Planning a visit to our National Parks...know before you go!
As you take off on your summer vacations this year, I know that many of you will be visiting national parks, national monuments and other historic sites. Recently, there has been a substantial increase in the amount of vandalism and damage done in our national parks by individuals who have no respect for nature. This usually means that they also have no respect for humans, wildlife or themselves for that matter.
If you see something, say something! If you witness someone approaching wildlife, write down their license number and a good description of them (or better yet a photo) and report them to the park officials. If you see someone damaging or defacing something, say something! Again, simply take down their license plate information and a good description and report them.
This year in Yellowstone, there have already been fools that picked up a baby bison and put it in their car! How ignorant must you be to do something like that? They said that they feared he was cold – Bison have lived in unbelievably cold weather for centuries…geez! The Bison had to be put down because the herd would not accept him back. Read about it here
At the Grand Canyon, two more bright one’s vandalized rocks near the Yavapai Geology Museum by spray painting graffiti on them. These two complete idiots have been found and charges are pending. Read about it here
At Arches National Park, still at large are the people who carved their names and messages into Frame Arch, which might not be able to be fixed because of the depth that they carved to. Read about it here
People, it’s our park to preserve…not destroy. If you see something, say something! Report these people and don’t try to stop them yourself, get the authorities.
Another note about visiting national parks; boardwalks (like those at Yellowstone), trails and maintained paths are where you are supposed to walk! Venturing off of the path, like a recent visitor to Yellowstone, could cause severe physical damage or death.
Recently, a man ventured off of the board walk and fell into one of the hot springs, killing him instantly. This was a foolish move, and that’s why the boardwalks are there, to keep you safe. The paths you are allowed to take are clearly marked at Yellowstone. Stay on the path! Read more here
Other notes, always carry plenty of water and health bars or something similar to them. If you take off on a hike, remember to head back before you get too tired – the distance you have traveled has to be traveled again, waiting until you are too tired or out of water is a very, very dangerous move.
Do not approach wildlife! Five people were gorged by Bison in Yellowstone last year! Five! Getting a selfie with a wild animal could signal a closed casket funeral in your very near future! There are rules for how close you are allowed, make sure you stay within those rules. Read more here
Just because you don’t see mama bear, doesn’t mean she isn’t close by! Do not approach bears, simply get a longer lens. You will be much safer and so will the bear. Anytime a bear attacks a human, it has to be put down. Don’t be that fool that gets attacked by a bear because you thought the babies were cute. Read more here
Let’s have a quick recap to National Park visits:
Shooting in Low Light Events (Baseball, swimming, etc)
I had a conversation recently with a friend who said that he was trying to take photos of his son playing baseball at night and every shot came out blurry or dark. I gave him a few pointers on fixing that problem that I'll share below. Whether you are shooting outside with low lighting, or indoors where a flash might not be allowed, or effective, there are several ways to get more light into your camera, and hopefully these few ideas will help.
It’s hard to get right. The combination of distance from your subject and the low light and the speed that sports brings to your subject make it very difficult. And in many cases you cannot use a flash, or you are too far from your subject for the flash to be effective.
Experiment – As a result the key is to experiment a lot. The great thing about digital cameras is that you can take almost unlimited shots and don’t have to worry about cost. Take loads of shots at different settings and you’ll find yourself learning as you go and honing in on what works best in the situation you’re in.
Shutter Speed – Ideally with sports you need a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of your subjects (Remember fast shutter means a high number). Unfortunately this means less light gets in so depending upon how lit the field is you might need to slow it down, unfortunately this means you’ll have blurred images. Sometimes blurry images can increase movement in the photo, but most of the time they just look blurry. To have some control of shutter speed select your cameras shutter speed priority mode and choose the fastest speed on your camera.
ISO – This is probably the best way to control light hitting your images in low-light settings. The higher the number the lower the light you can photograph in. You can increase your ISO and this will enable you to shoot at faster shutter speeds. The problem now becomes that you get noise in your images – noise is grainy. Keep trying various settings until you get it right. All cameras are different and each lighting scenario will be unique to your environment.
Lenses – The lower the aperture that you shoot with, the more light your lens allows into your camera, this allows for quicker shutter speeds too.
