Thursday, 31 of July of 2014

The Art of Selfies

The Art of Selfies

With more and more people having smartphones with built-in cameras or low-cost point and shoots, selfies — photos of the person taking the photo — are officially on their way to becoming a “thing.” Most selfies are quickly snapped, involve either just the phone’s owner or the owner and a friend or two, have little in the way of posing or attempts to use composition techniques and may involve the dreaded duckface.

However, selfies can be more than a poorly shot self-portrait. With a bit of creativity, you can show a lot of attitude without having to contort your body or your face.

1) Prop your feet up on the railing and capture the scene in front of you. While technically this isn’t a “selfie” in that your face isn’t in the photo, it is a great way to show something you’re very passionate about (such as sports) without missing anything. It can also make it seem like you’re more laid back and relaxed about the activity even if you’re actually keyed up and excited. All in all, it’s a good way to show two events without any awkward posing.

2) Lift your chin and extend your neck. This will help your face look thinner and will get rid of any excess chins you may have.

3) Wear accessories such as a hat, scarf, funny glasses, etc. So many selfies just have the people or ball caps. Stand out from the crowd and do something a little different.

4) Crop the entire photo down so it’s framing your portrait.

5) Use an unusual masking technique. Get in a tub filled with bubble bath and water. Take a selfie on a rollercoaster. The sky is the limit here so do something original and amazing!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another great week in the world of photography with plenty of gear reviews and hands-on going up all over the web. In addition to announcements from Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon, there have been some pretty major software updates designed to help photographers with editing and compiling their portfolios and to help mobile photographers keep their photos organized and shared around the ‘Net. There have also been plenty of news stories this week covering the World Cup in Brazil and several other major news stories.

All of these things and more were covered on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the top stories for you below!


That’s all for this week, everyone. Have a great and safe Independence Day and holiday weekend and we’ll see you again next week!

– da Bird


Summer Care for Your Camera

Summer Care for Your Camera

It’s officially summer and in some places, that means the temperatures are hot enough to fry an egg on the asphalt (but don’t do it. It leaves a huge mess). Most cameras are fairly rugged when it comes to dealing with normal temperature ranges but there are still a few things that any photographer should make certain to take care of to ensure that the summer sun doesn’t fry their camera like that aforementioned egg.

1) Don’t leave your camera in the car — Just as you wouldn’t leave your kids or pets in a hot car, you shouldn’t leave your camera (or any electronic equipment) in the car. Not even overnight. Cars are enclosed spaces (even with the windows cracked) and that amplifies the temperature — even at night. Again, most cameras are pretty sturdy but if you melt or warp the sensors or chips inside because of the heat, there’s not a lot that can be done to fix them cheaply.

2) Sunsets and sunrises are great but the sun is very bright — Never aim your camera directly towards the sun unless you have special lenses and filters to protect the sensors. Direct sunlight through the lens can damage the sensors inside which is not something that is easily fixed.

3) Thoroughly test any waterproof casing ahead of time — Most waterproof casings will come with a test device that you can put inside where your camera would go and then submerge the case in water to make certain that it really is waterproof. After doing that, test it with your camera but carefully — don’t dunk the camera in the housing in a pool or something. Place it slowly in the water submerging it inch by inch and removing it frequently to check to see that the waterproof casing really is as advertised.

4) Waterproof doesn’t necessarily mean salt-waterproof — Most waterproof cameras are fine to use in a swimming pool or freshwater river/lake. However, be careful about taking them to the beach or into the ocean. The salts in the ocean water can be very corrosive and can damage the casing, letting water (and salt) get inside the camera. The salt, sand, and other fine particles can also cloud or scratch the lens.

5) Waterproof doesn’t mean rated for SCUBA depths — The average consumer waterproof camera is good for up to 30 feet of water. After that, the additional atmospheric pressures can damage the housing. If you’re interested in underwater photography with a SCUBA group who plans to go deeper than 30 feet, ask around about the best camera to use. Aside from needing to be waterproof at depth, there are other features a deeper-water camera will need to have to be effective.

