When it comes to exposure, we have several ways to control it.  We have things like Polarizing filters, Neutral Density filters, not to mention the camera functions that can assist as well.  In certain situations though, there simply isn’t enough light.  From the camera side we can kick up the ISO OR we can use flash.  Then there are reflectors to “bounce” or reflect light to enhance the photo.  There are also studio lights. And then there is of course, sunlight Smile  Depending on the time o f day, there can be lots of it and not enough.  There are advantages to either situation.  And then there are those overcast days – I’m sure you’ve had them.  The light is literally deal flat – no shadows and here you are dying to take some pics…. Sad smile  Sometimes, you can use your flash to get that extra contrast but sometimes you need some additional lighting to enhance your shot.  In the case of plants being indoors, sometimes getting that shot with limited light coming through the window, can present its own set of challenges.  For me, I take that as a challenge and have a blast with it.

I had one project a while ago that involved shooting a small stained glass piece.  This one piece was quite small and I was able to use my light box, but it got me thinking about finding something that would backlight a piece to bring out the colors of the stained glass.  I couldn’t find an easy way to get that shot backlit, so ended up shooting it on the window sill.  Not as good as it should have been, but it worked out. Also, there are certain shots that I want try using a backlight. 

Soooo… there are actually two issues that cropped up – first – coming up with a way to backlight,and second – a light of some sort that would work easily.   The other thing, was that I wanted something relatively portable AND quite bright AND adjustable if possible.  I tried one of those work LED lights but it wasn’t quite bright enough.  The other thing I’m still fighting with, is a way to back light easily  I kept looking and one day, I was in a camera store and spotted an Optex Movie Light!!  It worked well enough but then it wasn’t near portable enough.  Small enough to carry in a bag, but if I had to use it in a confined space it wasn’t quite small enough.  It had he output, but still not quite as bright as I would have liked.  Light  was small enough, now just some of jury rig….

The other side of this, was that I wanted something small enough to carry in my sling and at the same time, be brighter.  Sound like wanting my  cake and eating it too?  Absolutely !!!  So now, it got a little more complicated – some sort of rig for backlighting for “studio” type work and something else for “mobile”.  I was actually looking for something smaller than the Optex.  What I stumbled on at the camera store was actually not for photo as much as movie was the quodos knog.  This was actually designed as an accessory for the GoPro or equivalent.  It was a light designed for underwater use, so not only was it small, it was bright.  And expensive. 

knog_handknog ruler


This sucker set me back about $150!!  Sooo.. why so expensive?  Well, I personally didn’t want to spend THAT kind of money, but anytime you get small and powerful, it does get expensive.  I have a smattering of flashlights that have incredible amounts of power (430 lumens and it fits in your hand), and those things aren’t cheap either Smile  Soooo.. its in a waterproof housing for starters.  Output is at 200 lumens on its strongest setting and you have mode switches that control the amount of light.  Under full power, and all 3 Cree LED’s, it’s rated at 2.5 hours continuous.  It uses a micro USB to charge and the battery has to be pulled out of the housing to charge.  It’s well built and comes with additional accessories in a really nice metal container.

I got the following shot using it :


It was around 2 o’clock so the sun was streaming in the window.  At this time of the year (late Nov.), the light can change quickly.  So here’s the natural light shot:


BTW – this a plant called the XMAS Cactus and they start to bloom around XMAS, as the name implies.  Even this shot is not so shabby Smile  My wife has this plant in this white color as well as orange and red. 

Here’s the setup I used for the shot above:


I mounted the light on a DSLR GorillaPod and wrapped it on the leg of my ProMaster 525T Carbon Fibre tripod with a Milano B-3 Ball Head.  The camera is a Nikon D5100 (I got it for the articulating viewfinder) with a Sigma 18-250 F3.5-5.6 Zoom with Macro.  Just thought I’d toss in techy stuff for inquisitive mindsSmile I was initially going to use my 40mm Micro Nikkor for this shot, but I wanted to use the tripod for stability, so zoom it was Smile  The other setup I tried, was wrapping the Gorillapod on the bannister and also just setting the knog in another pot and pointing it up.  All of them worked fine with each creating a slightly different photo.  A key thing to remember here, is that at 200 lumens, you could be a fair distance away and still get a ton of light.  This light appears to solve the light, small and powerful piece.  Next….

