The Best Thing You Can Do in 2014

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So often we obsess about taking the next great photo that we forget about some of the basics.  Its great to be constantly looking forward to implement new skills but today I’m going to advocate that you stop…and wonder what happens when that hard drive you’ve been using for the last 5 years develops the least little bit of wobble and computer parts crash into each other.  Of course hard drive failures aren’t going to injure anyone (at least I didn’t think they could) but imagine if you lost all your images and videos.  Don’t think that backing up your data is only for professionals, the blurry pictures that you take on your smartphone are capturing a moment in time that you’ll never get back.  Let’s dive into the exciting world of data backup…stay with me casual photogs…this isn’t a boring as you think.

I forget where I read this (I think it was from Leo Laporte’s TWIT network, http://www.twit.tv) but a simple backup philosophy involves the idea that a file does not exist unless it is stored in 3 places.

Let me explain.

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So You Have a New Camera (or your resolutions include becoming a better photographer…)

Lake Huron PanoramaHappy New Year Everyone,

I hope that you had a great break and you’re now ready to learn how to use that new camera!  (Or continue to learn how to use an old camera…).  Getting a new camera is exciting and can add a lot of enthusiasm to your photography.  Whether you have a new camera or one of your new year’s resolutions are to become a better photographer, then read on!  We’ll talk about some ideas to speed up your learning curve without getting too technical.

1) What do you like to shoot?  

This is an obvious question but one that is often overlooked at first.  If you’re like me, you want to be good at all of it…but let’s not take on too much at once.  You probably won’t become an awesome portrait photographer, macro photographer, landscape photographer, sports photographer, bird photographer….(you get the point) at the same time.  On the other hand, you should take your camera everywhere and keep shooting but once you decide what you want to be good at, then focus on that topic for a while.  If you have kids and you want some good shots to frame, then study up on portrait photographers; all one has to do is google ‘portrait photographer’ and you’ll get a load of images to study, and find a lot of information that you can read up on.  Remember, scattered focus = scattered results.

2) Read your camera manual.

Read your camera manual.  Read your camera manual.  Read your camera manual.  Read your camera manual.  Read your camera manual.  Once you’re finished that then you should read your camera manual.  If you haven’t read the manual within the last 6 months, then read it again.

3) Convince yourself you don’t need more gear to get better.

This topic is a tricky one.  Camera manufacturers and electronics retailers will try to convince you that the next thing you need is to spend more money.  My response…Hogwash!  You need to spend more time figuring out what went wrong.  I’m willing to listen if someone has a better way to learn, but my path has been to shoot a lot and try to figure out why it didn’t look like you wanted it to.  Don’t just delete it in camera.  Keep it, download it and review it.  Get a good night’s sleep and review it again.  This process doesn’t require more gear or money.  It requires a willingness to be brutally honest with the image (and yourself).  Obviously there are gear intensive areas of photography like sports or birds but the first thing you need to do know is the limit of your gear and chances are, the limit right now is you.  Be patient with yourself and remember to keep this fun but this point can’t be understated…learn from your mistakes and move on!

4) See Number 2

5) A Local Photography Course

Find out where your new camera was purchased.  Its possible that if the camera was purchased at a local camera store (not big box), there could be an afternoon course that came with the purchase.  Not all stores will offer sort of value but my wife took a brief afternoon course on her new point and shoot camera when we lived in Calgary.  The course was quite helpful and definitely sped up the learning curve.  Find out about any local courses through the art community where you lived.  Even if you’ve been shooting for a while, you’ll probably come out with a few things that will help you out.  These courses are usually not very intensive (which is a good thing at first) but it introduces you to your camera, its settings and some techno Do’s and Don’ts.

6) You Can Become a Better Photographer Regardless of the Camera

There have been coffee table books published from camera phone photos.  Stop drooling over the latest thing and get out and shoot.

7) Make a commitment to get off of Auto Mode (intermediate tip)

Warning: if you haven’t taken some time with the first 6 tips, then this is the tip with the biggest payoff but it may be too much info at first.  In order to put your learning on nitro glycerine, you need to get off of the automatic mode if you truly want complete control over your camera.  Take the time to commit to learning about aperture, shutter speed and ISO.  (See Number 1 – shoot as much as you want in AutoMode but start evaluating your images and see what didn’t work and what did.)

7) Start Reading about your craft.

