A Foggy Morning in St. Francisville

Trying to shoot in foggy conditions can bring mixed results. I often find the view from a distance is much different from the conditions at the location. I’m not sure if that’s because the light (or lack of it) as you see a foggy location from far away, or what. Whatever the case, sometimes I stop and take a chance.

I was on my way to visit a project in St. Francisville, and since I’ve taken to having my camera with me as much as I can (probably some of the best photography advice I’ve read in a while), I was able to turn around and get these shots instead of wondering what might have been.

It was one of those cool, damp mornings we get in Louisiana. The fog was still really thick but wouldn’t be for much longer. I had plenty of time before my meeting, so I stopped. If I hadn’t I would have missed it.

This is right off the highway. I pulled in a small drive, got out, and captured these. I like the quiet and stillness of the overall scene, with a little mystery thrown in with the mist. That’s what I tried to capture.

foggy farm 2foggy farm

Light Painting the Car

I’ve wanted to shoot sunrises and sunsets lately, and really haven’t felt like going to the Mississippi River to do it. But I’ve struggled to find a good location that has the foreground, etc. that I’d like. I was out Friday night, on short notice without a chance to plan where to shoot, and at first seemed like I’d just wander around and shoot nothing worthwhile.

Then it hit me – use the car as my subject, and try my hand at light painting the car. I’d seen others do that and wanted to try it, and luckily thought of it. So I parked the car and tried a couple of light painting methods.

red car light painting - redred car light painting - white

Not bad for a first try. I like the red on red from the top image, and I also like the headlight and tail light starbursts from the bottom image.

Next time I’m out at night and complaining about having nothing to shoot, maybe I’ll try light painting whatever’s around.

Photography Cure for Insomnia

Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge

Sometimes I have trouble getting back to sleep after waking during the night. Instead of tossing and turning, I started going out and shooting.

I’m not an experienced enough photographer yet to have settled into a set style or genre, but night photography seems to be my thing.

So I guess it’s ok that I go out and shoot at night, except of course missing out on some sleep. In a way that doesn’t matter because I’ve found I can clear my head while I’m out shooting, and when I get back from a late night shoot I usually go back to sleep quickly. Sometimes the shoots wind up being an early start to shooting a sunrise.

I’ve done everything from my first try at star trails, more interstate light trails, and more light painting, and even started working on time lapses.

Check these out:

light trails on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge
Late night light trails on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge
Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge
early morning shot of the Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge

I will get some others uploaded when I can, just to show a broad selection of the different shots I’ve gotten.

As a matter of fact, I’m writing this while out on a shoot. I have two cameras going right now, so maybe I will get something worth posting later.

Late night photography probably isn’t the textbook cure for insomnia, but it’s helping me.

Light Painting

You may be noticing a recurring theme – I really enjoy long exposure photography, especially at night. I love reading/watching tutorials on different photography and video topics. Light painting is, well, awesome. And there are a ton of different light painting tutorials out there.

A while back I was up in the middle of the night because I wanted to try capturing lightning in the night sky. That didn’t quite work out as planned, but I decided to kill some time by trying some light painting.

I started with a DIY lightsaber of sorts – a clear plastic tube used to store fluorescent light bulbs, some semi-transparent wrapping paper (blue), 2 small flashlights inserted into each end of the tube, my trusty Nikon D5300, tripod, and wireless remote. The 2 flashlights, tubes, and paper cost around $30. And I have enough to try many different color combinations – single or multiple tubes, you name it.

I picked a spot nearby with a bridge leading to a man made island, with a beautiful tree, fairly well lit at night. A couple of comments on my own shooting/setup – I should’ve worn darker clothing, and also should have set the ISO lower. I thought I’d overridden the Auto-ISO feature (I intended to shoot at ISO 100), but I didn’t. One thing’s for sure, I’ve made plenty of mistakes while shooting, and I have learned as much from my failures as I have from my good images.

I’ll try again soon and see what difference lowering the ISO makes. Each shot was at 30 seconds.

No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different.

Windshield Photography

I really enjoy long exposure photography, especially at night. A while back I saw some blog posts showing images captured while driving. Before I go any further, if you’re going to try what I’m calling windshield photography, put safety first and photography at least second. The author suggested having a friend drive while you ride in the back and take pictures. I’ll give that a try when I get a chance. For now, all the shots here are ones I got while driving.

So I thought I’d give it a try. Nothing fancy. I placed my trusty Nikon D5300 on my dashboard, set the shutter speed, guessed on manual focus, and off I went. One improvement I’ve thought of since would be to use a remote trigger, keeping both hands (mostly) free to drive.

The shots above are from two different rides around town. One was a rainy (very early!) morning commute, while the other was just a usual Friday night.