For the next part of the project was to build a small stand so I could shine the light up. The primary purpose was for doing stained glass.  If you have ever worked with backlighting and smaller objects, this has it’s own set of challenges.  Jewellry, etc. lends itself well if you can set a light underneath.  For portraits, it’s easy as you can move a light behind.  One can shoot stained glass, especially smaller pieces in a light box easiest enough but if you want to light it up from behind, well.. different alright.

Here’s a piece that my wife had commissioned:

Staine glass piece 

These is a pretty quickie shot from my light box.  It renders the colors fine but I thought there was no “dimension, to it.  I have others that have props which are much better, but when it comes to stained glass, there’s nothing like backlighting it.  Back to the solution.  Off to the woodshop I went and came up with this :


That piece on the back moves BTW to adjust the light.  Sooo.. the first test shot I took was to take a glass piece that my wife had:

Crystal Man

This shot, I feel is the best (another one to follow).  Successive tests using both the Opex and knog, showed the knog was still superior.  The one that I did find out about this unit though, is that it runs hot!!!  Very hot.  After about 10 minutes, you almost can’t hold it.  The more I thought about the jig to move the light around, the more I didn’t like it.  I couldn’t adjust the angle enough and I didn’t really have the time to fiddle with it too much.  Sooo….I got thinking about something like a small GorillaPod or something equivalent that I could set up the lights with more flexibility.  A quick snoop on the ‘net sent me off the camera store to snoop. I ended up with a small GorillaPod and this Manfrotto Mini.  The mini is probably the neatest Smile

Manfrotto MiniGPod and Manfrotto Mini

Back to my jig and I got the following as my tests.

Crystal Man_backlitStianed glass_backlitClock

The box stand too roughly a couple of hours t o build so not that big of a deal for me.  It is, however a little too large for my light box – depth.  I have a very shallow light box.  Sooooo…. I was just thinking on this, if I have a bit of loose time being between contracts, I probably wouldn’t have come close to getting this much done.  The other side of this, was that I would have missed those cactus shots Smile  They are fascinating photo subjects and will probably show more of them as they bloom. 


Nikon P520 – A Few Weeks In..Other Stuff

I’ve had the Nikon P520 for a few weeks now.  In reality, the last thing I really needed was yet another camera :-)  BUT I didn’t have one in this class AND it was on a clear out (last year’s model), so I figured “What the heck” and got it. 

So.. the Nikon P520 fits in this funny little category called a Bridge Camera.  It sits sort of in between the Travel Cameras and DSLR’s along with Compact System Cameras.  They look like DSLR’s but smaller and lenses don’t change.  I say  funny because they aren’t near as compact as a travel camera or pointy shooty, but at the same time they aren’t the most portable and they sort of have manual and automatic controls.  The big thing with these, is that they sport BIG zooms.  The P520 has a 42x zoom.  Newer ones are at 60x!!  If you’ve never played in the big zoom space, believe me – fun takes on a whole new meaning :-) 

If you are a fairly advanced photographer you may poo poo these cameras.  They have quite restrictive aperture ranges, the sensor is a bit on the small side and the P520 is a bit on the slow slide in a couple of areas.  BUT they seem to have a place too.  I’m seeing a few out there now with f2.8! 

P520_left side P520 Right P520_Top

Above photos were taken with my Panasonic GX1 in my light box 🙂

So why the P520 instead of the P530?  Well, for me, the there were two main reasons.  First – price.  At $300’ish it represented a huge value for the money, despite certain flaws.  Second – the articulating mirror.  The P530 didn’t have that.  What really surprised me on this one was the image quality I got for what I paid.  The sensor is no screaming hell at 1/2.3 inches but overall, it produced a surprisingly high quality image.  Now I’m saying this very tongue and cheek and staying objective about this :-)  It’s not near has high quality as my GX1 or DSLR’s but for the price point – amazing. 

