Marina at Lake Perry

The semester is finally over.  At first it felt like it was going by quickly, but the last few weeks have been on slow mode.  It’s been ages since I’ve processed any photos for fun and not for the paper or an assignment, but I finally got around to it.  It feels good to be back.  I just hope I can keep doing it and not get so wrapped up in robotics this summer that I put it off and neglect this blog, again, for the nth time. It’s frustrating.

It’s been a while since I’ve shot any landscapes.  This photo was taken over spring break, back in March.  I haven’t really shot any landscapes since then.  I’ve been shooting quite a bit of baseball.  Go K-State! Big 12 Champs in Football, Basketball, and Baseball! EMAW! It’s a good time to be at KSU! …but I digress. I was asked to shoot a wedding and some senior photos, but I turned them both down because of schedule conflicts, and weddings really aren’t my thing, yet… maybe in the future.  So, I haven’t been idle, I’ve had assignments, but, I just haven’t had the chance to shoot landscapes, which I really love, but hopefully I can get out on the weekends this summer and shoot.  If you guys have any suggestions of great places to photograph in Kansas, let me know in the comments, I’d appreciate it.

Now let’s get to the details of the photo.  I set the camera (Pentax K-5) on a tripod.  I set it to bracket mode.  I used a wireless remote to trigger the camera. I don’t remember locking up the mirror, but if you really want to ensure that you get the sharpest photos that your gear is capable of, do that too.  I took six photos.  In bracket mode I can take a max of 5 with one click.  That’s great, but I don’t use it, because theres a funky limitation, you can only take 5 photos within a range of 4 stops, like between -2EV to +2EV.  When shooting into the sun, you might want to shoot from -4EV to +4EV.  So what I did was to take 2 sets of 3 photos at a time, 2 stops apart.  The first set was from -4EV to 0EV, so a photo at -4EV, at -2EV, and at 0EV.  The second set was then from 0EV to +4EV, so a photo at 0EV, +2EV, and +4EV.  Now you might be wondering why I have two photos at 0EV.  Well, I have yet to really test this out, but I think with into-the-sun photos, I get better results in Photomatix Pro when I have a duplicate photo at 0EV or whatever the middle exposure of the set of photos is.  I processed all six in Photomatix Pro.  I then imported the result back into Aperture 3, I did some basic edits there adding some contrast and vibrancy.  I then used Nik Color Efex Pro to add a color contrast, which really brought out the red sky around the setting sun.  Finally, to sharpen the photo, I used Nik Sharpener Pro. I think I like it better than the Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop.  If you have any comments or questions, let me know in the comments section.

The winter sun sets behind the hills, its last rays glistening across the water as it leaves an amber glow in the sky.

 Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA* 16-50
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f/11
6 image HDR, bracketed from -4 EV to +4 EV



Today’s photos are different from what I usually post.  These are not typical HDR images where several photos are captured at different exposures and merged together.  Instead, these are single images with relatively long exposure times – between 3 and 4 seconds.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been behind in processing images.  I’ve been very busy with school so I’ve only now been able to go through some of these and I have many more to go through.  I took these images on July 4 at Wamego.  The independence day fireworks show at Wamego is quite famous in Kansas and may be the best fireworks display in the state.  I thought it was pretty cool and I had fun shooting it.  There were lots of people there with their mats and foldable lawn chairs.

I don’t have very much experience shooting fireworks, but if you think these look great and are wondering how I shot them, I’ll tell you what gear I used and outline the basic steps I took.  When shooting fireworks you need a tripod (this is a must) and a good tripod head.  I have Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT tripod and a Vanguard ABH-230K ball head.  I really like the Vanguard tripods, but I really love their ball heads.  Very solid products.  Next, you need a remote release for your camera either wired or wireless.  I used the Pentax F remote for triggering my Pentax K-5.  For the lens, I used the kit lens, the Pentax DA-L 18-55mm.

July 4th Fireworks Show at Wamego, Kansas

Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA-L 18-55
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 23mm
Aperture: f/11
Shutter Speed: 3.9s

I arrived at the show early so I could scout out a good spot where I had a clear view and was up wind of the smoke.  I had the K-5 mounted on the tripod, I set the mode dial to Bulb and set the camera to use the wireless remote.  There are two ways to set the remote in Bulb mode, either you hold the button down for the entire exposure time and release it to close the shutter, or you press once to open the shutter and press a second time to close it.  I can’t remember which way I did it, but either way should work.  I had the ISO set to 200, it should be low so you don’t get noisy images and for the aperture and shutter speed I played around with these during the show until I got what I wanted.  What I noticed was that with larger apertures (less than f/8) I had to use faster shutter speeds so the fireworks wouldn’t be blown out, but because the shutter speed was faster I didn’t get the nice light trails.  So I shot at smaller apertures (f/11) which allowed me to have longer shutter speeds and capture the light trails.  Overall it worked out pretty well.