I knew I’d have some camera shake thanks to our fine roads (don’t get me started), so it was more to see what light trails I’d get based on different locations. Some of the best images came while driving around curves and by sitting at traffic signals in the rain.

While shooting in the rain, I keep my windshield wiper speed down so water droplets would build on the windshield, adding a different bit of bokeh to the traffic light shot.

No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different. I hadn’t yet heard the term windshield photography used, so I thought I’d see if it sticks.

Interstate Highway Light Trails

Capturing light trails seems to be a photography rite of passage. At some point, I think every aspiring photographer gives it a try. I’ve always been fascinated by long exposure photography, particularly at night, and so I jumped at the chance to capture interstate highway light trails.

I went out shooting one evening in downtown Baton Rouge, and after the sun went down I decided to head to one of the interstate overpasses and catch some light trails. Luckily for me, there was no traffic where I was standing, and I got some pretty good shots looking back towards downtown Baton Rouge and the Louisiana State Capital.
Interstate Light Trails
interstate light trails with the Louisiana State Capital in the background
Then, using some great (and free!) photo editing tips from Nathaniel Dodson (here’s the link to the video tutorial), I made some easy edits in Lightroom, and finally settled on the above image.
It was fun to try, and I’ll be sure to do it again the next chance I get.

Spring Flowers to Break Up the Meeting Monotony

Practice, practice, practice.

If you’re an aspiring amateur photographer like me, you need to shoot as much as you can. A great way to make sure you’re ready to do this is to have your camera (or phone if you like) with you as much as possible. Then you can shoot whenever you see something that catches your eye, and all the practice will help when you go to shoot something you really want to do a good job capturing.

Not original advice, and I’m not taking credit for it. There are a ton of great, free tutorials and blog posts that talk about exactly that – shoot as much as you can, even getting outside your typical shooting style. But no matter what, carry your camera with you, and shoot a few times each week, or even every day.

So that’s what I’ve done some here lately. My photography has improved over time, and I really want to get some great shots on our next family trip.

This shot is a from a field across the road from one of my projects. Spring is finally here, and the flowers caught my attention as I walked out of a meeting last week.
spring flowers
I was bummed out because I was in that I’m-gonna-be-stuck-in-meetings-all-day rut. Seeing this field of flowers lifted my spirits, so I grabbed my camera. Took less than 5 minutes.

And of course I tried to get a little fancy with the out of focus flowers filling part of the frame.

Disney Coffee Cup Bokeh

One thing I really like about the online photography community is the willingness to share great photo ideas, tips for post processing, and software tutorials. Sure, some of the authors are trying to sell something by offering a cool tutorial or plug-in set for free, but most of the time, I find the content really helpful. I usually at least check out what it is they’re trying to sell.

Whether the tutorial is someone’s effort to get their work “out there”, or sell something, sometimes you run across something to try. In my case, I thought I’d try a coffee cup bokeh trick using just a few items: my trusty Nikon D5300, tripod, Disney coffee cup, and a string of lights. I’d seen this done a few times before, but seeing this again on Pinterest this week led me to do this again.

Disney Coffee Cup Bokeh (5 of 5).jpg
35 mm, ISO 125, f/1.8, 1/10 sec

The weather this week was terrific – until the weekend! I’d been wanting to shoot something, anything, but didn’t feel like getting out in the rain. Soon I’ll try that again. My ¬†foray into shooting a rainy commute to work will have to wait until another post.

Nothing too tricky here – position the light string far enough behind the cup to get some nice bokeh, and make it look like the lights are coming from the cup. I shot this in a fairly dark room to add a late-night, comforting feel. Or tried to, anyway.

After shooting, I brought this into Lightroom, and really didn’t make any edits other than adding a little vignette. I also shot in manual mode (with Autofocus though!), because I’m trying to get away from Auto mode. I may never totally do that, but I want to get more of an idea how a shot will turn out before I start working on it in Lightroom or Photoshop, and the only way I know to do that effectively is to force myself to use Manual mode when I can.

I’ve seen this done with champagne flutes, wine glasses, you name it. Give it a try. It’s a great rainy day/evening project you can do with minimal setup and gear.

Camera Calculations App – Download on the App Store

My fourth photography app, Camera Calculations, is now available on the App Store!

Camera Calculations icon - small

I’m fascinated by long exposure photography – day and night, but there’s usually some math involved. But it can be a pain to do calculations, especially when it’s cold and dark, and you’re worried about your gear and getting the shot.

It’s easy to make mistakes in the calculations, even if the formula you’re using isn’t too hard. But you have to remember each formula, and also how to take into account crop sensor factor (and what the factor is!) if you’re not shooting full frame.