Kribbit Cute Lexar SD Card Reader

It does a pretty decent job in it’s Scene Mode.  Here’s some from a recent snow storm that were taken in Snow Mode:

Nose Hill walkway Front Lawn

These were shot in Programmed Auto with no exposure compensation.  If it were a sunny day out, I would have underexposed by another –1.0 to –1.5 EV to bring out the greens more.  Just a trick 🙂

Soooo…. according to the reviews, this camera is designed for the person who really does want the big zoom and not too overly concerned about size but less hassle than say a DSLR.  As a general purpose camera, it’s actually kind of a neat unit, though I feel that for that price point a travel camera would be a better choice, but that’s me :-)  Again, personal preference.  HOWEVER – Big zoom is a pretty neat space if you’ve never played there – I thought 20x was fun!!  42x opens a whole new world again 🙂

P520_wide P520_42x

Not bad for hand held though a tripod is recommended.  This was shot in bright sunlight so you can see the sky blow out a bit, but I needed a high shutter speed too :-)  I take the shots though :-)   This is one of those rare instances for me, where I will agree that a little post processing to bring out the blues would be advantageous 🙂 I’ll add more big zoom stuff in a different post.  BUT things like wildlife suddenly become a possibility.  For a moment, I was thinking of moving to another unit in thus class, but I really think my next jump will something in DSLR’s. 

Battery power was rated a little low on this one at roughly 200 shots per charge and so far, that seems to be fairly accurate.  A quick purchase from Amazon got me a couple of batteries and an external charger for way less than Nikon one.  I knew I would be using this one a lot , actually, so I didn’t hesitate to get spares.  I normally only get batteries on my high use gear.  I don’t normally have spares for any of my travel cams, for instance.  The reason?  I usually have a couple and on my most intensive vacation days, I’ve shot around 500 shots per day, so two cameras is plenty.  Mind you, in low light, I’ll use my Fuji X10 and I have several batteries for that one as it’s one of my workhorse cameras.

In carrying this one around for the last couple of weeks, I used a Caden Sling instead of trying to put it in my daypack along with my other cameras. 

Caden_front Caden_P520

I bought this bag on spec for it’s shape.  It was very different and one of the very few out there that allows for quick retrieval.  More important, is that I can actually stick a DSLR in there pretty easy (tried it – works better than I thought) and this is a potential future consideration in lugging a  DSLR around with less hassle than usual.  What I’m heading toward/thinking about is something like a D7100 with an 18-140 – for day to day – that could be a winner.

I actually had been thinking about a unit here for a few weeks – I really didn’t need another camera as I already have 12 or more.  I was actually thinking of getting one of the newer Panasonic travel cameras at 30X zoom, but you know, I simply didn’t need another one in this area.  Time to change it up a bit.  Am I glad I got the P520 – absolutely!  This is actually a fun unit.  A new project so to speak.  Some background here.

Over the last couple of years, my interest in photography has been growing at light speed, so say the least.  I do have a background in 35mm and started to play with digital in a more serious way.  The kicker was time and so I started with the concept of mobility first knowing full well that this was going to lead me ultimately to DSLR’s.  I had limited time due to other things (life gets in the way…. :-)), and I commuted, so noon hours was the only window.  That meant, small and light while trying to grab high quality stuff.  In being a consultant, I also had a bit of time “in between”, so the long term plan was to be able to acquire less portable stuff to “chase the dream”.  That’s where the Panasonic GX1 and Nikon DSLR’s came into play.  The DSLR’s came into play for another reason – I got sucked into moving back into free lancing a bit, and my existing gear just didn’t cut it.  I didn’t go into full frame stuff – APS-C – Nikon D3200 and D5100 with 3 zooms and a couple of primes and a couple of flashes.  Enough to get by at this stage of the game. 

With the knowledge I had gained from my 35mm days, I was prepared to dive in deep and that’s what I did:-)  The bug picture was to find out what digital photography  was about compared to 35mm and what I found was pretty neat.  And FUN!!  Sooo.. a couple of conclusions I’ve come to in exploiting this stuff.

