Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Recommended Camera Bodies

These are my favorite camera bodies and are what I recommend when people ask for advice.

Best Beginner DSLR: Nikon D3200 $599

Nikon D3200

The Nikon D3200 has an amazing sensor in it for the price, just look at its sensor rating on It also has many features that will help the beginner photographer learn to take better pictures. With 24 megapixels you will be able to make small crops to your images without losing detail.

Best Prosumer Body: Nikon D7000 $896

Nikon D7000
Part of the reason I love this camera is because of the great deals you can find on it. Click on the link above to see current pricing on Amazon. This camera has been around for two years but it is still fantastic. The D7000 is an ideal camera for someone that is looking to upgrade from their first DSLR. It offers more advanced features like more autofocus points, higher continuous shooting rates, weather sealing and a magnesium body. Another great thing about going to a prosumer/semiprofessional level body is that almost all of your settings have a button, instead of having to go through all kinds of menus to change settings.

Best Portrait and Landscape Body: Nikon D800 $2796

Nikon D800
The D800 has a whopping 36 megapixels which makes it great for getting great detail out of portraits and landscapes. It also has a full frame image sensor that makes it much better for low light images. Landscape photographers will love the dynamic range of the camera. The downside of the D800 is that it does not have a super fast continuous shooting rate, only 4 fps.

Best Sports and Action Body: Canon 1DX $6799

Canon 1DX

The Canon 1DX will shoot an astounding 12 frames per second. It also has one of the most sophisticated auto focus systems on the market, that make it great for tracking fast moving subjects. The 1DX is also great in low light. Keep in mind the 1DX does not have a built in flash, but if you are using a professional body like that you will want an external flash anyway.

Best Travel Camera: Sony NEX 7 $1098

Sony NEX 7

The Sony NEX series of camera is great for those that want great picture quality without the bulk of a full size DLSR. This makes it great for taking on vacation. It has the same size sensor as the D3200 and also has 24 megapixels. The downside is that it does not have very many external buttons and lacks an optical viewfinder (they had to shrink it down somehow).

I will continue to update this page as new camera models become available that would change my recommendations.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Beyond Exif Recommended Gear

Over the next few days I will be writing about gear I recommend. There will be posts about camera bodies, lenses, bags, filters and other accessories. I do a lot of research into camera products so be sure to check here for the gear I recommend.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oceanside Pier

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 13mm 
Aperture: f/22  Shutter Speed: 1 second
Filter: Lee 0.9 GND Soft Edge

The Shot

It was a beautiful night at the Oceanside Pier. There are so many good shots to be had around a pier. For this shot I wanted the reflection of the pier to be my foreground element so I had to wait for the moment when the waves were out. I moved about 100ft to the side of the pier until I liked the diagonal it was making in the frame. One of the things I like most about the composition is all the leading lines. The pier, clouds and colors of the sunset make great leading lines to the end of the pier where the sun adds more visual weight to the end of the pier. 

One of the real keys for this shot was the Lee graduated neutral density filter. By placing the filter transition correctly you can balance the light between the sky and the foreground. It made it so I could retain great details in the bright sky as well as the foreground.

Post Processing

In order to make the image more like the scene I remembered at the pier I boosted the saturation up to 1.8, adjusted the black point to 37, and then reduced the luminance of the blue channel slightly. The final step was to add edge sharpening and I decided to add a vignette. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lessons Learned: Get There Early

While in Joshua Tree I missed two important opportunities for shooting. The first was at sunset and I wanted to shoot the Cholla Cactus Garden with the sun just starting to dip below the horizon. I wanted to have a sun star that would backlight the cactus. Well I thought I was leaving plenty of time to get there. I planned on getting there about a half hour before sunset. The problem was that the cactus garden has a decently sized mountain right behind it. So when I got there the sun was just dipping below the horizon. I jumped out of the car grabbed my camera bag and tripod and took off running. As I ran I was getting my tripod legs extended. I ran for the the closest group of cacti and got my camera on the tripod. Just as I turned the camera to compose the shot the sun went completely down. I missed the shot I wanted.

The second shot I missed was at sunrise. I planned on getting up early enough that I would be in place about a half hour before sunrise. The place I planned on shooting was only a 5-10 minute walk from our campsite so I figured I would have plenty of time. Unfortunately when I opened the tent door I realized I should've already been in place. The sky was a brilliant orange with gorgeous clouds. I frantically put on my shoes, grabbed my gear and ran to where I planned on shooting. As I ran, the colors began to fade and by the time a found a somewhat decent composition they were all but gone. It only took a few minutes for it to change.

