Stanford Hike

Technical: Panasonic DMC ZS7, 1/400 sec, f4.5, focal length 4.1

My first reaction is, ‘What a great photo!’ It is a graphic silhouette with the trees and people. The sky and grass give you a color reference. The sloping hill leads the eye toward the people. The graphics and colors blend to make this a powerful image. I stand by my first impression. ‘Wow.’ And keep in mind that image was not done with a super duper DSLR camera. It’s the photographer who must visualize the image that is translated by the image sensor.

Photo Frame 3D

Technical: Canon EOS 7D, 1.3 sec, focal length 60, f16

I apologize. A series of photos that cousin David shared were overlooked until now. I even asked for more photos and just realized that in my distraction I hadn’t commented on work he had already sent.

I like this image. And hopefully David will comment on his title for the image. The exposure was long. The daisy was well done. I like the empty black space for a background. Focus is good. The goal here was to show the flower or the frame? Personally I like the flower and would have focused my attention upon it by cropping.

PS: David writes that this is a 3D frame turned off to get the black background and that this is a real flower in the photo not a print. Ahhh….! It’s another piece of mastery. I couldn’t guess.


Technical: iPhone4S 1/234 sec, focal length 4.24

Amy sent this from her iPhone. I just now realize that she upgraded her phone. The subject is quintessential New York. Outrageous gets you noticed. Here is an extreme example. Noticed….for sure! He was doing a promotion outside a store. So he actually belonged there. Only in New York….I have no complaint except that the green Statue of Liberty hat is a bit incongruous. That’s not Amy’s fault.


Technical: Kodachrome slide in the time before the flood, just kidding

This is a good friend. I spent a weekend scanning old slides for Susan. She reads my blog. So we scanned Kodachromes for a couple days. On the last day I scanned this slide of graduation day. I didn’t do much to tweak the software scan.

The image is soft probably because of the camera/lens. The colors from so many years ago are really pretty good. There is not much fading in the Kodachrome colors after years of storage. The storage conditions were in a house without particular care except as usual.

The photographer was, I believe, was Kevin’s dad. He put Kevin squarely in the center of the photo. And he failed to notice the woman in the foreground [Kevin’s mom?]. The best focus is on Kevin. So the background is slightly out of focus. The depth of field is shallow. The image could be cropped and eliminate the foreground distraction. You can’t crop a slide conveniently. But since it’s digitized anything is possible. Once again this decades old slide is well preserved. And the old guy in the picture almost looks the same.

Bubbles II

Technical: Nikon D90 1/60 sec, f5.3, focal length 105

Same settings… So I just got done talking about the focus on the eyes. Here two of the bubbles in the foreground are in pretty good focus. I guess that’s why Susan was concerned in her last shot. With the eyes closed, the expression is the main interest. Then, you look at the bubbles, which happen to be in focus. That’s fine. The eyes are closed, which usually means the image is a ‘discard.’ But here it’s part of the expression and part of the image. Good shot. Note that the flash will ‘freeze’ the motion blur of the moving bubbles. So, in fact the bubbles are sharply in focus. It’s a cute shot. The foreground flash is more dominant here.


Technical: Nikon D90 1/60 sec, f5.3, focal length 105

Susan wrote: Is this shot blurred?

Any shot of people [or grandchildren] usually should be focused on the eyes. So if that’s the first thing to check, no, the eyes are in focus and there are sharp catch lights. The bubbles are not quite in focus. But they are not the main interest. The shutter speed is 1/60 at dusk. The flash overpowers the otherwise blue shadows. With the flash firing on automatic the exposure is mainly from flash at about 1/4000 sec. The 1/60 shutter brings in some of the background light so the porch and yard can be seen. Otherwise the flash alone would make the background go black. Therefore the fill flash is supplementary. There is another flash option. That is called rear curtain sync or ‘dragging the shutter.’ It’s there in the flash options on your camera. It will expose for the scene and at the last moment fire the flash. This is another way to bring more ambient light and try to make the picture more natural looking. I always forget to experiment with this option. But if you try it, this might be a good trick to remember sometime.

