Don't write this way

So You Want to be a Freelancer

A Blog About Becoming a Freelance Writer/Photographer

 
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Send me a message at sue@suebarthelow.com and let know that you're out there. If you want to add a comment to one of my blog postings, e-mail it, and I'll add it. Maybe we can get a discussion going.

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Real Estate Photography

posted on Monday, June 16, 2008

Last week, I completed a commissioned job photographing a newly constructed $2.5 million home. Here are 7 tips on shooting homes. 1) Use a tripod whenever you can. 2) Use a zoom lens that includes wide angle and 35mm capabilities. 3) Watch your lighting. Use your camera's histogram if possible. Use exposure compensation adjustments to ward off the blinkies. 4) Get pictures of the home's eye-catching features. 5) Find out what the builder/owner thinks are the best features and be sure to get them in your camera. 6) If the house is furnished, don't forget that you want pictures of the rooms. It's the house's structure, etc. that is important, not the furnishings that will not be sold with the house. 7) Take exterior shots when the light is right. Try for early and late in the day light so you don't get contrasty shadows. If the house has exterior lighting, shoot when the sky's light is about the same intensity as the house lights so neither of them overpower your light meter.

Gold Metal Winners

posted on Sunday, June 1, 2008

Last December, I entered 2 of my images in a local arts contest. The awards ceremony was yesterday. Both of my images won Gold Medallion awards. I guess I'd better frame them so I can hang them up with their medallions. If you want to see them, surf over to American River Kayak Lesson and San Miguel Parade.

Capturing Bike Racers

posted on Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sunday brought with it 3 locally-held international events - a triathlon, a duathlon and a half triathon. Since the bike race part of all three competitions passed nearby, I decided to go out and practice.

The best pictures of racing cyclists show action. How do you get that action in your image? You set your camera for continuous action and pan as they race by. What does that mean? Well, you use your camera's shutter priority mode to keep the shutter open for a moment, maybe for 1/30 a second or whatever works for your conditions. Then, you frame the image and press and hold the shutter release button as the cyclist approaches you. Smoothly follow the cyclist with the camera, keeping the bike in the same position within the image. Take you finger off the shutter release button as or after the cyclist passes you and continue to pan briefly to make sure you don't ruin the last shot.

It's easier than it sounds. Why not try it out?

Having Fun With Photos

posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008

Recently, I went on a field trip with one of the organizations I belong to. And of course, my camera went with me. I took the opportunity to shoot just about everything interesting that caught my eye. Four of the images that included the group during a tour seemed destined for publicity. I prepared them for the web and sent them to our organization's webmaster this morning.

Do you enjoy taking pictures of group functions? If so, why not let the rest of your group enjoy them too? Just prepare the images and then save them sized for the web - under 500 pixels in height and under 100 k in file size. You can put them on a web site or can attach them to e-mails. You took the pictures, why not share your fun with others?

Heat Waves

posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008

Here in Northern California, we just entered day 1 of our first major heat wave of 2008. I try to look for the good in most things. When it comes to heat waves, I look forward to having an excuse to stay indoors and catch up on reading and printing images. I have several new photography books that will hold my attention during our long, frying pan hot afternoons.

Managing Your Backgrounds

posted on Monday, May 12, 2008

Last week's blog entry got me thinking about backgrounds. So, I wrote an article on managing the backgrounds in closeup and portrait images. Click here to read it. Don't forget, you can always get to my articles by clicking the bookmark on the left.

Iris Hunting

posted on Saturday, May 10, 2008

I went with some camera club members to a local iris garden a couple of days ago. Except for the light breezes that sometimes slowed us down, the day approached perfection. Six club members took advantage of the crowd-free day to wander about, sometimes competing for the best location at an eye-catching iris.

A group of spinners who had gathered for their annual garden get-together must have thought us a bit crazy as they watched now and then from their wheels. If I could draw, I would sketch out something comic. A photographer leaning over a tripod here. Another reaching out to hold a diffuser over a flower there. Someone else on knees while positioning a reflector with one hand and holding a camera up to their face with the other. Two photographers fighting over a bloom. I can see it all in my mind's eye.

