Sunday, January 25, 2015

Making tourist shots around The Big Island of Hawaii more interesting

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 30 sec
I just drove up tonight to Mauna Kea and took a few photos. Here is one where I used my cell phone's LED light to light paint the branch in front of me.

Here it is without light painting.

There were four of us driving around the Island and I wanted a memento photo of the group. So I decided to pull out my Neewer TT850, and the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel to light the group.

I used the MagMod system to hold a CTO +1 gel in front of the flash.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/4–Neewer TT850 & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel
Hope to share some more photos during the week from The Big Island of Hawaii.

Friday, January 23, 2015

In a photography crisis– Who ya gonna call?

Every once in a while I injure my lower back.  Years ago I bought an inversion table similar to the one you see here.

Five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening hanging about like this angle you see here the lady doing is as far as I need to go.

The strap you see there you adjust and it would be tight to stop you from going perpendicular.

I went to a client's office the other day with this lighting kit plus a few other bags and had to carry it upstairs and back down. In the process my back went out ever so slightly. Enough to be in pain.

Went to the basement after I got home and got on the inversion table.


Well all of a sudden the strap broke and I went perpendicular with a jolt. Not a fun thing when you like to ease into this with a sore lower back.

Without that strap and being completely upside down with a sore back it was impossible for me to right myself. Lucky for me I had my phone on me.

First call is to my wife who is upstairs–NO ANSWER. She had her phone on vibrate and in her purse so she didn't hear my calls for help.

Second call was my daughter and I got her. She came down as my wife followed and they pulled on the feet and I was able to get out.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

There will come a time for every photographer where their safety straps [metaphor] will break. You will be caught upside down and unable to do it alone.

Who will you call? I didn't get married and have a daughter so that one day when my strap gave way on my inversion table that I could call them and be saved. I got married because I fell in love with my best friend. We had a daughter and love raising her. Sometimes I think she is raising us.

I joined NPPA, ASMP, CIP, Sports Shooter and other organizations through the years for the same reason I started dating–I enjoyed community and getting to know people who had similar interest and we could do life together.

I go each year to The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar and Southwestern Photojournalism Conference for similar reasons. I enjoy learning from my colleagues. I enjoy making new friends and the give and take we have with each other.

Through the years my strap broke in some way in photography. I reach out to my friends and get their advice and help.

Who's your backup? Just like I called my number one go to in life–my wife, she wasn't available. I had to call my daughter. Time was of essence in the situation with me being upside down.

If something were to happen to you do you have a community to reach out to that is nearby and can help?

By the way the best thing I participate in through the years has been the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference and it is just a month away. Go and check it out and come if you can. Here is that link again for you

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Photographers what are you doing when you don't have an assignment?

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
"It's not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters."
— Paul "Bear" Bryant

The Army's Airborne School has training that takes place before you jump out of the plane with a parachute.

Photographers would do well to learn a few things from the military in how they approach their jobs.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
When you come out of the plane a lot of things can go wrong. On one of my son's jumps the carabiner came loose from the parachute, he quickly grabbed the parachute and held on tight. He knew the alternative is a smaller backup parachute where you come in much faster and more prone to injury during landing.

Training had alerted him to the process and what to be aware of when he jumped.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
To have the parachute open properly and be prepared to land on almost any type of terrain below requires preparation.

It amazes me as to how much training is involved before our armed forces actually go off to actually perform their duty in a "combat" situation.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/800
When they are not actively training there is a lot of waiting involved.

Tips from the military for the Photographer

  • Spend a lot of time getting to know your gear
  • Practice shooting assignments that are similar to those you will do for "real" later
  • Stay fit by eating right and exercising. You need physical stamina for those long day assignments
  • Expand your skills. Just like the military personnel will go for more specialized training you must also continue to add more skills to make you valuable
  • Military Camaraderie – There is nothing in the civilian workforce that can approximate the bonding that occurs in the wardroom, ready room, or foxhole. Military personnel in those environments put up with much hardship – long hours, stressful working conditions, danger to personal safety, separation from loved ones, and more. However, because they all in it together, they get through it. This mutual self-sacrifice, teamwork, and covering each other's six contribute to individual bonding, unit cohesion, and, ultimately, the camaraderie in question. See your competition more as your colleagues rather than just competition. 
  • Military personnel understand how lack of preparation can cost them their lives and those around them. The lack of preparation for the photographer will cost them their careers.
My son is a 1st Lt in the Army and next month he goes off for Special Forces School for three weeks. If he makes it through this then he will spend the next two years training before he can call himself "Special Forces." 

