Sunday, 25 of January of 2015

Happy New Years!

Happy New Years!

Today is New Year’s Eve and we hope that everyone is planning to have fun ringing in the new year and saying fond farewells to the old one. However, we also want everyone to stay safe and stick around for all of 2015 (after all, this is the year that Back To the Future II promised us flying cars). So, we have a few tips for you to follow for you to do just that.

1) Have a designated driver — If you’re going to drink, don’t drive. If you can’t have a designated driver, be someplace where you can get a taxi. Most cities and municipalities offer free rides on New Years and bars will have drivers on call to help out. Make use of them!

2) Don’t mix alcohol and fireworks — Fireworks are fun. Drinking (in moderation) can be fun. Combining the two is not so fun. So don’t do it. If you’re planning to have an amateur fireworks display, hold the drinks until after it’s over unless you really want to pay a visit to the Emergency Room.

3) Eat well but don’t overdo it — Don’t eat too much sugary goodness during the festivities — especially if you’re going to be drinking. Spiking your blood sugar can make you really sick.

4) Go to bed and get some sleep — Staying up to midnight is traditional. Staying up until 5 am is not so smart. Be sure to get some sleep or else you’ll regret it the entire New Years Day.

5) Don’t forget to plan your lucky meal for New Years Day — The traditional New Years Day meal consists of pork chops, black-eyed peas, and macaroni and cheese. Don’t feast too much on New Years because that will bode ill for the rest of the year to come.

We hope that everyone has a fun and safe New Year’s Eve and a great 2015!

— da Bird


6 New Year’s Eve Sparkler Photography Tips

6 New Year's Eve Sparkler Photography Tips

New Year’s Eve is just a few days away and that means that, for many of us, it’s time to either go to a fireworks show or start planning one of our own. Sparklers are always a great way to have fun at a New Year’s Eve party as well and are friendly for all ages 4 and up. They also make for some great photos and give photographers a chance to experiment a bit more with light settings in a more forgiving environment than that traditionally found in most firework displays. However, you’ll still want to go in prepared so make certain you check out our sparkler photography tips below and get your gear together to get the best sparkler photos ever!

1) Accessorize your camera — A tripod and a flash aren’t just good ideas for this kind of photography; they’re a requirement. There is no way that you’ll be able to hold the camera perfectly still for the long (and we are talking minutes here) exposure times (you’ll want to be in “exposure: bulb” mode) and the tiniest bit of camera shake will give you a photo that is useless.

2) Set up the flash — REAR CURTAIN SYNCH is probably going to be the best bet for an on-camera mounted flash but your lighting conditions may vary so don’t be afraid to experiment a bit.

3) Have plenty of long sparklers — Get sparklers that will burn for 20+ seconds at least. Anything shorter than that won’t work for this kind of photography.

4) Aperture defines details — Higher apertures will give you a lot more details but wider apertures (lower f-stops) will give you a smoother light-line. Experiment with the settings until you have the effect you want.

5) Plan your writing/drawing beforehand — Take some time to practice things first. This will save you a lot of grief during the shoot later!

6) Cheap plastic lighters are fine but Zippos are forever — Lighting a sparkler can take some time to get it to catch. Many years, I have burned my thumb on cheap plastic lighters trying to get them to light a sparkler. Save yourself some grief (and burn ointment) and see if anyone has a Zippo lighter to use instead. If not, go light a candle and use that.

We want to see any sparkler photos you manage to capture for New Year’s so be sure to share them with us over on Facebook!

— da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been a hectic holiday week this week but there’s still been plenty of good news in the photography industry. With the holiday behind us, professional and advanced photographers have been out offering advice to all of the new guys who got nice, shiny new photography gear for Christmas. Everything from street photography to night sky photography has been explained and basic tutorials given in hopes of helping people to move into photography or into new areas in photography.

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


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

— da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Sarah Cheng-De Winne

Profiles in Photography: Sarah Cheng-De Winne

This week’s photography profile focuses on a woman of many talents. She’s a singer, songwriter, and musician from Singapore who works in the soul-pop genre named Sarah Cheng-De Winne. Though she has won many awards for her musical abilities, she is very passionate about photography. Her photography centers on the fields of portraiture, fashion, and conceptual photography where she works to uncover new ways to explore and show different identities through her photography. Sarah Cheng-De Winne was classically trained in the Arts and Design but picked up photography on her own, focusing on the realm of fashion as a way of commenting on how society viewed women.

