Saturday, December 31, 2011

This blog is about extenders.  I own one, but rarely use it.  Rarely meaning about 5 times in 5 years, maybe not that often.  The purpose of an extender is to make your lens longer.  As an example they can double the size of your lens from 200 mm to 400 mm.  Some however increase the length only 1.4 or 1.5 times making a 200 mm lens 280 mm or the 300 mm respectively.  My extender is 1.4 and makes my 400 mm lens 560 mm.  Here is a pic of mine:

 That is an SD card to help get an idea of size.

 Here is a pic of the lens (400 mm, 5.6) I would usually attach it to:

Here is the lens with the extender attached.

One of the upsides of  extenders is they will bring the subject closer.  The next photograph is with just the lens attached.

This next pic is with the extender attached from about the same location.                                     

Another upside is extenders do not cost as much as lens does.  The 400 mm lens shown here costs about $1275, but the extender is only about $475.  To buy a 500 mm lens would cost about $10,000.  So the lens with extender is $1750 or the 500 mm lens at $10,000, the choice is yours.   The final upside is size.  THe 500 mm lens weighs 7 pounds and is over 15 inches long.   I don't know the weight of the lens with the extender, but it is significantly lighter.  

You had to know it was coming, yes the downsides.  First the optics are never as good as using just the lens.  If your lens is marginal the extender will cause it be worse.  You will almost certainly need a tripod.  THe extended length with the extender will exaggerate motion.  The final downside is it will slow the lens.  My lens is a 400 mm 5.6 lens, but with the extender attached is a 560 mm 8.0 lens.  If it was a 2 x extender the lens would be 800 mm but at an f-stop of 11.  

There is one last consideration.  Some extenders do not work with some cameras so (Old extenders versus new camera).  Some extenders will not meter (measure light) with all cameras, and some will not autofocus.  Mine will not auto focus with my XTI but will with the two 1D's.  Do the research before buying. 

The first photograph is without the extender.  There were several without the extender that were sharp. (both photographs have been cropped)

This second shot with an extender and was of two that I consider useable, and even this one is not as sharp as the first.

I have just one more point to make.  The more mega-pixels the camera has the more you can crop without the loss of detail or having the detail of the photograph suffer.   So I would suggest get a camera with more pixels.  There are plenty of them between $500 and $1000 by Sony, Nikon, Canon, Pentax.  They really aren't that much more expensive than an extender. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I have a fascination with water.  I have spent most of my life in the midwest not much water.  So, to feed my fascination I have searched waterfalls, and photographed a bunch of them.  

The water in each of the photographs is without much of texture as seen when actually viewing them.  This is accomplished with a slow shutter speed.   The fastest shutter speed used was .8 of a second when these were captured.  So bring along a tripod.

At an art show I saw photographs taken of waterfalls in the Grand Canyon with a fast shutter speed and it seemed to catch an energy the others miss.  I recently went to Yosemite and decided to try the technique.  This is the result.

The shutter speed was 1/250 on both.  I wanted a higher shutter but the lighting prevented me.

The same technique is used with streams.

 Shutter speed 1/8 second
Shutter speed 1/50

Friday, November 25, 2011

I like finding music artists that are little known or finding songs by the well known, but didn't make it big.  Beth Hart's music I have followed since 1997 or there about.  I first heard her sing Am I the One on the radio.  Called the radio station to find out who she was.   Her live version here is R rated.   Everyone should spend some time listening to her.  SHe sings with great emotion.
Here she is on TV
THis is a latest effort

Saturday, November 19, 2011


There are some of you out there that know I love music.  So I have decided to broaden the scope of this blog to include music.  No I'm not going to sing or play an instrument, but I am going to post songs I like or rather links.  I have listened to Florence and the machine for a while now, but I have just listened to her latest release and  and a live version  .

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One of the questions I 'm asked is "how did you get that photograph?", and one of the statements I hear often is "you must have been lucky."  Listed below are 5 photographs I took over two days.  They are of white pelicans,  one cormorant and 2 herons.  

So now in as few words as I can possibly use is how I did it and why I was lucky.  
The first day I was returning to a site I had seen several weeks earlier.   I expected to find egret and herons.  Instead I found pelicans hundreds of them.  On that day I took 300 photographs, and on the next day I took 1549 photographs.  Yes, in two days I took 1849 photographs.  I have posted 6.  I'm sure there are others I should work on, but these 6 stood out for me.  My point of course is if you take a lot of photographs you have something to choose from.  There are some other things that help.   My camera takes 8 frames a second and , and I have a 400mm lens.  The 8 frames helps capture the action and the lens brought them close and focuses like lighting.  Although, I think the most important thing was patience.  The first day I stood in the same place for an hour and during that time I studied their behavior.  I noticed what made them nervous and how they acted when relaxed.  The second day I stood (I mean stood) in the same place for over 3 hours.  After awhile I became part of the environment and they stopped noticing me.  They started to get too close to me.  So, I went after my 70-200mm lens, and started shooting again.  Finally, most of them flew off, I guess they had better things to do.   
So how do I get the photograph?  Well I have the right equipment. I take a lot of photographs. I can be very patient.   As far as being lucky I guess in manner of speaking I was.  I didn't expect the pelicans, or to be able to photograph fish in their bill,  or catch a cormorant diving with its beak wide open.  On the other hand I just think it was a reward for being patient.  