6) Photography while skiing is a bad idea — If you’ve got one of those active-life straps or helmets and housings that are rated for use while waterskiing, then feel free to ignore this point. If, however, you’re using a rugged waterproof camera, try to remember those old physics equations about velocity and rate of change because dropping a camera or falling three feet while holding one when you’re going less than 3 MPH swimming is a different kettle of fish than falling or dropping one three feet at 30 or more MPH.

What other things would you suggest to novice photographers who are interested in really capturing the summer months? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird


Catching A Wave With Wave Photography

Catching A Wave With Wave Photography

With summer here, it’s also time to hit the beach and catch some waves. Surfers of all kind — board, body, wake — make for great photography subjects, as do the waves they like to ride. However, wave photography requires a bit of practice and some more specialized gear. Read on to get a few tips for getting started in this area of photography!

1) Know how to swim — If you’re going to be doing photography near any body of water deeper than a quarter of an inch, you definitely need to know how to swim. You might want to practice swimming with one hand as, if you’re taking photos, you’ll need to hold on to your camera with at least one hand.

2) Invest in safety gear — Get a good life jacket and some swimming fins. The life jacket can help keep your head above water if you get knocked over unexpectedly and the fins can help you maintain your balance and footing — especially if the floor of the beach is very rocky (which would instinctively have you balancing your weight precariously) or boggy with sand (in which case the fins will act a bit like snowshoes and keep you from sinking too deeply into the sandy mire). You’ll also definitely want to get some protective gear for your camera if it’s not waterproof and shockproof and a strap in case you lose your grip.

3) Observe first, then photograph — Don’t try to dive right in if you’re not familiar with the behavior of that particular beach. Find out when the tides come in and out and go out and observe them at least one time before wading in. Also spend time watching the way the waves behave throughout the day. Do they break further out at certain times? Remember these behaviors and talk to local surfers if you can to learn when the waves you’re most wanting to see will be the most prevalent.

4) Pick your spot carefully — When you’re observing, you might also want to go out in the water without your camera and try to find a few good places to photograph from. Bear in mind that active beaches will often have people swimming and surfing and that they may not always be able to see you before they smack into you. So, find a good place with a good view that isn’t going to result in bruises, cracked ribs, or a concussion from a surfer hitting you.

5) Go with a partner — Your partner doesn’t have to come into the water with you but it’s generally a good idea to have someone standing on dry land keeping an eye on you in case you run into trouble and need rescuing.

6) Have your camera settings ready before you get in — Most waterproof housings are not going to give you easy access to your camera’s settings so take time to learn which ISO, focal length, shutter speed, etc is best for what you’re wanting to do. Again, talk to the locals — especially local ocean photographers — and get their advice.

7) Practice makes perfect — If your first few sessions don’t go so well, don’t give up. Wave photography, like any kind of action or sports photography, can be a bit hit or miss at the beginning. However, once you’ve got everything dialed in perfectly, you can capture some really great images. So, keep trying!

If you have any great wave photos to share with us or any advice to add to our list, feel free to comment below or to head over to our Facebook page!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been a very busy week this week in the world of photography. With the newest announcement out of Nikon about their D810 camera, the latter part of the week has been filled with stories about this new piece of must-have photography gear. However, Olympus, Tamron, Fujifilm, Canon, and Sony have all had big announcements going out this week and testers, photographers, and enthusiasts have been burning the midnight oil to keep on top of all the stories and the features in the soon-to-be released cameras.

All of these stories and more were covered on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below.


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

– da Bird


Becoming a Nature Photographer

Becoming a Nature Photographer

InFocus has the latest round of entries from the National Geography Photo Contest posted on their site and the entries are something to behold. If you are an aspiring nature or wildlife photographer, National Geographic has long set the standard for the best quality of images and it would behoove you to take some time to visit their website and become familiar with the different photographers and their work.