Please learn from my mistakes. Get to your shots early. For sunrise shots plan on getting there while it is still pretty dark. When possible scout your locations ahead of time so you can be prepared. I find that when I have to rush to get in place the time for the perfect shot has already passed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shooting the Stars in Joshua Tree

ISO: 1600  Focal Length: 11mm 
Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
You don't have to stop shooting when the sun goes down. To get great pictures of the stars you will need a few things.
  1. A very dark place away from the city. In this picture from Joshua Tree you can see some light pollution from the city of 29 Palms even though the city was 15-20 miles away.
  2. Little or no moon. To have the best view of the stars shoot when there is no moon or the moon is just a sliver.
  3. A DSLR with long exposure noise reduction turned on. Long exposure noise reduction will essentially create a second black exposure of the same length as the original shot to see where the noisy spots are and then it will subtract them from your shot.
  4. A sturdy tripod. It is VERY important to have a good tripod when you are doing long exposures like this. I use the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod .
You will need to shoot at a high ISO and at a very wide aperture. Notice that I shot at ISO 1600 and f/2.8.

When you are shooting the stars, remember your normal composition rules. You still want a foreground element to add interest to your shot. When framing the shot I like to hold my headlamp in one hand while I look through the viewfinder. This way I can put enough light on the scene to compose the image properly. The foreground was lit with our campfire and the moon. You can also light paint the scene with a flash light. In the image below you can see the stars better but there is no foreground element to add interest to the image.

ISO: 1600  Focal Length: 11mm 
Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 30 seconds

A few notes on post processing. I really didn't do much for post processing in the first image, I tried to bring more detail out with some curve adjustments but it made the foreground too bright. In the second image I raised the exposure and adjusted the black point to keep the sky black.

One last tip. If you want to avoid star trails follow the 600 rule. Divide 600 by the 35mm effective focal length and that will give you the length of the exposure you can make. For example I shot at 11mm on an APSC sized sensor so the 35mm equivalent would be 16mm. So I take 600/16 and I get 37. So I could have made a 37 second exposure.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gifts for Photographers for Under $30

Still looking for some gifts for the photographers in your life that fill your world with ridiculous amounts of pictures?  Here is a list of my favorite gifts for photographers that are under $30.

Remote Shutter Release $20-$25

A remote shutter release is pretty essential for landscape photography. It allows you to keep the camera absolutely still when you have it on a tripod. If you just press the shutter button on your camera it will induce some movement of the camera. You can also use the self timer to keep your camera still on the tripod but I hate waiting 2-10 seconds for every exposure to start. Make sure you get the right remote for your camera model. Canon and Nikon have a few different models.

Canon Remote Shutter Release $19.95

Nikon Remote Shutter Release $24.95

5 in 1 Reflector $20

This is one of the cheapest ways to drastically improve the lighting of your portraits. The 5 in 1 setup gives you a white, silver, gold, translucent, and black reflector. Typically I stick with the white or silver in most situations but the translucent part is great for diffusing harsh light. Usually when I am using this outdoors I will position the sun to backlight the subject and then use the reflector to light the subject from the front. For a great tutorial on how to use a reflector check out this video where the Fstoppers crew does an entire photo shoot with an iphone and reflectors.

NEEWER 43" 5 in 1 Reflector $19.85

Joby Gorillapod $22

Gorillapods are great when you don't want to bring a full size tripod. They don't take up a lot of space and are very lightweight. You have probably tried precariously balancing your camera on some object to get a group shot. With the Gorillapod you don't have to do the balancing act; just put your camera on the Gorillapod and you can wrap it around objects or set it on a flat surface like a normal tripod. Be sure to get the right size Gorillapod for the weight of your camera.

Joby Gorillapod $22.00

16gb Memory Card $18

It's always good to have extra memory cards in case you fill up your other cards or one of them has an error. With how cheap memory cards are now, there is no excuse for not having a backup card. I recommend SanDisk or Lexar cards for their fast data transfer. Currently I use the SanDisk Extreme card and it has very reliable with very fast data transfer.

16gb SanDisk Extreme SDHC Card $18.41

All prices are as listed on Amazon on 12/11/2012 and are subject to change.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Why I Switched From Canon to Nikon

Until recently I was a Canon shooter. I used a Canon T2i/550d and over the years it has provided me with great images. As I've been getting more serious about photography I knew that I wanted to upgrade my camera body to more of a prosumer or semi-pro body. While reading the reviews I camera sensors from I was seeing that Canon in many ways was getting left behind in sensor advancements. The image quality between the T2i, T3i and now T4i are pretty much the same. Even though it has been a few years since the T2i was announced. I would think that Canon would have some great advancements in the image sensor quality. I saw some of the advancements that Nikon was making and I decided to switch. There are three main reasons I made the switch.