The best part of being in the middle of the internet explosion is the access to information is at your finger tips.  Here are some free and paid resources that can keep your photography growing.  I don’t know what you like to shoot, but anyone on this list will give you more information to read and learn more about your craft.

Photofocushttp://www.photofocus.com – good daily tips from Scott Bourne and Rich Harrington

Rick Sammonhttp://www.ricksammon.com – who can forget about the Godfather of modern photography!  Great guy, friendly approach and if you read his blog, he’ll cover the areas you’re looking for.

Google – “Photography” – this yields 1,500,000,000 hits…the info you seek is out there!

Till next time,

Jason Finner

Its time for the December 2012 Upload!

I guess I’ve preached too much to the ‘net about not writing blog entries that include being too busy…but I’m going to break that rule and say its been a crazy 3 months since I last posted.  Add a second child into the mix (we’re blessed with a second daughter in September), a career transition to financial planning from engineering including exams and a whole pile of meetings, travelling and blah blah blah…you get the point.  Its fine time we added a few new photos to the mother site, www.finnerphotography.com  and reconnect with my tens of fans!

I haven’t changed the focus of the blog – my mission is to still share the ups and downs of being a landscape photographer and some technical breakdown of the ‘keepers’ that make the website.  I know its been a while since I’ve shot anything when my wife tells me that its time to get out and shoot….

The sunset has almost completed its annual shift toward a southerly sunset along the beach so it should make for some interesting compositions.  We’ll see what I can find over the next month instead of just a sore throat….but on with the show!

Here are the latest keepers for the main site:

1) Sun Valley

If you’re serious about becoming a better photographer, you’ve probably read some of the works of Rick Sammon.  Rick is one of the most affable teachers you’re going to find that truly wears his heart on his sleeve.  Rick has been dubbed the ‘Godfather’ of photography and has published numerous books and apps.  Check out Rick at www.ricksammon.com.

One of Rick’s main teaching themes is that instead of taking good photographs, you should create great photographs….which brings me to the creation of this photo.  While I was shooting….some guy who looked just like me took a pail of water and completely wet the rocks in the foreground which completely showed the sunlight in the reflections…awesome!  Other points to note about this shot are the horizon is not dead centre, the slower shutter speed provides for some motion blur of the waves and I closed down the aperture to f25 for the star burst on the sun.

Shot with a Canon 50D, 10-22mm wide angle lens, ISO 100, f25, 1/4s.

LurganBeach8-10thSunset_ 2012-07-09_21-08-21_©JasonFinner_2012

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The September SuperSmashingGreat Upload!

Greetings, Hola and Bienvenue!

Its that time again for the mid month upload for the month of September.  I recently read some advice that all bloggers should not mention how busy you are.  We’re all busy so stop making excuses…except this time I’ve got a real doozy for you.  My second daughter was born on Sept 5 so needless to say its been a bit of a dust up at home for everyone and the 50mm f 1.4 Canon prime lens is back into heavy rotation for all those kid shots.  It really doesn’t hurt to hone your chops doing something else for a while and I’m the photographer-elect in my house (although my wife takes a fine picture without the 27 point bullet list that I have floating in my head for what I have to remember for a good photo!).
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This month’s upload has some variation from my usual work.  The style that I like is quite easy to see from previous blog posts; I don’t usually take shots with people or machines etc or of smaller ‘scapes (unless its a family photo!).  I like the large landscape photography shots and the larger the vista the better…but as I mentioned above, you need to depart from your usual style for a while (and leave it temporarily before you get bored) and you’ll come back to it with new perspectives.
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“On with the show this is it!” (as Bugs Bunny says…):
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1) Harvest
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My father-in-law is a career farmer and this shot is from their back yard in Port Albert as they worked their usual magic with the combine.  This shot uses depth of field to focus on the wheat which is going to meet its next stage of life.  You’ll notice that parts of this photograph are in focus/others are not which is only possible when you get into the manual modes of the camera.  I spend about 90% of my time in the Aperture priority mode (Av for Canon shooters) so I can set the aperture manually and the camera will calculate the shutter speed for me.  In this case, the aperture is set to f4 which is the lowest aperture or ‘wide open’ setting.  The odd thing that you’ll have to get used to is the lower the Aperture number, the more wide open the lens will be.  The closer you are to your focal point with the camera lens wide open, the more exaggerated the blur will be.  As a point of reference, the higher the aperture number, say f22, the more the field would have had a greater depth of field and the lens opening would physically be smaller (which is a really fancy way of saying more of the photo would be in focus).
The second part of this photograph that we can learn from is the ‘half press’ technique.  Half press of the shutter button will allow the camera to focus on a certain part of the picture and if you keep holding  down the ‘half press’, then you can recompose so that your focus is not always in the centre.  The only way to do this is to manually set the focus point (in this case the center focus point in the camera).
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 Inevitably, some people will have wanted everything in focus for this shot, especially the combine, but the only way to take your photography from snap shots to photographs is to tell a story and this story is about the crop that is about to be harvested.  Let me know what you think.
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I think Perez Hilton would be proud of my notes I made on this page!
A minor point to be made is that the leading lines don’t lead to the main subject (the wheat) but I think the leading lines still work so that your eye follows to the combine and back down the left side of the photo to see what the combine will do next (in this case the wheat that is in focus).
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Shot with a Canon 50D, 24-105 f4 IS lens, f4.0, 1/400s, handheld
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August SuperFabPhotofest Update