Nature photography (including landscape and wildlife photography as well as some astrophotography and storm photography) is a very great branch of photography with images that are breath-taking, awe-inspiring, and, in some cases, shockingly horrifying. This branch of the field does require a lot of travel, relative good health, familiarity with your equipment, and patience. Infinite patience. If you’re interested in trying out this field of practice, we have some helpful advice to get you started.

1) Start working out — Nature photographers have to be able to get out to where nature is. Unlike portrait, music, band, commercial, or wedding photographers, nature photographers can’t sit around in a studio or a nice, air-conditioned and environmental-controlled venue with a parking lot. So, if you want to be a nature photographer, you’ll want to make certain you’re in great physical shape. Start out with hiking while carrying a good backpack. You might also want to look into kayaking and canoeing as well.

2) Learn your gear — You’ll need to know your gear backwards and forwards. Not just the settings on your camera (though that is very important) but also which lenses and lens accessories will be necessary and which would just be nice to have if you can afford to carry the extra weight. Given that you’ll probably be hiking and walking well off the beaten path, you won’t want to carry five lenses when you’re only going to use two of them.

3) Learn to use a map, compass, and a GPS tracker — These days, far too many of us rely too heavily on our smartphones or GPS units to get us from point A to point Q. However, if you’re going to be hiking through the mountains, jungle, or forests, it’s unlikely that the GPS manufacturers will have a route mapped for you. So, if you’re rusty in your map-reading and compass-reading skills, find a hiking group near you to help you get up to scratch on them. Additionally, you can get a GPS fitness tracker that can be helpful in determining where you are if you get lost — though you will still need your map and compass!

4) Get used to roughing it — As a nature photographer, it’s unlikely that you’re going to find a high-class luxury hotel out in the middle of the mountains. So, invest in some good camping gear that is fairly light-weight. Don’t skimp too much on this gear as the extra weight of a high-end waterproof sleeping bag and tent will be infinitely better than a cheap sleeping bag and tent that leak or don’t keep you warm in the middle of a storm.

5) Always let someone know where you’re going — Even in today’s super-connected world, hikers, mountain-bikers, white-water rafters, and adventuresome folks go missing. Sometimes, they’re found fairly quickly and rescued just a little the worse for wear. However, sometimes, they aren’t found at all. Increase your chances of being in the “found and rescued” group in case something happens by making certain several people know where you’re going, how long you expect to be there, the routes you’ll likely take, and alternate routes you might use. Then, agree on a length of time to wait before contacting assistance if you don’t make your scheduled return.

6) Wild predators have superior arsenals — If you’re out in the wilderness, you need to know what predators you might run across (both big and small) and their behavior. Most larger animals will tend to avoid humans in most cases but there are always exceptions. Learn them because, unless you are planning to carry a rifle, any lynx, bobcat, puma, wolf, or coyote you encounter has you out-gunned by virtue of their superior teeth, jaw strength, speed and agility, and claws.

7) Have respect for nature — Nature photographers, like many outdoorsmen, have a great deal of respect for nature and wildlife. So, don’t litter, don’t be careless with your campfire, don’t feed the animals, and don’t try to turn a mountain reserve into your version of the Hilton Resort.

If you decide to give nature photography a shot, be sure to let us know and share your results with us over on our Facebook page!

– da Bird


A Great Resource for Videomakers

A Great Resource for Videomakers

As cameras that were once the playthings only of Hollywood studios quickly become more compact, powerful, and affordable to the average person, more and more people will start filming the world around them. Most of these videos will be family videos of the kids doing something funny. However, some people will want to try their hand at more in-depth or creative filming and will be looking for resources to help them learn and improve their videomaking skills. Video Maker Magazine is a great place to get started.