All kidding aside, it didn't matter what anybody's favorite color was. An iris of nearly every color could be found somewhere within the many growing beds. Some were simple; some were fancy. They were all there. The newly unfolded blossoms with the best color variations beckoned. Deciding where to go next was sometimes overwhelming, but we each managed to overcome the many temptations.

Will I go back next year? Probably. It was a good excuse to work on various techniques and to get out and about with a group of like-minded friends.

Blurring the Background

posted on Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lately, I've been taking pictures of flowers, in the garden and in the wild. It is spring after all. Flowers are kind of like portraits. The subject looks better when the background does not compete with it. One great way to do this is to use a wide-open aperture to throw the background out of focus. There are 4 ways to do this. 1) Use your camera's portrait mode. 2) Use your camera's macro mode. 3) Use aperture priority and set it to a low number. 4) Use a macro/micro lens.

The more distance your background is from your subject, the easier it is to get it to blur. If you have good distance, you can get more depth of field on your subject by using an aperture that brings more of your subject into focus while still blurring your background.

Manual Lens on an Auto Camera

posted on Sunday, May 4, 2008

This week, I bought a used Nikon micro lens from a friend who had upgraded his equipment and no longer needed the lens. For those of you who don't know what a micro lens is, it's used to take close up macro photos. I've had a lot of fun getting used to it by taking pictures of the iris and other spring flowers in my garden. Some day I'll add a few of these images to the photo gallery.

Using a strictly manual lens on my digital camera takes some practice since my camera uses mechanisms built into the lenses to do most of its work. This forces me to estimate the shutter speed, everything else being manually done on the lens. I set up the shot, dial in a shutter speed and take the picture. I view the resulting image along with its histogram. The histogram shows me what direction to change the shutter speed, faster or slower. I change the shutter speed and try again until I like what the histogram shows.

I've already learned quite a bit about getting the exposure optimized. I've even started using exposure compensation adjustments when using my regular lenses. I figure that the better the picture I shoot with my camera, the better the final Photoshopped outcome will be.

Commercial Portfolio Now on the Site

posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I've done a bit of commercial work recently and in the past. I decided it was time to put a portfolio up for commercial and advertising work. You can check it out here.

Spring Makes the Water Rush

posted on Saturday, April 5, 2008

I'm getting ready for another day out shooting wildflowers. Unless the weather changes, it looks like the ground will dry up early this year. The wildflowers will be gone soon. I'm thinking that it's now or never.

I've added another photography article. This one is on smoothing flowing water. You'll find 6 tips that will help you with your next water shots. I've included 2 images for you to see what you can do. Click here to read it. Don't forget, you can always get to my articles by clicking the bookmark on the left.

Poppies and Lupines At Last

posted on Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I went out to local Taylor Ranch Reserve yesterday to hike it in search of all things photogenic. Took some nice pond reflections and caught a Red-tailed Hawk in flight. Red-winged Blackbirds perched on last year's cattails, and a Nutall's Woodpecker worked its way around a tree trunk. Bluebirds and swallows played in the open areas. Nice place. I think I'll return another time.

In search of wildflowers not yet photographed, I headed over to another spot that I had heard was covered with California golden poppies and lupine. Sure enough, they were there by the hundreds. I now have both landscape and closeups of both while they were at their prime.

Digital Photos

posted on Monday, March 31, 2008

Do you know that a picture you take with a digital camera is not as good as one you take with a film camera? A digital picture needs to be tweaked with an image processing program to bring it to its best. You'll probably want to adjust the light a bit and sometimes the color too. You may even want to add a bit of contrast and sharpen it.

If you use a digital camera and haven't tried to manipulate an image yet, give it a try. I think you'll be pleased with the result.

On Watching Your Web and E-mail Image Sizes

posted on Sunday, March 30, 2008

I received an e-mail from a friend the other day. My friend, an artist, sent out information about an upcoming art show. She attached an MS Word file that was an incredible 2.6MB. I downloaded the file, very slowly since I only have an ISDN connection. To my surprise, the one page file included one image and a bit of text that described the art show and her pieces.