1. Dynamic Range

Right now Nikon cameras have about a 2 stop lead in dynamic range over their Canon counterpart. Dynamic range the difference between the light and dark parts of an image. Having a better dynamic range is very helpful when shooting landscapes where you have very bright spots and dark shadows.

2. Low Light Performance

Nikon is producing cameras that have better ISO performance. This will allow you to have cleaner images when shooting with a high ISO number.

3. The Price was Right

I went with a Nikon D7000, it was over $500 off. Nikon will be updating the D7000 soon so I was able to get it for a very good deal. Yeah there will be a new model in a few months but the D7000 is a fantastic body and I can't wait to make some great images with it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Provo Portraits

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 50mm 
Aperture: f/4  Shutter Speed: 1/200
Flash at 1/4 Power
Last week I was shooting some for my good friends. They were looking for some shots for a Christmas card. We headed to downtown Provo for the shoot. There are some great older buildings to use as a backdrop for portraits. For this shot I used a flash that fired off camera to the right. The flash fired through a translucent umbrella to spread it out more so the light would be very soft.

Here is a diagram of how it was set up:
Lighting Diagram from
Light is the key to photography. Using the off camera flash with an umbrella makes the light directional but there aren't harsh shadows because the light is diffused. With my flash off camera I can only shoot at a 1/200s shutter speed so I adjusted my aperture accordingly and fired a few test shots to make sure everything was dialed in. 

For post processing I sharpened the raw file, and adjusted the shadows and highlights just a little bit to get the exposure just how I wanted it. The final step was removing almost all of the saturation, I decided not to do a full black and white process. I kept just a little bit of the color because in this case I thought it was more interesting than straight black and white.

If you want to learn how to shoot with an off camera flash I will cover how to do that in an upcoming post.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall Slacklining

ISO: 400  Focal Length: 12mm 
Aperture: f/18  Shutter Speed: 1/100s
I wasn't quite sure what kind of shots I'd be able to get in the middle of the day, but I was pretty happy with how this shot came out from slacklining. Thankfully I am much better with photography than slacklining.


There a few important aspects of this composition. First, the slackline moving across the frame creates depth to the image. Second, the sun and Scott create a well balanced image. In order to make the sun into that nice sunburst shape I used a very small aperture f/18. Having a small aperture made the shutter speed too long to capture the action of slacklining. So I put my ISO up to 400 to make the shutter speed fast enough to catch the action without any blur.


I knew that I wanted the aspens to be backlit and that meant shooting towards the sun. Using backlighting in the Fall brings out great colors in the leaves. In order to bring light into the foreground I simply used my flash.

Post Processing

I did very little post processing for this image. It came out of the camera almost exactly like I wanted. The only adjustment I made was adding saturation to the blue channel to make the sky pop a little more. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Falls in the Fall

ISO: 400  Focal Length: 24mm 
Aperture: f/14  Shutter Speed: 1/4s
      On our same trip to Bridal Veil Falls I hiked up closer to the falls and there were these beautiful trees with very red leaves. I really wanted to get a shot with the red leaves and the falls behind it. In order for this to work I had to make this shot while standing in thick bushes on a steep slope. It made me very grateful for the independently adjustable legs on my Manfrotto tripod. The wind was blowing down the canyon so I had to adjust my exposure accordingly so I could get the shot I wanted. The aperture needed to be small because I wanted everything in focus from front to back, so I needed a higher ISO to keep the shutter speed lower. Normally I would've kept the ISO 100 and dealt with the longer shutter speed but the leaves were moving too much. In situations like this it is important to wait for lulls in the wind and then shoot quite a few images and look for the sharpest one when you get home.

Here are the post processing steps I went through:
Original Image
Using the white balance slider I warmed the temperature up to 61K from 58K

Increased the exposure by .15 ev
Increased the contrast and definition by .1
Increased saturation slightly on the green channel
Added a slight vignette to the bottom left corner to give more attention to the red leaves
Which gives the final image.
Head out and find some fall colors to shoot. It is a great time of year to get outside and take beautiful pictures.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bridal Veil Falls

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 12mm 
Aperture: f/14  Shutter Speed: 6.0s
Yesterday morning I went up to Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon. I have always thought it was beautiful how after the initial falls the water cascades for so long and I wanted to capture that. When I arrived my first task was to find some good foreground elements for the composition. After walking around the cascade and getting my feet very wet I decided on that rock with moss on it because it provided good interest and would have a good stream of water going around it. I knew that the cascading water would pull the viewer into the image and create good leading lines. 