1.  Most of these cameras can deliver a pretty high quality image.  Yes, DSLR’s win in the end, but when you look at the big picture (no pun intended), You gotta admit most of these units work pretty good.  AND in full auto.  With caveats of course, but still…..  Not too shabby.  I do like good quality images, but I’m not going to obsess about the pixels.  It’s all about content – the moment.  The bottom line here – no camera – no image – no moment.  There are times when all you have is something like a Smartphone – got the moment – good enough.  I think that as we get more advanced in our craft, we tend to get too technical about things and forget the content :-)  In reality – isn’t it about content?  :-)  That’s why I have so many cameras and always have one or two with me – it’s about content and having something there when the opportunity arises.

2.  Depending on what you do or where you want to take this – one camera may not be enough :-)  But that’s me too :-)  From my side of things – I’m sort of a “pixel peeper”.  I do like high quality photos but I’m not prepared to lug tons of equipment around either unless the situation dictates.  If I’m stepping out to go shopping for something equivalent, I’ll slip a couple of cameras into my  Fossil Sling Bag along with a tablet and away I go.



3.  Keep things in perspective.  What the heck do I mean by that?  One of the biggest things I see, is actually a couple of things.  First is trying to fit what you want to do, to the equipment you need.  The other, is following the advice of others without understanding what you want to do.  Sort of go hand in hand.  I see so many folks who get DSLR’s because they were told it was the best, and as true as that might be, if it sits in a closet, what good is it?  You need the knowledge to take advantage of what that class of camera has to offer.  To me, in order to get better, you need to not only take photos but learn from your shots.  Studying others and how they do their work.  I’ve also had some who listen and learn from me.  They do take the photos and they try different things.  Awesome.

We all have visions of grandeur and want to look like a pro.  That’s fine, but I would recommend learning about the gear you are toting around before you look like a pro :-)  I see an amazing amount of this, actually. And you can tell :-)  They don’t hold the camera correctly – using a flash when they really didn’t need to (if they understood a bit about exposure)  and on and on.  I learn from the pros by watching them and talking to them.  Mind you, having background there helps too.  I’ve been to many events where I’m the backup photographer and I always go out of my to introduce myself and make sure I don’t get in their way.  Sometimes I get paid, sometimes I don’t at these events.  As much as I hear about charging for my work, there are times when you need to do a bit of free stuff to get the “in”.  You would be surprised how many times when I get asked to do a shoot via networking that when I mention charging for the work, it’s expected :-)  Usually, it’s “How much for an event like this?” and then “Our event is on ……. – are you available?”  Why does it go this way?  I’ve spent a lot of time at some of these events and my work is known.  It’s taken several years.  Full time?  At this time – not a chance :-)   

4.  Look before you leap.  What do I mean by that?  If you are going to move forward in this space, technology makes it easy to show off your work.  When you look at what social media has to offer today, it’s easy to post stuff “up there”.  Think about this before you do.  For me, I really don’t know just  how far I’m going to go with this, so I post very sparingly.  AND only the best stuff or stuff that I WANT others to see.  I’m treading very carefully here.  I am posting a bit more than I used to, but still pretty low key.  I do a fair amount for my blogs ( I have two) and there, I do post a fair amount.  Mostly to inform with a few pics, but it’s a good way to “test the waters” too.  I am starting to get a few followers, but nothing spectacular either.  I’m starting to post more and more as time goes on, but not at light speed either.  I know of many who post just about everything they shoot and I feel that more than a few shouldn’t be up there :-)  I feel one should stop and think something thru.  Once it hits the ‘net….. tough to retract.

One thing that I also do before posting anything, is I resize down to 640 x 480 before posting.  I’m still working on the watermark thing, so that’s also been a deterrent on posting too much.

5.  Think your shots through.  One of the BIG things that digital has brought to light, are the memory cards.  It’s hit a point where the cost is literally nil to take photos.  One thing I see a TON of, is the tendency to “machine gun” shots.  The technology has made it pretty easy to do.  Compared to many  folks I know, I take a lot of photos to start with, but I take very few duplicates.  Unless I’m really not sure of a shot, I won’t even bracket  the exposure :-)  Why not you say?  Well… in the days of 35mm, film was expensive so getting everything right the first time was important.  That’s carried over for me :-)  Safeties?  It depends.  On a formal shoot, absolutely.  Other stuff not so much.  Again – it’s a situation thing.  Also, where I do take more shots than normal is in the beginning – to figure out what the camera is going to do.  Each camera has it’s quirks and knowing what they are goes a long way to getting those great shots.