After I had written this post I decided to add one last pic.  Click on the pic to make it bigger the one pelican in the middle is flying the wrong way, or all the others are.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Football Photography

SO how do you get those sport pics?  I don't know how many times I have answered that question.  My answers vary depending on the sport.  Since football is starting let's start there.

We photographers are going to need two things a camera and a lens and probably a flash.   First we need a camera.  When deciding on a camera focus speed, frames per second, and high ISO performance are major considerations.  To shoot football I use a 1D Mark II.  It is an 8 MP camera, and shoots 8.5 frames a second.  It focuses like lighting and holds its focus on moving athletes.  It is no longer in production.   THere are several others out there though from $800 to $5000.

Next a lens is needed.  I shoot football and fastpitch with a 70-200 2.8 lens.   It is a fantastic lens that focuses faster than the speed of light, and provides excellent image quality.  Today it costs today around $1100, the F-4 version can be had for around $650, and both are excellent lenses.  There are a lot of other lenses out there.  Too many for me to provide a evaluation of each.  If you want opinions then let me know.

The last thing is a light system.  Most of high school football is played at night, and I know it looks like there is a lot of light.  There isn't.  Oh some of you may be lucky, but most are not going to be.  For us as photographers that means high ISO and shallow depth of field.  I shoot at ISO 800 and at an F-stop of 2.8, and even with those settings I use a flash.  Now, some new cameras have a useable ISO a lot higher.  With one of those you may be lucky enough to obtain 1/500 of a second shutter speed (1/500 is the speed I feel is needed for sports) and not need a flash.   Or you may find me wrong and go ahead and shoot with a slower shutter speed.  If you need a flash though there are more problems.

In a previous post( ) I discussed the different types of flash.  A flash gun will be most successful shooting football.  An on board flash has serious limitations.  Usually the flash is not very powerful, sucks the camera battery dry much faster, and takes a long time to recycle.  In the earlier post I provided some examples showing the lack of power with most on board flashes.  Since the flash uses the camera batteries you might not have enough juice to shoot the whole game.  I hope your athlete doesn't do something spectacular after it quits.  In addition they take a long time to recycle.  Recycling is the length of time it takes from the flash firing to the time it is ready to fire again.  With an on board flash this can take several seconds.  You will only get one shot per play.  You might as well leave it at home and have good time at the game.

Another consideration is flash sync.  THis is the fastest shutter speed your flash will allow you to achieve without part of the photograph being totally black.   With most cameras this will be from 1/100th to 1/200th of a second, but some are at 1/30th.  The good news is the flash freezes motion.  For football I use a camera that syncs at 1/250.   Motion blur (pic below) can still be a problem.

Flash guns are a different story.  THey have enough power, they don't use the camera battery, and they have a faster recycle time.   Oh we are excited now.   Now comes the bad stuff.  They have a faster recycle time, but the most you'll get is two shots.  They still go through AA batteries like nobody's business.  So how do we solve this latest dilemma?  A battery pack.  Mine cost $150.00.  It lasts about a year, and then another one.  It also requires a wire $250, $400 total.   What do you get for this?  Three shots a play, and sometimes four.

Of course none of this makes any difference if you shoot during the day.

Boy I'm glad the ref's pants didn't split.  I'll bet he is too.  Oh by the way he scored on the play, and it is 11 pics.

So now you have the camera, lens, and lighting system (if needed).  Your at the game and ready to shoot.  Not yet, first you should get clearance with the Athletic director, or the organizer of the event before going to the sidelines.  Then you are ready, but be careful.  I have been tackled, and while holding about $6000 worth of equipment.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Damn Routine

That damn routine.  Get up drink coffee, off to work, then home, TV, bed and start over the next day.   It is comfortable, predictable, and relaxing.  No muss no fuss.  That damn routine.  One eye should always be on it.  There is a hidden danger.  If you are not alert it will sneak in and steal your adventure.  My father used to take us on, what we called rides.  On a Sunday afternoon or in the early evening we would load up in the car and take off.  Sometimes we would check out the motels to see if they were full.  I remember sitting and counting the cars that flew by in a minute on interstate 44 before the overpasses.  If memory serves me correctly we would count well over a hundred cars.  Of course to break the routine a bungee jump would work, but dad had it figured.