The shot was pretty straight forward. I set up my tripod low to get closer to the water and used my polarizer to add more saturation to the color. When you are doing these long exposures it is important to use a remote shutter release or the self timer on your camera. This is so you don't move the camera when you press the shutter button down. Also when you are shooting in water like this waterproof shoes make it much more comfortable.

Here are the all the steps I took for post processing:

This is the original straight out of the camera
I warmed the white balance temperature up to 6300 K from 5900K

Added saturation to the green color channel

Bumped up the contrast to .11

The final step to get to the image at the beginning of the post was to sharpen for the display and I also added a little bit more color to the moss on the rock to make it stand out more.

Do you like this more detailed explanation of post processing or do you like the more basic summary in older posts? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why you should join 500px

500px is a site for pictures, kind of like flickr but way cooler. Basically it is a place for people to upload photos and then you can like a photo. All the images have what they call a pulse. As your image gets more votes/likes its pulse will go up and as the popularity dies down the pulse will begin to go down. My favorite thing to do is check out what is popular or the editors choice. There are some really amazing shots on there.

500px is also an excellent place to learn. No there isn't a library of tutorials. The best way to learn from 500px is to dissect the pictures you like. Figure out why you like them, then figure out how they were shot. The exif data will almost always be displayed and quite often the photographer will give some back story to the image. If you really want to know more just leave a comment, most of the photographers are happy to answer questions.

So take a look at 500px

You can also look at my pictures on there here

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Easy Ways to Improve Your Landscape Photograhy

Landscapes have always been my favorite subject, here are four easy tips to help you come home with better landscape images.

1. Shoot during the golden hour

In my early days of photography I didn't know much of anything about light. I would just go out and find what I thought was a pretty landscape and shoot away. For the most part I was dissatisfied with my results.
This picture from the island of Palau could have been much better if I had shot it at a better time of day. Shooting during what is known as the golden hour will really improve the lighting in your images. The golden hour is the hour right after sunrise and right before sunset. So there are really two golden hours in a day. When you are on vacation make good use of both of them.

When you shoot during the golden hours the light has a warm golden feel to it. The light is very diffuse because of the low angle of the sun so it eliminates harsh shadows. Look at this example of shooting during the golden hour.
Moulton Barn in Morning Light
If this image of the Moulton Barn had been made in the middle of the afternoon chances are I would have just deleted it. There would have been harsh shadows and there is a chance the sky would've been blown out (all white and void of detail). This image is what it is because of shooting during the golden hour.

2. Include Foreground Interest

I think this is one of the best things you can do for your landscape photography. It will make your images more interesting and will hold the viewers attention better. Place some prominent element or elements in the foreground of your composition. For example, look at the following photo that I cropped down to exclude the foreground elements.

It's pretty boring and uninteresting. Sure there was this beautiful mountain, but the image fails to hold the viewers attention

Now look at the original image with the foreground elements

The rocks add foreground interest and serve to hold the attention of the viewer.

3. Create Depth

The use of leading lines helps a two dimensional image seem more three dimensional. These will lead the viewer's eye into the image and hold his or her interest. Ideally the lines should lead to the focal point of the image.

In this image of Oxbow Bend the lines of the river lead the eye to the mountains. The concept of using lines in an image to lead the eye is something that will greatly improve your shots. When shooting landscapes look for slightly different angles to shoot from that will create stronger leading lines. Using a strong foreground element will also add depth to your image.

4. Use Basic Composition Rules

I will simplify this tip by saying, use the rule of thirds. There are other more complicated composition rules but learning the rule of thirds is the first rule that you should learn and master. Imagine the viewfinder or screen of your camera is divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Then align objects in your frame with those divider lines.

Notice how in my Snake River Overlook picture the mountains coincide with the top third line. If this sounds too hard for you then simply put your subject slightly off center in the frame. Don't put the horizon in the center of the frame. Like all rules, the rule of thirds is meant to be broken sometimes, but more often than not it is an excellent starting place for composition.