If you attach files to your e-mails I beg you to watch your file sizes. This goes for images that you upload to web sites too. When you include a picture in a file, in an e-mail message, as an e-mail attachment or on a web site, please know that all of those pixels are not needed. Use your photo processing software to remove the unneeded and unwanted pixels so your family, friends and customers aren't unduly impacted when they try to access it.

The minimum file size that works depends on the image. Some images can be as small as a couple of kilobytes. Some need to be as much as 100 kilobytes. Few need to be larger. Next time you upload a file for use on a computer, consider its size first. Your friends will thank you.

In Search of Wildflowers

posted on Saturday, March 22, 2008

I live near one of the river canyons that snakes its way to the Sacramento Valley from the high Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Since it's spring now, I climbed into my car yesterday and drove down one of those windy roads to the bottom of the canyon in search of spring wildflowers. I was hoping to find some lovely vignettes of California poppies and lupines.

After parking along the side of the road, I hauled my camera gear out of the trunk. Camera around my neck, tripod in hand, and a knapsack full of stuff on my back, I started down one of the many trails that work their ways along the river or up and down the canyon walls. Not looking for punishment, I chose a trail that runs along the river.

Those spots on the hillsides that weren't tree-covered glowed in verdant green as the sun worked its way towards the west. The river ran through a gauntlet of colors moving from a deep forest green to a brilliant deep sky blue and all colors in between.

Taking my time while my eyes wandered over every scene, I worked my way down-river in search of anything photogenic. Many scenes stayed out of my camera. I've learned from experience what does and does not make a great image. Still, numerous images found their ways in - some were simple landscapes. Others were macro shots of plants, flowers and butterflies. Setting my tripod up for the best shots became tiring after a while. All of the opening and closing of legs, the shortening and lengthening of height, the mounting and unmounting of camera took its toll on my energy.

A couple of hours gone, I headed back towards the car. Since many scenes are directional or come alive when the light is right, I still watched carefully for anything missed on the way out.

Finding a great image takes more that just seeing. Listening is an essential sense that can lead you to some of your best shots. Birds chirp, sing, and brush against leaves. Snakes slither, and lizards rustle. Larger creatures like deer sound out with foot falls. On this day, it was clip-clops that reached my ears. I quickly selected my camera's sports setting and zoomed my lens to fit the trail ahead as I stepped off the path. A few seconds later, a horse and rider trotted into view. Snap, snap and into my camera they went. Now I have a great shot for our next photo evaluation's photo journalism category.

And those poppies and lupines - a bust. But good. I have a great excuse for yet another trip out and about. I'll find them. I know they're out there somewhere, just waiting for me.

Getting Wild in My Car

posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I was driving up my road on the way home today when I came upon a wild male turkey and his harem. Over to the side of the road I went, down went the window and out came my camera, which as luck would have it was riding in the passenger seat. I managed to snap several good pictures before they returned to the forest.

Here's a tip on getting close enough to wild birds and animals - use your car as a blind. Unlike with people, they don't seem to be afraid of a car. If you can line up shots through your open window, you can stay put for long periods of time. They don't notice you're there and that they are your center of attention. If you can, turn off the motor so you don't have to fight the vibrations. If your quarry is on the other side of the car and you move slowly, you can probably open the door and get out. Be sure to stay behind the car so it hides you.

And a Happy Saint Patrick's Day to Ye!

posted on Monday, March 17, 2008

I celebrated Saint Patrick's Day in the garden. I didn't find any snakes, so I prepared a bit of earth for my spring lettuce and spinach. Finding some earthworms, I kissed them for good luck. Yeah, right. Like I'd really do that.

Anyway, I prepared 8 photos and e-mailed them off for our camera club's image evaluation planned for tomorrow night's meeting. It's a strange process. I look through my newest images to find the best ones. After gathering all of the candidates, I have to select my favorite 2 pictures for each of 4 categories. Sometimes it's hard to find 2 that I want to enter for a category. This is especially true for the photo journalism and nature categories. I'm still trying to figure out just what kind of images work the best for photo journalism. Other times I find 5 or 6 that I would dearly love to enter for a category, but have to pare them down to 2.

In any case, once I've selected a set of 8, I prepare them using Photoshop Elements 5. I tweak the lighting, color, contrast and sharpness as needed and then either save them as jpeg files in the size needed for the evaluation or print them. The club has evaluations of both projected and printed images - just not at the same meeting.

