The NIK Collection from Google

A photographer friend and former student of mine and I were discussing HDR. I have started to use auto bracketing and the new HDR merge feature of Lightroom on some images. I am generally pleased with the results.There is almost no ghosting with tripod shots. I also did hand held shots with a VR lens and the ghosting correction option worked perfectly. See Yesterday’s post

My friend suggested I try the NIK filter collection plug-in from Google which I have since installed and am really amazed with the options offered by this product. I have just started to experiment with it and so far I am wowed! I cannot yet comment on all the features but compare the two images below.

The first was done with standard editing using saturation, highlight and monochrome tools on Lightroom. The second using one of the many editing pallets from the HIK Silver plugin for Lightroom.

To see other images and buy apparel or prints, please visit my commercial gallery.

Standard Editing Monochrome

Standard Editing Monochrome

NIK Silver Tool

NIK Silver Tool

Kreplach for the High Holy Days

In the Jewish religion, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called the High holy days. They are the celebration of the lunar New Year and the day of Atonement. While I am not a very religious person, I do enjoy the culture and the basis of most cultures start with food. Kreplach are little meat filled dumplings that are great in chicken soup or in a stir fry. They can be made any time but traditionally are made on the HIgh Holy Days. This video features my lovely wife, Hinda and her recipe and technique which she learned from her mother. It is long video and old school but filled with great cooking tips and by the end you will be able to make your own Kreplach and eat them too.


Panning Running Deer

Most still photographers don’t think about panning very much. Panning is commonly used in cinematography but in still photography will cause motion blur. Sometimes motion blur can make an image work by giving the illusion of motion. If you place the camera on a tripod and pan with the action during a slow shutter speed you can still create blurred motion but through panning make the subject blur less. This was shot at an exposure of 1 second and the camera was panned with the action during exposure. The panning causes the background to blur but by panning with the action the deer are not blurred as much making them stand out. You can see more of my nature images at my gallery by clicking here

Running Deer


Becoming a Photojournalist

Photojournalism usually refers to a type of journalism where the picture is used to tell a story or express a position. Photojournalists frequently work with writers who are assigned to a “story” by a media editor. Sometimes the journalist writes both the story and takes the pictures to support the story. Photojournalism is different then celebrity paparazzi photography. Paparazzi and other celebrity street photography are a subset of photojournalism but are more about celebrity than photography.

You don’t really need Press Credentials to be a photojournalist, but it sure helps. Since the assassinations of the 1960’s it is more difficult to get close to people and stages. Even in the 1970’s, I could never have gotten close enough to get this photograph of Senator’s McGovern and Kennedy at a Pittsburgh presidential campaign rally without Press Credentials. Today you can use a camera on a tripod with a telephoto lens to take pictures like this from further away. However, you will need Press Credentials to be able to set up a tripod and gain access the to pool area where photographers are allowed. You will need to develop a Photographic Portfolio to show to editors to get them to put you on their freelance staff. You will need to be able to work at first as an Independent Contractor and if you are lucky, you may some day get a full time job at very low pay. In the old days, freelance photographers were called “stringers”, today they are called underemployed. You may be required to have a background and security check before getting Press Credentials.

McGovern Kennedy in Pittsburgh

To be a photojournalist you need to be able to work strange and long hours. Like a news reporter you have to be willing to do anything for a story. In 1978, film director George Romero made “Dawn of the Dead” in a local Pittsburgh Shopping Mall. I was assigned to cover the story for Pittsburgh Magazine. Since it was being shot at a shopping mall, it was filmed from 9 PM until 8 AM. I would shoot at night and develop the film and make the prints during the day to be able to make the magazine deadline. This is a shot of George Romero listening to one of the movie’s Producers and trying to stifle a laugh.

George Romero on the Set of Dawn of the Dead

Sometimes the story is not right in front of you. I was assigned to cover the One World Festival of Music in 1972 in Pittsburgh. I was sitting in the stands trying to figure out how to sneak on to the stage. I noticed some people sitting behind me and figured out it was Dino Valente and Gary Duncan from Quicksilver Messenger Service. The band was one of the headline acts that would perform later. I clicked this picture of Dino Valente kissing some unknown blonde which was the best image of the day.

Dino Valenti of Quicksilver Messenger Service

Caught in The Act

Capture the moment. Henri Cartier-Bresson was the famous French Photojournalist which developed the idea that for each image there is one correct moment of capture and only one. This picture illustrates the point, a moment earlier he was standing, a moment later he had fallen. I call this image Stop the World! and it is the title of my first book. It is available on iTunes by clicking here.

Stop the World!

Finally, always take pictures of the weird stuff you may see. One might think that this is some sort of worker in a radiation suit involved in some nuclear or chemical accident. The reality is quite different. This person was participating in a race that used to happen every spring at Penn State University. People would have to run a mile and drink six beers at six different bars along the run. Participants would dress in weird costumes and the money was donated to charity. The event was eventually cancelled because the University and the town councils thought in promoted public drunkenness.

Controlling Object Movement During Exposure

Students sometimes ask why are my pictures blurry? It is really simple, either the camera moved or the object (subject) moved. There maybe times that you want an image to be blurry to express motion. This image of a running doe and fawn was taken on a tripod and the tripod was panned during exposure to add a sense of movement to the image. In most case though, you want to freeze the action of an image to define the ultimate moment of the scene. There are a number of reasons that images are blurry but the most important factor is the movement of the camera during exposure. If the camera moves, the image will blur. I know that most of like to think we are as steady as a rock, but we aren’t.

