Friday, May 30, 2008

A Good Holiday Weekend

I’m back from the Memorial Day holiday. I hadn’t posted anything because I’ve been processing photographs. I’ve also been busy with some non-photography things. We went to visit my sister’s family. They were having a big 50th birthday for my brother-in-law. Lots of BBQ and lots of their friends came out. My sister had put disposable cameras out on tables for people to use, but no one did. So, I ended up being the only photographer for it. My sister also has a lot of flowers in her yard which made for nice photo subjects We also had a small family celebration of my son’s and my nieces’ birthdays since we were all together for once.

The next day we went out on their boat to Lake Moultrie and the Cooper River. We had a lot of fun and I got a lot of photographs … almost 600 just from the boat. The shots ranged from landscapes, to wildlife, to sports, to architecture, to family snapshots. Later that evening after dinner we went back to the Lake Moultrie shore and I took my first sunset photographs; one of which you see above.

You can see the Lake Moultrie photographs here.
The flower photos are here.

A few more of the photographs after the jump

A Tern Landing

Lining Up

Mystery Heron

Vogueing Anhinga

Banded Watersnake


Red Sky

That's it. Go to the galleries for all of the shots.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

It is Memorial Day weekend here in the US. Have a fun, safe holiday everyone. See y'all later.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Shutter Painting

Two Worlds

I'm reading Bryan Peterson's new book, Understanding Shutter Speed. In it he mentions a technique he sometimes calls "shutter painting". Basically, it is using a long shutter speed of about a second or so, and jiggling, spinning, rotating, zooming or otherwise moving the camera. This can give you some interesting abstract images if you're lucky. If not, then you only looked crazy in front of your friends for a couple of minutes. Anyway, here are a few more after the jump.

Water Color

Ice Crystals




There are some more over on my Zenfolio Gallery.

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digital Photography School Blog

One site that I visit a lot is the digial Photography School blog started by Darren Rowse. It has a lot of great information for users of all sorts of digital cameras from compacts to DSLRs.

Also, don't forget to stop by their forums. Plenty of friendly people to answer questions and "meet" to discuss photograph stuff.

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What I use

Well, I figured that I should mention what I use for my photography hobby.

Camera Equipment:
Nikon D80
Lenses - Nikkor 18-135mm, 70-300mmVRII, and 50mm f/1.8
Flash - Nikon SB-600
Battery Grip: Nikon MB-D80
Others - Kenko close-up extension tubes, various filters, Manfrotto tripod and ballhead, Gorillapod SLR+Zoom

Nikon View NX for sorting
Nikon Capture NX for processing RAW files
Adobe Photoshop Elements 5 for more in-depth editing if necessary
Microsoft Pro Photo Tools to add EXIF data such as copywrite, ID, and geotags

I also have a Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW bag to carry my stuff around.

That is pretty much my kit.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Greenville Zoo

I spent an afternoon at the zoo with my son a couple of months ago. Of course, I took my camera with me. The Greenville Zoo is not very large, but it is a nice little zoo for a morning or afternoon family trip. It is part of Greenville’s Cleveland Park and is next to the playground area. In other words this is a lot for the kids to do if you need them to run off some energy. The full gallery is here, but there are a couple of shots that I really liked from that afternoon.

The leopard’s profile shot above is one of my favorite photographs. (click on the photos to see them larger.) The zoo has renovated some of the enclosures including the ones for the big cats. Now there are semi-enclosed observation areas with plate-glass. It affords a much better view than the old wire fences and ditch. When my son and I got to the leopard’s enclosure, this one leopard was lying down next to the glass in some shade. It was a popular place and all of the parents and children were crowding around trying to see the leopard or get photographs. We got our turn to get close, but the leopard was just lying down. It seemed to be taking a nap. I took a couple of shots, but they weren’t that great since it was just the top of it’s’ head and back. Just as I was standing up to leave, the leopard sat up and posed. I took a couple of shots before someone stood in front of me. The shot you see is the best of them. It was like the leopard was an Old Hollywood starlet that said that famous line, “I’m ready for my close-up now, Mr. Deville.” I felt really lucky to get this shot. The only flaw with it originally, was an ugly green flare just behind its ear. The plate-glass had a green tint to it, so I think that is where the flare came from. However, I used a color control point in Nikon’s Capture NX to get rid of that localized problem. The color control points make localized fixes like this so easy.