Tennis, Justine Henin

During the US Open Finals in Flushing Meadows, the conditions for photographers were not ideal. TV gets the priority so the match is played in the evening under artificial lights. During the week the pro photographers go home and eat in the evening because they hate the color-cast of artificial light. They prefer to get the shots that will end up in Sports Illustrated. Those shots are one or two among thousands upon thousands that were shot during the two week tournament. So you go when the odds are best to capture the critical moment. It doesn’t much matter except that you got that quintessential shot of the eventual winner. The finals are different because you have to be there as the winner falls to their knees in the joy of victory.  There are many vantage points and a pecking order in which the bigger organizations like Sports Illustrated gets prime position. With a guest photo pass I got to roam the stadium but during the finals I was up in the balcony/mezzanine. This lighting requires the fastest glass that I carried – an 80-200 f2.8 zoom. I still used 1/250 to 1/500 sec shutter and let the ISO go. Capturing the tennis ball in the frame is the trick. It comes into and out of the frame in less than the blink of the eye. You don’t get many of these shots. So you focus and shoot with every tennis shot. And the eyes have to be in focus. Low lighting, bad color-cast, fast shutter, high ISO are there enough hurdles to surmount? Plus you are about a mile from the action. Focusing is still on the eyes. If you can put it all together, you get a few frames that you will keep.

Motion Blur

Technical: Ektachrome slide film

Sometimes you want blur. It implies motion. If you stop the action with a fast shutter speed, it’s great. But you may in fact want the image blurred. There is a fine line between out of focus and making a point. One is technical understanding of your equipment and the other is serendipity. On this image taken many years ago with a manual camera and slide film, serendipity was the order of the day. I had no clue [no LCD screen] as to what I got until long after I was gone to have the film developed.

Swing and Motion

Susan wrote: Not one of my favorites but brings up a question?  How do you photograph kids on swings?  Motion catch???

There are some pointers but no sure fire solution. Use a fast shutter speed. That would be to set the shutter at a fixed setting and let the ISO and f-stop adjust. I would use 1/500 to stop motion on a swing.

Manually focus as the subject moves. The motion is toward, away, or across your field of vision. Focus out or in depending on the direction of motion like the swing. For objects moving across the field of view – pan the camera. That is to say swing it in the direction of the motion. It will blur the background and focus on the object such as a car. No one much uses manual focus anymore. But it’s there if you want to try it.

Focus points are now in multiples on all advanced digital cameras. The Nikons and Canons offer a choice of metering patterns. There are multiple points of focus where the subject crossing that sensor point will cause the lens to focus on the subject. On the Nikon D200, I use the closest subject focus choice. It focuses reliably on the nearest subject, which usually happens to be my subject of interest. It works most of the time. This is what I rely upon as far as focus.

Anticipation is important. Most things we photograph are moving in a reasonably predictable pattern. Not so for wildlife but most things like a swing have predictable paths. You can focus on a point and let the action come into the field of view. You can pan the camera and follow the action. You can continuously focus and fire the shutter at the critical moment.

There is a button on Nikon and Canon cameras, which allows you to focus first and then trip the shutter separately instead of a single button that you depress partially and fire the shutter. This gives a bit more control. It is what the sports photographers rely upon. It’s a very good trick and feature on the camera. The manual takes a page or so to discuss it and I swear I skipped over that part until I shot tennis. Then it all made sense.

Finally be prepared to shoot a lot of images. There will usually be one or two that you will want to keep. The rest will be technically good but not outstanding.



Technical: iPhone

Race day. My daughter finished her first half marathon. She had a great time. That is to say – enjoyable as well as competitive. With her phone she tracked her time, listened to tunes, and took this picture at the finish with her close friend. I would have had to use three different devices to do the same. Reluctantly I am becoming a fan of iPhone. She even put the frame around the image in her phone.