How many shots does one take for any given situation?  This is a highly subjective topic.  My answer – it depends :-)  From my perspective – whatever it takes to preserve that moment or event.  AND it depends on whether it’s a personal shoot or a formal shoot.  A simple social gathering – maybe 20 or 30. Bigger events – maybe more.  If I’m doing light box stuff – one or two per item depending on whether I got the lighting right.  On many of the volunteer events I’ve been “volunteered on”, I’ve shot anywhere from 300 to 500 shots.  Sound like a lot?  You bet!  AND there has been a fair amount of post processing too, depending on the event.  End result?  I’m getting my name out, and I’m starting to “move”.  Not fast, but I don’t want fast yet.  Scenics – again – it depends.  Sometimes, especially sunrises or sunsets, you can get some wonderful perspectives by sitting in one spot and working with exposure and in-camera cropping.  I try to get the “tourist” shots as well as the not so common shots as well.  Again – what you “see”.

How often have you had that “nothing to shoot” syndrome?  Especially during that growth time where you are trying to learn more and more in order to get better.  Well… I get into that mode a lot.  Sometimes, I have other things on my mind and quite simply photos just “aren’t in the equation”.  I don’t fret that and just go do something else.  And then there are those times when you DO want to take photos and simply want to shoot.  How do you get those creative juices flowing?  I look for a quasi interesting photo and then start to look at the potential shot from different perspectives. I look down, go from bottom up, do close ups, go at  different angles and see what comes out :-)  In many instances, I find something that I never noticed about the pic :-)  It might be something like a texture pattern.

Getting back to the P520 – Put it on a tripod indoors and start with a shot at the end of the room.  From there, start zooming in on various things in that first shot.  I did that initially with one of my travel cams and got some pics of my wife’s plants that were pretty neat.  It actually got me looking closer a macro shots of plants and that led me into getting a macro lens for my DSLR’s.  OR concentrate on just close-ups.  The average home has a myriad of things to photograph.  OR how about taking pics of what you have for the sake of inventory for insurance purposes.  Lesson in architecture hiding in there :-)  I have revenue properties and interior photos are vital for me. 

6. What to keep and what to delete and when to delete.  This is highly subjective :-)  For me, unless the shot is wrong – blurry, etc. I’ll delete those in-camera.  If I’m on a formalized shoot, I’ll keep everything I can until I off load to my PC and go from there.  For the most part, for me, I backup my SD card to my PC depending on what I’m doing.  I then copy what I need to a different directory before doing any post processing.  That way I’ll always have an original kicking around.  Now, a point here – I keep the photos on my SD card until I finish post work as a precaution :-)  Soo… two backups.  That’s just me.  Once I’m done, I’ll re-format the card.

What I like to do, is keep all my cards blank so I can re-format in-camera just before I do any shooting.  The reason being is that I don’t always know which camera I’ll be using.  Now… bear in mind that this is for formalized shoots.  For the more casual stuff, like test shots, or “out and about” type shots I may not off load that card for a while.  Again – it’s a “depends” thing.  If I am doing testing on certain things, I’ll off load right away.  If it’s something that is not so urgent, I’ll wait until I get a chance.  For me, I sometimes don’t have a chance to get at stuff too.  Life gets in the way :-) 

Storage – I have tried so many different types of SD card holders and in the end, the one I settle on was one from Pelican.

Pelican Case SD cards

This puppy wasn’t cheap but there is little or no risk of a card falling out.  The other thing i like about this holder, is that IF I swap cards, I can just flip the card over as a reminder that I have photos on that card.  You’ll notice that I have various sizes there as well.  I do prefer the 8 GB cards for most work.  I also prefer to use the fastest cards (Class 10) whenever possible.  There are times when one needs to do sequential work or even a movie clip and I want to make sure I can write to the card and not have to wait.  I also will try to use brand name cards whenever possible.  I’ve had the odd one fail, but never a brand name one.  Anecdotal, but so far…. :-)  I don’t do a lot in area of movies, but I do have higher capacity cards just in case.

Soooo… before I go into brain lock, this is just some stuff running through my head 🙂