How to Take Black and White Pictures

If you are inspired by the works of Ansel Adams, James Nachtwey or other masters of black and white photography, you probably want to try doing some B&W yourself. If you don’t know how to take black and white pictures and where to start, then this guide might help you to get into the world of B&W photography. I must admit that I am no guru when it comes to black and white photography, but I have been experimenting with it lately and would like to share what I have learned so far.

Tree BW

1) Colors in Black and White Photography

As strange as it may sound, black and white photography is not about the tones of white, grey and black colors that we see in B&W images. Instead, it is all about the colors that are recorded by the camera and how those colors are converted to different shades of grey, whether in-camera or through post-processing. Back in the film days, photographers used color filters in front of their lenses while shooting B&W film, then would employ special darkroom processing techniques like dodging and burning on top of that to lighten or darken particular parts of a photograph (some landscape photographers still do it today with medium and large format film).
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What is a Photography Workflow?

If you have been reading articles on photography and post-processing, especially from a professional photographer, you have probably stumbled upon the word “workflow” and wondered what it meant. In this article, I will explain what a workflow is and what it is comprised of in the world of digital photography. Please note that the workflow process can vary greatly from one photographer to another, because of too many variables involved and because there is no established, standard workflow that applies to everyone. Therefore, information that I provide in this article should only be used as a reference point to get an understanding of how workflows work in general. It will be totally up to you to establish your own digital photography workflow and you should ultimately design the process that works best for your needs.

1) What is a Workflow in Digital Photography?

A digital photography workflow is an end-to-end system of working with digital images, from capture to delivery. It is comprised of a series of inter-connected steps developed by photographers to simplify and standardize their work. Simplification and standardization are the two key words here, because a well-established workflow process will not only help you in simplifying and speeding up the process of working with images, but also will also allow you to stay organized, improving your efficiency and bringing consistency to your work. The number of steps involved in the workflow process varies, but generally consists of the following:

  1. Setting up the camera and capturing images
  2. Transferring images to a computer
  3. Importing images into a photo application
  4. Organizing and sorting images
  5. Post-processing images
  6. Exporting images
  7. Backing up images
  8. Printing or publishing images to the web

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How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse

I intentionally waited on posting this article on how to photograph a lunar eclipse until it actually took place on 12/21/2010, because I wanted to document my experience and provide information on what challenges I had during the process of photographing this rare, but stunningly beautiful phenomenon. This was not my first time trying to photograph a lunar eclipse – I tried it once back in 2008, but the weather did not cooperate back then and I did not get any good pictures. My luck was much better this time and although the sky was not completely clear, I was still fortunate enough to capture the entire process, from full moon to total lunar eclipse, then back to full moon. The next lunar eclipse will occur in the summer of next year, so if you missed it this year, definitely try to get out and take some pictures, especially when the moon turns bloody red.

Total Lunar Eclipse of 2010

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Landscape Photography Guide is now posted!

After more than a week of writing the darn thing, I finally decided to post my landscape photography guide. I apologize for making it so long, but I really wanted to make it in-depth with all kinds of tips and techniques that I have been learning every year. Please note that the article is a work in progress and I do not consider it finished in its current state. I will be adding a lot more information to it going forward and I am hoping that other landscape photographers will join me and share their tips, so that I could expand on other topics. Here are some other topics that I want to add in the future:

  1. Printing
  2. Showcasing and Online Portfolios
  3. Photography Contests
  4. More post-processing tips and techniques
  5. Locations and spots
  6. And more!

Stay tuned for some simple flash tips to photograph your family during the holidays!

Landscape Photography Guide

I have been planning to write this landscape photography guide for a long time, but held it off for a while, thinking that I could do a better job after learning about it more. My landscape photography journey has been a big learning curve and I have been enhancing my skills so much during the last few years, I realized that I could spend the rest of my life learning. Therefore, I decided to write what I know today and keep on enhancing this guide in the future with new techniques and tips.

1) Preface

It is amazing to see how quickly the world is changing around us. What seemed to be intact and perfect just several years ago is getting destroyed by us humans. One of the reasons why I fell in love with photographing nature, is because it is not only my way of connecting with nature, but also my way of showing people that the beauty around us is very fragile and volatile. And if we don’t take any action now, all this beauty will someday cease to exist, not giving a chance for our future generations to enjoy it the same way we can today. Hundreds of movies have been filmed, thousands and thousands of great pictures taken and yet the world is not listening. What can we do and is there hope? It is very unfortunate that we only act when a disaster of a great scale hits us and the unbalanced force of nature enrages upon us. But we as photographers must continue to show the world the real picture out there – the deforestation of our rich lands, the pollution that is poisoning our fresh waters and causing widespread diseases, the melting of glaciers, the extinction of species and many other large-scale problems that are affecting the lives of millions of people and animals around the world. Therefore, it is our responsibility as photographers to show the real picture.

Dead Horse Point Panorama at Sunrise

2) Introduction to Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is a form of landscape art. While landscape art was popularized by Western painting and Chinese art more than a thousand years ago, the word “landscape” apparently entered the English dictionary only in the 19th century, purely as a term for works of art (according to Wikipedia). Landscape photography conveys the appreciation of the world through beautiful imagery of the nature that can be comprised of mountains, deserts, rivers, oceans, waterfalls, plants, animals and other God-made scenery or life. While most landscape photographers strive to show the pureness of nature without any human influence, given how much of the world has been changed by humans, depicting the nature together with man-made objects can also be considered a form of landscape photography. For example, the famous Mormon Row at the Grand Teton National Park has been a popular spot for photographing the beautiful Tetons in the background, with the old barns serving as foreground elements.

