Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Photographs At The Crossroads

Three of my photographs will be in the Crossroads Gallery in Tehachapi, California during the month of December.

If you are in the area, stop by and check them out!

Thought Of The Day: ISO Is Not Important With Digital Photography

ISO is not important with digital photography. With almost any digital camera made over the last five years, the difference in "digital noise" (which is the digital equivalent of film grain) is almost unnoticeable with ISO 400 and below.

Yes, if you closely study side-by-side comparisons, you will notice a little more digital noise with each increase in ISO. However, unless you are making poster-sized prints, you will not be able to perceive a difference without close comparisons. And even at poster-size, an increase of one ISO (for example, ISO 50 to ISO 100) will not be noticeable.

That is why I typically use ISO 200 when I can. You cannot tell the difference between it and ISO 100 whatsoever. Even with a close side-by-side comparison, it's very difficult to tell any change in digital noise. Camera manufacturers have done a great job of minimizing noise with low and medium ISOs.

Once you reach ISO 800 you can start to tell a difference. Still, if you only enlarge the image to 8" x 10" (or 8" x 12"), the difference in digital noise between ISO 800 and the lower ISOs will be very difficult (if not impossible) to notice without close study.

The digital noise at ISO 1600 and above seems quite noticeable. Unless you want a "grainy" image (for example, increase the drama in a black-and-white photograph), these higher ISOs should be avoided if you can help it. However, if the print will not be larger than 5"x 7", you probably can't tell the difference between ISO 100 and ISO 1600 without a close study. Even an 8" x 10" print will show very little difference between ISO 100 and ISO 1600, although the ISO 1600 print may come across to some critics (such as yourself) as "just a little too noisy".

ISO 6400 and above is unusable, unless you are purposely wanting an image with tons of digital noise, or the print will never be larger than 4" x 6".

All of that is to say that with digital photography, aperture and shutter speed are more important than ISO. Worry more about getting the depth-of-field you want and motion you want. Try to keep the ISO at 400 or less (unless you are trying to get digital noise for effect), but know that it may not make a difference up to ISO 1600, depending on how large the print will be.

Photo Of The Day - Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tractor Rubber Boot - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/25/2011 at 10:17 am.
Shutter 1/160, f9, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thought Of The Day: Forget The "Rule Of Thirds"

Andreas Gursky's Rhein II, which recently became the most expensive photograph ever, completely ignored the so-called "rule of thirds".

As I was looking at my different "Photo Of The Day" selections (which seem to dominate this Blog since I started posting them) something that I noticed is that I often ignored the rule-of-thirds.

The rule-of-thirds says that a) the main subject should never be in the center of the photograph, but instead should be one-third to the left or right and one-third to the bottom or top of the photograph; and b) the horizon should never be in the center of the photograph, but instead one-third to the top or bottom of the photograph.

While the rule-of-thirds is not a bad idea--and there is a reason so many use it--there becomes a point that the "rule" should be thrown away. If Andreas Gursky had used the rule-of-thirds, his photograph likely would not have sold for over four million dollars.

In other words, don't let photography "rules" get in the way of allowing you to create the best photographs that you can. If the rule-of-thirds works for a particular photograph, use it. If not, then don't use it.

Photo Of The Day - Monday, November 28, 2011

Foggy Night Emergency - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/25/2011 at 9:33 pm.
Shutter 1/15 (handheld), f7.1, ISO 1600, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coal Train at Sunrise - Mojave, California
Taken on 11/23/2011 at 6:24 am.
Shutter 1/15 (handheld), f7.1, ISO 800, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Saturday, November 26, 2011

Moon Over Desert Sunrise - Mojave, California
Taken on 11/23/2011 at 6:04 am.
Shutter four-seconds, f11, ISO 200, Pentax K-x, 40mm.
No tripod used or needed. I simply placed the camera on the hood of the car (with it not running) and used the self-timer.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Friday, November 25, 2011

Vacancy - Mojave, California
Taken on 11/22/2011 at 6:06 am.
Shutter 1/13 (handheld!), f7.1, ISO 800, Pentax K-x DSLR, 40mm.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

1995 - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/22/2011 at 4:11 pm.
Shutter 1/100, f10, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.
Converted to black-and-white using Paint.NET.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Megapixels and You

I've been asked a number of times if one should purchase a camera with 12 megapixels, 14 megapixels, or if 10 megapixels are enough.