One of the consequences of shooting a larger aperture is that you’ll get a shallower depth of field which can really add to a photograph but also means you really need to watch your focus, if it is slightly off, your subject they will appear very out of focus.
This might factor into future considerations for purchases. Often the kit lens that comes with a DSLR is a lower quality lens and not as fast as a ‘professional’ lens.
If you decide to invest in a great lens for shooting your kid’s baseball games at night, you will be spending more money than your camera cost! A 70-200mm f2.8 is an outstanding lens for this type of photography, but be ready to spend $1,500 and up!
White Balance – Shooting in low light usually means you have some sort of artificial light going on which can make your photos come out in all kinds of different shades, sometimes images are yellow or greenish. ‘White Balance’ is the function in your camera that tells your camera what’s white in your shot so that it can make adjustments to get the right balance in your other colors. Read your camera’s manual on white balance and learn how to experiment with it and you can significantly change the ‘temperature’ of your photos.
The chart below gives a great idea of how your camera sees light and images. This should help you to better understand the settings you need to capture your kiddo in these low light settings.
In the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to attended a couple of great photography courses here in Lubbock and came away with a lot of cool, new ideas for posing, lighting and just generally improving my photography. This got me thinking about sharing a tool with you called the 'Exposure Triangle'.
Though I’ve covered exposure in article before, I thought it might be time to introduce you to the Exposure Triangle. If you will take the time to understand this, your photography will jump to a whole new level!!
Creating a pleasant exposure using the aperture, shutter speed and ISO isn’t as easy as you might think. I know that most of you set the camera on automatic and then click away! But you are really missing out on taking your photography to the next level. Once you set one element, like the Aperture, well then you need to negotiate another.
The key to balancing The Exposure Triangle is to get all three elements working together, this will give you the results that you want and not what the camera decides. After all, are you the photographer or is the camera?
You really have to understand the basics of shutter speed (how long the camera’s sensor is exposed to the light), and then what an aperture is (how much light the lens lets in, which also affects depth of field) and ISO (the sensitivity level of the sensor). When you have this down, there is nothing that can keep you from creating beautiful images.
Aperture affects the depth of field, or how much of an image appears sharp (in focus). Remember in my previous post on Apertures, the larger the number the less light and the more sharpness of the overall image. The smaller the number, the more light and this brings into focus the subject of your shot, and you get that cool, blurry (bokeh) background.
Shutter speed also affects image sharpness, slower shutter speeds can lead to blurry images, whether that’s caused by the subject moving or the camera shaking a bit.
Choosing the right ISO enables you to use the optimal combination of aperture and shutter speed when the amount of light would normally prevent you from doing so. Keep in mind that increasing the ISO also reduces the quality of your images and can sometimes create ‘noise’ in your images.
Use the exposure triangle to decide how to adjust the exposure: Basically, when you increase the exposure for one element (a yellow arrow), you need to reduce it for one or both of the other elements (the grey arrows) in order to maintain the same exposure.
Generally, the camera can do this for you in one of these modes: Program, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. However, you have to think about it when you are in Manual mode.
When you understand this relationship, you will achieve much more control over the look and feel of your images.
For a better understanding of the shutter and aperture settings, be sure to refresh your memory by checking out the previous blog posts on these topics.
Hopefully, these images of the triangle and their working relationship will help you understand the process better.
So you got a new camera for Christmas! That's awesome, but now what? Here are a few quick tips on what you should do next.
If you want to learn what all your buttons are for and what the settings are the manual is the best way to get started. I also suggest you go to Youtube and ‘youtube’ your camera for tricks and tips on how to use it properly. There are tons of great videos out there to help you master your new camera.
Another tip, make sure your camera battery is charged and ready to go before you head out on your first big adventure. Nothing worse than to be out shooting and suddenly run out of battery power. As a suggestion, if your camera only came with one battery, invest in a second one. It is well worth the expense, them make sure to keep them both charged.
Something to thing about is extra memory cards. They are a great investment that you will use over and over. You can get them in various sizes. I recommend using 8-16 GB and not putting all of your photos on a 64GB or higher. The reasoning behind this is I'd rather only lose a portion of my images rather than all of them, should the card fail.
One more thing to consider is learning what photo editing program is needed with your camera if you really want to get into editing and adjusting your images. There are a ton to choose from and each offer their own advantages. If you are just starting out and aren’t use to editing images, I might suggest Photoshop Elements. It’s a great tool and much less of an investment than Photoshop 6 or Photoshop CC.