I’ve been reading some of their print editions as well as their online publications for a few weeks now and I’ve found them to be a very helpful and useful source in understanding video photography and editing. They have some wonderful how-tos on pre-production, production, and post-production video capture and editing. They also have great articles on how to use non-photography gear (such as tablet computers) to help with producting video and coordinating with the actors or speakers. Their product reviews are also a great way to help you find the perfect video camera for your needs. And, once you’ve gotten your camera and you’ve filmed your piece, they also can help you find the best way to distribute your video and get lots of views on it.

If you’re serious about getting into video production, this is a great place to start.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another busy week in the world of photography. Sports photographers have been making the trek down to Brazil to capture the action of the World Cup. Canon, Fujifilm, and Olympus have been putting out guides and updates on camera and photography gear maintenance. And, as always, photographers have been giving advice on everything from how to capture the perfect selfie to how to get great underwater shots.

All of these things and more were covered on our Twitter feed this week. However if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below.


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

– da Bird


2014 iPhone Photography Award Winners Announced

2014 iPhone Photography Award Winners Announced

Just a few days ago, the 2014 iPhone Photography Award winners were announced. Looking over the entries, it’s clear to see that a skilled photographer can make any rig or gear work for them (within reason). Entrants are not allowed to manipulate their photos on a computer at all but can only apply effects or filters through iPhone/iPad apps such as Instagram.

Still, even with that limitation, the winning entries are stunning. I think my favorite this year is the one of the sky at twilight reflected in water by Littel Su of Taiwan. The colors are very rich and smooth and it takes a lot of skill to be able to get a properly balanced image in a darkened environment on a smartphone. The smiling fox is also adorable and would have required a photographer who is skilled at dealing with wildlife and quick on the draw — something that is difficult with smartphones since the least little wiggle will cause blurring.

While the IPPAs showcase the skill and talent needed to be a truly great iPhone photographer, the fact that mobile photography continues to grow and evolve means that camera manufacturers will need to make a lot of improvements in their point-and-shoot cameras if they want to continue to stay relevant and ahead of the trend of using cameras built into other gadgets as the first camera of choice for instant photography.

– da Bird


Firework Photography

Firework Photography

July 4th is just around the bend which means it’s time to start thinking about how to improve your firework photography technique so that your images don’t come out hazy, overexposed, or otherwise distorted. In the past, we’ve offered a few short tips on how to photograph fireworks but this year, we’d like to go a little more in depth.

1) Make certain you have a sturdy tripod, a good remote, and an extended life battery — If you’re a fireworks photography novice, you’re going to be constantly reviewing and adjusting your settings until you hit the sweet spot so you want to make certain that your camera isn’t going to wiggle or tip while you’re photographing several seconds’ worth of exposures. Also, the remote not only decreases the chance of user-caused camera shake, it also allows you to enjoy the show instead of focusing on what you can see through the viewfinder only.

2) Turn off long exposure noise reduction and live view — Long exposure noise reduction works by taking 10-second exposures and averaging them. However, fireworks don’t generally last 10 seconds so relying on this mode will cause you nightmares. Additionally, using live view is supposed to be for previewing video, not stills. If you’re using live view, you’re going to eat through battery capacity very quickly.

3) Focus your lens ahead of time and turn off auto focus — If you have auto focus on, your camera will try to refocus the lens after every shot. Not only does this take power, but, unless you’re moving your camera between shots, you shouldn’t need to refocus the lens.

4) Shoot most of your shots at the start of the show — After a few volleys of fireworks, the air is going to be thick with haze and smoke which can blur your photos. So, you’ll want to get most of your shots done before the haze is too thick.

5) Face east — You’ll want darker backgrounds to contrast against the firework explosions. That means you’ll want to face east since the sun sets in the west.

6) Don’t be afraid to try different lenses if you canWide angle lenses are the most popular for photographing fireworks but telephoto and zoom lenses can capture great images as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment — just remember to focus the lens and not rely on Auto Focus!