A megapixel is one million pixels. In digital photography, it refers to the number image sensor elements on a digital sensor. For example, an 8 megapixel camera has eight million light-sensitive elements on the sensor.

The more light-sensitive elements that are on the image sensor, the higher the resolution the digital photograph will be. Generally speaking, a camera with 12 megapixels will produce a better looking image than an 8 megapixel camera.

But the answer isn't quite as simple as that.

First, a digital sensor can only hold so many light-sensitive elements. Eventually, you run out of room. Camera companies have thought of a way around this: smaller light-sensitive elements. These smaller elements don't respond to low-light conditions nearly as well as normal elements. They don't translate to actual image resolution in the same way as normal light-sensitive elements, as well.

There are over 50 different sizes of image sensors for digital cameras. It's much better to have 12 regular-sized megapixels on a mid-sized sensor than 12 small-sized megapixels on a small sensor.

In other words, sensor size is just as important as megapixel count, and both work hand-in-hand to produce resolution.

Something else to consider is how the image will be used. Most people don't need more than 6 megapixels. That's plenty for a quality 8" x 10" print after a small amount of cropping. Depending on just how large of prints you want and how much cropping you plan to do, 10 megapixels might be complete overkill. So the question of how many megapixels might be irrelevant to you. 8, 10, 12, 14 megapixels? Who cares?

Well, again, depending on how large of prints or how much cropping one desires, even 14 megapixels might not be enough. Some (but not many) professional photographers need more than 20 megapixels. However, if you had to ask the question in the first place, that's probably not you. And if you do find yourself in that small group of people needing extra-large resolution, I suggest film (35mm or larger) and a high quality scan.

I have a 12.4 megapixel digital camera with a mid-sized sensor, and it produces an image resolution that is plenty large enough for what I need it for. Probably 98% of photographers don't need any more resolution than what that camera produces.

Lens quality and the built-in software to process the data are also important. If those two things are poor than the number of megapixels might not matter much. However, pretty much any digital camera over $150 will at least be adequate in quality.

The conclusion is that if you are stressing out wondering if you should get a 10, 12 or 14 megapixel digital camera--stop! It's not nearly as important as camera companies and camera stores would have you believe. Get the camera that has the best value and don't lose sleep over megapixels.

Besides, your camera doesn't matter, anyway.

Photo Of The Day - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monolith - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/22/2011 at 4:20 pm.
Shutter 1/40, f13, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DSLR, 90mm.
Converted to black-and-white using Paint.NET

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Golden Field - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/21/2011 at 4:32 pm.
Shutter 1/2000, f8, ISO 200, Pentax K-x, 90mm.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Monday, November 21, 2011

Oak Trees and Snowy Mountain - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/21/2011 at 4:15 pm.
Shutter 1/20 (handheld), f11, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DSLR, 60mm

Rainy Day In Arizona

I'm still cleaning out the Arizona folders on my computer. I came across some photographs that I took a couple days before moving to California. It was drizzly. I used a Pentax K-x DSLR to capture these images.

Hand Soap - Goodyear, Arizona
Ducks In South Lake - Goodyear, Arizona
Ducks In The Water - Goodyear, Arizona
Small Palm - Goodyear, Arizona
Water's Edge - Goodyear, Arizona
Sand Circle - Goodyear, Arizona
Tree Reflection - Goodyear, Arizona
Clearing Rain - Goodyear, Arizona
Green Tree Top - Goodyear, Arizona
Palo Verde Tree - Goodyear, Arizona

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Sunday, November 20, 2011

Red Leaf on Green - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/19/2011.
Shutter 1/40, f8, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DLSR, 80mm.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Saturday, November 19, 2011

Late-Autumn Leaves - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/19/2011 at 10:48 am.
Shutter 1/40, f11, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DSLR, 50mm.

Historic Phoenix Buildings

I've been cleaning out the library of photographs from Phoenix, Arizona (I recently moved to Tehachapi, California), and came across these images of buildings in Phoenix that were built in the 1800's.

Prior to moving I was working on a project, but did not have a chance to complete it. These photographs are the remains of that project. I used a Pentak K-x to capture them.