Because of his investment the military will also invest in him and give him a job for even more years. If you stagnate today in the military as soon as your contract is up you are most likely discharged. 

If you are not growing in skills as a photographer and offering more to your clients you too will be discharged and someone else will replace you with your clients.

Have you been training and preparing for your next jobs that you don't even have assigned? If not, then don't be disappointed when you have to find another career to pay your bills. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thinking and Shooting Cinematically with Fujifilm X-E2

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/125
Learning to think "Cinematically" when framing your images is to think about the end user. Today more than ever most of my audience will experience my images on-line through the internet.

Computer displays with aspect ratios wider than 4:3 are also called widescreen. Widescreen computer displays are typically of the 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio. In 2008, the computer industry started to move over from 4:3 and 16:10 to 16:9.

Basically most of today's audience that is working on a computer newer than 2008 are using a widescreen and most likely with a 16:9 ratio.

Now when shooting for print I am considering magazine covers.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/125
This vertical photo would work much better for a cover of a typical magazine rather than the horizontal.

How it would look on a computer screen
Fill the frame horizontally. This is even more true with video. Turn your smartphone horizontal when making movies. If you don't the image will be shrunken to fit the horizontal limits of the screen.

So two things you are doing to make an inferior photo/video. First the images will be displayed even smaller than if they were shot horizontal, second you give up visual impact.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/125
Learn to see not just edges of the photograph, but from front to back of the photo.

How this would look on a computer screen without cropping
Composition Tip

When photographing like a tourist where you want to capture you friends and family at the different locations you are visiting here are some quick tips to compose a more effective photo.

  • Start with the background. Compose first for what your subjects will stand in front of for the photo. Fill the frame to the edges as I have done here.
  • Have subjects closer to the camera and not closer to the background.
  • Move the subjects around to find the best place where you can easily see them and the place. Be careful that they don't block so much of the background that you no longer know where they are for the photo.
Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/20, -1EV, flash 0 EV Slow Sync
When shooting at dusk or night here is another tip. underexpose the background by -1 EV. That is one stop under. I do this with dialing the EV dial and keeping the camera in Aperture priority, and Auto ISO. Then just add flash. Here I didn't compensate with the flash, but you may need to experiment with it.

What this does is pull the subject out from the background using the light value to do so. Because the flash is on Slow Sync the camera will figure out the best exposure without the flash and then the flash will just be added just enough using the TTL function of the camera flash.


If you put your photos into a typical video I recommend filling the frame and therefore you may end up with a little crop top and bottom of the typical 4:3 ratio camera to the typical 16:9 ratio for video.

If you start to crop photos to dimensions other than the 16:9 or 4:3 to something more like a square you will be giving up space on the screen, which for the most part will diminish the impact of the photo.

My suggestion is to learn how to fill the frame of your camera and not rely on post production.

"God gave you two eyes side by side and not top and bottom so learn to compose for the eyes." Robin Nelson.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fujifilm X-E2's Six Inches Behind The Viewfinder

Fujifilm X-E2. Fujinon XF 55-200mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.8, 1/750
Our family has been waiting to be able to come to Orlando, Florida to take in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.

J. K. Rowling is the writer of the Harry Potter literary series which the books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies. They have become the best-selling book series in history.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/500
While being the most prolific writer ever her books were transformed into series of films which became the highest-grossing film series in history.

One of the key gifts that she has is her ability to create a fantasy world that is quite visual and the movies were able to capture much of those elements, which Universal Studios Theme Park was able to allow her fans to enter into her world through the Harry Potter World.

Rowling consulted on the details for the theme park. There are many details that those who have read the books will appreciate, because some of those elements were not in the movies.

It is a photographer's paradise when it comes to seeing visual cues that cross over cultures and unites more than 65 languages at the present.