Now you are ready…get out there and start taking photos!
One last note, if you are interested, I plan to offer a beginners class in April. Keep a look out for that!
Christmas lights are beautiful to behold, and it's not every day of the year that you get to see them. But how do you capture their beauty in photos? Dim light, flickering lights and various backgrounds can all make photographing Christmas lights a little tricky. You can easily overcome these obstacles with a little preparation.
Here are a few helpful hints!
1) Photograph outdoor Christmas lights while it's still daylight but not too sunny. It's much harder to get good photos when the lights are in the darkness. At least for outdoor Christmas lights, use late-afternoon light to provide some depth behind already switched-on lights. It can make for a highly desirable effect in your photos. Photograph in the late afternoon, in the "magic hour" just before it begins to get dark (dusk).
· Taking pictures during dusk will often get you a lovely atmosphere shimmering with vibrant background colors — from grays and blues to pinks and reds.
· Plus, the background will still be slightly visible, adding textural contrast instead of that swarming sea of black beside the Christmas lights.
· Photos taken during the brighter part of the day won't show the Christmas lights very well unless the day is very dark. Experiment a little with when you take the pictures.
2) Fill your frame. Make sure your picture includes everything interesting and noteworthy that you can possibly fit in. Don't take a picture of a single, lit home far away and leave most of your picture wanting a subject. Fill your frame and your photos will instantly look more professional.
3) Include the sky. This is an important part of getting in more light and making the whole composition appear more interesting. Be especially alert to moody skies with layers of expressive clouds. Skies can provide truly effective backgrounds that set off the lights in a magical way.
· Be patient, don't rush! You may need to take quite a few photos before the sky and lights appear "just right" together. As a rule of thumb, take a lot of pictures. In the digital age, it's probably best to take too many pictures than not enough.
· At the same time, don't let the sky steal the show. You're setting off to photograph Christmas lights, right? Make them the main attraction. Don't get so caught up in the sky that you forget what you were trying to take a picture of in the first place.
· Other objects such as trees, lampposts, buildings, and landmarks may also improve the composition of your pictures. Check around for the best overall appearance.
4) Prevent movement as much as possible. Use your tripod or lean on something solid such as a wall or fence to stabilize the camera. This will give you the best photo result.
· Time shutter release can also work effectively to prevent blurring, as can using shutter release cables. Couple these two techniques with a tripod for best results.
5) Set the camera settings to get the best photos. Your camera's settings have a profound effect on the style of your pictures. Don't just take pictures without thinking about what your camera is doing.
· Take pictures without the flash. You won't be able to get a very good image with flash in near- or total darkness.
· Have the ISO at 800 or over (this is because you can't use flash). If you want a lower ISO, try 200 ISO with an aperture of f/4 and an exposure of a 1/4 second. For this setting, you may not even need a tripod.
· Set the white balance for "tungsten." This will make the lights look their clearest, as tungsten is a manual setting used for shots where the main light source is household light bulbs.
· If you're more experienced using white balance, play around with it a little (experimenting with it will improve your experience anyway). Some people prefer incandescent while others are happy to rely on the automatic white balance (AWB).
6) Use a reflective foreground where possible. Think snow, ice or water here. This will increase the light and improve the look of the lights in the photo. Just be aware that it is possible to have too much reflection.
7) Be careful on photos of lights that are indoors. For indoor Christmas lights on a tree, for example, be aware that the camera meter is forced to choose between the dark tree and the lights. This can end up overexposing the lights.
· As with outdoor lights, use a tripod or a sturdy platform to rest the camera on to minimize movement.
· Keep adjusting the shutter speed and/or the f-stop to get the right shot of the lights.
Try playing with foreground/background contrasts. Focus on an object in the foreground and capture the Christmas lights out of focus in the background. This looks really neat when you get it done just right. Try taking a picture of a snowman or an ornament, with your Christmas lights blurry and bulbous in the background.
I hope these help you out. Merry Christmas to you and yours and may you have a blessed New Year!