Until we got to the leopard’s enclosure, I thought this shot of a lioness was going to be my best keeper of the day. When we got home and I pulled the shot up in Capture NX though, the entire picture had a green hue to it due to the plate-window. I know it was the window. However, a color cast like that is very easy to correct in Capture NX. If I remember, I may have treated it like a color balance problem since it was affecting the entire image. The result is the photograph you see to the left.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the following photographs. This giraffe was eating wheat crackers that visitors could feed to them. As it ate the crackers, it made all kinds of comical faces.

Zoos are great places to spend time with your family and practice some photography. You might even learn some things about some of the animals there, not to mention having a good time.

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Lunar Eclipse

Back in Febuary, 2008 there was a lunar eclipse. Like a lot of people I spent the night photographing it. My gallery of the entire night's shoot is linked here. The picture you see here is a composite of the best shots I got throughout the night chronicling the eclipse's progression. It is also the first composite that I've been able to make with Photoshop Elements. The plain, black background really helped with selecting the various moon images and blending them together. More after the jump about how I photographed the eclipse.

To capture the shots, I had my camera mounted on a tripod. I used my 70-300mm VR lens zoomed out to 300mm and turned the VR off. VR wasn't needed since I was using a tripod. Spot exposure was used throughout the evening. The full moon exposure was f/8 at 1/250 and ISO 100. You can actually get a shot of the full moon hand-held with the 70-300mm VR. I did that the night before and the VR kept the lens steady enough for the exposure.

The remaining shots throughout the night were simply taken by spot metering off of the moon. As the exposure times grew longer, I used my IR remote to trigger the camera and the exposure delay feature to further reduce camera shake in order to maintain image sharpness. At the mid-point of the eclipse the exposure was f/8 and 1/60. Just before the totality period, when the moon was just a dim, sliver visible to the naked eye the exposure was f/8 at 1/20. During totality, or the total eclipse period, the exposure was f/8 and 3 seconds. I also opened the aperture a stop to f/5.6 to get exposures at 1.3 seconds and 1.6 seconds. The 1.6 second exposure was when the moon started re-entering the sun's light.

The shot that you see to the left was one my favorites of the night. It is enlarged from its' original size to show more detail. What I like about it is the slight blue fringe on the right edge. It is my understanding that the blue color comes from the faint amount of sunlight that has traveled through the Earth's atmosphere. So, I suppose you could call it Earthlight.

This shot is a wider view that shows some of the stars that were visible at the time. You might need to click to see the larger version as the stars are fairly dim even when compared to the eclipsed moon. I believe that one of the stars is Saturn.

Hope you enjoyed these. It was a fun, evening and we had wonderfully clear skies after a threat of rain.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Memorable Day

Yesterday was a memorable day. I started up this blog. I was quoted by a famous photographer on his highly read website. Plus, I sold my first prints. One you see to the side there. You can see it larger by clicking on it. The other two after the jump.

These photographs were taken at Falls Park in Greenville, South Carolina. One of my favorite places to take my camera. The park is centered around some scenic waterfalls, there is interesting architecture, a unique suspension, footbridge, and the park itself. It is a very compact area with lots of photographic opportunities.

The person that bought these prints is a long-time friend and co-worker of my wife's. She only wanted 8x10s from my inkjet, but still a sale is a sale. You have to start somewhere.

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David Ziser's Digital ProTalk

One of the many professional photographer's blogs that I read is Cincinnati, OH based David Ziser. He's a renowned wedding photographer and teacher. His blog, Digital ProTalk has a wealth of information about photography and post processing. I highly recommend visiting it if you have an interest in learning more about photography and Photoshop, or if you just enjoy beautiful photographs.

But, wait! There's more!

This past Monday, David made a post about his first foray into shooting with RAW files. He wondered why his two different viewers, Lightroom and IrfanView showed such drastically different versions of the same image. I left a comment explaining that one viewer was showing the embedded JPEG image an the other displaying the actual RAW image.