I always seem to find that I love each and every one of them by the time they're ready. It's kind of like having children. Your's are always the best looking kids on the block. I just wish that our visiting judge felt that way too.

Spring is in the Air - And with it Come the Spring Blooms

posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I've been so busy lately, I've been neglecting my blog. My new web store has been consuming my spare hours. And, it's spring in California. My 3 acres that include a number of gardens and a small vineyard keep drawing me outside. Sorry about that. I'll try to do better.

Anyway, I've added another photography article. This one is on shooting flowers. You'll find 14 tips that will help you capture your favorite blooms forever. I've included 4 images for you to see what you can do. Click here to read it. Don't forget, you can always get to my articles by clicking the bookmark on the left.

When a Computer Goes Bad

posted on Monday, February 18, 2008

My computer's hard drive failed two weeks ago while in Southern California visiting family. So much for showing my non-computer relatives what I've been doing. After returning home, the laptop went into a local shop for damage control.

The good news - my new hard drive holds 3 times more data and is faster. And yes, my personal files were all on my backup drive. You back your files up don't you?

The bad news - I lost my programs, some of which I re-installed and some of which were old company-licensed programs I can't get back. I'm over $300 poorer now with more out the door when I get around to buying software.

And just when I thought everything was re-installed, I tried to print something this morning. Oh yeah - I need my printer driver. It's been like an Easter egg hunt - sometimes you never know when the search is over.

Managing Depth of Focus for your Landscape Photos

posted on Sunday, February 3, 2008

I don't know about you, but before I learned something about how to manage the depth of focus, it was hit or miss trying to keep everything in my landscape photos sharp. If you have trouble too, you might want to check out my new article by clicking here.

Oh, and don't worry. The Superbowl hasn't started yet. I wouldn't miss seeing the new commercials. As for the game ...

Still Life Photography

posted on Thursday, January 31, 2008

Those of you who are interested in still life photography may be interested in my newly added article "8 Tips for Indoor Still Life Photography". If so, click here.

Let it Snow

posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It snowed here all day yesterday. Unusual for us since we're at about 1800 ft. in the Sierra foothills. I love it when it snows. My new tripod arrived this week, so I had something fun to try it and the new camera out. I know I'm going to love both.

New Camera has Arrived

posted on Friday, January 25, 2008

The good news is that my new Nikon D40x camera arrived yesterday afternoon. The bad news is that it's going to rain and storm for the entire next week. I'm praying for a bit of snow that sticks. Now that would make for a good set of photos as I try out the new camera. If not, I guess I'll work on some still life images and stay dry and warm.

And, in case you were wondering - I also ordered a tripod for the heavier equipment. And yes, I hear so many good things about Manfrotto that I couldn't help but buy one of their products again, even though my other tripod is still broken. This time, I'm getting a Bogen/Manfrotto Mag Fiber 055MF4 tripod with a Bogen/Manfrotto 484RC2 ballhead. I plan to use the new gear for a long time (please don't break like the last one), so I decided to pay the high price to get something strong and light weight.

Picture me trekking through the forest camera and tripod at ready, capturing more wonderful scenic shots. I can hardly wait.

I've Launched a new Camera Store Web Site

posted on Thursday, January 24, 2008

Notice anything different on my pages? I've added links here and there to my new web store. The store is for photography-related goods. You'll find cameras, camera accessories, photography books and photo shoot gear. Looking for photo albums or for framing and matting supplies? You'll find those things too.

"And what is photo shoot gear?", you ask. That's stuff you need for your outdoor treks. It's hiking, backpacking, showshoeing and camping gear. You can even find blinds and camouflage material that will help get you closer to your animal or bird subjects.

Need to buy something? Check it out at www.MoreThanCameras.com.

When you shop at my store, you'll help me cover some of my web site costs since I'll get a small commission when you use my store links to surf over to my affiliated sites.

On Evaluations

posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No matter how good (or bad) you are at something, you can benefit from an independent evaluation. "What's that?", you ask. Whether you're a writer, a photographer or something else, you'll learn about your product when someone else takes a critical look at it. You may not like what the person has to say, your feelings may be hurt, but when you listen to and think about what is said, you'll grow from the experience.