As the weather turns colder, the great outdoors becomes a colorful time to shoot with fall colors and winter wonderlands soon to dominate Facebook and your own photos. Cameras, however, aren’t as excited about being outside as you might be. Cameras are designed to work at moderate temperatures, of course they will work just fine in the cold weather, however they do become more vulnerable to damage as temperatures begin to drop.
So, here are a few things you can do to protect your digital camera from the cold weather. These will help you keep shooting, as long as you can stand the cold, in the colder temperatures, and help you reduce the risk of any severe damage to your equipment.
#1 - SPARE BATTERIES
Batteries are most affected by changes in temperature. A drop of ten degrees outside can cause your battery life to deplete quickly, even by half as much! This means that you will run out of power quickly in colder environments. So, if you are taking photos of the grand kids in snow, you could end up running out of power twice as fast as you would if there were splashing around in the pool.
Naturally, you can keep your battery life up longer by turning off many of the features that your camera might have, like your LCD screen, auto-flash, image stabilization and even your auto focus – though I hate turning things off that I’m used to using. Also, turn the camera off when you aren’t using it.
The best practice is to carry at least one extra battery. When I’m out hiking, especially in colder weather, I always carry two and sometimes three extra batteries. Carry them in an inside pocket close to your body, not in an outside coat pocket, this will help keep the battery fully charged. Now for a cool trick, when you replace the batteries, put the one you take out of the camera back into the same pocket and warm it up again. This will actually replenish the battery a bit and give you an opportunity to use it again – even if only for a handful of shots.
#2 - HAND WARMERS
Another way to keep you batteries warm is to wrap a small hand warmer around the section of the camera that contains the batteries, usually in the grip on most DSLR cameras.
Since hand warmers are intended to warm hands and feet, they don't get very hot, so they are generally safe to use next to a camera. Carrying a few extras for your hands and feet might is a great idea too! If you don't want to wrap one around your camera and you keep your camera in a bag when you're not shooting, then you can place a hand warmer in the bag next to the camera. It may not raise the temperature in the bag much, but even a few degrees will help.
I always pack about a half dozen of these when I’m going to be out for a while. They are light weight and easy to carry.
#3 - PROTECT YOUR CAMERA FROM CONDENSATION
Dead batteries are an annoyance, however they won't do any permanent damage to your camera. The same is not true of condensation building up inside your camera. Moisture inside your camera can damage electrical components and leave water marks on the inside of lenses, making it the number one thing to avoid when heading out for winter weather shots.
Condensation is caused by moving from cold air to warm air or vice versa. When shooting outdoors in the cold, this typically happens when leaving your house, hotel or car, and then again when you return. That means you have to be extra careful both going and coming from your shoot.
So, how do you protect your camera? Well, the first thing to do is make sure that temperature changes happen gradually, if you can. One way to do this is by leaving your camera in an neutral environment like on a screened in porch, your garage, or even your car – just make sure everything is locked up tight! By doing this for at least an hour in between your climate changes, you will give your camera time to adjust to the conditions gradually, thus reducing the chances of condensation forming. When you are doing this, be sure to remove your battery and keep it warm, or even on the charger.
Condensation is still somewhat likely, no matter how much you prepare for it. Fortunately, there is a little trick that photographers have a tried-and-tested trick for dealing with this problem, put your camera in an air-tight bag (such as a Ziploc) with a sachet of silica gel packs, you know those little sachets that accompany most electronic goods. They will help to soak up any condensation, keeping your camera safe and dry and ready for the next outing. Just be sure to do this BEFORE you go from the cold into the warmth of your home. If you are in your car, do the same thing. Put the camera in the bag, then place the bag into the backseat, all before you turn the heater on in the car.
#4 - PROVIDE SOME PADDING
Plastic and glass become more susceptible to damage in cold weather, so protect your camera from being dropped. Keep it in a padded camera bag or case as much as possible. Carrying it around your neck, if hiking, can cause major problems if you bang it into a rock or tree. When you are ready to shoot and you remove your camera, be sure to use the neck or wrist strap, as it can easily slip out of your hands, particularly if they're cold and wet or if you're wearing gloves.
I know some people will say to keep it round your neck at all times, and slip it your coat when you are not shooting. However, because the air next to your body is warm and the camera is cold, this can cause the condensation problems mentioned above. So, better to keep it in the bag, and not against your body for warmth.
#5 – (Most import for me) KEEP YOURSELF WARM!