Tips while visiting Universal Studios

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/500
Take photos no matter the time of day, but remember that some of these you might want to redo as I did here of my wife and daughter on Diagon Alley. I just used the on camera flash to reveal their faces on the street, which otherwise would have been silhouetted. Now you can see the street behind them better than during the daytime.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/40–Fill Flash -1EV
Here is another example for you

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/3.2, 1/500
We visited the Nite-Bus a couple of times. During the daytime it is harder to see the shrunken head hanging. However this is a major part of this attraction. The head talks to you and even turns it head towards you.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/60
Notice how much more the Nite-Bus looks more like you would expect in the book or movie when shot at night. What a concept, but you have to think about this to be sure you don't miss a better mood shot. Also, notice how the light on the shrunken head helps it be easily seen at night.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/55
I also chose to stay with available light and not use the pop up flash. The light behind me from the street lamp was lighting the scene just fine.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/600– -1.7EV
 My daughter has very fair skin and wanted to be photographed with the theater production cases. To keep detail in her face I dialed the EV to -1.7EV

Same as above but unretouched
Here are the Lightroom setting I used to take the untouched RAW file and turn it into the JPEG:

However, the simpler and more pleasing photo was to move my daughter out of the direct sunlight to the other side.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5, 1/500
This too has been retouched in Adobe Lightroom with these settings:

Also I dodged her face just a little +0.61:

I am trying to do all of this like a street photographer and not carrying extra off camera strobes through the theme park on our family vacation.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/10
One thing I really love about the Fujifilm X-E2 is taking photos at really slow shutter speeds. The image stabilization really works well.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/200
I think it is important to capture photos of the family at the different attractions. It will be a memory jogger as we get older and look at these photos and remember the fun times we had as a family.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/340
Honestly most of the time I think the Fujinon 18-55mm kit lens will suffice, but here I wanted to capture the puppeteer and to do so I needed more than the 55mm. I used the Fujinon XF 55-200mm which I had in a coat pocket to take this photo as well as the very first photo of the sunset.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/13–Shot at -1.7EV
I could have just shot details around the park. I loved how they created a dark part of Diagon Alley. I felt like I was in the book walking with Harry Potter.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/10
I just hung outside the shop Borgin Burkes while my wife and daughter shopped. I then captured the moment my daughter came out to look for me. To me this is better than all the posed photos, but I still take those and just compliment with photos like this one.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.5, 1/500
My Fujifilm X-E2 settings for while at Universal Studios

    • 200–6400
    • 1/500 shutter-speed
  • Auto Focus
    • Single
    • AF MODE [AREA]
    • Face Detection ON
  • RAW+N – This was just so I could link to my phone using the Camera Remote APP and upload photos as I shot them to Facebook for my friends. You need to have a JPEG to do this.
  • NR -2
  • Color STD
  • H–Tone -1
  • S–Tone 0
  • Color 0
  • Sharp -2
  • Flash-SLOW
  • Flash Compensation -1
Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/70, -1.3EV
Six Inches Behind The Viewfinder

I hope you figured it out by now but more than the camera it is your brain that will determine the success of your photos. There is a lot of thinking going on to get these photos. If you just randomly point your camera and expect it to do all the work, well you could have bought the cheapest camera and gotten similar results.

The high end cameras will let you do more but the key ingredient to their success is your knowledge of how to use the camera.

"The most important thing in photography is the six inches behind the viewfinder." –Stanley Leary

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sometimes I can't give my work away. Guess what? That is a good thing.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/2.8, 1/100
Couple of my close friends have just gotten engaged. While I do not promote myself as a wedding photographer I will do them for close friends.

I offered to both of them to shoot their weddings as a gift to them.

Anytime I have done this in the past most people think about it and get back to me. One of the first decisions the couple makes together are wedding plans.

Great News!

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200
My first friend wrote back and said:
This is beyond kind and generous of you to offer your services to us!! We have already been so blessed through this process by so much outpouring of peoples love and generosity.  
We want to find the perfect fit with the perfect style to capture the most important day of our lives. Currently we are looking at all our planning options and haven't gotten that far in the process. We will get back to you in a few weeks once we decide. 
Thank you again for this wonderful and generous offer of your talent and time!
I was pleased that they just didn't say yes right away. This means that they are not trusting their biggest event in their lives to just anyone.

Now how can I get all my clients to be more concerned about photography for their business as this couple is about their wedding?

