Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! I'm taking today's post space to remind everyone to photograph their loved ones... and be photographed with them. Don't worry about what you or they look like... just cherish the moments you have together... and photograph them.

The photo at right is my lovely wife, Misty. I captured this moment as we walked along the beach in Cherry Grove at sunset (Summer, 2009). Misty is the best person I have ever known. She is the most giving, loving and forgiving Godly woman anyone could want to meet. She was kind enough to marry me twenty years ago (this coming June)... and stay with me through all the stupid, insensitive things I've done over two decades. She still loves me and I am madly in love with her.

Although neither of us liked this shot when it was taken, I am glad I kept it. And I'm thankful today, more than most, that I have this memory... and such a wonderful woman to share my life with.

Share yours with someone... and snap the shutter to record your memories.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Flickr's EXPLORE is a Farce

I've long been a skeptic regarding Flickr's hallowed EXPLORE. Personally, I think it's a royal farce... totally randomly chosen images that many times are poorly composed, lit or otherwise photographed. Yet, so many Flickrites put value into being "Explored". Blogs rave about it. Photogs gush over "Explored" images. Yet, EXPLORE is really a total joke. Take a look at the photo above/left.

This is no reflection on Shooto, the photographer whose photo is shown. His other images are good. But, let's face it. This is a non-descript, nothing special, snapshot of a tennis shoe. It doesn't deserve to be "Explored". There is nothing special about it. The photo has 138 views, 4 comments and for some reason, 8 favorites (lemmings). But, it's not worth being "Explored". It's a snapshot... of a shoe. Shooto doesn't even title the photo anything ethereal or meaningful. It's titled "Nike Dunk Low Pro SB Supreme"... a shoe.

Shooto gets it. But someone at Flickr doesn't... and neither do the thousands of folks who think their photos are special, galactic or famous because they are "Explored".

EXPLORE is a joke Flickr is playing on its members. To be "Explored" is not to be famous or even good at photography. It's just that your number came up in some random algorithm. Wake up folks!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Twenty Things We Want to Photograph

There was an interesting question on DPS forums this morning. Basically, the original poster asked us to choose twenty things we want to photograph. The implication was that was choose twenty things we have never photographed. While I could probably come up with 1,020 specific things I want to photograph, the list was limited to twenty. In no particular order, here is my personal list...

1. Sprawling landscapes in the west (New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, etc)
2. Cityscapes at night, from the air
3. Whales off Baja & California coasts
4. Black Sand Beach on Hawai'i Island
5. Mayan Ruins
6. Old barns in decay
7. The weathered faces of elderly people (B&W)
8. Non-erotic nudes in natural light (sun light thru a window or outdoors)
9. Motocross event from the track
10. The Great Barrier Reef (underwater, of course)
11. Macros, super-macros, extreme macros
12. Portraits of interesting people from anywhere
13. Lightning in the night sky
14. A water spout
15. Dragonflies, birds, insects in flight
16. Surfers on the North Shore of Oahu (Chun's Reef or Sunset Beach) from the water
17. Dolphins/sharks in the ocean
18. War, from the front lines (journalistic style)
19. NFL game, from the sidelines
20. Greece

What would be on YOUR list?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Playing with Picasa

If you know me at all, you know I like most things Google. I have an Android phone, use Google Voice for my "home phone", handle email with Gmail and Google Contacts (instead of Outlook) and live by Google Calendar. I could go on & on, but I don't want to bore you to tears.

But there is one thing Google I have avoided, that is, until a week or so ago. I admit, I am way behind the curve on learning Photoshop. People who know it, love it -- at least most of them do. Yes, it's a phenomenal application. However, I personally think it's convoluted, confusing, contraption that frustrates me every time I try to use it. I tried v5.5 and CS4 -- both made me want to throw the computer against the wall.

So, I went looking for another photo editor (yeah, I know... nothing can replace what Photoshop can do). I downloaded GIMP... and deleted it almost as fast. I played with a friend's Lightroom 3, but never really understood what it was supposed to do -- catalog or edit. I tried a few others, but most were lacking features that I found useful in my outdated copy of Paint Shop Pro 6.