And the formula for calculating f-stop difference when using Neutral Density filters isn’t exactly easy to remember.

This app is really four apps in one.

You can use the Timer for setting long exposures (up to 900 seconds, or 15 minutes). Start, stop, reset. Easy.

Timer Screen Shot - iPhone 8 Plus

The Shutter Speed Calculator for f-stop difference compensation, like when you’re using a Neutral Density filter to take long exposures – day or night. Just put in the starting Shutter Speed and the f-stop difference, and the app calculates your adjusted shutter speed.

Shutter Speed Calculator Screen Shot - iPhone 8 Plus

The Camera Shake Calculator is handy for knowing the recommended slowest shutter speed when shooting handheld, and you want to avoid blurry photos.

Camera Shake Screen Shot - iPhone 8 Plus

The 500 Rule Calculator helps you get the star photos you want. To do this, knowing how to calculate exposure times using the 500 Rule is essential, because you either want star trails in your shot, or be able to keep the stars sharp, with no trails.

500 Rule Calculator Screen Shot - iPhone 8 Plus

For Camera Shake and 500 Rule Calculator, the app takes into account whether or not you’re shooting full frame, general APS-C (1.5 crop factor), or Canon APS-C (1.6 crop factor), and standard focal lengths. The Camera Shake Calculator and 500 Rule Calculator give the exposure time in seconds.

These 2 calculators are easy to use and have 2 input factors needed from the user – focal length and crop factor.

Then if you’d like, switch to the timer screen and set the calculated time if you’d like to countdown, or you can use the timer screen if setting really long exposures. This timer counts down in seconds from 900 seconds (15 minutes), or any time between 0 and 15 minutes.

If you’ve ever been out taking photographs and set a long exposure, and wondered how much time you have left until the exposure will end, this is for you.

For example, if you’ve setup your camera and tripod and figured the correct shutter speed, but need to compensate for increased shutter speed due to Neutral Density filters or other changes, you may have struggled to keep track of the exact time before hitting the shutter release or remote button again. Or you may be standing in the dark, freezing, and wondering what exact exposure time to set, and once it’s set, how much time is remaining.

Download on the App Store by going to iTunes and searching for Camera Calculations, or click the link below. Hopefully one day I’ll develop a version to run on Android devices.

If you get it, please let me know what you think, and send suggestions for other apps!

600 Rule Calculator App – Download on the App Store

My third photography app, 600 Rule Calculator, is now available on the App Store!

I’m fascinated by star trail photography and also shooting the Milky Way. One way to calculate exposure times is by using the 500 Rule. Another way uses what’s called the 600 Rule to calculate exposure times. This is another method to try to have star trails in your shot, or be able to keep the stars sharp, with little or no trails.

But it can be a pain to do calculations, especially when it’s cold and dark, and you’re worried about your gear and getting the shot. It’s easy to make mistakes in the calculations, even if the 600 Rule formula isn’t too hard. But you have to remember it, and also how to take into account crop sensor factor (and what the factor is!) if you’re not shooting full frame.

600 Rule Calculator is the result.

600 Rule app icon 1024 x 1024 alpha

 

This app is useful for photographers wanting to know what exposure time to set for star photography (or astrophotography) using the 600 Rule formula. This is essentially the same as the 500 Rule, but uses a (very!) slightly different calculation.

The app also takes into account whether or not the user is shooting full frame, general APS-C (1.5 crop factor), or Canon APS-C (1.6 crop factor), and standard focal lengths. The 600 Rule Calculator gives the exposure time in seconds.

The calculator built into the app is easy to use and has 2 input factors needed from the user – focal length and crop factor.

600 Rule iPhone 7 calculator screenshot

Then if you’d like, switch to the timer screen and set the calculated time if you’d like to countdown, or you can use the timer screen if setting really long exposures. This timer counts down in seconds from 900 seconds (15 minutes), or any time between 0 and 15 minutes.

If you’ve ever been out taking photographs and set a long exposure, and wondered how much time you have left until the exposure will end, this is for you.

For example, if you’ve setup your camera and tripod and figured the correct shutter speed, but need to compensate for increased shutter speed due to Neutral Density filters or other changes, you may have struggled to keep track of the exact time before hitting the shutter release or remote button again. Or you may be standing in the dark, freezing, and wondering what exact exposure time to set, and once it’s set, how much time is remaining.

swipe to set the timer, then hit the green button to run.

This app does the calculation for you, and counts down based on the time you select. Or you can just use the 600 Rule calculator function.

Download on the App Store by going to iTunes and searching for¬†600 Rule Calculator, or click the links on this page. Hopefully one day I’ll develop a version to run on Android devices.

If you get it, please let me know what you think, and send suggestions for other apps!