Windsor Hotel Ladder - Phoenix, Arizona
Built in 1893. 
New Windsor Sign - Phoenix, Arizona
Windsor Window - Phoenix, Arizona
Windsor Hotel - Phoenix, Arizona
Coe House Roofline - Phoenix, Arizona
Built in 1895.
Coe House Wall - Phoenix, Arizona
Coe House Roof - Phoenix, Arizona
Coe House - Phoenix, Arizona
Peaks, Cronin House - Phoenix, Arizona
Built in 1893.
Cronin House - Phoenix, Arizona
Peterson House - Phoenix, Arizona
Built in 1899.
Door Hinge, Duppa House - Phoenix, Arizona
Built in 1870 and is the oldest house in Phoenix. Mr. Duppa is credited with naming Phoenix.
Duppa Door - Phoenix, Arizona
Window on Duppa House - Phoenix, Arizona
Norton House - Phoenix Arizona
Built in 1895.
Raney House - Buckeye, Arizona
Built in 1895.
Broken Windows, Raney House - Buckeye, Arizona

Friday, November 18, 2011

Always, Always Have Your Camera With You

I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises this morning. It was easily one of the top 10 best sunrises or sunsets that I've ever seen (and, having lived in Arizona, I've seen some great ones).

It looked like the sky was on fire with brilliant reds and oranges!

This morning's sunrise was much better than the sunrise on Monday, which itself was really nice. I had my camera with me on that day.

Unfortunately, today I left my camera at home.

Learn from my mistake and always bring your camera with you. Being prepared is half the battle, and I found myself camera-less.

I left my camera behind because I was running late and was sure that I wouldn't have had the time for photography, even if I did notice something worth being photographed. But this sunrise was so amazing, that an image from the car while driving would still have been better than many of the sunrise or sunset photographs that one typically sees.

I should have had a camera with me, and I lost out because of it.

Photo Of The Day - Friday, November 18, 2011

Cameron Road - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/17/2011 at 3:55 pm.
Shutter 1/1600, f16, ISO 200, Pentax K-x, 80mm, UV filter.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Thursday, November 17, 2011

Freight Train At Days End - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/16/2011 at 4:39 pm.
Shutter 1/160, f8, ISO 800, Pentax K-x DSLR, 55mm, CP filter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wind Farm at Sunset - Tehachapi, California
Taken on 11/15/2011 at 4:18 pm. Shutter 1/100, f11, ISO 200, Pentax K-x DSLR, 40mm, CP filter

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Photo Of The Day - Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This is something new I'm starting on this blog. I will post a "Photo Of The Day" every day that I can (which means that not every day will have a Photo Of The Day, but most will). Most of the images will have been photographed either the day of or the day before being posted as the Photo Of The Day. I will avoid using old photographs, but from time-to-time I may use an image that is more than one day old. I will also avoid using photographs that are or will be found elsewhere on the Blog, but (obviously) I reserve the right to change this personal policy anytime I wish (hey, it's my blog).

Without further ado, the very first Photo Of The Day:

Joshua Tree Sunrise - Rosamond, California
11/15/2011 at 6:12 am, shutter 1/15 (handheld), f8, ISO 800, Pentax K-x DSLR, 40mm

Click on the photograph to see it larger.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This Morning's Sunrise

Those on California's high desert were treated to a wonderful sunrise this morning. I was traveling to Lancaster and had my camera with me, so I was able to capture the beautiful show nature was putting on. I didn't bring a tripod (I probably should have), but at least I had my Pentax K-x DSLR, which does well with high ISO (but there is still more "digital noise" than I'd like there to be).

You can click on the images to see them larger.

