Featured Articles and Reviews

Profoto B1 500 AirTTL Review

When Profoto announced their first truly portable setup with the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered flash last year, the news immediately caught my … [Continue Reading]

Profoto B1 with Battery

Leica M7 Review

This is a review of the Leica M7 TTL .72 rangefinder film camera that I used with the Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron M Aspherical Manual Focus Lens. I had … [Continue Reading]

Leica M7

Arca-Swiss C1 Cube Review

In this review, I will talk about my experience and impressions with using perhaps the finest tripod head I have seen to date, the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube. … [Continue Reading]

Arca-Swiss C1 Cube

What is Ghosting and Flare?

When light rays coming from a bright source(s) of light (such as the sun or artificial light) directly reach the front element of a camera lens, they … [Continue Reading]

Lens Flare

Wildlife Photography Tips Part One

I hope the idea I have in my head for this wildlife photography series of articles turns out on paper the way I imagined it and you find some useful … [Continue Reading]

Coastal Grizzly Bear Photo

How to Photograph the Milky Way

Many travel and landscape photographers, including myself, try to avoid shooting scenery with a clear blue sky. As much as we like seeing puffy or … [Continue Reading]

Arches Night Sky by Tom Redd

How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 3

This is Part 3 for the “how to create a photography blog” series of articles. In Part 1, I gave some brief history of the blogging platform, showed how to purchase a domain with a web hosting account through GoDaddy and how to create a database for WordPress. In Part 2, I showed how to get WordPress installed and configured with the most basic settings. Now I will go through some basics of using WordPress and how you can get the initial structure of your blog going, then I will jump into plugins that enhance WordPress functionality. Let’s get going.

14) Building the initial site structure

As of now, you have a very basic WordPress blog without any content in it. Before you start playing with plugins and themes, it is a good idea to first create some site content like pages, links and posts. Go ahead and login to your WordPress dashboard by typing your blog + “/wp-admin” in your browser, for example “http://myphotographysite.com/wp-admin”. Within the dashboard, you will see a bunch of links on the left side of the page that look like this:

WordPress Dashboard Links

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How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 2

This is Part 2 for the “how to create a photography blog” series of articles. In Part 1, I gave some brief history of the blogging platform, showed how to purchase a domain with a web hosting account through GoDaddy and how to create a database for WordPress. Now I will go through the WordPress installation and configuration process for your future photography blog. Let’s get going.

11) Upload WordPress Installation

Now that we have a MySQL database, we can proceed with the process of download WordPress installation files and then uploading them to your hosting account. To download WordPress, open up your browser and go to http://wordpress.org and then click the blue button that says “Download WordPress”. You will be taken to a separate download page that looks like this:

Download WordPress

You are given two options to download WordPress – in zip (archive) or tar formats. Just click the blue download button and your browser will start downloading the zip version of WordPress.

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How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 1

Whether you are an aspiring photographer or a full-time pro, a blog can help you showcase your work and connect with your viewers, fans and potential clients. In these series of articles, I will show you how to create a photography blog from scratch – from buying a domain and hosting, to installing the most popular blog platform in the world known called “WordPress”. I decided to do this because I know that many photographers simply don’t have the technical know-how to create and manage a blog, while others don’t have the financial means to pay for the installation, configuration and customization of WordPress. Once you get your own blog up and running, you will be able to perform routine maintenance yourself, instead of relying on someone else.

Since this is going to be a rather large tutorial/howto, I decided to split it into several parts. In part 1, I will provide some basic information on domains, hosting, databases and content management systems. I will also go through the process of purchasing a domain together with a hosting account, then will set up a hosting account with a database. In part 2, I will go through WordPress installation and initial configuration. In part 3, we will deal with some customization and basic plugins, while Part 4 is going to be on themes and templates that you can use with WordPress. I will obviously try to explain everything in very simple terms, assuming that the reader has no prior knowledge of the Web. Let’s get started!

WordPress Dashboard

1) How Websites Work

Before delving into some blogging verbiage, let me first explain how websites work in general. Every time you open up your browser and type in a website, or find a website through search engines like Google and Yahoo, your computer obtains some information about the website on the Internet and then connects to a particular server that hosts that website. The particular server I am referring to has a unique address on the Internet and that’s how it is found. Ever heard of a term “IP address”? When computers and servers communicate on the Internet, they find each other through unique IP addresses that look like a bunch of numbers with dots in between – something like 55.66.77.88. Since those numbers are hard to remember, domains like “.com” were invented. Thanks to those domains, you just need to know the address of a website like “cnn.com” or “mansurovs.com” and you can get to a website without even knowing the IP address of the machine that hosts that website on the Internet. This domain name to IP translation happens through Domain Name Servers (DNS) on the Internet, the sole purpose of which is to convert domain names to IP addresses. Here is how the actual communication takes place:

  1. Once you type the website address/domain on your browser (client), it looks up the IP address of the server that hosts the requested website (through a DNS server).
  2. Your browser then contacts the server through the IP address and sends some information to the server about what page/URL is being requested.
  3. The server processes the request and outputs a webpage, which then gets fetched by your browser.
  4. Your browser goes through the content and then parses it in a nice, readable format for you.