The cold affects you as much as the camera, if not more! In fact, you're much more likely to give up before your camera does, so it's important to go out properly prepared. I have been up at 5:00AM waiting for the sunrise when the temperature was below freezing, so warmth is important!
Layers are key to keeping you warm! Heavy coat, hoodie, long-sleeve t-shirt/undershirts will allow for you to adjust as needed. Also wearing waterproof hiking shoes and waterproof coats are a good idea if the ground is wet or snowy, you may have to crouch or kneel down to get the shot you want. I always wear a hat and gloves. I prefer thin gloves, like Isotoner’s, as thick gloves can make it hard to operate your camera's buttons. You can also get fingerless gloves or mitten-style ones with a finger section that folds back.
A thermos of hot chocolate and a few energy snacks are a great idea for maintaining body temperature and keeping your energy levels up. Find a spot, have a quick cup to warm you up and move on to the next awesome shot waiting for you.
In conclusion, winter photography can be a lot of fun, but it can be rough on you and your equipment. These simple steps can help you protect your camera from the cold weather, and prolong its life so that you can get all the pictures you want and make the most of your time outdoors. Be sure to use commonsense too, watch the weather, know the road conditions and never hike in the cold alone.
Research, research, research! Before you head out on a photography trip, always research three things:
1) The best location to get the shot you want.
2) The best time of day to get the shot you want.
3) The weather!
I’ll offer a little insight into these three things and a few other things that will help you get that shot you want for the living room wall.
The Best Location:
There are a ton of places to research you location. I’ll try to help you make sense of some of the best means available to you.
Online Research – The first thing I do whenever I know I’m going somewhere is search Google Images for ideas. I don’t like to copy what’s already done, but I do like to find ideas, approaches and the best light. Then, it’s off to Google Maps to lock in on the location. Doing this will provide you with detailed driving directions, road conditions and road types. You don’t want to drive your nice car for 15 miles down a rutted out dirt road. Also, if where you want to go is on private property, find the owner and give them a shout to make sure it’s okay for you to be there. Posted property can often times land you in trouble with local law enforcement, or get you forced off the land by the owner. It only takes a moment to ask. My personal tip here – don’t go on private land.
Another site worth checking is 500px.com. This site provides some incredible photos and often numerous stories, locations and often times even maps.
After that, I’ll check Flickr.com and do the same type of search. Often Flickr users will connect their photo to a map and you’ll be able to see exact locations.
Look for local camera clubs. Generally camera club members are awesome resources, find their page and go from there. Usually there will be contact information on their pages.
Lastly, hire a local guide by searching ‘photography guides’ in the city/area you are planning to shoot. This will cost you a few dollars, but it will be money well spent.
Local Research – Asking locals is a great way to find hidden gems and perfect locations for your sunrises, sunsets or whatever it is you are looking for.
Pick up local maps and guides at the visitor center or the chamber of commerce office in the city/town you are visiting. They often present great locations and fun spots to check out.
Barnes and Noble and Amazon have great travel photography sections. I have several books on photographing the Great Southwest, Northwest and Yellowstone. I have marked and remarked numerous pages throughout these books and find them to be something you cannot do without.
Though I mentioned this in the ‘online research’ it is worth mentioning again. If you have a few bucks to spare, hire a local guide or local photographer to take you around to the best spots. Often, these types of photographer guides are available for full and half day trips.
Just get in the car and drive! You’d be surprised at how many times I’ve been heading to one location and spot another that has an incredible view, or I just see something on the side of the road or down the next turn. Take time to look around your surroundings. Don’t put on blinders to get from point A to point B…you’ll miss life!
The Best Time To Shoot:
All photographers will tell you the best time to shoot is either early morning or late evening, catching the ‘Golden Hour’. This is 100% true! But when is that exactly? Well, depends on where you are. The sun does not rise and set in the same spot at the same time every day…it moves! Imagine that!
I utilize a number of apps to help me with the specifics. Most lock on to where I am, based on the phone’s GPS. Here are just a few:
The Photographer’s Ephemeris (available on iOS and Android) – This little jewel is about $5, but well worth it! TPE is a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, be it day or night, for almost anywhere on earth. It is Ideal for landscape, nature, travel and outdoor photographers, TPE’s map-based approach means you can search for any place by name on the planet or position the map pin exactly where you want it. Advanced features include: automatic time zone and elevation detection, correction for atmospheric refraction and height above the horizon. You can even determine when the sun or moon will be visible from behind nearby hills and mountains.