Mojave Sunrise - Mojave, California
Telephone Sunrise - Mojave, California
Desert Dawn - Rosamond, California
This and the next two photographs were taken while driving. I didn't have time to stop, and the highway was the best vantage point anyway. I opened the window, carefully pointed the camera towards the east while holding the steering wheel with my other hand, and pressed the shutter-release-button ten times. These were the best three.
Desert Dawn #2 - Rosamond, California
Desert Dawn #3 - Rosamond, California
Not bad for what were basically chance photographs.
Two Contrails - Rosamond, California
This was also photographed while driving, taken a couple miles further down the road than the previous three images. I pressed the shutter-release-button four times, and chose this photograph over the others.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Most Expensive Photograph Ever

Andreas Gursky's Rhein II just became the most expensive photograph ever, worth 4.34 million. Check it out here. No, really, click the link, take a look, and come right back. What do you think? At first glance it doesn't impress because it's imbalanced and lacking a punch-line. But that is the point. The photograph is about repeated lines, color (green, yellow and grey), and contrast. In other words, simplicity. Too many photographs (including some of Gursky's other work) are littered with nonsense. This one is not--just some basic lines and color. Another theme of Rhein II is uneasiness. The rule of no-centered-horizons is thrown out and a critic might think there is too much negative space at the top. The vibrant grass is countered with the dull-grey sky, river and path. It's not a "pretty" landscape, and it makes one rethink what makes a landscape photograph great. Gursky pushed the bounderies and it paid off big, yet he did so by throwing out useless rules and keeping the image as simple as possible.
Another point that should not be overlooked is that Gursky used a medium-format film camera to create Rhein II. Film is not dead, in fact, it is even more relevant now thank's to Gursky.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day!

Happy Veteran's Day! Thank you to all who served!

American Flag, Bakersfield National Cemetery - Bealville, California

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Don't Deal With Doppelgangers

Just some quick advice: don't deal with doppelgangers.

If someone is living a double life, they can't be trusted. It will cause problems and you'll have frustrating experiences. If someone is not being honest about something, it's the same as lying. Even if that person is telling you the truth and being honest with you, if they are hiding it from someone else they are still lying--they're just asking you to be a part of that lie with them.

With regards to photography, it's best to insist on a model release form. You probably don't legally need one (depending on exactly what you plan to do with the photographs), but it makes it more clear to the person being photographed that you retain the rights to the images. If they say no to signing the form, it may be best to walk away from that assignment.

I've recently learned this from experience. Learn from my mistake, don't learn this the hard way.

A good and simple model release form can be found here. A more complex one can be found here. You can copy-and-paste into a text document and quickly make your own. It's not hard to do and it doesn't take much time.

Again, don't deal with doppelgangers and always insist on a signed model release form. This is for your benefit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Capture Kern County Book

As you may know, four of my photographs have just been published in a book called Capture Kern County. I'm pretty excited to see these images in print and proud to be one of the 129 winning photographers. Yes, it was a photography contest, and 1,084 photographers entered.

There are 261 photographs in the book out of 21,993 images that were entered into the contest.

The photographer with the most photographs published in the book is Casey Christie with a total of 13. Casey has been a photojournalist for many, many years and is also an accomplished nature and landscape photographer. An interesting side note is that my mother-in-law quite literally saved his life once.

The photographer with the second most number of images in the book has seven. About five other photographers (sorry, I lost count at one point and was too lazy to start over) have four or more photographs in the book (so this includes me). About one-third of the photographers have two or three photographs in the book, and about one-half have just one image published.

In any event, it's a very nice book that would look great on any coffee table. Check it out!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Hohokam Nation

The Phoenix metropolitan areaalso know as the "Valley of the Sun" or "Salt River Valley"—was once home to the Hohokam, a pre-Columbian nation that thrived in the Sonoran desert. Some believe these were ancestors of the different O'odham groups that currently live in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, but the direct link is uncertain.

The Hohokam lived in what is now Phoenix, Arizona from about 1 A.D. to around 1450 A.D., when they suddenly vanished. They were primarily farmers and grew agave, barley, several different types of beans, cactus, corn, cotton, herbs, pumpkin, tobacco, and squash.

Using primitive tools, the Hohokam constructed over 1,000 miles of canals to irrigate the dry desert. The extensive network diverted water from the Salt River and Gila River to many farms scattered across the valley. The canals were as deep as 20 feet, as wide as 50 feet, and as long as 20 miles. This was an amazing engineering feat and demonstrates the genious of these people. Small sections of the canals can still be found at the Park of the Canals in Mesa and Pueblo Grande Archaeology Park in Phoenix.