This blog as most of you know has dealt primarily with photography, and you may now be wondering what this has to do with that.  Well not much.  Although photography can become routine.  This is about paradise and how the routine can replace it.  I am leaving paradise, Mesquite Nevada.  I waded the Virgin river this morning.   In the last three years I have made trips to Yosemite, Zion (a bunch of times) Arches, Canyonlands, Valley of Fire (several Times), Grand Canyon, Great Basin, Lake Mead, Lake Powell, Dead Horse, Horse Shoe Bend,  taken more hikes than I can count, and driven part of the Pacific coast highway for me it gets no better.  I almost forgot we are 90 miles from Las Vegas not only gambling, but great shows Lou saw Elton John, Lion King, Thunder Down; people watching I've seen a couple of see thru blouses, there is no telling what you'll see, and great shopping.  This has been paradise.  I am headed to Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

There is something about moving to a state that is OK.   I lived there for a year about three years ago.  I didn't like it.  Now I'm headed back.  Oh well at least I will be close to the Buffalo river, and some waterfalls.  I don't mean to offend the people of Bartlesville.  I'm sure they are great people.  It just will not compare to Mesquite.  Oh yeah this isn't about moving.  Its about that damn routine.

As much as I have done here I wish I had done more.   I wish I hadn't fallen into a routine.  I know, I never will again.  I have killed the routine.  Stomped it with my hiking boots, strangled it with my camera strap,  drowned in it my camelbak.  I had plans for the fall Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  I was busily saving money to float the Colorado river.  Life took over and instead it is the move.  I could have made the hike through the subway, I could have backpacked Zion, four-wheeled Canyon Lands.  I should have seen Santana, Cher, Bette.  I could have.  I didn't.  That damn routine.

I guess I should post some photographs:

Lake Geneva Wisconsin (the first time I lived in paradise)
Taken with film.  I frequently ate lunch on the shore of the lake, and went there before work.  Watched ice sailing once. 

These next two I took Saturday at the Virgin river.   

 ISO 100, f16, 1/60
ISO 100, f16, 1/80


Thursday, June 9, 2011


Well spring is over at least here in the desert.   It is close to 100 today .  I know there is no humidity.  All that humidity thing means is you don't know your dehydrating.  It also means those beautiful weeds have wilted.  You know the ones.  The ones that are treated with roundup.   Of course, there are those others that need more attention than a 2 year old at the county fair.   They need watering, fertilizing and pulling those other flowers called weeds.

Well I'm going to be talking about ISO, shutter speed, and F-stop again.   Just in case you had forgotten I will be talking about light since it is thing we photograph no matter the subject.

Flower 1.   (Weed to some)

THis is an old photograph taken with something called film.  It is one of my favorites.   I do not know the ISO, shutter speed, or F-stop.  I just love the simplicity.  It is straight on and the flower is not perfect, but the light I just love. It is hard to catch white and still find detail like this.  I suspect that it was taken in the evening not too long before the sunset.   The hour just after the sun rises and just before it sets are usually the best for taking photographs like this one.  The light has a soft glow to it.

Flower 2 or are they weeds.

ISO 100, F-stop 7.1, 1/1600   Same type of flower, but taken several years later.   I took this because I just wondered what they would look like from the ground.  We always look down on them and frequently pull them.  Since, the flower is not going to run off why not take more than one picture  explore all the angles and all the ways light hits them. 

Flower three.

ISO 200, F 8, 1/40.   Remember that discussion about the best light, this was taken at about noon bright sunshiny day, so much for rules.  Yes I have to admit I have worked this pretty hard in photoshop.  I don't do that very often, but so much for rules.  If I would have just shot the photograph the flower would have been underexposed.  Remember there was bright light.  So I got close enough to the flower that only it was showing.  I recorded the shutter speed and the F-stop.  I framed the photograph and snapped the shutter.  The building in the background was now overexposed and did show in the photograph.  

Flower 4

ISO 100, F-stop 5, shutter Speed 1/50  Here is I used the same principal except in reverse.  This time I was at a dinner party, that is potato chips in the background when I took this.  The flowers however were in the light and the background was dark.  The lesson is cameras only see about two stops of light.   I know some of you are saying what?   Two stops?  Let's just say we have a camera set up to shoot at these settings ISO 400, Shutter speed  1/250, and F-stop 8.   Now let's say we want to adjust the settings by a stop.  We could change the ISO to 800 and leave the other settings alone.  About twice as much light would get to the sensor and the adjustment would be 1 stop.  So in the example we increased the light by one stop.  We could decrease it by changing the ISO to 200.  The ISO would be decreased by one stop.  We could do the same thing with the shutter speed or the F-stop.  To increase by a stop double the shutter speed to 1/500 or decrease it by cutting in half to 1/125,  and with the F-stop to increase by a stop set it to F-4 or decrease it by setting it to f 16.  In the two flower examples I used this principal to my advantage.  It can be a problem such as photographing a group of people some in the shade and some not. 