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How to Stack Two Vertical Images in Photoshop

While Nasim is working on posting another big article on how to create a photography blog, I decided to jump in and write a quick tutorial on how to stack two vertical images in Photoshop, also known as “diptych”. I hope those of you, who already have a blog or will be creating one soon will find my tutorial useful. The below technique surely did save me from some hassle and headache!

Posting vertical images to a blog can get frustrating. While dealing with horizontal images is easy, vertical images either take up too much space (if you extract them with the same dimensions as horizontal images) or take less space and require proper alignment. To deal with this problem, I came up with a very simple way to stack images, which keeps our blog clean and allows me to create a storyline with two vertical images side by side.

Love Poem (4)

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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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Nikon D7000 Review

This long overdue review of the Nikon D7000 is based on my 3+ month experience with multiple samples of the camera. Due to my busy schedule and a very high demand on the D7000, I was not able to obtain a copy earlier to test. I actually thought it was a good thing to wait, because I did not want to get one from the initial production (which seemed to be rushed, resulting in lots of bad samples out there). Ever since the Nikon D7000 was released, I have been getting many questions from current and potential buyers, asking about backfocus issues, overexposed images, bad video quality, autofocus problems, image quality at low and high ISOs and hot pixels. For this review, I made a note to myself to test the camera against each of the listed potential problems and report on my findings.

Nikon D7000

1) Nikon D7000 Specifications

Main Features:

  1. High Resolution 16.2 MP DX-format CMOS sensor
  2. High Speed 6 frames per second continuous shooting up to 100 shots
  3. 2,016-pixel RGB (3D Color Matrix) sensor
  4. Pentaprism Optical Viewfinder with approx. 100% frame coverage and approx. 0.94x magnification
  5. Twin SD Card Slots with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card compatibility
  6. Built-in Speedlight flash with i-TTL and Wireless Commander support
  7. Optional MB-D11 multi-power pack
  8. Two User Definable Settings (U1, U2) on the Mode Selector Dial
  9. Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape Picture Controls
  10. Virtual Horizon Graphic Indicator
  11. Full 1080p HD Movie capability with Full Time Autofocus and external stereo microphone jack (up to 20 minutes of recording time)
  12. Dynamic ISO range from 100 to 6400 expandable to 25,600 (Hi2)
  13. Customizable 39 point AF System with nine center cross-type sensors
  14. Magnesium-alloy top/rear covers and weather and dust sealing
  15. 150,000 cycle-rated shutter system
  16. 3 Inch, 921,000-dot Super-Density LCD Monitor with 170 degree viewing
  17. Fast Start-Up time of 0.13 sec and 50ms Shutter Lag
  18. Compact EN-EL15 Battery (850+ shots)
  19. Built-in HDMI Connection
  20. Active D-Lighting for enhancing details in shadows and highlights
  21. Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up or Night Portrait Scene Modes

Mt Sneffels in Snow

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How to submit your photos for a Case Study

Update: Due to an overwhelming amount of submissions, we are no longer accepting case studies at this time.

To make it easier for our readers to submit their images for a Case Study, I created a dedicated form which allows uploading images. The form is located on the top of this page and can be accessed through the case study link. I have been getting a lot of good feedback regarding the case studies I have posted so far and it seems like our readers find them beneficial, not only in terms of learning the gear side, but also the post-processing side.

As I have pointed out before, photography is not just about what gear you use and how you use it, but also about how you present it to your viewer. You have probably heard some people say that altering images in post-processing is “cheating” and that everything should be done right from the camera. I do agree about the camera part – you should always strive to do it right in camera. However, I certainly do not agree with calling post-processing work “cheating”. If you look at some of the masters of photography, you will see that a big portion of their photography workflow is dedicated to work with images in Lightroom/Aperture and Photoshop. Even those who shoot film, spend a considerable amount of time working in darkroom, after which they spend additional time making final changes in software. Ansel Adams, one of the most famous photographers of all time, used to spend countless hours working on his photographs in labs. He was a true darkroom magician and I am sure that he would have loved the ability to digitally manipulate images, if he was still alive. So don’t be scared to manipulate your images in any way you want. Learn how to perform the essentials first, such as aligning images, cropping them and adjusting exposure with white balance. Then after that, learn how to work with colors and how to add various effects such as vignetting to your photographs. Experiment and play with different settings. As far as post-processing software, don’t start out with Photoshop, because you might get lost and get frustrated with it. Photoshop is not a simple tool to learn. Instead, start out with either Lightroom or Aperture and spend a considerable amount of time in getting to know it inside out. Once you get a good grasp on Lightroom or Aperture, then get a copy of Photoshop and start exploring it.

