Thursday, January 26, 2012

A new "toy"

I have long been fascinated with cameras, but never really could justify spending very much money on one. That is until recently. Even as a photojournalism student, I relied on my entry level Nikon D40. It has served me well and I will rely on it in the future as a backup camera. However, with its 6.1 megapixel sensor and poor quality at high ISOs, it is not among the more desirable cameras for professional use. Don't get me wrong, it still makes amazing photos but it has its limitations. The modern market demands near-perfection and for the most part, I am compliant. So after landing my first paying gigs late last year, I decided that I would need to invest in my business when the time was right. I mulled over the different models and their differences in price and features. I shoot Nikon, so I narrowed my choices down to the D300s and the D7000. These two cameras seemed to be on par with one another with two marked distinctions that were deciding factors for me. The price was a very obvious factor. The D7000 is a newer model with some updated features, yet has a price tag in the $1200 range whereas the D300s is around $1700. The second factor was that the D300s shoots video at 720p and the D7000 will shoot 720p and 1080p. Both cameras have dual card slots, but the D300s has one CF and one SD whereas the D7000 has dual SD slots which is not a deal breaker for me. I opted for the D7000 and it is now in my custody. I realize it is for work, but I can't help but be like a kid with a new toy. There is quite a learning curve to it. My old D40 had a much leaner menu, as well it should. As a beginner camera, it's not so overwhelming. As a professional, one must become an expert at navigating the camera's menu. I fully intend to learn the D7000 inside and out!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Design in Technical Writing: How to get rid of the white box behind your PDF an...

Design in Technical Writing: How to get rid of the white box behind your PDF an...: "How many of you have been completely peeved by the ugly, white box behind your animated PDF? When exporting your Adobe InDesign CS5 file to ..."

Monday, March 21, 2011

IR photography

As I sit here writing this, my Canon AE-1 is mounted on a tripod, loaded with Ilford SFX 200 black & white infrared sensitive film, with a Red #25 filter, in bulb mode, shutter open at f/11 and aimed at the Big Dipper. I can't be certain of the outcome, not tonight, not even this week. I will only know what exposure I've made once all 36 frames have been exposed and I am able to make it to the photo lab in Grubbs Hall at Pittsburg State University, Kansas. I chose to work with film this semester so I could further discipline myself as a photographer. With a digital camera, I can know almost immediately if I forgot to change my ISO, shutter speed, aperture, white balance or some other setting. I figure if I am shooting up an $8 roll of film, I will be more careful of these settings. However, I am teaching myself to shoot the infrared based on what I can find online. Most of the information I have found so far has been for digital cameras, though.
I got the idea to shoot the stars from my time in the Army. While stationed at Ft. Benning, I was made "front gate NCO (non-commissioned officer.) Essentially, I was in charge of a squad of soldiers who provided security at the front gate. We were issued NVGs (night vision goggles) so we could be alert of "enemy" troops who might attempt some sort of tomfoolery. We were not usually provided with such luxuries, so we played around with them. I decided to check out the stars with a pair and was amazed at what I saw. Either the display was very snowy, or I was seeing a field full of stars. We all know there are more stars in space than we can see with the naked eye. Also, once we get away from the city lights we can see more stars than normal. I'm hoping that the red filter is strong enough to mute the ambient light and that the film is sensitive enough to "see" the stars that we can't.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The "Fuzz"

In preparation for shooting some infrared (IR) film, I am replacing the seals on my Canon AE-1. The camera is probably 30 years old. What has been a typical experience for me is to open up the back of an old 35mm and find the old fuzzy seal sticking to the opposite side of where it should be; this one is no different. Something about infrared film, for those who don't know, is that it has been made to be sensitive to IR light and, therefore, is extremely sensitive to "normal" light; you don't want that pouring in on an $8.00 roll of film. Infrared light, as you may know, is invisible to the human eye. Do you see the beam of light that controls your TV or other device that you control with a similar remote? I would venture to say no. But, the small LED at the front of that control is, in fact, a light. It will also appear in photos if the film or, in the case of digital cameras, sensor is sensitive to IR. Okay, my storytelling requires that I wander off on these exceptionally long tangents. Back to where I was going with this...and back to my task! So, I shopped around online for a kit to reseal an old camera with no luck. I asked my photography instructor about such an item and he was unsure of where to acquire said kit. We kicked around ideas (I'm not sure which one of us came up with the one I'm applying) and came up with what so far seems almost ingenious. Film canisters are sealed off from light using a velvet-like fabric (maybe it is velvet.) Well, come to find out, this isn't an original idea but I was unaware of this trick. I can't vouch for my instructor. I think sometimes he just enjoys watching the smoke roll from my ears as the gears within my head turn. Regardless, I hope to soon have a light-tight camera and some cool IR photos!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Design in Technical Writing: Pettibon Photograpy