The Salt River Valley had many small Hohokam communities scattered across it. Some of their buildings were quite large, such as the Big House in what is today Coolidge, Arizona. This structure has four stories and measures 60 feet by 40 feet and 35 feet tall. The Hohokam built three of these "big houses" (the other two were in what is now Phoenix), but only the one in Coolidge remains. No one is sure exactly what these pre-Columbian high-rises were for, but there is evidence that one purpose was astronomical observations.

The Hohokam also built sizeable platform mounds. The largest platform mound, constructed at Pueblo Grande, was the size of a football field and about 25 feet tall. These raised structures overlooked major canals and also had some astronomical functions. Over 50 platform mounds were found in the Salt River Valley.

Windows and doorways on the big houses and the platform mounds were used to track the changing seasons. A room on top of the Pueblo Grande platform mound was used to mark the summer solstice sunrise and a room on top of the Mesa Grande platform mound was used to mark the winter solstice sunrise. The Big House in Coolidge has circular windows that align with the solstices and equinoxes.

Doorway, Pueblo Grande - Phoenix, Arizona
Most Hohokam lived in small pit houses. These one-room structures were oval shaped, had sheltered entrances, and were covered with mud and adobe. Groups of these homes faced inward towards a common courtyard.

Between 1150 A.D. and 1450 A.D., the Hohokam constructed a large number of coursed-adobe houses. These were also built in groups and with common courtyards, but adobe walls surrounded the structures, essentially creating apartment complexes. Many of these complexes were two stories tall.

Pueblo Grande Site - Phoenix, Arizona
Most communities had an oval ballcourt and the larger settlements had as many as five of them. Over 200 Hohokam ballcourts have been identified in southern and central Arizona. While it is uncertain what the Hohokam played in these ballcourts, a game comparable to racketball was a common sport in southwestern North America at that time and was played in ballcourts similar to what the Hohokam built. Many stone balls and one rubber ball have been found in Hohokam excavation sites. The ballcourts were used from about 750 A.D. until about 1200 A.D., when the Hohokam apparently abandoned the sport.

Ruins At Pueblo Grande - Phoenix, Arizona
The two largest communities, Snaketown near what is today Queen Creek on the Gila River Indian Reservation and Grewe-Casa Grande in what is now Coolidge, may have had several thousand residents each. Two other large communities, Pueblo Grande in what is now Phoenix and Mesa Grande in what is now Mesa, may have had 1,000 residents each. At the height of the Hohokam civilization, the population of the Salt River Valley was over 40,000.

Pueblo Grande - Phoenix, Arizona
The Hohokam are credited with being the first culture to use acid etching, using fermented cactus juice to create designs on sea shells. They imported shells from what is now western Mexico and southern California and crafted them into fine jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces and rings. Jewelry was commonly worn by Hohokam—including men, women, and children—and often the deceased were burried with their jewelry. The Hohokam also exported jewelry to neighboring cultures.

Stone jewelry and stone figurines of humans, dogs, sheep and deer were also manufactured.

In addition, the Hohokam made baskets, ceramics, musical instruments—flutes, rasps, rattles, and whistles—textiles and tools. Hohokam pottery is well regarded for its quality and artistry. Textiles manufactured from cotton included blankets, cloths, hats, kilts, shirts and skirts. There is evidence that the Hohokam used a complex weaving technique, and a large number of wooden spindles and stone whorls have been found. Belts, ropes and sandals were made from agave fibers while mats were made from reeds.

Hohokam Ruins, Pueblo Grande - Phoenix, Arizona
The Hohokam traded with other cultures, going as far as a few hundred miles in each direction. They imported copper bells, parrots, pottery, pyrite mirrors, shells and turquoise. They exported cotton, crops, jewelry and pottery.

Cactus In Front Of Hohokam Wall - Phoenix, Arizona
Sometime around 1450 A.D. the Hohokam disappeared. Nobody is sure exactly why they left or where they went. A popular theory is that a series of devastating floods destroyed important sections of the canal system, followed by a severe drought that lasted for many years. This would have forced the Hohokam, who were heavily dependent on agriculture, to abandon the Salt River Valley and neighboring Gila River Valley in search of a more forgiving land.

Hohokam Rooms, Pueblo Grande - Phoenix, Arizona
The Hohokam vanished, but they left a lasting legacy. The irrigation canal system that they built would provide the inspiration for—and, in a few cases, the infrastructure for—a new settlement that would grow into a massive city.