Sunrise & Sunset – This is a free app on the Google Play store. Calculates when dawn, sunrise, sunset and dusk occurs, depending on location and time of year. A unique feature in this app is the graph view - this can e.g. be very useful for educational purposes.
National Park Maps – Available on most Android and iOS phones, various National Parks provide detailed maps, photos, ‘scenic’ views and more. Many are free, some cost around $1-$2. So very reasonable. Most of these also provide hiking maps.
Planit! For Photographers – This app has two versions, one is free the other is $5.99, and it is outstanding. Ansel Adams dedicates the beginning of his first book "Taos Pueblo" to visualization. He introduced the idea of "previsualization", which involved the photographer imagining what he wanted his final print to look like before he even took the shot. Of course there are many great photos which were taken impromptu. However, for landscape photographers, being able to previsualize the scene before going there will greatly reduce the chance of being caught unprepared and will greatly increase the chance of getting better shots. Photographers use various tools to help them pre-visualizing the scene. Nowadays, many of those tools are phone apps. PlanIt! is all-in-one solution that is designed to leverage the map and simulated viewfinder technologies (VR, AR etc.) to provide the necessary tools for photographers to pre-visualize the scene in combination with the Sun, Moon, Stars and Milky Way.
Phases of the Moon – This app is free and is great for knowing the phase of the moon. Why does that matter? Well, if you want to shoot the Milky Way or create star trails you can’t do that very well if the moon is out and in its full glory! his app has all the data you need including Moon rise/set times, illumination, Moon phase name , zodiac location and the distance to the Moon, all in a beautiful, elegant app that's fun to use. It's even got a monthly calendar so you can see what the Moon will look like over the months.
Star Tracker – This is another free app, It's the mobile planetarium in your pocket, designed for astronomy fans to explore the universe. Just hold up and point your device at the sky and StarTracker will tell you exactly what stars, constellations and deep sky objects you are looking at in realtime. Full utilization of the build-in gyroscope, digital compass and accelerometer drive the best user experience. It is great for seeing what is up when you are.
Mother Nature doesn’t always play well with others. Always research the weather and dress accordingly. And by that, I mean be prepared for the conditions both going to your shoot and leaving from your shoot.
In the desert, it may be 80-90 degrees on your hike in, but the temp drops considerably when the sun goes down. You may be walking back to your car in 40-50 degree weather. Make sure you know not just what the weather is now, but what it will be 5 hours from now.
On a personal note, cloudy doesn’t always mean bad. I recently was on the Oregon coast, it was very cloudy and a little hazy too. But, the sun dropped below the clouds right at the horizon and we were rewarded with an incredible sky. The image is above, that's why don’t give up, hang in there and you are likely to get awesome colors and an image that you will be extremely proud of.
Utilize Weather.com for your forecast, I have found it to be more reliable that most local stations. It can be accessed on your phone and on your laptop.
If there are thunderstorms in the forecast, make sure your hiking trail is not in or alongside a river or stream, even a dry riverbed will become flooded in seconds. Remember, it doesn’t have to be raining where you are for a flash flood to hit where you are. Water runs downhill and very, very quickly.
Be alert to lightning strikes, hail, and other severe weather forecasts. If you decide to chance it, remember to practice safety first. That lightning shot isn’t worth a trip to the ER.
Research, research, research! Have the trip of your life, but know where you’re going!
So, you have hundreds of photos from that once in a lifetime trip, now what do you do with them? With more than 90% of today’s photographs taking digitally, what to do with them becomes a big question. In the days of film, it was simple – develop the film, print the images, stick them in an album or collectable box. Today, however, we take hundreds, if not thousands of photos on vacation and just download them to the computer. I hate to tell you this, but you better not stop there!
Digital photos are more vulnerable than film photos to being lost forever. Sure, film photos have to be protected, too, and negatives can be easy to lose, photos yellow over time, they could be destroyed in a fire or lost when moving from place to place, but for the most part, we can file them, store them in albums, lock them up and keep them safe. If you are a digital photographer, though, a simple hard drive failure can wipe out everything! All of your precious photos of the kids, grandkids, that incredible vacation, and more often than not, nothing can be done to retrieve them. Your photos are priceless to you, so you need to back them up, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to back them up more than once!