Much of her work explores the way that women are viewed by society, by themselves, and looks at how things could be different. Sarah uses her camera as a tool of social commentary and critique in the same way that others might use a newspaper article or a column in a magazine. Her work is insightful and creative. I especially like the fantasy element in much of her Queen Maab gallery and her Elena line. Her Missing display is also very interesting showing how, in some cases, the differences between male and female can be very small.

All in all, though she is still quite new to photography, Sarah Cheng-De Winne has a lot of talent and it will be fun to watch her develop her potential over the next several decades.

— da Bird


Photography Tips and Tricks: 5 Secret Camera Features

Photography Tips and Tricks: 5 Secret Camera Features

One of the hardest parts of photography at the higher levels is figuring out all of the things your camera can do. Point and shoot cameras have a lot of very basic features and can do many things well but higher-end cameras such as hybrids and DSLRs come packed with exponentially more features, settings, menus, and options. Learning how to navigate all of these settings beyond just the normal ISO, aperture, and shutter settings can be a bit of a nightmare. Some DSLR manuals can match best-selling novels in length and the technical details can be downright intimidating for a novice at that level. We’ll go over some of these items below.

1) Back Focus Button — If you’ve been relying on your camera’s front focus button to dial in your shots, you may find that using the back AF (auto-focus) button is a real time-saver. The front focus button is really designed for single-focusing whereas the rear button allows you to switch from single to continuous focusing more easily.

2) Auto Exposure Bracketing — AEB is great to use when you’re having trouble figuring out which level of exposure to use or when you’re trying to create a high-dynamic range photo (HDR). Most cameras will “guess” at the level of exposure by taking three photos — one at the current exposure, one underexposed and one overexposed (each by the same amount). AEB captures images at a wider range of exposures and recomposes them to help you achieve a better balance of exposure in each section of the photo. The standard icon for this feature/mode looks like the image to the right.

3) Depth of field preview — In cases where you want to focus on one aspect and blur everything else out, you can use the depth-of-field preview button to help you make certain that your camera is going to capture the image the way you want it captured. Understanding how to dial in this setting could take an entire post (and might, in the future) so, for now, we’ll leave you with this helpful YouTube video.

To find this button, you’ll need to check your camera’s manual.

4) Mirror Lockup Mode — This feature is available on most DSLRs and allows you to take very sharp, crisp landscape and architecture photos. It does require that you be using a longer exposure setting and a tripod and is not recommended for hand-held photography. Basically, this setting (usually found under Custom Functions) causes the internal mirror to come up and lock into position the first time the shutter button is pressed. The shutter remains closed, however. The second time the shutter button is pressed, the shutter opens and the image is taken. Ben McCallum has an excellent video explaining this feature.

5) Custom white balancing — This isn’t so much a feature as it is a technique to help you deal with the fact that light changes and you can’t always control it. For example, if you’re a parent and you want to take photos of your child at a basketball game, you can’t exactly control the gym’s lighting set-up. However, you can set up a custom white balance setting and use a card or cover to help you adjust for the situation you find yourself in. Marlene Hielema has a great video on how to set this up and what tools are best to use for this.

Using these tips and techniques can help you add a lot of depth and gain much more control over your camera and your photography. If you find any of them useful, be sure to share your results with us over on Facebook and to pass them on to others!

— da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another busy week this week in the world of photography. With Christmas coming next week, everyone has been busy getting together their last-minute gift guides and the industry at large is preparing for the big CES event in 2015. Photographers have also been out writing articles aimed at novices who are looking to break into the field altogether or who are interested in moving into a new area of photography. Lastly, there have been plenty of posts put up aimed at seasonal photography for winter — especially on how to photograph holiday displays and festivities.

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


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

— da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Alex Wild

Profiles in Photography: Alex Wild

This week we’re featuring scientific photographer Alex Wild in our Profiles in Photography. Scientific photography is a very interesting area of photography which can encompass many different fields ranging from astrophotography and cosmological photography (photography and photo-editing from big space satellites like Hubble and Cassini) to microscopic photography of electrons and other sub-atomic particles that can only be seen with specialized equipment. Most commonly, however, scientific photographers capture images of nature — either landscape, atmospheric, meteorological, or animal. Sometimes these photos are lovely and sometimes they are alien. However, they all give us the chance to see the world through very different eyes.