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Equivalent Focal Length and Field of View

When it comes to focal lengths, it seems that many photographers get very confused by “equivalent focal length” and “field of view” jargon that is often used to describe lens attributes on different camera sensors. To help fully understand these terms, I decided to write a quick article, explaining what they truly mean in very simple terms.

1) True Focal Length

What is the true focal length of a lens? This one is extremely important to understand. Focal length is an optical attribute of a lens, which has nothing to do with the camera or the type of sensor it uses. The true focal length of a lens is typically what manufacturer says it is on the lens. For example, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens (below) has a true focal length of 50mm, irrespective of what camera you use it on.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S

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How to Enlarge Photographs for Printing

A discussion on image cropping sparked up the idea to write this post after I exchanged a couple of comments in my “How to Photograph Birds” article with Tim Layton, who was concerned with cropping bird images and losing resolution for printing. He suggested to try to increase the size of cropped images with a product called Genuine Fractals 6, so that he could get to 8×10 or larger sizes. Since I have had experience with Genuine Fractals in the past and used it for some of my work, I decided to write a quick article about professionally enlarging photographs for printing, in addition to doing a comparison between the resize tool within Photoshop and Genuine Fractals 6 Pro.

1) How large can you print?

One of the most frequently asked questions by photographers who do not have much experience with the printing process is how big they can print their photographs from their DSLR cameras. Traditionally, the rule has been to divide the width of the image in pixels by 300 to get the highest quality print size in inches. For example, if you are shooting with the Nikon D90 camera, the image resolution is 4,288 (width) x 2,848 (height). This literally means that there are 4,288 horizontal pixels and 2,848 vertical pixels on the image sensor. If you multiply these numbers together, you will get to 12,212,224 pixels or 12.2 megapixels – the total number of pixels available on the sensor. So in the above case with the D90, dividing 4,288 and 2,848 by 300 gives 14.3 x 9.5 inch size prints. Why divide by 300 and what does that number mean? This number represents “DPI” (dots per inch) or “PPI” (pixels per inch), which means how many dots/pixels per inch the printer will print on paper. The more the number of “dots” per square inch, the more dense and close to each other the printed dots will be, resulting in smooth transitions and less space between those dots and therefore less “grain”. 300 dots per inch gives magazine-quality prints, while lower numbers below 150 introduce more grain and fuzziness to the printed image.

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Raptor Photography

I really enjoy raptor photography, definitely much more than any other type of bird photography. Birds of prey are powerful, aggressive, fast, agile, precise and even at times ravenous, having no mercy on their targets. They are also tough to photograph and get close to, since most of them (especially adults) do not like people and their presence. I have been studying raptor behavior and habitat during the last 3 years and have traveled to various locations both in Colorado and in other states to see and photograph these beautiful creatures. In this article, I will show you some of the latest pictures and videos of predators I took during the last month and will give you a few tips on photographing raptors.

Red-tailed Hawk in Flight

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How to Recover Deleted Photos from Memory Cards

Have you ever accidentally formatted your memory card with important images in it? Or perhaps your hard drive crashed, you had no backups and you already deleted images from your memory cards? You never think about it until it happens and when it does happen, it hits you hard. I once lost all images of Red Fox kits that were very dear to me and I even managed to format and overwrite images from a trip to Utah this year. Unfortunately, disasters happen to everyone and if you happen to be in a similar situation, it is better to be prepared and know what to do. In this quick article, I will show you how you can recover and retrieve lost images from memory cards and will give you some information on what can be recovered and under what circumstances.

1) Data disaster types

Whether you are using a Compact Flash or SD/SDHC card, there are several types of disasters that can happen with it:

  1. Formatted card (Chance of Recovery: High) – if you happened to format the memory card for whatever reason, either in-camera or on your PC. Chances of recovering all data are very high, as long as the card was not touched after the last format. This is due to the fact that the formatting process never actually deletes the images from the memory card – it simply labels the card as “free” and prepares it for writing.
  2. Deleted images (Chance of Recovery: High) – if you manually deleted images from the card either on the camera or on your PC/Mac, the chances of recovering all data are very high, as long as more images or data were not written on the disk. Just like in formatting, deleting files simply marks certain area of the disk as free for writing. The actual files are never erased from the disk.
  3. Non-physical damage/data failure (Chance of Recovery: Moderate to Low, depends on type of failure) – there could be different scenarios, but one of the more common ones is when a memory card fails during the process of writing images to the card (corrupted data). This is where your camera would give an error, indicating that the data could not be written to the card. The chances of data recovery are moderate to low, depending on how serious the damage is due to bad sectors, etc. Some unreadable cards can be recovered, again, depending on the damage.
  4. Physical damage (Chance of Recovery: Low to None) – if your memory card has suffered from physical damage and is unreadable, the chances of recovery are very low. You could try one of the data recovery tools shown below to see if it can recover anything. If all programs fail and the drive cannot be recognized, it might be better to take it to data recovery experts, who can try to retrieve the data in a lab environment.

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How to Photograph Fireworks

Wondering about how to photograph fireworks on 4th of July, New Year or some other event / occasion? In this quick article, I will provide some basic tips on how to best capture fireworks, what type of equipment to use and what camera settings to use during the process. Although the process is relatively simple, there are some things that might be worth considering, as outlined below.

Fireworks 1

Fireworks, 3 second exposure

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