Then, I ran across a rave review of Picasa 3. It sounded good, but would I despise it as much as I have some of the other graphics editors? In short, NO. Picasa is not as full-featured as CS4, but it does what I need it to do -- quickly and without much heartburn. I don't unmask my masks or tone map my colors (whatever all that means), but I do adjust contrast, saturation and even crop or resize from time to time. Guess what? Picasa is great for all those things -- AND cataloging my photos.

Hats off, once again, to the people at Google for opening a new door to my world... and for making software that is easy to use and useful at the same time. While I wade through the video tutorials and mass of websites offering PhotoShop information, I'll work happily along with Picasa 3. If you have been as frustrated with PhotoShop as I have, you might want to give Picasa a try.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Every Day is the Day to Shoot Photos!

Don't ever let anyone tell you there's nothing to shoot photos of. It doesn't matter where you are or what time of year it is, there are always things to capture with the little digital sensor in your camera.
Not too long ago, I was in a funk... yeah, I said a funk. I wanted to shoot pictures, but the weather was dreary. Then, it turned cold. UGH!
After trying to wait the weather out, I felt like I was loosing... so, I decided to just get out and go shoot something anyway... even if the photos turned out to be horrid. I was going to practice composition and look for ways to practice natural lighting. In the midst of a concrete & steel downtown (that is boring and not at all well-lit), I happened upon a little insect -- a cool little grasshopper.
This little fella was hanging onto the glass entrance door of an abandoned downtown store. The reflected light was perfect to capture him and a double reflection on the glass door. WOW! This shot made my day, too.

For those folks who like EXIF data...
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel XT 350D
Exposure: 1/100 sec
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 55 mm
ISO Speed: 100

Leave a comment and let me know YOU think!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

M42 Lenses? Shhhh... Don't Tell Anybody

As I mentioned last week, I'm not writing as much original content as I would like for CharlieJ's Blog/o/Foto. So, I decided to conjure up a post about something I just discovered... a secret in the ranks of digital photographers... the M42 lens.

And just when I googled some resources for my article, I ran across "the wheel" article on and it didn't need to be reinvented again. So, here is another link for your review, amusement and learning enjoyment: Don’t Forget About Those Old M42 Lenses For Your Modern dSLR…

BTW, I already own two M42 lenses - and LOVE them! The first is a 50mm f/1.8 prime. The second is a fine piece of metal & glass, a 135mm f/2.8. And I don't mind tellin' ya, I paid ~$30 for the 50mm prime and ~$60 for the 135mm. Using the APS-C sensor "magnification" conversion (mm x 1.6), I have an ~80mm and an ~200mm prime lens for less than $100.00 total. That's AWESOME!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Photography Games and Challenges

I admit it... I spend a lot of time on Digital Photography School forums. My favorite forum is Games & Challenges. Why? Well, G&C is the place people post photographs with common themes. In my experience, the threads in Games and Challenges has lead me to view other photographers' photos differently. I pay attention to detail, background and color more than I used. In doing so, I am learning to critique my work better.

An added benefit, the best one of all, is new friends. Although I read posts from several forums on DPS, Games & Challenges is the place I've made the most new friends. I guess the commonality of the themed threads brings people together in melting pot that bubbles up into new friendships.

If you are using any online resources for making your photography better... or just sharing your photos, leave a comment and let me know where you spend your online time in the area of photography. Hopefully, I'll see you over on DPS!

Friday, January 14, 2011

15 Must Have Photography Accessories (Plus a Few More) Under $25

I just read a nifty little article on my favorite photography-related website, Digital Photography School. The title is "15 Must Have Photography Accessories Under $25". With the exception of the two items I don't already carry in my bag, I agree with all the things listed as "must haves" for any photographer -- amateur or professional. If you're shooting photos outside, you should take the time to collect these items and carry them with you.
I would also add a few more things... which are in my bag: 16) Rubber bands - you can use a rubber band to strap down a flash diffuser, snug your strap to your shoulder or even hang a backdrop (provided its lightweight, of course). 17) Ziplock bags - I always keep a gallon size and a couple quart size ziplocks in my camera bag. They are great for keep things dry and/or sand-free and provide excellent temporary cover if the weather should change, but you need to keep shooting. 18) Batteries - This one has a high DUH factor, but batteries should not be forgotten. I carry at least four AA's and two AAA's with me, at all times. That way, I can always change my flash and trigger/receiver batteries, as needed. Although your camera battery might not fit the "under $25" part of the list, it's a good idea to purchase a second battery for your camera. I keep two batteries and even a 2nd charger handy... to minimize points of failure for any shoot I conduct.