Alex Wild got his start in scientific photography in 2002 when he started photographing insects. He was a biologist who was fascinated by Nature’s six-legged little creatures. He found photographing his subjects provided an aesthetic complement to his scientific work. His photos of wasps, bees, beetles, ants, and various other arthropods has been featured in many publications and on many networks ranging from A&E to the National Geographic and even the Smithsonian.

Bugs might give many of us a creepy sensation but Alex Wild has an uncanny knack for making these creatures look both alien and adorable in turn. And no matter how we might feel about these creatures, they are a very important part of our biosphere and it is wonderful that photographers like Alex Wild are getting more people interested in studying them and learning their habits. The scientific community could use many more photographers like him.

— da Bird


Nikon 1 V3: Third Time’s A Charm

Nikon 1 V3: Third Time's A Charm

A few weeks ago, I got my hands on the new Nikon 1 V3 with a 10-30mm lens for a test run. The results were fairly interesting. Having not had any experience with earlier generations of this line-up, I didn’t have much of a baseline to compare it to. However, based off reviews from other sites, I knew that the V3 had several features that the V2 had lacked such as better customizable controls, a more organized and intuitive menu system, and a slimmer profile.

Still, those things were only the beginning. Working in Auto Mode, I was able to go out and get some really great shots of Christmas lights around town. Shooting Christmas lights in residential areas is always a tricky endeavor since you can’t really carry around a lot of lighting equipment, people tend to frown on you walking through their yards, and the lighting situation is extremely fluid — you have to deal with street lights of varying intensity and color, the brightness of the moon, the cloud cover, and other cars passing by with their headlights on. All in all, it’s probably one of the best challenges for a camera’s Auto Mode. I’m happy to say that the Nikon 1 V3 passed it with flying colors.

Beyond that, the camera’s size made it easy to carry around without having to sacrifice much on sensor power and processing. The Nikon 1 V3 is practically a DSLR minus the bulk. The video features were fun to play with though my results were more evidence that my own video shooting skills need some work. However, the continuous 20 fps shooting for still photography saved me a lot of headaches when I was shooting in hand-held mode (again — carrying around a tripod to get photos of Christmas lights gets you a lot of strange looks). The touchscreen menu makes it easy to make adjustments on the fly while also acting as a replacement for the viewfinder. The built-in WiFi settings are easy to work with and allow you to set the camera up one place and control it with your smartphone using the app provided by Nikon.

If you’re looking for a good, adaptable camera to carry around with you in addition to more specialized gear or if you’re looking to make the transition from point and shoots upwards but aren’t certain you want to go all the way to DSLRs, the Nikon 1 V3 is the perfect camera for you.

— da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another busy week in the world of photography as the holidays get closer and closer. Many photography magazines and pros have been putting up guides on suggested gifts for photographers of various levels as well as reviews and hands-on articles concerning newer cameras. In addition to that, photographers around the world have been posting images and stories about the various Christmas and season displays taking place in their area and portrait photographers have been offering specific advice for how to capture the best family photos during the holidays.

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


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

— da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Yvonne Zemke

Profiles in Photography: Yvonne Zemke

Weddings can be a very stressful occasion. Ideally, they are a once-in-a-lifetime event and a lot of time, money, planning, and energy go into pulling them off. One of the most important parts of the wedding and reception, though, is ensuring that it is photographed well and in such a way as to capture the joy of the occasion and the details that went into making it happen. That means that couples need to find a really talented photographer to help them with that task. One of the best wedding photographers of our time is Yvonne Zemke, a German photographer known for her very artistic and well-thought-out wedding photography.

Zemke commands a high price in her line but she is well worth it. Her monochrome photos and her ability to work well with natural lighting give her wedding photos a sense of timelessness and class that many other wedding photos lack. She disdains elaborate posing during the ceremony and reception, preferring to capture more candid and natural images. Her photos are always very atmospheric and the prints can go into an album or up on the wall, allowing the newlyweds to always remember the day that they bound themselves to each other.

Zemke cites the works of Robert Doisneau and Elliot Erwitt as being influential in her own photography. Though Doisneau’s photo “le baiser de l’hôtel du ville” used posing to set it up, she considers it a great example of everything she would like to express in her own photography. Should you have the chance to get her to photograph your wedding, she is highly recommended.

— da Bird