Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's Time For You To Pick Photos For My 2014 Calendar

Each year I make a calendar with some of my favorite photos from the past 12 months.  I then sell these calendars to raise money for Hope Haven Ministries in Kingsport.  Sales have increased each year and I'm excited to see how we do this year.

These are 12 month wall calendars that are 17 inches tall x 11 inches wide when opened.  Each page includes one of my best landscape or nature photographs from the past 12 months plus a relevant scripture or quote.

Anyone who intends to buy one (or more!) of these calendars can help pick the photos that will grace the pages.  This is a fun way for you to be involved and can tell your friends - "I picked that one!"

Here's how it works.   I have done the hard part of going through all my photos from October 2012 through August 2013 and narrowed the list of candidates down to 30.
One of my picks

  • One goes on the back cover
  • Four are my picks (I get to choose my favorites)
  • That leaves 9 to be chosen out of the remaining 25.

Here's how the very unscientific voting process works.
  1. Go to
  2. Click on any of the photos to zoom in.
  3. You can then move forward or backward using the left and right arrow keys.
  4. Scroll through the photos, paying attention to the photo names at the bottom left.  Remember the vertical waterfall photo goes on the back and the last four are my picks.  Don't pick those.
  5. Pick your favorite 9 and send me an email to with the names of your picks.  This is the name that displays at the bottom left of the photo.
  6. Let your friends, neighbors, family, and random strangers on the street know about the calendars.  Spread the word.
I will tally the votes and announce the winners on Sunday September  22.

The calendars will be available around Thanksgiving and they make great Christmas gifts.   They are only $15 each.  The best part is the money stays here in Kingsport and goes to Hope Haven Ministries.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Keeping My Photography On The Level

According to The Free Dictionary on the web (which must be 100% correct because it's on the internet), the phrase "on the level" means honest; dependably open and fair.  In the case of my photography as in life I'm interested in staying on the level.

I have a problem keeping my camera level when I'm in the field.   When I get home I look at my pictures and they are obviously not level.  My water looks like it's running out the left or right side of my photo.  For what ever reason when I'm looking through the view finder I think I'm level, but in fact I'm far from it.  I need some help keeping my photography level.

The best tool I have is a hot shoe bubble level.  This inexpensive little device works just like a carpenter's level.   There are two or three bubbles inside a plastic cube that attaches to your camera hot shoe.  This first one is available from Adorama for only $5.95 with free shipping.   You attach it to your hot shoe, put your camera on a tripod, and adjust the camera until the bubble is between the lines.   If you have your camera on it's side shooting a portrait orientation, then you turn the bubble to attach on one of the other sides.  Pretty straight forward and easy to use.
I also have a triple bubble level, which eliminates the need to reorient the level when switching from landscape to portrait orientation.  A little bulkier and $24.95 at Adorama.

I recommend having one of these in your camera bag and using it when ever it's important to have your camera level.

My Canon 7D has a digital level built in.  I can turn it on and tell if my camera is level by looking at the LCD display on the back or even in the viewfinder.  Having it displayed in the viewfinder is very handy when you're shooting hand held.

Here's a case where having the camera level is essential.

Oregon Sea Stack Sunset
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Psalm 143:10

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Photography Under Adverse Conditions

I've hiked some good distances to remote places under adverse conditions for the opportunity to photograph some pretty awesome sights.  I've taken photos in rain, snow, freezing conditions, standing in a cold mountain stream, and on the side of mountains in winds that would blow my tripod over if I didn't hold it down.  Each of these conditions brings different challenges from keeping the camera dry to not getting blown off the side of the mountain.   Recently I ran into new conditions that presented a new challenge to me.

I almost always shoot with my camera on a tripod.   As long as my subject is not moving, using a tripod gives me the sharpest photos possible.  It allows me to take long exposures without having to worry about camera shake. 

On a recent trip to Nashville I went to the Serious Steel: Art Deco Automobile exhibit in the Center for Visual Arts with my friends Kent Ervin and Pete Culotta.  When we bought our tickets the lady and the counter said "No Tripods or Camera Bags Allowed".   I turned my forbidden gear over to the concierge, got my claim check and went in with just my Canon 5D Mark ii and a 17-40mm, f/4.0 non-stabilized lens.  This was going to be interesting.

The first challenge we ran into when we went in to the exhibit was the crowds.  It was difficult to get shots of the cars without people in the frame.  Even when they weren't in the picture their reflections were in the ultra shiny paint and chrome.  This took some patience and creative positioning.  It amazed us how long people could stand in one place.

The second challenge was the low light.  I found if I set the ISO to between 3200 and 5000 I could get speeds fast enough to get a decent shot hand holding the camera.  My slowest speed was 1/15 second!

I had a couple things going for me.  First the Canon 5D Mark ii does pretty well at low light and high ISO levels of 3200 and up.  Second, using a wide angle lens I could get away with  little camera shake that would have ruined photos at 25mm or higher. 

We ended up walking through twice and I got a handful of shots that I was happy with.

17mm, 1/15 sec, ISO 3200, f/5.0

17mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 3200, f/4.0

17mm, 1/125 sec, ISO 3200, f/4.5

33mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 5000, f/5.6

32mm, 1/80 sec, ISO 5000, f/5.6

40mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 5000, f/5.6
I used Nik Define 2.0 software to remove the digital noise that introduced to these photos due to the high ISO settings.   It's my go to tool for cutting through that digital static and does a great job.

All in all not a bad day.  After picking up our gear we were off to the next destination with a little more light and a few less rules.