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/5.6, 1/60
My second friend wrote and communicated a little more about their concerns:
We are very grateful with the offer. We have just a question.  Have you ever shot a wedding?   My fiance has only seen you as a sports photographer, but I thought I’d ask. 
Maybe you can send us examples for her. 
Many photographers might get upset thinking they cannot even give away their services, but what I was pleased about is my friends as the ones that do know the difference between just having anyone document their big day. They are willing to pay verses free if they think there is someone better fit.

Nikon D3, 24-120mm, ISO 200, ƒ/14, 1/80
The key is being sure you talk with your clients projects like they are as important as a wedding. In some ways they are more important because business photos need to help give a Return On Investment [ROI]. You don't need wedding photos to get married. They are nice to have.

When people do not jump at free then you know they do care and you are not just a commodity. They will appreciate your talent more when they do say yes than those friends who even ask you to do it for free.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Same Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.8G Lens on Nikon D750 and Fuji X-E2 Test

The other day I posted a comparison of the Fujifilm X-E2 with the FUJINON XF 18-55mm lens shooting the same test chart as compared to the Nikon D750 with the Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.8G.

Some thought that this wasn't such a good test. So, based on the recommendation of the same lens on both cameras I am doing that here with a converter on the Fuji to hold the Nikkor lens.

The second complaint was I shot at too high of aperture introducing diffraction.  So this is shot at ƒ/5.6 rather than ƒ/16.

Nikon D750

Nikon D750, Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/200 under studio strobes.

1:1 of the above photo
Fujifilm X-E2

Fujifilm X-E2, Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/180 under studio strobes.

1:1 of the above photo

IMHO the antialiasing filter on the sensor of the Nikon D750 affects the performance and the Fujifilm X-E2 is sharper.  By the way the difference in the crops is due to the sensor size difference.

I do think the extra megapixels of the 24 MP Nikon when running the images full-frame may give it a hair advantage.

I predict there is a good chance in the future with the higher MP chips that the need of the antialiasing filter is not as needed for my work most of the time. I think more people will want their chips without that filter.

Just for fun this last photo
This is the Fuji cropped greater than 1:1 but gives you the same part of the chart that the D750 was at 1:1

The Holy Grail Camera

“If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.” — Eve Arnold

There are many comments by many pro photographers throughout history reminding us that it is the six inches behind the eye that is more important than the six inches in front of it when making photos.

I wanted to be sure everyone understands that I not only believe this but spend most of my time thinking about what I have done, will do and am doing as compared to the time I think about my camera gear.

If you want to make better pictures for the most part you would do better investing in a class to learn something than spending that same money on more camera gear.

To make photos you must have a camera. When you buy your first camera the odds are very good that if you pursue this later as a profession that this will not be you last camera you buy.

Things to consider when buying a camera

Subject – Audience

These are the two things driving most every decision as to the best camera. As long as these stay singular you can find the perfect camera to own. However, the problem that typically happens is when you have:

Subject(s) – Audience(s)

The Holy Grail Camera that does it all is usually a compromise camera that will let a photographer get the images, but if they had the funds would most likely buy specialty cameras for some subjects or audiences.


When we think of an audience there are two things we should focus on that impacts what gear we purchase. The people and the channel they will see those visuals.

If your client is selling high end vehicles like a Lamborghini they will be more interested in the finer details than the community seeing a photo of the fire in their local paper or online. You will be more likely to see extremely large prints of your images in dealerships on their walls where the customer could walk up to the print to examine it closely. This is when an extreme megapixel camera would be the best choice.

If you are shooting photos that you plan to put in a show in a museum or gallery then the size of those prints will demand a higher pixel as well and will be appreciated.

This is why there are 80 MP camera backs for medium format cameras. You can go even higher with the view cameras.

There are many bloggers on the other hand that are shooting all their photos with the smartphone. The pictures are good enough for their audience which might be absorbing most of the content on their smartphone.


When you are shooting sports like soccer you must have really long glass due to the distance between the photographer and the action on the field. Having a camera like the Nikon 4s that shoots 11 frames a second and that has lenses like the Nikkor 600mm ƒ/4 is pretty much the standard for a sports action shooter.

