Sep 122008

Adorama first published 100 photography tips in 100 days last year.  Just a few months ago, they published Part II with another 100 tips.  Enter Part III. It won’t be finished for another 91 days, so keep tuning in for more.

With over 200 tips so far, and more coming each day, there’s bound to be something for everyone, even a refresher on something long forgotten.

 Posted by at 11:30 am
Sep 022007

Overall, the whole experience wasn’t bad. I was concerned with cloud cover ruining the photography shoot. So, when I got out of bed at 3:10 am, the first thing I did was go outside and checked the sky. A waning gibbous moon was out and very few clouds. Cool. No need for a flashlight, there’s plenty of light to light my path in the desert.

I was out of the house by 3:40 am and on site by 4 am. On site, but not on location. I had to walk a good distance in the desert to find a decent spot. I forgot how spooky it is out in the desert in the dark of night, away from civilization. Yes, I had the moon to light the path. . . to a certain extent. Getting away from the city lights, really took the brightness away from when I first poked my head outside. I should have brought a flashlight, but I could still make out the trail, so I continued on.

The hooting of the owls kept me company, but all the noises as a whole kept the hair on the back of my neck standing up. The rustling of little critters on each side of the path as I walked, the occasional bird getting spooked and flying off within several feet of me, all added to the spookiness. Even my own foot steps in the dirt seemed loud and ominous in the quiet of the desert night. The bats. Yes, there were several bats that would occasionally appear in my eye sight. All flying around, looking for insects.

The birds and bats, I could identify with. I knew the sound of the birds. I saw the bats. The rustling in the weeds, on the other hand, was something else. It wasn’t large noises, but rather subtle swishing. Swishing? That’s the best way to describe it. Not a large enough noise to make a person stop in their tracks, mind you, but it was a noise. So, I chalked it up to possibly small lizards (even though I knew it wasn’t lizards) and kept going up the trail. Still, something else bothered me.

I believe it was the unknown sticks up ahead or off to the side of the trail and wondering if it was a rattlesnake that probably bothered me the most. This also started my mind to think of all the things I couldn’t see. Things that could be hiding in the distance, listening to me come up the trail, smelling me, waiting for me. Yes Virginia, there are mountain lions and bobcats that prowl at night for sustenance. Wait a minute. . . I could be that sustenance.

I kept my tripod in my strong arm, thinking I might be able to defend myself from a mountain lion with it. Yep. A four legged empty stomach with claws of fury. Yeah, a tripod would really stop that. . .

A half mile into the desert I finally found what I was looking for. A nice sized saguaro cactus with arms. Not the best arms, as I was looking for one with larger arms, but arms nonetheless. It was good enough to have in the foreground of the photo. I also had the Santa Catalina mountains in the background and a good sized portion of the sky to capture the meteor shower. After framing the shot, I had half of the frame for the sky and the cactus just to the right of center. Perfect.

I took a five minute exposure. As best as I could tell, everything looked a little soft. So, I played around with the focus, but it wouldn’t move. I tried the opposite way, still nothing. Maybe this isn’t the focus ring. Ah, the new lens. The focus wasn’t on the end of the lens, like my last lens that was stolen. After a minute of stumbling, I finally found it up close to the camera.

I still needed to focus on something. I set it to auto focus and was going to let it focus on the saguaro. For night photography? It’s a trick I’ve used in the past that works. Set the lens to auto focus and after it’s finished focusing where you want it, turn off the auto focus. The focus will remain where you wanted it for the rest of your shots. The problem was, I didn’t have a light source for the camera to see where to focus. So, I tried using my flash in one hand to light up the saguaro, and let the camera focus with the other hand. Still no luck. Ok, let’s set it to infinity. I couldn’t read the lens to see if I was set on infinity, the spot where time elapsed night photography focusing should be. So, I took a guess from memory and started the exposure. It wouldn’t be until after sunrise that I would find out that I was correct.

During the first five minutes of my exposure, I started thinking that I’d never get a sharp photo if I had been wrong. Hold the phones! I started thinking I had a mini flashlight in the truck. A half mile way. More noises. More darkness. More unknown. There was nobody in the desert to steal my gear, so I braved the noises and went back to the truck. Along the way, I missed my turn off and walked an extra football field, only to return back the same distance.

No flashlight in the truck. Ah well, dawn is coming and I better get back soon, otherwise I’d have an overexposed sky. So, I make the half mile trek back to my location. More noises. Even though they were the same noises, they were just as spooky the third time around as it was the first and no tripod to defend against claws of fury. Yeah, like that was ever going to work.