Deer and Fawn

When shooting with a hand held camera, try leaning against a rail, building or tree to steady your body during exposure. It is actually more difficult to steady the camera when holding it at arms length and using the screen of a digital camera. It is easier to steady yourself while looking through the viewfinder during exposure. The exposure of an image is caused by light, shutter speed and aperture. Aperture is controlled through iris, the smaller the iris the less light strikes the sensor. However, smaller apertures provide an increased depth of field. Make your decision about aperture first. Shutter speed controls the amount of time the shutter is open and letting light strike the sensor. The faster the shutter speeds, the faster the action you can freeze. When photographing sports, you should have a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second minimum. Faster is better for freezing action. Adjust the ISO sensitivity so you can achieve the faster the shutter speeds.

Shutter Speed Controller

Use a tripod whenever you can. Get to know your tripod, have a relationship with it. I believe a serious photographer needs two tripods. A large sturdy tripod used for scenic views and portraits at the best ISO sensitivity to capture the detail. This may require a slow shutter speed and small aperture and even the use of a cable release to make sure you have no camera movement. The second tripod is a mini tripod that you can pack up in your camera bag. Sometimes I just can’t carry a big tripod with me.

Mini Tripod

Take the time to know your lenses. Longer focal length lens are great for sports but very heavy. I can steady a 200mm lens at a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. The more zoomed in you are to your subject, the more difficult it is to steady the camera. Larger lenses have image stabilization systems but they can be very expensive.

Test your own ability at each different shutter speed. Take hand held pictures of an object that doesn’t move. Take a picture at each shutter speed with each lens. Review the images and see which ones are blurry. This will give you a personal guideline of when you need to get out the tripod. Blurred motion can be great way to photograph moving objects but only if you can control it. Take the time to learn your own limitations so you can make creative decisions of when to use slow shutter speeds with bodies in motion.

Controlling Camera Exposure

Today’s modern digital cameras are small wonders. They automatically control focus, sensitivity, exposure, flash lighting and in some cases even try to provide composition automation. Anybody can take perfect exposures at any time and some people never take their cameras of automatic settings. They may even call themselves “Photographers” without having a clue on how to adjust camera exposures. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with using automatic settings. However, if you are a “photographer” you want to consider things like motion, depth of field and resolution when composing your pictures. To do that, you need to have some idea about how to manually adjust camera exposures to get the image you want. In this article, we will outline the three basic exposure controls; aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity (ISO) settings. Hopefully, it will help you think about planning your images more during capture and be less afraid to use manual settings. To see my commercial images for sale, just click here.

The first adjustment to consider is aperture. The aperture is the “hole” in the lens created by the lens iris. It mimics the eye in that your iris gets smaller when there is more “light” present. If the iris opening is smaller less light will strike the sensor. In the picture, the bottom lens has the smaller opening. The size of the iris is controlled by adjusting the F-stop. The larger the F-Stop number, the smaller the iris. The smaller the F-stop number will have a larger iris opening. F-stops are logarithmic in nature and each stop will either halve or double the amount of light. In automatic mode, the camera controls the iris, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity. Most digital Single Lens Reflex cameras (DSLR) have semi automatic mode where you can select the F-stop and it will automatically select shutter speed and ISO. Here is why you should care. A smaller the F-stop opening will produce a greater the depth of field. If you want to have the foreground and background in sharp focus you need to have a smaller iris opening or higher F-stop number. This is a decision a photographer needs to make. If I am taking a picture of a flower and I want it to stand out against the background of the trees I will want to use a more open iris to have a narrow depth of field and only have the flower in focus. In most scenic views you want to have maximum depth of field and it is rare that an automatic setting will allow this to happen.

Lens Aperture

The next thing to consider is shutter speed. The shutter speed controls the amount of time the shutter is open to allow light to strike the sensor. The smaller number will let less light in to strike the sensor. Like F-stop this is a logarithmic arrangement. A shutter speed of 1/250th of a second will let light strike the films twice as long as 1/500th of a second. Why is this important? The faster shutter speeds will freeze the action more than a slower shutter speed. This picture was shot at 1/500th of a second to freeze the action of the batter and ball. The faster the action, the harder it is to freeze. To freeze a race car, I might need a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second or faster.

Freezing the Motion

Sometimes you may not want to freeze the action. This image was photographed at 2 seconds so the shutter was open for two seconds. It was also shot on a tripod and the camera was panned with the image to semi –freeze the image of the deer and fawn. Shutter speed is another creative decision. It is impossible to take a picture like this with automatic settings. As with aperture, most DSLR cameras have a shutter priority setting where you select the shutter speed and the camera will adjust the ISO and Aperture to ensure correct exposure.

Creating Motion Blur

Finally, you need to consider sensor sensitivity. In the old days we used different films with different sensitivities. ISO refers to International Standards Association which sets standards on a lot of things including film sensitivity. This image was shot on film at an ISO of 1600 with no flash. ISO can be adjusted on all digital cameras. Point and shoot cameras may just offer a setting of HIGH ISO and LOW ISO. DSLR cameras use the same numbers we used with film. If the number is lower (100) it will have a finer resolution and “grain” but less sensitivity to light. The higher number will have a higher sensitivity to light. This is also in a logarithmic relationship. You may want to use a higher ISO where you can not use a flash (like this Grateful Dead concert) and still want to be able to take pictures. You may also want to use a lower ISO if you are taking a scenic view on a tripod where you can control all three elements so that you can get the best reproduction possible. There, that’s not so scary is it? So next time you get ready to take some pictures think about if you want to use the automatic settings or if you want to change from a picture taker to a photographer and begin to control your environment.

Setting The ISO Sensitivity