Let’s get back to the Case Study Form. If you are having some challenges with your camera gear, photography or techniques and need some tips on how to improve your skills, please fill out the case study form. I can’t promise that I will post every single one I receive, but I will do my best to respond to each one via email at the minimum – it all depends on how many requests I get.

Have a good weekend! I will be working on posting the Nikon D7000 review this weekend.

Case Study: Image Quality

One of our readers sent me some sample images from his camera, asking why his photos are not sharp and often too bright and flat-looking. He is using a pro-level body (Nikon D700) and very good lenses like the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 that he bought after reading my reviews and he is disappointed with his setup. Here is what he wrote me:

I really need your help.

I own the Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 + recently bought the Nikkor 16-35 f/4 after reading you review. I wanted the 14-24mm f/2.8, but without filter it is a big problem for me. Anyway, I have owned the camera for about 8 months and I am not satisfied with the results…

I mostly shoot in RAW with Active D Lighting set to “Auto”. My photos never seems as sharp as the samples you put on your site and they always looks too bright and flat. It’s like they are “dead” without contrast and color and I don’t know what’s wrong with my setup. Maybe it’s a problem with the camera sensor or I don’t know what… I am not a pro photographer and not even close, but I expert much better results from what I have. I mean I can always fix in post-processing software like Aperture 3 which I have, but i want great photos out of the camera without playing with it too much in post.

Please let me know if you see what the problem is and if there’s something wrong with what I am doing? I totally feel hopeless…

Thank you for your time.

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Happy Birthday to My Most Amazing Husband!

My dear Nasim, I’ve been through many difficulties in my life and was at my wits’ end when I met you. From that point on I knew I found my soul, my strength and my true love. You have uplifted me to new emotional heights, given me hope and have been supporting me, my dreams for the past 5 years. Together with you we are raising two most amazing children God could give us. Thank you for being so giving, a very loving husband and a perfect father to Omar and Ozzy. I go to bed every night and wake up every morning thanking God for having you as my husband, my soul mate and my best friend. We love you very much and wish you to be healthy and happy. Like you say: Once healthy and happy, we can achieve other things by our own will.

Lola

Omar

Although your sons never have a perfect hair day, they are precious in every way :D

Ozzy

Love forever,

Lola, Omar and Ozzy.

Drobo S Review (USB 3.0, 2nd Generation)

This is a review of the new Drobo S second generation 5-bay storage array by Data Robotics. Although the Drobo S is officially known as the 2nd generation unit, my PC recognized it as a 3rd generation Drobo S, so I’m not sure what I should call it. I guess I will simply call it the “new Drobo S” for this review. There are several reasons why I decided to write this review. First of all, Drobo products are gaining more and more popularity among photographers and in many cases are becoming a part of their workflow. While some well-known photographers have already endorsed Drobo as a photo storage solution, I wanted to see exactly how fast and reliable this unit is for storing photographs, compared to internal and much cheaper single/dual disk external storage. Second, I have been working with some of the best DAS/NAS/SAN storage solutions during the last 5 years (from small business to enterprise-level storage solutions like EMC Clariion) and having a pretty good idea on what to expect from a storage array, I wanted to see what Drobo has to offer compared to other similar products like Netgear ReadyNAS Pro. Lastly, I wanted to test and see how well the new Drobo S works with the latest technologies like USB 3.0 and how the new eSATA port performs in comparison. I will do my best to make this review as objective as possible, with plenty of data and screenshots to back up my words.

Drobo S

1) Introduction to Drobo S

Drobo S is a 5-bay Directly Attached Storage (DAS) device developed by Data Robotics, targeted at “creative pros, photographers, videographers, small office/home office”, as stated on their website. While designed with simplicity and reliability in mind, the Drobo S uses a fairly complex, proprietary “BeyondRAID” technology with a single or dual drive redundancy, which means that your data would be safe even if two drives were to fail at the same time, as long as dual drive redundancy was enabled before drives failed. On top of that, “BeyondRAID” has some great features like mixed drive size utilization, which allows mixing any size SATA hard drives, and instant expansion, which allows users to insert additional drives when more storage is needed. Traditional RAID technologies such as RAID 5 and RAID 6 have certain limitations and do not provide as much storage as BeyondRAID, especially when mixing small and large hard drives of various sizes. Lastly, the self-managing and self-healing features of the Drobo family are very attractive – if a drive experiences a failure such as a bad block, the system switches to a “self-healing” mode, where it will try to work around bad sectors and return to normal state. During such failures, the system will blink with red lights in front of the unit and will prompt you with warnings (through Drobo Dashboard), indicating which drive must be replaced. Drobo S also proactively monitors the amount of free space available on the unit. If you get to near full capacity, Drobo S will notify you through lights and its dashboard software.

[Read more...]