Currently, I have two kinds of backups for all my photos. Both have backup software running so I don’t have to remember to back up the photos. Basically, I backup the backup. And my software alerts me if any of the backups don’t work. There are numerous backup options, so let’s take a look at a few here.
Online Backup Services
There are several online backup services available for consumers. Some are very inexpensive, while others get pretty pricy. As always, research them and pick what is best for you. Here are just a few:
Many of these can offer data backup services that run automatically and in the background, so they don’t interfere with you while you work – however you may experience a slowdown in your processing while they are running. Basically, every time you add a new file to your hard drive, that file gets uploaded to the server where it remains until you need it. The biggest advantages to using an online service like these, is that your files are stored off-site, so if there’s a fire, flood or a burglary your images will be safe and sound in the cloud.
As I said, these services can get expensive, especially depending the on the volume you plan to store and most have a limit on the number of gigs you can place online. This can be a problem if you take thousands of photos. You’ll basically be forced to select the “best of the best” to store online. That means you’ll have to spend as much time sorting through your photos and choosing the images want to save, and this can take just as long as manually backing everything up! So if you have lots of photos, make sure you find a reputable unlimited service.
External hard drives
There are many products on the market that you can use to back up your files at home, and just like those online services they can be set up to run automatically and in the background. Western Digital has a broad range of external hard drives on the market (most of them with a high storage capacity of 1TB or greater) that are inexpensive (between $99 and $250 US) and easy to use. They come with backup software preinstalled, so all you need to do is plug them in, select the directories you want automatically backed up, and then let them do the work.
Another, slightly more expensive version is ioSafe. Their solution is fire and waterproof and performs the same functions as the Western Digital products. There are some drawbacks to these products too, though. Like all hardware, external hard drives are subject to failure and data loss, and sometimes they develop software glitches, or user-error plays a part in suspending backups. Check your backups weekly to insure that they are actually backing up. External hard drives should be replaced every couple of years. Don’t think just having them sitting there will cover your needs.
Currently, I back up all images to two external drives. I replace them every two years to avoid issues.
It takes some extra time, but manual backups to DVDs are a great idea. DVD’s generally last around 10 years (so every 9 years or so, go through and recopy the ones you want to keep). This tactic does actually have several advantages over the other two types of backups. First, you can file your DVDs away in a binder, safe or some other offsite storage.
To make manual backups work, you need to make sure you have a plan. The best plan would be to copy your photos when you put them on your computer. Label the DVD and store it. If that is too much trouble, then at least once a week burn off your latest photos. Make sure whatever you do, you have a plan that you stick to. Don’t get off of that plan.
Don’t put it off
Whichever way you decide to go, do it today! Think about how much you would lose right now if your hard drive failed, all the photos of the kids, the graduation, the grandkids, Christmas photos. It’s not a matter of IF your drive fails, it is a matter of WHEN.
So don’t delay. Setup a backup plan TODAY.
It might be a little bit painful to set up an automatic back-up system or pay for the hardware, and it’s certainly at least a pain to have to manually burn all your photos to DVD. But there is far greater pain waiting for you should anything ever happen to your photos. Ask yourself how much you would be willing to spend in time and cash to get those photos back once they’re gone. You will probably only spend a fraction of that to protect them in the first place.
I am often asked, "What's the best lens for me?" Well, that's a difficult question to answer. The better question to ask is 'What kind of photos do I want to capture?' Then, the answer to the right lens is easier.
I shoot Canon, so I'll be referencing Canon lenses in this post, but you'll find a comparative lens with Nikon, Sony and Olympus. The perfect "walking around lens" is this one, the Canon EF 24-105 f/4 L IS USM lens. That's a lot of stuff after the lens name! The 24-105 is a zoom lens, going from wide angle (24mm) up to a zoom of 105. EF refers to the standard lens mount for EOS cameras. The f/4 means that the lens has a constant opening of f/4 throughout the ranges of the lens (this is the maximum amount of light or f/stop). The L actually mean Luxury lens! The IS means Image Stabilization. And, finally, USM means UltraSonic Motor - fancy way of saying it has a smooth, low noise motor for faster auto focus.