Wedding photographers need to shoot often in low light and they need a camera with ISO higher than ISO 1600. They also will shoot with fast glass of ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/2.8 many times during ceremonies. Most wedding photographers are needing to cover 28mm – 200mm for most of their work. Occasionally having a few photos using some specialty glass just to offer something different.

Portrait photographers are often shooting with cameras with high megapixels for the same reason the photographer shooting a Lamborghini needs it–large prints.

Street shooters tend to want a small camera that will make them look more like a tourist than a professional photographer to be able to blend in and not draw attention to themselves.


If you are one of those people trying to tell everyone why you own the "BEST" camera ever–please know you only show your ignorance when you open your mouth. I see these people on almost every camera forum trying to argue why they know it all and everyone should listen to them and their wisdom.

If you are shooting one type of subject then you can easily find out what most photographers covering this subject are using and why they choose those cameras and lenses.

If you are shooting a wide variety of images for many different outlets you most likely will find a camera that does a pretty good covering the bases. Many will find they need to either rent or buy gear for some of their niche's.

Most of all we need to go back to where I started this blog that the photographer's knowledge will let them do more with a simple box camera than a $45,000 camera will do in a novice's hands.

You may hear that many people say invest in good glass more than the camera–I say invest in yourself more than the gear and you will be the better for it.

IMHO–most cameras today are so good that in the right hands most any camera could work.

What I own and use

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NPPA Annual Meeting at their new location the Grady College of Journalism

Mark E. Johnson is on the faculty of the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia teaching photojournalism and multimedia journalism courses. He talks to the board about some of the expenses associated with the offices now being in the school. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6 1/80]
This is the annual board meeting for the National Press Photographers Association at Grady College of Journalism with University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.

The NPPA moved the organization head quarters this month to the Grady College of Journalism. The move will cut their overhead costs due to the school giving them office space with minimal expenses like phone and internet connections.

NPPA like all photography associations has been loosing members due to the industry staff jobs going away in so many places around the globe.

Mickey H. Osterreicher, NPPA’s general counsel tells the board how last year they helped a member in a law suit where his rights were violate and helped with a $200,000 settlement. The person donated $3,000 to NPPA legal fund. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4 1/250]
Community coordination has shaped and advanced America since its birth and has historically set America apart from many other nations. NGOs and other associations have formed many places around the world, but it has been a foundation in American society.

Associations are organized for all types of purposes, but there are some recurring benefits they typically provide their members, including:
  • Education/professional development
  • Information, research, statistics
  • Standards, codes of ethics, certification
  • A forum to discuss common problems and solutions
  • Opportunities to further a specific mission, including volunteering and community service
  • Providing a community of interest.
Mark E. Johnson helps answer the boards questions on the expenses NPPA will still be responsible for at the Grady School of Journalism. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9 1/15]
With publications like newspapers and magazines going out of business in record numbers over the past five to ten years the community has shrunk for working staff photographers.

I am sure I shocked many on the board when I decided to attend their open board meeting and just sit and observe. It is like watching sausage being made. Just as families around America have had conversations around their kitchen tables about cutting back when a spouse lost a job, so to the NPPA board was evaluating all items line by line on the budget.

The board voting on parts of the 2015 Annual Budget. It was like watching sausage being made. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2 1/110]
As I drove to Athens I have to admit I have been quite ambivalent about what I get for my membership. After sitting and listening to the board focus on the budget and then on my drive home I realized that one of the core reasons those in the industry should support an association in these times is the same reason we started them years ago. One thing continues to stand out as one of the most important reasons is "a forum to discuss common problems and solutions."

Look through the bullet list yourself and see if it makes sense to let an association like NPPA die or join and support the organization. What would fill the vacuum for the role of the association in our profession?

I think the largest struggle right now for the industry is really a lack of clear understanding for the direction we should be taking. What specific mission do we now move towards?

I don't think anyone has yet to find a crystal ball that gives insight to what we will be doing in five or ten years from now. I think we are starting for the first time in a very long time to realize what are the core things we do that isn't related to gear. We have defined so much of our industry by gear and now with the changes in that happening daily we are looking for what are the core skills we still have from the beginning of the profession that we will continue most likely.

Time for putting our heads together I think rather than doing this alone. Have you joined NPPA?

If not go here to join

Then get involved and be part of the discussion.