I get back to the camera and stop the exposure. Nice exposure, a little soft focus on the cactus and the sky and exposure looks like I shot it an hour in the future. There’s lots of light from the sunrise that hasn’t happened yet. A 30 minute accumulation of light during my exposure. I captured some nice star trails. But where were the meteor streaks in the sky? I never caught a single one. It would have been a nice shot if I had, as they were going the opposite direction of the stars trails. At this point, I can only imagine how it would have turned out.

Since sunrise was only a few minutes away at this point, shooting another exposure would only prove the same results. So, I pack it all up, and decide to walk further out in the desert, hoping to get a shot of some birds or the sunrise if it decided to be a good one. I took a few shots of a colorless sunrise. Nothing spectacular. I listened to the birds waking up and continued watching bats flutter around, eating mosquitoes that probably had fed on me earlier in the night. The sounds of their echo location was somehow calming and pretty cool to listen to.

My adventure was over. The sun was well on its way to rising over the mountains. People would be arriving soon to do their daily workout of walking trails or bird watching or whatever they do at the crack of dawn. My experience of the meteor shower, albeit wasn’t what I expected, was definitely an experience I won’t forget anytime soon. It’s nice to get up before everyone else and experience the unknown. I got to see at least half a dozen falling meteors in the sky. I also learned a valuable lesson. No matter how well you know your equipment or how well lit the moon is, always pack a flash light. I can honestly tell you, I will be looking to purchase a small, powerful LED flashlight to add to my equipment.

I’ll add my single shot of my experience to the news later this week, after I’ve had time to process it. If anyone managed to capture the Alpha Auragids Meteor shower, I’d love it if you’d share your photos with me.

 Posted by at 2:18 pm
Mar 092005

After being asked where the best place to photograph birds or where I personally think good spots are in Tucson for birding, I decided it was time to write a little something on the subject. This particular article has been in the works for a couple of months now and I finally got around to finishing it and putting it online. If you’ve ever wondered where a really good hot spot is for photographing common birds, then you might be interested in this article. It’s not about the best locations for birding in Tucson either.

Read the article

Add some comments to this post if you would like to comment on this article or point out something I might have missed.

 Posted by at 3:34 pm
Sep 292004

I didn’t expect to write an article this month, as I didn’t have any ideas for a topic. Out of the blue, a friend asked me a question today that lead me to write the latest article.

For most of us that have owned several cameras or have been shooting pictures for a long time, this article is probably second nature. Going into the digital age however, newer photographers may have a need to know how to eliminate burry photos or at the very least, a refresher on some common techniques.

Read the article

 Posted by at 3:20 pm
Sep 012004

I finally posted the second half to last months article last night. The Other Half of Digital Photography – Part 2 completes the two part article. I wasn’t quite sure if I could finish it up in just two articles, but I did. There are many other little things to speed up your computer for use with digital photography, but overall, the tips I wrote about should get any computer running faster.

 Posted by at 12:12 pm
Aug 012004

I’ve posted my lastest article tonight called “The Other Half of Digital Photography“. It doesn’t apply to just photographers, but in fact, anyone with a computer. In this article, you’ll learn about two simple programs to keep your digital darkroom (aka computer) running better and faster than it has in the past. That is, of course, if you are like most people, who never knew about these programs or haven’t taken the time to run them in a long time. There’s quite a few simple things one can do to keep the “other half” of digital photography running smooth, so don’t be surprised if this two part article becomes three parts. Stay tuned next month for Part 2.

Read the article

 Posted by at 2:40 am
May 312004

Experts offer shopping advice and tips for taking your digital camera on vacation

Some advice/tips on the following: Shutter lag, preserving images on CD, storage cards, batteries and more.

As with almost everything digital, questions arise over the technology. So we talked to a number of experts about some of the frequently asked questions about digital photography to get a few tips and tricks to ease the transition, particularly as the summer vacation season gets under way.

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 Posted by at 6:21 pm
May 212004

“Citing the security of 7 million daily riders, 48,000 employees and its transportation network, New York City Transit yesterday proposed a ban on unauthorized photography, filming and videotaping on city subways, buses and Staten Island Railway trains. The press and businesses or individuals with permits would be exempt.”

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I don’t want to get into a first amendment rights argument or anything, and I can certainly understand the need for added security. But I’m curious though. How in the world does NYC think they will ever prevent cameras and videotape recorders from being in the subways except for members of the press and individuals who have to write to some head transit honcho to get permission? Technology is getting smaller and smaller with every new device released on the market these days. There are a bunch of digicams already out on the market that easily fit into a coat pocket. All someone would have to do is slit a hole in a jacket pocket and film or take all the photos they want. Nobody would be the wiser.

I’ve never been to NYC, nor do I have any idea what the city must still be going through, so I guess I should keep my mouth shut. I can’t imagine what it would be like to try to secure an entire city from terrorists. The words “nearly impossible” come to mind. I wouldn’t mind hearing some thoughts on this from those living in New York City.

 Posted by at 3:51 pm