I did most of the post processing in Aperture.  I used brushes to lighten up the people on the field and darken the sky and add contrast to the fireworks and bring out the colors.  I applied the brilliance filter in Color Efex Pro and sharpened in Photoshop.

I’d appreciate any feedback in the comments.  Thanks!

July 4th Fireworks Show at Wamego, Kansas

Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA-L 18-55
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 18mm
Aperture: f/8
Shutter Speed: 3.6s

Dark and Spooky

It turned out to be a nice and warm day.  It rained a little bit in the morning, but the afternoon was partly cloudy with the temperature in the sixties!  Just after sunset, I took a stroll through campus, camera in hand.  I walked around Hale Library, checking out different angles and thinking about doing a sunrise shot, but realized that it wouldn’t work since the Sun rose on the south side of the building.  So I kept walking and came up on Anderson Hall and something about the light, the lampposts, the wet pavement and the clouds just said spooky and haunted.  So I wanted to capture and convey that.

I shot this image hand-held, bracketing from -1 EV to +1 EV in Av mode.  I dialed up the ISO to 3200 to get the shutter speed fast enough to get a sharp image, since I didn’t have a tripod.  Initial processing was done in Photomatix Pro and sharpening was done in Photoshop.  I played around with different filters in Color Efex Pro 4 to get the look and mood I wanted.  If you haven’t yet, check out the Modern Film Filters.

Haunted/Spooky Anderson Hall at Kansas State University

Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA* 16-50
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f/6.3
3 image HDR, bracketed from -1 EV to +1 EV

Book Review: Going Pro

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I’ve been reading the book Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer by Scott Bourne and Skip Cohen.  I just finished it and as promised, here is the review.  Right before picking up Going Pro I read VisionMongers by David duChemin which is another book about the journey of becoming and being a professional photographer.  You can check out my review of that book here.

Going Pro: How To Make The Leap From Aspiring To Professional Photographer

In this review I’ll sort of be comparing the two books I mentioned.  VisionMongers focused less on details and more on key principles, while Going Pro incorporates some principles but really delves more into specific things you should do.  In that way I think these two books compliment each other.  If you are thinking about making a living in photography, you should read them both.

Going Pro has 11 chapters and around 225 pages.  Don’t worry, it’s all easy reading and there are lots of beautiful images captured by different professional photographers to keep you entertained if the text gets boring (it really doesn’t get boring).  The chapters are:

Chapter 1: Define Your Niche
Chapter 2: Be the Best Photographer You Can Be
Chapter 3: Test the Water and Show Your Work
Chapter 4: Marketing
Chapter 5: Social Media Marketing for Photographers
Chapter 6: Use Twitter to Grow Your Photo Business
Chapter 7: Blogging: Your Online Presence
Chapter 8: The World of Search
Chapter 9: Old-Fashioned Networking
Chapter 10: Expand Your Business
Chapter 11: Outsourcing

This book starts out with defining your niche, basically, what do you want to shoot, or more generally what do you want to do specifically?  It’s interesting because VisionMongers basically starts out with this concept and emphasizes it as well.  You need to know what you want to do and where you want to go.  That’s the first thing you need to figure out.  I was at an academic time management workshop yesterday and the first point the speaker made was that you need to know what you want to do and where you want to be in the future.  I’m hearing this from so many places and so many people, that this must be really important because everyone is saying it.  Anyway, in this chapter, they list out all the different prominent “fields” of professional photography like landscapes, weddings, commercial photography and so on and give a brief description of each one.

Then the second chapter is about continuing to improve your craft and being the best you can be.  It’s a pretty short chapter with some tips and ideas on what you can do to improve and be at the top of your game.  The third chapter talks about having a website to showcase your work, getting feedback on your work at workshops, getting published, and details and suggestions on going about this.

The rest of the book is really about marketing and the different tools you have at your disposal.  From social media sites like Facebook , to Twitter, to blogs like WordPress and Blogger, to search engine optimization techniques, and finally to “old-fashioned” networking.  I think this is where this book really starts to shine.  There are so many great tips and specifics on how to use these tools and how pro-photographers use these tools.  These chapters don’t cover everything you need to know, but they sure give you a great place to start and get you going in the right direction.  For example, one major take away for me was the specifics on how to search on Twitter and how you can use Twitter to find potential clients and see what kind of work is available in your area.  I just never thought of using Twitter for something like that.