My camera club had one of its periodic photo evaluations last night. The judge was tough! And that is a good thing. I want to have my photos ripped apart and to be told all of the things that could be improved. Tough is so much better than having the photo looked over quickly and quietly before receiving its score. How else can I improve?

Anyway, the judge started off by telling us "Twelves are hard to come by. Tens and elevens are good scores from me." Our scores go from 1 (really bad) to 12 (as good as it gets). Of course, the scores actually start at closer to 7 since nobody would bring in anything so bad that it would be ranked lower. Our judge reminded me of a professor I had long ago. That professor didn't believe in giving a perfect score on a test - ever. He would nit-pick until he found something he could use to take a point or two off. And so it went last night.

A great picture would go up for evaluation, and we'd all do a collective "Ah" and hold our breaths. The judge would step in front of it to study it. Then, he'd step to the side and start nit-picking - kindly and with the best intentions. From around the room, I'd hear a whispered "Oh" or "Huh" or even "Wow" as the weak or strong point became understood. All in all, it was a very educational evening.

So how did I do? Given that the judge was so hard on us, I'm pleased with the results. I entered 8 photos and got 5 11s and 3 10s. Yes, my feeling are hurt. Oh well, it's all up from here.

Rant to a Broken Tripod

posted on Thursday, January 10, 2008

I bought a Manfrotto modo 785B tripod in January 2007 to use with my light-weight digital camera. Yesterday, I experienced my second leg latch failure and am extremely disappointed in the performance of this tripod. The first failure occurred last June, and I was without the tripod for about 3 weeks when the retail store returned it to the manufacturer for repair. I now face a second loss of use for an undetermined amount of time. I am extremely careful with my equipment and don't feel that either failure was do to anything I've done.

I'm about to purchase another camera, a digital SLR, and will need another tripod to support the greater weight of the new equipment. I had been planning to buy another Manfrotto product, but am now reconsidering my options due to my disappointment with the 785B.

I sent an e-mail to Manfrotto yesterday expressing my dissatisfaction. I hope they haven't cheaped out on their manufacturing. Maybe I just bought a lemon.

On Being Ready

posted on Friday, January 4, 2008

If only there were pictures to show you. Unfortunately, my camera was in the trunk. How many times has that happened? It seems like opportunities always arise when I can't do anything about them. Have my camera by my side, nothing special happens. Put it in the trunk, miss a picture of a lifetime. You'd think I'd learn. Obviously, I haven't.

There we were, driving to our friends' house near Napa for New Year's Eve. Four of us filled the car. I was settled in the back seat. As we started down the grade to the Valley from Auburn, amazing things started to happen. It started with a band of silver that appeared at the top of what at first looked like a fog bank on the west side of the Valley. The silver was soon accompanied by diffused pinkish-red light that seemed to glow through the fog as if it was projected through the mist.

As we reached a bit of high ground between Loomis and Rocklin, we could see the hills on the west side of the Valley. It wasn't fog after all; it was a perfectly placed band of clouds maybe as far away as the coast.

We watched as the colors exploded. Strange fingers of light added interest. It was one of the most amazing sunsets I've ever seen. I wanted to search for high ground and capture it with my camera. Instead, I watched it from the back seat until we reached West Sacramento, when it began to fade.

Unfortunately, the images were out of my reach. My camera has been at my side since that day. Has it come in handy? No it hasn't. But next time I'll be ready. I promise.

The Woods are Alive

posted on Saturday, December 22, 2007

The trees in front of my house in the woods are teaming with Robins and Ceder Waxwings. It's quite a cacophony out there as they swoop and dive, snatching at wild grapes still hanging on the vines spread throughout the trees.

I set my camera on its highest telephoto setting. Alas, it wasn't strong enough to bother trying to catch their antics.

I've been looking at the Nikon 40x and may buy one in January. The camera is light weight and captures 10.2 megapixels. I've been reading reviews and such. Camera weight is an issue since I carry my camera and tripod on my back when I hike or travel. This one looks like the perfect camera for me.