These tips are an excellent starting place for improving your landscape photography. Now get out and practice.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Moulton Barn Part II

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 24mm 
0, -2, +2 ev
Aperture: f/8 
Quite often the key to good landscape photos is to chase the light. Usually this means shooting around sunrise or sunset. When I went to Mormon Row to have a look at this other barn, I wasn't expecting great shots. It was the middle of the afternoon and the lighting was not at a good angle. I snapped a few shots of the barn just for the heck of it and starting walking away. Then all of a sudden the sun lit up the  ground and barn beautifully. It made for a great contrast against the storm that was approaching. So I literally started running back to the barn to get this shot. The mountains and clouds make for a great background with the barn as middle ground and the grass as foreground. I processed these 3 exposures in HDR Efex Pro and brought up the lighting on the barn a bit with the dodge brush in Aperture 3.

Buy this and other prints through my gallery.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Limited Edition Prints

You can now buy limited edition prints from Beyond Exif. If you want more information click here or on the Buy Prints tab.

These images will be printed on beautiful metallic paper from a professional photo lab.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11

I made this image two years ago before I even had a dslr. My object in creating it was to tell a story, it wasn't so much about having a technically perfect image. At the time I felt as though people were forgetting about what happened on September 11th. I wanted to create an image with meaning. 

The four candles represent the four hijacked planes with the two center candles representing the planes that hit the World Trade Center. 

I just shot this with my point and shoot camera on a gorillapod. Yeah I probably could make a clearer image now with better sharpness and color, but this was about the story.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Photo Contest Tips

I decided to enter my first non online photo contest. It was the Utah State Fair and I found out about the photography division. My cousin Tony from Tony Murray Photography (check out his work, it's amazing) helped me out with some tips on entering the contest. I ended up getting 4th in the landscapes division, which I felt pretty good about considering it is one of the more competitive classes.

My Snake River Overlook picture was my choice for the contest

Here are some tips on entering a photo contest

1. Find a contest, fairs are a great place to start. Look for photography groups in your area. You can also look at for national and international contests. I would recommend starting with local competitions before you go to the national or international scale.

2. Find your strongest images. Look through your library and find your best pictures. Make sure that they are well composed, sharp, and are technically well executed. If in doubt ask other photographers or friends what images they think are the strongest.

3. Read ALL the rules for the contest. I made the mistake of just skimming the rules of the contest and ended up realizing the morning I was to take my print to the fair that my mounting was incorrect. So my wife helped me to scramble to fix the mounting so I could enter. Read the rules and read them carefully.

4. Get a high quality print. Go to a professional photo lab to get your print. DO NOT go to Costco, Walmart or the like. Get a high quality print on high quality paper. I chose to print mine on metallic paper, because it is very glossy and has a metallic luster to it.

5. Pay close attention to your mounting/matting. Sometimes it is best to just have it done professionally. Many contests will judge your print and the mounting/matting of the photo.

6. Take your photo to the contest in some sort of protective covering. When I took my picture in, it was raining, which could have ended my chances before they started.

7. Go to the gallery and enjoy all the entries in the contest. If your photo doesn't win, study the winning photos so you can improve for the next contest. Figure out why they won.

Entering a contest can be a great way to examine your work and find ways to improve your photography.

If you want more info about my Snake River Overlook picture check out my post on it here.

If you are interested in purchasing a limited edition print of this image or some of my other work, keep checking back, I am currently looking at options for an online store.

Friday, September 7, 2012


ISO: 100  Focal Length: 28mm 
-.33 ev
Aperture: f/13  Shutter Speed: 2.0s
The Subway is one of Zion's most famous places and it is also one of the top sites for photography in the park. Although it is so famous there are usually few people around because it is a very long hike in and the traffic is limited. The hike is about 10 miles round trip and is very strenuous. If you want to do the hike you will need to reserve a Zion backcountry permit. The hike is a bit technical and for the most part there is not a well defined trail. You basically follow the river once you are down in the canyon.

After about 5 miles of hiking you will get to the Subway portion, which is actually quite short. It is named for the tunnel like formation of the cliffs, see the image at the bottom of the post.

The image with the pools was a pretty straight forward composition. I wanted the lowest pool to be in the lower third of the picture to add foreground interest. The cascade of pools provided a great sweeping line that gives the image depth.

As for the more technical details of the shot, I had a polarizer filter on my lens and chose the small aperture of f/13 so I could get the long shutter speed that would give the water a very smooth look. For post processing I took down the highlights a little, gave saturation a slight bump and sharpened it for the final result.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Coastal Portrait

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 18mm 
Aperture: f/4.5  Shutter Speed: 1/30

This is actually a portrait of my wife and I from the day we got engaged at Solana Beach in Southern California. The sun was about to set so there was very nice directional light with a golden tint. I set the tripod up next to the cliff, dialed in the settings I wanted and put a 10 second timer on. The leading lines are what make this image.