There are some “features” of this book that I liked.  Some chapters include do’s and don’ts like what should you do if you are using Facebook and what you shouldn’t do.  Another thing, throughout the book there are short messages by established professional photographers and some of these are interesting.  From cover to cover there plenty of amazing images, but one complaint I would have is that many of these images are repeated from one chapter to the next.  I really liked the photos by Chase Jarvis, very cool.  Also, the list of resources at the end of the book is certainly helpful.

To finish up.  If you are thinking about becoming a professional photographer, I would recommend that you read this book, especially if you don’t really know where to start.  But, before reading this book, read VisionMongers by David duChemin and then read this book.

If this review has been helpful, I would appreciate your feedback.  Thanks!

Book Review: VisionMongers

I just finished reading VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography by David duChemin.  I bought the Kindle version of the book from Amazon. I purchased it because I feel and keep thinking that one day I think I want to earn a living from photography.  I just sort of have this idea stuck in my head, but I really don’t know where to start, how to start, or what it takes to make your craft your vocation.  I’m just kind of clueless on the business side of things and how to do it and what to do first.  I feel like I’m surrounded by fog or that I’m just lost and need something to get me started and to guide me.  So I bought this book hoping that it would show me the way or at least get me on the right track.  I’ve read other books by David duChemin before like Ten and Ten More and some of his other books at Craft&Vision.   Before hitting the “Buy now with 1-Click” button at Amazon, I read the reviews and it certainly has really good reviews.  So I bought it and now I’m writing my own review.  By todays standards, this book isn’t new.  I mean this thing was published in 2010.  That was ages ago, but that’s okay, because the underlying principles that are covered in this book are in some ways timeless.


This book has five chapters.

  • Chapter 1: Foundations
  • Chapter 2: Work, Work, Work
  • Chapter 3: Sounding Your Barbaric Yawp
  • Chapter 4: Business and Finance
  • Chapter 5: It’s a Brave New World

All of these chapters except for Chapter 5, which is really just the conclusion of the book, are loaded.  Chapter 1 talks about the importance of vision and passion.  If you are going to get into photography for a living, you need to have vision and passion to define you and keep you going. It’s not about the money honey.  After chapter 1, you should have a pretty good idea of whether you should make a living in photography or not.

Chapter 2 lives up to its title.  Here David duChemin just plainly lays it out – making a living in photography ain’t gonna be easy.  It will takes lots of work and there’s no secret shortcut.  I really like this chapter because of its emphasis on working hard and really earning something.  To me that’s just really encouraging because when the going gets tough, you know it’s supposed to be that way and that you haven’t made a wrong turn just because the road is rough and full of potholes.

Chapter 3 is about marketing.  He talks about general principles and foundations which he calls “The Four Pillars” and these are creativity, congruency, consistency, and commitment.  Then he gets into specifics like logos, websites, postcards, and about making connections and getting yourself out there.  There is a lot more to this chapter it is just loaded.  There’s so much good stuff there that I wish I had taken some notes.

Chapter 4, just like the title says, is about the business side of things and managing your finances.  Again, David duChemin discusses principles like the importance of staying debt free, the need for contracts, and project scope management.  He doesn’t get into specifics of how to make a budget or what software you should use to manage your finance.  This book isn’t about that, instead it tells you why you need a budget and why you should stay debt free.  It tells you why you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket and then shows you how you can diversify your income streams.

In Chapter 5, David duChemin wraps things up and goes back to a theme that’s present throughout the book, and that is, making your craft your vocation, that transitioning to making a living in photography is a unique journey.  There isn’t necessarily a well worn path to follow, you have to make your own path and make journey yours.  To drive this theme forward, throughout the book there are over seven stories or interviews of people who are making a living in photography, and these highlight the journey that these photographers have been and are on.

I will probably be re-reading this book in the future because I think it is just so rich in content.  When I do, I will make it a point to have a notepad next to me so I can take notes.  If you decide to get this book, and if you are thinking about going into photography either full time or just on the side and you have no idea where to start, I encourage you to read this book,but make sure to take notes.  Oh, don’t forget to read the interview with  Joe McNally in the appendix.

If you are interested in photography and would like to learn more about it and improve your craft without having to buy more gear, then take a loot at the Craft and Vision books.  They even have a free one here and the other books are pretty inexpensive like only $5 and they usually have some kind of sale or bundle discount.  So  definitely check them out.

Next on my reading list is another book, this one by Scott Bourne and Skip Cohen and its called Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer.  Instead of buying this one, I checked my local library and they had it!  So I checked it out and have a week or two before I have to return it, and I can probably even renew it.  I actually have quite a few more books on my reading list, but this is probably going to be the next one.  Actually, I’m currently reading and almost finished with Part 2 of Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography Book  I was able to get the kindle of edition of the boxed set for really cheap on cyber monday.