What's are the must have items - under $25 - in your bag?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Original Content? But Mom, I Keep Finding Other Stuff!

Truthfully, I'm not writing as much original content as I had hoped. Part of that is my fault. Part of it is not wanting to reinvent the wheel. Basically, I read a lot of articles, blogs and other random musings on photography daily. Instead of writing new content, I end up finding excellent articles that I feel must be featured here for my readers. Like this one...

Seven Bad Habits of Digital Photographers comes from It hits the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to some of the bad habits digital photographers fall into. Sure, it's from 2007... but it's still good information for both amateur and pro photogs alike.

My personal fave... and the one I am most often guilty of, is a variation of #2 - Not Double Checking ISO Settings. Actually, with me it's not only ISO (once in awhile), but more often not checking white balance settings. See the photo, above left. Ugh! Yeah, when I shoot RAW, white balance is easily corrected. But, look at #4. Told ya so! It's better to get it right when you click the shutter - and not in post processing.

What is YOUR worst habit and what are you doing to "fix it"?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Photography Tips

Since it's winter time and the South has experienced a rather large amount of snow, at least for us Southerners, I thought I'd write some tips for shooting in the white stuff. Alas, someone else has already done just that. Mr. Ray Davis, over at, gives us five tips for shooting better snow pics. If your snow photos are dark (like the example on the right), blue or gray, you should definitely review these tips. ENJOY... and as one of the commenters said, don't forget a moisture cover for your camera (even a gallon size ziplock type bag will work).

Monday, January 10, 2011

AWESOME! - My First Studio Photo Shoot

This past Saturday, I was blessed to do my first ever studio photo shoot with a model. I've done a few photo shoots with models previous to this, but never in a studio with lighting, etc. My photographer/mentor friend, Robert, allowed me access to his studio and even setup the lights for us to shoot. Here are two examples, randomly chosen, for your (hopeful) enjoyment.

BTW, this was also the model's first studio shoot. She has "modeled" for her mom and members of the local photography club before, but never in a more formal setting. I think Cheyenne did a great job.

Cheyenne - Red, white & blue
Strobist info:
AB1600 in 3'x4' softbox, camera left @ 45 degree angle
AB1600 in octagonal softbox - main light
AB1600 in 1'x4' grid lightbox, camera right, behind the model (to light background)
Camera: Canon 60D, ISO 200, 1/125 sec, f/11

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Photo Advice: Use a Tripod

I do a lot of reading on the subject of photography. Over the course of the new year, I hope to share some of the best articles, tips & tricks with you. The ezine article, For Fabulous Camera Results, Use a Tripod, offers a very basic tip that is often forgotten.

If you are shooting in a situation with low light, drag out the tripod and set it up. All things considered, your images will be sharper; and brighter looking.

While I did tweak the contrast and saturation in the photo to the right, it would not have been possible just holding the camera. I used a tripod to steady the camera, along with a remote shutter release, to capture this image. Power lines a quarter mile down the road can be seen easily. In a low light situation, that can of sharpness pretty much requires a tripod.

Do you have questions on what to look for in a tripod, leave a comment and I'll do my best to assist.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, it's officially MMXI... and this is my first post of the year. In the past few days, I have seriously questioned the idea to go pro or remain a hobbyist photographer. Rather than offer a long, drawn out explanation, allow me to summarize my reasoning. On the NO Side are the thoughts of deadlines, my health issues becoming an obstacle and the possibility of not being able to keep up.

On the YES Side are the thoughts of how much I love photography, my desire to please & serve others and frankly, the fact that I would like to make a little extra money. Truthfully, as long as my photography business doesn't become a money hole, I don't really care if I make a profit.

So, what's the final decision? I'm moving forward. Along with registering my domain name, and getting the business license, I'll post my progress here. More importantly, CharlieJ's Blog/o/Foto will provide you, the reader, with informative links, observations and some of my best photography as we journey through this year.

I'm ready to begin the journey... Are you?