Well, yesterday David started a new "section" of his blog called The Confusion Solution. This new section is about the stuff that you don't find anywhere in the manuals. The first post was sparked by the comments he got about his RAW image display issue on Monday. Here is the neat part. In his post he quoted my comment from Monday! See it here! I was thrilled when I saw it. Thanks, Mr. Ziser! You made my day.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book Review: Photo Idea Index by Jim Krause

Photo Idea Index is a photography how-to and what-if book written by Jim Krause. I picked it up one day when at a local bookstore looking for a different photography book. It is a small, easy to carry book in a durable, light-green, vinyl binding. It is a good size to throw in a bag or backpack. How is it? What topics does it cover? Well, follow the jump.

First to answer the “How is it?” question. I’m on my second read through of it, so I think it is a good book. As mentioned it is a good travel size to carry with you, although a tad heavy even given its’ small size. Each topic is covered briefly in easy to read language and segments. It makes for a good read during lunch, or a train commute, or any time you have a few minutes here or there. Of course you can read it all the way through as well. Each topic flows well from one to the other in a nicely organized manner.

The book is written more from an art designer’s point of view instead of from a technical photography point of view. It does discuss some technical details, but not so much that a reader would get bogged down or glazed-eyes over. No Inverse Square Law here, thank goodness.

Additionally, Mr. Krause photographed all of the pictures in the book himself, specifically for the book. Most of the photographs were taken with a modest compact, point-and-shoot camera; although there are sections where he used a DSLR’s creative capabilities as well. One of the points that Mr. Krause tries to make throughout the book is that good photographs can be taken with modest equipment. He also stresses the creative outlet and freedoms that a digital camera can provide to anyone. While I’m not fond of all of his chosen photographs, each one aptly illustrates the particular points he makes on each topic.

Speaking of topics, what will you find in this book? The book is divided into three main sections:

Section 1: You covers things like Point of View, Establishing Environment, Composition, Attracting Attention, Picturing People and Thinking Creatively. This section attempts to spur the reader’s creative muscles by presenting design, composition, and other creative considerations. It is also the largest section of the book.

Section 2: Light, Camera is about some of the more “technical” aspects of cameras and lighting in so far as they can be used as tools for a photographer’s creativity. However, the reader is rarely bogged down in truly technical details at any point. Instead the section attempts to explain how light and camera functions can be used to achieve given types of photographs or effects. Mr. Krause also shows the equipment he used for capturing the photographs in the book in an attempt to show that creative photography can be achieved without a lot of expensive equipment. He presents a few, easy do-it-yourself lighting options like using a small LED flashlight, or 500-watt halogen work lamps instead of studio strobes.

Finally, in Section 3: Digital Effects, Mr. Krause shows how image editing software such as Photoshop can be used to further a photographer’s or artist’s creative work. He covers features such as Levels and Curves, Hue and Saturation, Digital Backgrounds, Compositing, etc. Curiously, he doesn’t mention other imaging software besides Photoshop which is generally out of reach for many of the intended audience. However, most imaging software has similar features, so the user should be able to easily translate the discussions to whatever software he uses.

Perhaps the most important point that Mr. Krause states throughout the book in one way or another is that digital cameras free the photographer to experiment, have fun, and not to worry about his mistakes since there will not be any processing costs for them. The biggest advantage that film photographers had over the general person was that the pros could shoot lots and lots and could afford to make mistakes. Digital cameras give that same freedom to anyone now.

Photo Idea Index is a good book to help get beginning and even professional photographers a boost in their creative eye. It is an easy book to read in today’s hectic, time scheduled world. You can read a bit, put it down, and pick it up again later without fear that everything you had previously read had leaked out of your ears. If you are looking for a book that explains composition and design concepts in easy to understand language, then you can’t go wrong with Mr. Krause’s Photo Idea Index.
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Toward Heaven

To start things off, here is a photograph I took this past weekend at the annual Greek Festival in Greenville, South Carolina. This is the dome of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church that hosts the festival every year. It is one of their major fundraisers.

