Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Breaking News! I have officially moved up and created my own website! This will be my last post here. If you want to follow me to the new website point your browser to:

Up At Dawn Photography

 Hope to see you there! Thanks!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Old Camera's - Part II

I was looking through some of my archived files this morning, when I came across some photos from another of my older digital camera's.  This time, it's the Sony Cybershot DSC F707.

In my early digital photography days, I really wanted this camera.  It was stylish, and had some very nice features for what was technically a Point and Shoot camera.

Some of the features included:
  • 5 megapixels
  • 5x Optical Zoom
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar Lens
  • Hologram AF Laser Focus Assist
  • Hot Shoe

I really liked this camera, and used it quite a bit.  It went with me on vacation photo shoots from San Diego to the Eastern Sierra.  I spent many cold mornings in the Alabama Hills and Mono Lake waiting for the sun to rise with this camera.  

Back to looking at photos.  I opened a few images up and was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of each picture.  Very sharp, with warm nicely saturated color.  The images below are the originals, no Photoshop tweaking at all.  Take a look for yourself:

That F707 was quite a camera.  But being a little short sighted, I got rid of it to trade up to the Canon 300D.  My biggest regret is that I don't have the F707 anymore, if nothing else to than to be displayed with my other camera's on the shelf.  Oh well, I could buy another one!  Yes, if you look online you will still find them used.  And varying in price from about $100 to $200.

Until next time, happy shooting!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Before and After.

I love looking at photos from our vacations.  Sometimes even the goofs will bring back a memory of that day, and even the second that I pushed the shutter to make the image.  Not all images are winners and deserving of posting and some are really good right out of the camera.  For this post, I'd like to talk about one that wasn't so good and what I did with it (other than deleting it).

Here's the before image, taken with my Sony NEX3.  I made this photo at the scenic viewpoint on Hwy 395, coming down from the Conway Summit, looking back to Mono Lake.  It's pretty clear that there are several things wrong with it.  The first and most obvious is how the horizon line is leaning so far to the left it looks like I must have been drunk when I took the shot.  There's also some vignetting in the corners (from my polarizing filter).

For some reason, I still liked the scene and wanted to try a couple of things to take it from blah to not bad.  I opened the image in Photoshop and corrected the horizon.  Then I cropped the image a bit to remove the vignetted corners.  And last but not least, I converted it to black and white.  Here's the after:

This version is much more dramatic.  I love the tones and textures in this image.  Black and white really seems to add some punch to an otherwise lousy snapshot.  With a little post processing in Photoshop, this image went from being on the brink of deletion to being sent out for printing!

The message I suppose would be to revisit your stockpile of photos, and after you are inspired by another image or you learn a new technique, don't be afraid to try it out.  Who knows, you may have a masterpiece sitting on your harddrive just waiting for you to discover it!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Tale of 2 Cameras!

Over the past couple of weeks I've had a chance to get some use out of my Canon 60D and 70-200mm Canon L lens, and my Sony NEX3.  Once again I'm very pleased with both.  Yes, each can have certain limitations, but when used with this in mind they work out quite well.

First up - my Canon 60D with 70-200mm L lens.  The 60D is a great combination of features, speed, and image quality and is my workhorse.  Both of the occasions were outdoors, and with plenty of mid-day sunlight.  My 70-200 L lens is the F4 model.  For it's size it's light, and it will lock on focus very quickly.  Compared to my Tamron 70-200 F2.8 the L lens is much easier to spend a couple of hours with.  If you haven't used a larger lens like the Tamron 70-200 2.8 you'd be surprised at how the weight will begin to fatigue you after a while.  I needed the lighter weight of the Canon L lens to chase around the grand kids that day.

In this image you can see how nicely the background is blurred, but the subject is in focus.  This is an example of a shallow depth of field.  To get this effect I did a couple of things.  First, I used a large aperture (small number), in this case F4.  The further increase the effect, I stood back from my subject and zoomed in to 200mm.  The result is a very shallow depth of field, or in other words, a very limited area both in front of and behind the subject that is in focus.

I really like this shot.  You can see how much fun this kid is having.  And the background is in focus just enough to know that he's on a bike path near the water.

Both of the images above were made with just the available light, no flash.  The sky was slightly overcast otherwise I would have had trouble with deep shadows across faces and very flat contrasty light.  I suppose that if I had carried my flash that day I could have tried to use it for fill, meaning to soften the shadows.  For the portrait, I instead looked for a nice evenly shaded spot and positioned my subject with her back to the brightest part of the sky (it was still somewhat overcast).  I was also careful to make sure there were no streaks of sunlight sneaking in to cause problems.  The only thing I would have used flash for here would have been to add a catch-light to the eyes.

I had an opportunity to go up to our local mountains the other day, and I needed to travel lite.  But, I also wanted good image quality.  My Sony NEX3 met those requirements nicely.  I've talked about it before, but I'll mention a couple of features that I really like again.  Size and quality are first.  The physical size of the camera is perfect (at least for me) when I want to travel lite.  While it's a little larger than most point and shoot camera's, it's small enough for me to take on extended hikes or when I just want something smaller than my larger DSLR.  Second is image quality.  The sensor in this camera is an APS-C, the same size as the one in my DSLR.  The quality of the images are great, and to my eye better than what I could get out of the smaller point and shoot camera.  Here are a few images from my quick trip to the mountains near Lake Arrowhead.

You can see in this photo that I was not making this image during the golden hour.  It was just about mid-day, with the sun almost straight overhead.  But I wanted to take a few pictures so I started looking around.  That's when I noticed how the leaves of this little oak tree were glowing, back lit by that mid-day sunlight.  Such a contrast from the darker greens of the rest of the foliage in shade.  Just to have a little fun, I positioned myself so the sun would peek between the branches of an overhead pine tree.  I kicked the aperture to F16 to create the star burst.

Here is a closer look at the wonderfully back lit oak leaves.  They really pop against the blue sky background.

I liked this scene because of all of the texture, and 2 interesting groups of trees.  With the harsh mid-day sun there was quite a bit of contrast.  I switched the NEX3 to HDR mode, and it quickly took multiple shots and combined them to bring out detail in the shadow and highlights.  I took the in-camera HDR image, and combined it with the original single exposure as metered by the camera.  Using Photomatix I created this image.  Personally, I really like this method because it allows me to make photos all day.  While I could easily have gotten carried away with the HDR, I tried to keep it realistic.  If you decide to try HDR yourself be sure to do what works for you!  If you share your work online, there's bound to be a critic out there that doesn't care for one of your images.  That's ok, to each his own.  Just be sure that you are pleased and don't worry about the critics.

That's it for now!  Happy shooting!

** Thanks again Andy!!