Design in Technical Writing: Pettibon Photograpy: "Pettibon Photography is officially open for business in Nevada, Missouri. I had the privilege of designing both the company logo and busines..."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Metal Photography

I received another assignment in class this week. We are to shoot metal and, of course, the instructor wants to challenge us with something more reflective. He knows that I've been shooting for a little while now, but I don't think I'd shown him a shoot I did about a year ago. At my university, we have optional courses called "topics." So, last spring semester I chose to do a three-hour topic with my adviser. I chose product photography. I should mention here that topics are self-guided. Of course I wanted to shoot products that were new and photogenic. It just so happened that my wife had ordered a new set of stainless steel cookware and a new set of cutlery, also stainless. I notified her that she was not allowed to use either set until I had shot them. She was a good sport, realizing the importance of new versus used in such photos. The knives arrived first, so I set them up thinking I had simple subjects. Perhaps this would have been the case with guidance other than my own. However, even on brushed stainless, it can be difficult to light so as to achieve a great photo. With much ado, I did get some acceptable results...and a browbeating due to the mess created by the equipment required to set up and shoot. Little did I know the worst was yet to come. For the next part of this story, allow me to tell you about my gear. I bought a pair of light tents and lights for occasions such as this. I also bought a set of studio lights and stands, complete with reflective umbrellas. They're not much compared to what the school supplies us, but I'm on a slightly tighter budget and mine work well for what they are. So, I was still a complete newb to lighting but I had all this stuff to make things better. Well...about that... I set up the tent and put the newly-arrived cookware inside and lit it up. I took a shot that would have looked good if I'd been shooting cast iron. But this was more like shooting a convex mirror. I could make out the seams of the tent, the camera, ME! Was I ever in for a treat! The tents had come with covers with a slit in the middle for the lens; now I was thinking! Oh, well, as the cliche goes, FAIL! So I (another cliche here) Googled it. I came across a blog that said something to the effect that you want to light the surroundings that you want reflected, not the actual item. I wish I could credit the exact blog but I honestly can't remember it and I'm sure there are several of them with the same advice. On with the story, I scrounged up some sheets or other large pieces of fabric and set up the cookware on a prep cart which, consequently, has a stainless top. I took a few shots, thinking I was making progress. Well, sort of. But, upon closer inspection of the photos, I noticed I could make out the hardwood floor in the frying pans. The reason is that not only are they round, they're also round...on the vertical axis. One more fix and I could be done. I merely slid the pans back so that the stainless top of the cart was reflected instead. If I recall correctly, I wrapped things up around 2 AM. Because I was my own teacher in the School of Hard Knocks, I can now share my knowledge with my classmates. I relayed some of this same information to a few of them the day we got the assignment. My instructor listened and seemed to appreciate my sharing as he usually does. I know now why he likes teaching.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

DoF calculator apps for smart phones

A while back I came across a website that calculates depth of field. The website, , offers free downloadable apps for many phones. I had been wanting one but lacked the requisite phone. That is until recently. My trusty old Palm Treo 750, a Windows phone, developed a problem and my wife was tired of receiving texts that looked like ztzzzhizzzzs. I'm sure you can read between the Zs and so could my wife. But, she was frustrated with my sticky Z and so was I. She took it upon herself and bought my upgrade, a Palm Pixi. Imagine my elation when I browsed the Palm Store apps and found my DoF Calculator app for only $1.99. Yes, I mentioned free earlier, but as far as I could tell there weren't any available for Palm's latest OS on Besides, how often can you get anything photography related for a couple bucks? Of all the apps available to a photographer, I don't mind spending a little money on this practical doo-dad!