Photon Talk: This isn't the greatest photograph of a church ever, but I liked it. It was also one of those "happy accidents" that sometimes happens. The accident was in when I adjusted my circular polarizing filter. I framed the dome for a symmetrical composition and exposed off of the white cupola. I then adjusted my circular polarizer until the sky when dark and snapped the picture. I did this as we were walking across the street and herding my seven-year old son. What I didn't realize at the time was that I had locked the exposure before adjusting the polarizing filter. You usually adjust the filter first so that your exposure doesn't get borked (That is one of the many technical terms I love to use, btw.) Well, when I opened the picture I was surprised that the sky was black. Not dark blue like I thought I'd gotten, but black like night. The neat thing about it though, at least as far as I was concerned, was that the cupola and crusifix seemed to glow against the constrasting dark sky.

Pixel Talk: What I did to process this was to use Nikon Capture NX to place a few color control points to reduce the glare on the dome, and to brighten the sky a bit so there was more of a deep, royal blue tone to it. An unsharp mask for a touch of sharpening finished it off.

Photon Tip: So, the take away from this for me? Experiment with your filters and exposure sequence. You might bork the shot, or you migh get something unexpectedly neat.
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About 4P

Why 4P?

Well, because all of the good names were taken. Plus, having insomnia two nights in a row makes you kind of goofy.

As the subtitle shows, the four “Ps” of the title are: Photons, Pixels, Projects and Presentations. When I got the idea it led to a sort of macro-level organization for the blog. Let me explain:

Photons are the scientific name given to the particles of light that we capture with a camera. Here on the blog, “Photon Talk” will be the label for the discussions of aspects of photography related to using the camera to capture those pesky little photons; i.e. f-stops, shutter speeds, ISO, the Inverse Square Law (shivers), viewfinder composition, lighting, etc. There will also be “Photon Tips”, “Photon Links”, and even “Photon Torpedoes!” … ok, maybe not the torpedoes.

Pixels are the individual elements that comprise a digital image. “Pixel Talk” will be the label for the discussions relating to the digital darkroom. Stuff like Photoshop, layers, cloning, unsharp masks are examples. Expect “Pixel Tips” and “Pixel Links” as well.

Projects are defined by Mr. Webster as “an organized undertaking”. On the blog that will mean anything ranging from subject-themes (self portraits, the color red) to Do-it-Yourself plans. If you’ve been following along we will have “Project Talks”, “Project Tips”, and “Project Links”.

Presenations are concerned with the final method that we display or show our photographs. “Presentation Talk” will center on any method of showing our final photographs such as physical prints, on-line galleries, DVD slideshows, or Flash-based websites. Of course you now know that I will say there will be “Presentation Tips” and “Presentation Links”.

The truth be told, I could have added a lot more “Ps” like Photoshop, Paths (for discussing “the journey”, Photographs, Pictures, and the list kept growing in my insomnia fueled haze. But I think that 4Ps are enough to cover the Big “P” and that is of course Photography. I’m sure that we’ll wander around beyond this macro-structure, but any good Project starts with a good, firm foundation and for this blog that is the 4Ps: Photons, Pixels, Projects and Presentations.

See, there is a method to my madness.
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Welcome to 4P Photoblog


I am Craig Lee. I have been an amateur photography hobbyist since I got a DSLR for Father's Day 2007. From that first click of my new shutter, I have been hooked on photography as a hobby and a way of recording the world around me and expressing my creative side. I also have a long suppressed enjoyment of writting. Thus, a blog seemed to be a good way to meld those two interests.

4P Photoblog will be a diary of my photographic journey. It will also be a collection of my thoughts and experiences in photography. In the coming posts I hope to share some things that I've learned, somethings I am trying to learn, and maybe discover even more things to learn with your help.

Here, I will present some photographs that I've taken. I will discuss some projects; photographic, technical and perhaps even do-it-yourself. I will review books and tutorials that I've read. I will direct you to other blogs, websites and resourses that I've found helpful and/or interesting. We will discuss a variety of topics from technical to artistic and everything in between. And don't be surprised if family photos show up from time to time. They are my only and best models afterall.

Together we can travel this wonderful road of modern expression that is revolutionizing the world we live in.

Hopefully you will enjoy your visits and join in the discussions ... After all, I need all of the help I can get. :-)
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