Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Nikon D7000, 29mm (18-55), 1/3 sec., f/10, ISO 100

So last week it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. Classes were cancelled for two days, leaving me with plenty of photo time on my hands.

The picture above was taken from a spot near the location of last week’s night shot. Having learned my lesson about snowflakes on the lens, I used a hood this time. As in previous efforts, the long exposure necessary to capture the light causes the falling snow to turn into more of a mist in the photo.

Nikon D7000, 48mm (18-55), 1/160, f/6.3, ISO 200

Didn’t take long for the snow to get deep. Here the big, ploppy flakes show up well against dark objects in the background.

Nikon D7000, 30mm (18-55), 1/60, f/4.5, ISO 560

We were doing quite a bit of business at the bird feeder. This picture is less of a planned photograph and more of a quick snapshot through a window with the camera’s settings on auto. Still, I like the way it turned out. I’m particularly fond of the birds caught in mid-flight around the feeder.

Nikon D7000, 55mm (18-55), 1/50, f/36, ISO 100

I love the tiny points of light that shine in the middle of a smooth patch of snow. Even at dawn the sunlight was already quite bright, so I closed the aperture down as far as it would go and worked with a slower shutter speed to bring out the light points.

Nikon D7000, 35mm (18-55), 3 sec., f/8, 100 ISO, retouched

And then Snowpocalypse Two hit less than a week later. Here’s another early morning shot taken with a long shutter speed and a hood to keep the snow off the lens. I also retouched it in Photoshop to make it slightly less orange.

Nikon D7000, 32mm (18-55), 3 sec., f/8, 100 ISO

Just for fun, I decided to add a flash to the long exposure. The objects in the background are too far away for the flash to reach them, but the falling snowflakes closer to the camera bounce it back nicely. The blue color is a result of the camera trying to white balance for the flash. Though I hadn’t anticipated it, I like the effect.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Night snow

Nikon D7000, 28mm (Tamron 28-200), 3 sec., f/8, ISO 100

Snow wasn’t in the forecast, but there it was nonetheless. Although it started at the end of a long day, I thought I’d venture forth briefly and get some shots anyway. This picture is the best of the set, and you can see the detail better if you click on it to enlarge it.

If I’d had more time and energy, I would have dug out the camera’s raincoat and installed the lens hood in order to keep the snowflakes off the lens. As it was, however, the blurring from the melting flakes produced an interesting effect with the lights. I was especially fond of the contrast between the fuzzy geometry of the droplets and the clarity of the unobscured parts of the image (such as the tree branches to the left).

The light streaks are from a van that passed through the shot while the shutter was open. With a three second exposure, the dimly-lit van doesn’t stay in any one place long enough to show up in the photo. But its lights are bright enough to leave trails, even when reflected on the slick pavement. The dashed lines were produced by the van’s turn signals.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Canon EOS 10D, 17mm (17-40), 1/250, f/10, ISO 100, retouched

Here’s a photo I took in the South Dakota Badlands a couple of years ago. Or to be more precise, the image above is the Photoshop-retouched version of the photo.

This is what it looked like straight out of the camera:

The most glaring problems are the smudges clearly visible in the sky (always remember to clean your lens with a lens cloth before and after shooting, especially outdoors). Back in the film days, they would have been a real challenge to remove. Now Photoshop’s spot healing tool makes quick work of blemishes like this.

And here’s a funny story: the spot healing tool instantly zapped away all but one of the lens spots. But the last one stubbornly refused to disappear. I changed every setting I could think of, and still no luck. Then a slip of the mouse shifted the photo, but the spot didn’t shift with it. So I’d spent ten minutes trying to erase a smudge on my monitor. Photoshop is useful for a great many things, but it won’t clean your screen for you.

Back to the photo. You’ll also notice that the unedited version is ever so slightly tilted. A guide line across the horizon makes it easy to rotate and crop the photo into perfect alignment.

Finally, a quick level adjustment cleans up the dingy colors and makes the picture “pop.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Nikon D3000, Lensbaby Scout with fisheye optic, 1/60, no f-stop, ISO 1600

Sticking with photos of small objects (and using Lensbaby lenses to accomplish the feat), here’s a different approach. This is a shot of a battleship model taken with the Scout with the fisheye optic installed.

In addition to more standard fisheye effects, this optic allows you to get within a half an inch of the subject and still retain some focus (though the depth of field is quite small at this distance). At this distance the distortion produces some interesting effects, including this other-worldly mess of shape and line that looks little like the actual subject.

For comparison, here’s a shot of the same model taken with a typical macro lens:

Nikon D3000, 300mm (75-300), 1 sec., f/8, ISO 100

And here’s what a map looks like when shot with the Lensbaby fisheye. Note how quickly the lens loses focus away from the center of the shot.

Nikon D3000, Lensbaby Scout with fisheye optic, 1/40, no f-stop, ISO 1600