The cliff has these great lines that not only create depth in the image but they also guide the eye right to the subject.

For post processing I used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 for the black and white conversion and that was pretty much it. I just picked the preset I liked the best for the image, adjusted a few sliders to fine tune things and the image was good to go. 

Now I probably should've used a little wider aperture (smaller number) so the depth of field was a little shallower and the rocks would have been a little more blurred. I think the image would have been a little stronger if I had done that.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Bonneville Salt Flats Portrait

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 50mm 
Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 1/4000
This was a shot from an engagement session I did. The couple wanted to do it out on the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is a pretty cool place to go shoot. This was shot in the afternoon and the light was still pretty harsh. I would have liked to have shot it early or late to get better light from the sun, but unfortunately that just wasn't an option. When shooting at the Salt Flats you will want to overexpose just a bit maybe +.5 or +1 ev, otherwise the salt flats will be a sort of gray color instead of white. For a lot of shots during this session we used a 5 in 1 reflector. In this case we positioned the translucent part of the reflector to the left of the camera to take out the harsh shadows and give some directional light to the couple. I used an aperture of f/2.8 to get a shallow depth of field to isolate the couple from the background. If I had tried a wider aperture the shutter would not be able to fire fast enough so f/2.8 was the widest aperture possible. For a wider aperture you would need to use a neutral density filter (think of sunglasses for your camera) it restricts the amount of light going through the lens without changing the color of the image.

During the entire shoot I was shooting with my 50mm lens that I mentioned in my last post. It is really great for portraits.

For post processing I used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. It is an incredible tool for converting images to black and white. 

If you shoot a lot of portraits I would really recommend getting a 5 in 1 reflector. They are a fantastic tool that can be had very cheap. Like my 43" set cost less than $20. I use the Neewer Reflector and it has really worked great for me. It does have a few drawbacks but for less than $20 it is well worth it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Ideal 2nd Lens

So you have that fancy new dslr and the kit lens it came with. You have probably taken a lot of pictures with it and are now ready to get a second lens. The best value in both Canon and Nikon systems is to get a 50mm prime lens. A prime lens has one focal length (it doesn't zoom). These lenses are also a great choice because they have a very wide aperture. This wide aperture makes them ideal for low light situations. It will also have the ability to give the look of a sharp subject with blurry background sometimes called bokeh by photographers. In addition to being great optically, working with a prime lens will help you become a better photographer.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II $108 on Amazon

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yellowstone Pool

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 28mm 
-.33 ev
Aperture: f/9  Shutter Speed: 1/125
The colors in Yellowstone are pretty amazing. The clear blue pools with swaths of orange around them make for great pictures. I arrived at this particular pool pretty late in the day, so the lighting was pretty flat. This did serve to illuminate the colors well. To get this shot I crouched down low on the boardwalk so the stripes of orange would create a lot of depth in the image. I decided to darken the image by .33 ev so the skies would be better exposed than what the camera originally metered for.

A big tip for shooting in Yellowstone: get up early. Everyday we would get up before sunrise and there was very little traffic. As it gets later in the day there are crowds of people everywhere.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Aspen Sunburst

ISO: 400  Focal Length: 12mm 
2 Shots bracketed at 0 and -2 ev
Aperture: f/22  Shutter Speed: .4s and 1/10

Originally this morning was supposed to be all about a waterfall. I had driven up near Sundance and hiked in a few miles to shoot Stewart Falls in the morning light. After shooting there I was hiking back and came upon this beautiful scene. I positioned the tripod so that the sun would just be peaking out behind an aspen and set my aperture to f/22 so I would get that nice sunburst shape from the sun. 

I composed the image this way so there would be the sunburst on the left and a stand out aspen on the right to balance the frame. These are the most dominant elements in the frame and are what will draw the eye the most. The forest floor that is carpeted with ferns serves to add interest and depth to the picture. With the sun in the frame I knew I would need to bracket my exposures for an HDR image. I set my camera to take pictures at 0, -2 and +2 exposure compensation. Once home I processed the files in HDR Efex Pro and ended up only using the 0 and -2 exposures. The original exposures are below.

Although I was originally just looking for good shots of the waterfall, this might be my favorite image of the morning. So keep your eyes open for other opportunities for great images when you set out with a specific subject in mind.