Don't Give Your Rights Away Unknowingly

posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I was looking at the photo contest rules on the National Parks Foundation site the other day. On the surface, it looks to be a great contest. So, I surfed over to the official contest rules page. I note here - that was not an easy task since they did a pretty good job obscuring the link. Shame on them for making it difficult.

Reading through the rules, I saw that "Sponsors and Federal Land Management Agencies (Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) shall have the right to edit, adapt, and publish any or all of the one hundred twenty-five (125) Finalist photos submitted, and may use them in any media without attribution or compensation to the contestant, his or her successors or assigns, or any other entity." I can live with that rule. They're giving a grand prize, as well as a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place prize and 10 honorable mention prizes. Seems fair to me.

However, further down, they stated that "Submission of an entry in this Contest constitutes entrant's irrevocable assignment, conveyance, and transference to Sponsors of all right, title, and interest in the entry, including, without limitation, all copyrights." What was that? By simply entering a photo, I give away my rights to it? If I was a finalist, OK. But all entries? I don't think so.

And still further down was "Contestants retain the copyright to their photographs, and all rights thereto, except as follows. Sponsors shall have the right to edit, adapt and publish any or all of the descriptions and/or photos submitted (collectively, the "Entries"), and may use them in any media in association with the Contest without attribution or compensation to the Contestant, his or her successors or assigns, or any other entity."

I'm not an attorney, but something looks fishy to me. How can these two rules be? I give away all rights in the first rule, but retain the copyright in the second. It doesn't make sense to me. Do I give away all rights or not?

Anyway, all this was enough for me to close the window and write the contest off. If I have a picture good enough to enter into the contest, I sure don't want to take the chance of losing my rights to it.

Photo Shoots and Getting the Best Pictures

posted on Friday, December 14, 2007

I've been on a number of photo shoots now and have come to a conclusion. My best pictures come when I'm alone. I go with a group and end up with few shots that I love. Even going with one or two other photographers seems to cramp my style. Time and place need to be mine and mine alone. No distractions. No husband waiting in the car. Mind and eyes free to roam.

Shooting alone comes with safety issues, especially for a woman who likes the countryside. Common sense says "Don't do it." I worry about the bears, mountain lions and snakes; about injuries; about vehicle breakdown; and most of all about people with bad intentions.

I haven't resolved these conflicts yet. Do I miss my great photos or do I put safety first? At least I take my cell phone and can call home with the time and location whenever it changes. Unfortunately, that's impossible when in mountain canyons or far from a cell tower. For now, I think I'll take my chances and hope that all works out for the best.

Looking for a Christmas Gift?

posted on Thursday, December 13, 2007

How about giving a picture for Christmas? Visit my photo gallery and pick something special. Buying is quick and easy. Just click a button, and away you go. Not sure which image to choose? Consider a gift certificate.

Writing for Fun

posted on Thursday, December 13, 2007

My camera club newsletter just arrived in my inbox. I try to write two articles for each monthly newsletter. One covers a photography or digital processing topic and the other describes a recent photo shoot. Writing two kinds of articles each month helps me improve my writing skills using multiple types of subject matter. And, it really pays off when a club member makes a special effort to thank me.

Day Not Going as Planned?
Then Change Your Plans

posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2007

We gathered in the Auburn fog at 7 a.m. last Tuesday to start our trip over to Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands. It had rained on Monday and was supposed to rain again on Wednesday. Tuesday should have been a good break in the weather. The four of us expected the migrating raptors to be out in force as they continued their flights down the coast.

We fought the fog and the traffic over to Vallejo where we turned onto Hwy. 37 and crossed the marshlands. It seemed like every other power pole had a hawk of some kind perched, listening and watching for breakfast.

To our dismay, the coast remained fogged in. A bit of blue opened up overhead, but not enough to bring the birds to the air. It was time to punt, to make the most of the day.

In the woods, the spider webs glistened and the moss dripped. The sun broke through the trees gifting us with a moment of glorious rays beaming through the pines. I searched the woods for award-winning compositions.

Up on the hilltop, the sun played hide and seek with us. The fog rolled about in the canyons below us, playing with our desire for clear views. Its ever-changing patterns provided a wealth of interesting features as it crept up and down the landscape. The Golden Gate Bridge and finally some of the city poked though the fog, never fully clear but captivating nonetheless. Bicyclists road through the S-curve in the road below.