This lens is perfect for shooting landscapes and zooming in on a bison or deer. Travel and landscape photographers find it an indispensable lens. It's great for photographing buildings and scenic old churches too.
It's not cheap, this lens runs anywhere from $799-$999. However, if you invest in this lens, you won't be disappointed.
My second lens choice is the 50mm f/1.8 II. This lens is not expensive at all, actually it is one of the most affordable lenses you’ll find with Canon, especially when you see how great the photos are.
While this lens is not much to look at in terms of size, weight or even construction it is significantly faster than any of the other lenses mentioned above at f/1.8. This will allow you to shoot at quite low light levels, especially if you up your ISO. I use this lens when hiking and not wanting to carry the extra weight of the larger lenses.
Here are a few good things about this lens:
• Speed – f/1.8 is the fastest lens I’ve currently got in my collection. It’s great indoors especially when a flash is not allowed or appropriate.
• Weight/Size – you can fit it in your pocket easily and will hardly know it’s there – perfect for taking out at night or when you need to travel especially light.
• Price – This lens is generally around $100.
• Quality – Though not an "L" series lens, when you consider it’s price, it’s one of the best quality lenses going around on a ‘dollar to quality ratio’.
• Focal length – although you’re limited to one focal length it is a useful one. It works great for portraits and in getting in nice and close for tightly framed shots, like street scapes.
There are a few negatives with this one:
• Focal length – There is no zoom, so distant shots are harder to get. It’s also a little too long for landscapes, where the wide angle is really needed (especially on non full frame cameras where it’s the equivalent of an 80mm lens.
• Build Quality – It’s quite ‘plastic’. It is also a reasonably noisy lens and not the fastest at focusing in low light.
The last lens I'll mention is the best of line, as far as I am concerned. This is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2 L IS USM II. It is outrageously expensive, coming in at around $2,400. However, it is the best lens that I own.
It’s my workhorse, and I use it on 70-80% of my shoots. It is perfect for portraits, sports, wildlife, pretty much everything! It is fast, great in low light, quiet, and has 4 stages of Imaging Stability.
If you are considering buying a zoom there are now many excellent ones on the market. The price drops significantly if you choose a slower lens (f/4 instead of f/2.8) and you can get them without image stabalization - if you are using a tripod, then that works great for you. If your budget is tight, you might also consider buying second hand. Yes, zoom lenses are pricey, but remember your lenses should last you a minimum of 10 years if you look after them.
Of course there are many other lenses you can consider. If you don't have a full frame camera, the Canon 10-22mm is outstanding! Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Invest in good lenses and you'll see your photography abilities get better and better.
As summer approaches and you get ready to hit the road on those family vacations, I have a couple of tips for you to get the best photographs you can.
We all know the fastest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line...which in travel translates to interstate highways. However, you will see much more of America and a much more scenic America if you simply take a lesser traveled route.
My first tip is this year, instead of taking an interstate highway, take an old US highway or State highway and see what you can find. Yes, it will take you longer to get to your final destination, but you never know what you might find along the way!
For example, the photo above was taken in Kentucky, nowhere near a highway, on a slow, winding road. The barn and the horses were in a perfect spot just off the road and I was able to create this beautiful image.
When traveling these old roads, be sure to take extra care. They may have short shoulders, lots of hills or turns and their will be plenty of local traffic. Just keep an eye out and be safe.
My second tip, carry the camera unpacked and upfront where you can get at it quickly. If you're clicking along at 55, you'll need to have your camera ready at hand. There are a number of cool 'camera caddies' you can purchase to keep the camera snug in the center console.
My last tip, be sure to allow yourself room to stop and make sure when you do you are completely off the road. Stay safe, create beautiful images and most importantly, have fun!
Captured off the side of the road near Muleshoe, TX.
I am privileged to be an award winning photographer that has been photographing the great outdoors for more than 30 years. I travel often for work, and pleasure, so I hope to share a few things I've learned along the way!
"A portrait is more than a photograph, it is a reflection of your soul, a stolen moment in time that only happens once and that is why your portrait is so important, you will never be in that moment again." Jeff Driver
“I've never taken a photograph of someone and created a persona, I've just discovered what was already there.” Anthony Farrimond
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