Flower 5 

ISO 100, Shutter Speed 1/2500, F stop 1.4  THis photograph has been cropped for two reasons.  The first reason is because I like it that way.  The other reason is to draw attention to the center of the flower.  I did this by choosing an F-stop of  1.4 and creating a shallow depth of field.  You can see that hardly any of this photograph is in focus.   Usually I will not use an F-stop less than F4.  This is a rule of thumb.  The only thing to keep in mind is the closer you get to the subject the narrower the depth of field at the same F-stop.   As an example (I am now going to make up numbers, but the theory is good)  at F-stop 1.4 and at about 12 inches from the subject there may only be 1/2 inch in focus, but at 20 feet there may be 12 inches in focus.   In other words the closer to the subject the narrower the depth of field, and the further away the wider the depth of field.

Next time sports, and from then on it will be my travels and photographs like this:
  Well maybe not like this, but the things I photograph. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Great Sand Dunes

I have neglected this blog.  I have been awfully busy.   If you follow me on facebook you know I was trying to get a model to pose in water.  It turned out to be a time consuming little project.  It also failed not because the model called at the last minute and cancelled.  I know this has nothing to do with the Great Sand Dunes, but the world didn't end either.

In 2007 Lou and I made the trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park.  It has the highest dunes in the United States with the highest dune measuring 750 feet.  It attracts vacationers from all over the world totaling about 300,000 people a year.  The fascination with the park is the sand, but there is so much more than that there.  Our visit included snow, 10 inches of it.

I decided to write about The Great Sand Dunes because two of my photographs were selected for display this summer.  This post is mostly photographs with snippets about the stay.

On the first full day there we decided to search the area around the Dunes.   We planned to explore the Dunes later on our visit.  THe snow killed that plan.    A collection of photographs from that day:
(By the way click on the photographs to see them larger, and back to get to the page.)  Hey don't down load these it is a violation of Copyright.  Another way of saying it:  it is stealing.
IS0 100, F9, Shutter Speed 1/640  There are three hikers in this photograph.  They help give scale to the dunes.

ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/400  Notice the depth of the dunes.

ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/250
ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/250   This is one of my favorites.  This river only runs part of the year.
ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/640

ISO 400, F4, Shutter Speed 1/1250

ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/1250
So that night it snowed.  And snowed. And snowed.  
And it was still snowing the next morning.  We were staying in a cabin just outside the Park.  We had a space heater, but the electricty kept flickering.  So, we packed up.  No we didn't leave.  There was a motel right next door.  We checked in.  If we were going to be without heat I wanted company.  I kept thinking snow covered dunes, and that it would be unusal.  Later I was to find out that the park only had a few photographs of the Dunes with snow on them.  The sand retains heat and the snow melts quickly.  So day three was spent waiting for snow plows, swimming (indoor pool) and a quick trip to town.   Well I did work in a couple of pictures.
If you think you see a bunch of dots in the picture, you would be right.  It's snow.  Oh there are birds too.
Roads plowed about 4 pm.  Even though its still snowing, its time to get out in it.  
ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/250  
Did I mention it was still snowing?  

ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/640 The storm retreated and then the snow stopped and the dunes were covered. 
ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/640
ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/640
The next day at sunrise.

ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed1/640

 ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed1/640

 ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/1250
ISO 100, F9, Shutter Speed 1/640

ISO 100, F32, Shutter Speed 1/40  The reason for the F-stop was to make the whole photograph sharp. 
It was cold.
 ISO 100, F5.6, Shutter Speed 1/250


ISO 100, F5.6, Shutter Speed 1/250

ISO 100, F5.6, Shutter Speed 1/250
 ISO 100, F9, Shutter Speed 1/500
 ISO 100, F9, Shutter Speed 1/500
 ISO 100, F9, Shutter Speed 1/500

 ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/1250

ISO 100, F8, Shutter Speed 1/1250  
ISO 100, F5.6, Shutter Speed 1/2000  This last photograph gives the best scale, and is taken as we left.   The hikers are dwarfed by the dunes.  There had been 10 inches of snow, and it is mostly gone 24 hours after it stopped.   My submission for consideration included 23 photographs found here in a slide show:

From the slideshow they approved 9.  These are the two I chose and are the ones on display:

Next time let's do flowers, and then sports.