On Hawk Hill, the volunteer raptor spotters peered in every direction hoping to start their daily count. I took the opportunity to snap a couple of photo journalism shots as they waited patiently.

Moving off the hill and back down into the fog, we drove looking for something else to shoot. We stopped at one of the bunkers left from wars past. The structure hunkered in the damp and provided some fun shots.

Finally giving up on the headlands, we ended up in Sausalito. Buildings and alleyways joined the set of photos in our cameras. Along the waterfront, crabs crawled on in to join the other images. A great blue heron posed for us on the jetty. The scene was too busy for a great picture, but we had fun with it anyway. Over in the marina, dozens of great reflections beckoned.

Some photo shoots are like that. When things don't go as planned, change your plans. Sometimes, that's when you get your best shots.

Shooting for Better Black and White Images

posted on Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I recently attended a presentation about digitally editing your photos to create the best black and white images. One thing the speaker pointed out was that captivating black and white images start with your photos. No matter how much digital processing you do, you'll find that only a select few of your photos can be easily turned into great black and white prints. Want to read my tips on how to shoot for better black and white images? Click here.

Pie Pictures

posted on Saturday, November 24, 2007

What a week it's been. I hope you all didn't gain as much weight as I probably did. I haven't gotten on the scales yet. That can wait a while. I don't want to know.

I was at the grocery store on Monday buying the ingredients for my apple pies when my cell phone rang. I was asked if I could bring an apple pie to the monthly camera club meeting on Tuesday night. "Sure," I answered. "Why not. What's one more."

That gave me the idea of recording the process on film, digital of course. I make my pies from scratch. That means I make my own crust and filling. I remember when I first tried doing that. When the recipe told me to do this or that, I scratched my head wondering what it all meant. Of course, now I know.

I'm the holder of the family apple pie recipe. That recipe needs to be passed over and down through the family. One way to help that happen is to show them pictures. If you're interested in seeing how I do it, surf on over to my special Cook's Gallery and check it out.

Writing about this is making me hungry. I think I'll go have another piece of pie.

Family Gatherings

posted on Saturday, November 17, 2007

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is almost here. I find myself thinking of all the good food soon to be consumed. I'll be baking the pies for our gathering again this year. My mother-in-law's award-winning apple pie will top the list. I'll probably follow it up with pecan and of course pumpkin. Wait a minute. Did I say "follow it up?" Everybody loves the apple pie. I'll be taking 3 of them to dinner. And, since my small oven only holds 2 at a time, I might as well make 4 pies and leave one at home for later. Oh yeah, maybe I'll make one for my neighbor and another for my friend. I can tell I'm in trouble now. Once I get started, it's hard to stop.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a great time to practice your photography and writing skills.

Pictures are everywhere, just waiting to be snapped up. There's the family and friends. There's the food, oh that mouth-watering food. And don't forget the family pets. Do you follow dinner up with a walk like we do? Take your camera with you. You never know what you'll see.

How about adding to your family journal? Listen to the stories told around the table. You may get an idea for your best piece yet.

A Photo a Day is All I Ask

posted on Friday, November 16, 2007

Reading about the A Painting a Day movement in a local magazine got me thinking about how the concept relates to photography. The article pointed out how a local artist was motivated by the fun of producing something new every day and by his desire to improve his painting skills.

My guess is that you want to improve your skills too. I came up with two skills that you could improve by taking a daily picture finding things to shoot and composition.

When you take a photo a day, you're looking at the ordinary things that fill your daily life. Some days will see you taking portraits of your family, friends or pets. Other days will find you in the garden. Maybe you can create an abstract image of something that catches your eye. Is it a rainy day? How about getting some food shots, some angle of your furniture or clothing laid out on your bed. Is it already night time and you haven't taken your picture yet? Try shining a light on something in your yard and taking a long exposure shot. This is your chance to experiment. You're not on a photo shoot after all. Try something different. Have fun with it.

As time goes by, you'll look around with an increasingly critical eye. There's so much out there that you've been missing. Go out and find it.

Want to improve your skills? Start taking a photo every day.

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