Good day everyone,

Its the middle of August so its time for some new images uploaded to the main site, www.finnerphotography.com for sale.  As usual, clicking on either Current Images for Sale or Photo Archive will provide different albums to browse.

We have 3 images that have been uploaded with 1 that has been featured on the blog.  Here are the current show dogs!  Cue the music (and the clowns…)!

1) Irish Coast – this photo was taken on a trip to Ireland pre-kids.  This was shot back in the day when I had a Canon Rebel XTi which goes to show that camera bodies <$1000 can take great images.  The lens was the 24-105 f4 L IS lens which is a beauty and my everyday workhorse.  Thankfully this lens has image stabilization since this body lacked Auto ISO and it was definitely taken during a very steep learning curve of learning how to shoot without auto modes.   Photogs will laugh when I tell you that the shot was taken at f11 (that’s fine) but at 1/6 of a second handheld…not exactly the fastest shutter speed for sharp photos but this one worked out due to the IS on the lens…who said that tech didn’t matter!?!  This image was converted using SilverEfex Pro 2 (Nik Effects software suite) and I especially like the grain that was added.

This photo is currently for sale in the Victoria Park Art Gallery in Kincardine in the 12×18 photo size (18×24 black frame/white mat).

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Too much processing…or was it?

I guess they say that patience is a virtue, which I’m sure has been said a million times to beginner photogs, especially landscape photographers.  The greater part of the landscape canvas can’t be controlled and re-takes simply aren’t possible.  The flip side of this ‘con’ is that every sunset is different, especially if clouds are involved.  No clouds = boring compositions.  Forgive me if I’m repeating myself but clouds really make the difference.  There have been times at supper where I’ve looked out off of the front step only to retreat back inside knowing that I’m not missing out on much.  If you’re photographing anything, it will look better during the ‘golden light’ hours at sunrise or sunset but for the landscape photography that I’m interested in, I know I won’t come away with much I’m interested in unless there are clouds.

Last night doesn’t fall into the boring category though!  I’ve been waiting all summer for some interesting clouds and last night was a great night for shooting.

There was a storm brewing as we were driving across Kincardine around 7pm and even at that time there was some nice light (approx. an hour and half before sunset).  We raced home from an appointment and I grabbed my gear, threw on some bug spray (which was waaaaaay too little in my ankle area) and out the door I went.  I had my eye on a particularly marshy area that I hadn’t been to yet but I had driven past it every time on the way into town.  I had in mind that it would be a good outcropping of rocks for foreground but it turned out a lot better than I had thought.  You’ll see from the photos that hidden behind all the reeds was a low area that would be great for reflections.

If you’ve started to read all the available resources online, you’ll inevitably read about High Dynamic Range photography (or HDR) for short.  HDR includes blending 3 images (shot at different exposures) and blended to make a stronger looking image.  Why HDR?  Because a particularly contrasty scene (bright areas and dark areas) may not be able to be captured in one picture by the camera.  The camera can’t capture the same dynamic range that the human eye can.   Some hate HDR, some only shoot HDR photos.  I fall into the middle for using it – if it works and looks good, its worth it but I’m not going to sit at the computer for hours and tweak an image just to say I’m an ‘HDR specialist’.  Chances are if you can’t get it to look good in less than 5 minutes, you should move on.

Here is the final image I produced using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro.  This is using the in app processing with very little adjustments afterward in Aperture (which I use as my library manager).  I processed this after the shoot late at night and my final thought was that it was too much processing.  It didn’t look realistic so off to bed I went.

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