Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wait To Edit - Why Procrastinating Is Good When It Comes To Post-Processing

The Old Boron Housing - Boron, California
You just got back from a big trip or an epic outing, and you can't wait to go through your exposures to see what you've got. You're anxious to begin post-processing your pictures.

I have found that it is much better to wait than to edit right away. It's better to procrastinate than to post-process your photos immediately upon getting home.

A common area in photography where people struggle is self-editing. We think that all of our photographs are good. It's not until some time has passed and you're looking back at your old images that you realize that they just weren't as good as you thought they were.

Why is that? Because we have an attachment to our images. We put time, effort, thought and emotions (and potentially money) into our exposures. We have a connection to our photographs which makes us biased. We look at our own pictures through rose-colored glasses.

With time this bias fades. Our emotional connection to our exposures slowly disappears. By waiting to post-process, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to view your exposures with fresh eyes.

It's important to see your exposures with fresh eyes because that is how viewers will see your pictures. They don't have your bias. They don't know the back story (nor do they care).

With fresh eyes you are better able to delete mediocre images. You are more likely to notice which photographs you should keep and which ones you shouldn't. You self-edit more effectively.

This will save you time. You'll spend less time editing mediocre images because you'll realize that the exposure isn't worth your time. You will more easily recognize which exposures are good and which ones are not.

Besides saving time, you'll also appear to be a better photographer. You'll keep fewer forgettable photographs that you thought were good but really weren't.

How much time should you wait? It's up to you. The longer the better, but if you can hold out for at least 30 days I think that's good. There are a few photographers who are purposefully waiting an entire year.

Don't be in a rush to edit. By all means procrastinate! Waiting to post-process your photographs is beneficial because it saves you time. It also means you'll be sharing fewer mediocre images, making you look more talented.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

It Doesn't Matter What Camera Settings I use

Keep Out The Sun - Tehachapi, California
I get asked often what camera settings I use to create my images. Also, I've been asked in the past why I don't give the setting details (such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO) for the photographs that I post.

Why does it matter what aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, etc., that were used to create an image? If there is a shallow depth-of-field then I used a large aperture. If there is a large depth-of-field then I used a small aperture. If I froze motion in the image then I used a fast shutter speed. If I showed motion then I used a slow shutter speed. If there is a lot of grain or noise then I used a high ISO. If there is little grain or noise then I used a low ISO.

The only thing important about camera settings is knowing what they do. You cannot control the outcome of your photographs if you don't know how to control your camera. You must learn the basics. Beyond that, though, it doesn't make any difference whatsoever what settings someone used to create an image. The photograph matters, the way it was achieved doesn't.
To The Reader - Rosamond, California
Imagine trying to drive a car not knowing what the different pedals, knobs, switches, buttons and controls do. You wouldn't get very far and there is a good chance you'd wreck. But once you understand what all of those things do and how to use them to drive, does it matter to the other drivers which ones you are using at any given moment? No.

So it shouldn't matter to you what camera settings I used to create my photographs. Enjoy the images for what they are. And if you don't understand photography basics, go learn that. There is plenty of information on The Urban Exploration Photography Blog (and my other photography blog) about photography basics if you dig around. Learning the basics is the easy part, and learning what really matters is the hard part.

If you are beyond the basics of photography, then learn how to create art, learn vision and creativity, and understand the decisive moment. Those things matter. Equipment and equipment settings don't matter.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tony Hawk Lake Dolores Waterpark Commercial

Waterpark - Newberry Springs, California
I saw a television commercial last night featuring Tony Hawk that was filmed at the abandoned Lake Dolores Waterpark in Newberry Springs, California, just east of Barstow. That was a cool surprise! My family would attest to a similar road trip. It look's like Tony Hawk and his family might have had a bit more fun than my family.

Check out the commercial below:

While I was at YouTube I also found this really interesting video (really, a short documentary) on the Lake Dolores waterpark. Apparently the place is well known among the skateboarding crowd.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Barstow To The Border - An Epic Urbex Adventure

Waterpark - Newberry Springs, California
I just got back from a road trip to Utah. Unfortunately it was not a photography trip. I did manage to capture a few hundred exposures, but none of them were in the urban exploration genre.

The furthest I'd ever been along Interstate 15 east of Barstow was Newberry Springs, California. This is where the abandoned Lake Dolores Waterpark is located. However, I got to see well beyond that this time around.

What I found is that the I-15 is literally littered with abandoned structures, especially in California between Barstow and the California/Nevada border. Every exit seems to have at least one place worth exploring. There are abandoned homes, gas stations, restaurants, water parks, mines, hotels, etc.

This would be an epic adventure for someone. It would at least take two or three days to complete. There are hundreds of structures to photograph. If you didn't take long at any one spot, you could probably cover Barstow to Baker in one day and Baker to Primm, Nevada the next.

I'm not sure if this is something that I'll ever get around to. I'd love to do it, but it's not likely to happen any time soon. It would make for an interesting project, no doubt about that.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Leading Lines In (Urbex) Photography

Tumbledown Window - Mojave, California
Note the lines that lead the viewer from the top corners to the window.
Photographs are not the capturing of objects, but the capturing of light (highlights and shadows) and color (if not black-and-white). Highlight, shadow and color make up the shapes within each image. Those shapes often have natural lines--some are straight lines and some are curved lines.

You can use those lines to guide the viewer through an image. In order to get the viewer to see what you want them to see in an image, you sometimes need to tell the eyes where to go. If you don't lead the viewer to what you want them to see, they may miss it altogether. Leading lines is one of the primary methods to guide the viewer. Contrast (light and/or color) and focus are two other primary methods to guide the viewer through an image, and these methods can be used together.

The first principal of Leading Lines is that you want to avoid lines coming from the edge of the frame. Often lines that extend to the edge of the frame will lead the viewer right out of the image. Lines that come from the corners are fine because, for whatever reason, these lines tend to lead the viewer into the frame. So it is much better to put the lines into the corners of an image than along the edge.
Torn Veiled View - Tehachapi, California
Notice that the window creates natural lines from the top and bottom left that lead to the tear in the window screen.
The second principal of Leading Lines is how it interacts with the other methods of guiding the viewer through an image. The eyes are drawn to areas of high contrast, so if the beginning of the Leading Line is an area of high contrast (light and/or color), the viewer will naturally gravitate to that spot. If the beginning of the leading line is an area of low contrast, the viewer may have trouble finding it. With focus, the eyes will be drawn to the parts of an image that are sharp and will avoid areas that are fuzzy. Keep this in mind when composing your images.

The third principal of Leading Lines is that they need to lead to something. If there is no punchline, the viewer will be guided to boredom. Leading Lines that don't lead are not Leading Lines. So have something (typically, the main point of the photograph) at the end of the lines as a surprise for the viewer.

Carefully and thoughtfully compose your photographs to use the natural elements that are already there to guide the viewer to what you want them to see. This will keep the viewer's attention longer and give them the impression that what they are viewing is worthwhile.

It is important to make meaningful images. If the viewer cannot find the meaning within a short look, they will move on and the photograph is pointless. Don't let that happen. Use Leading Lines to take the viewer's eyes to where you want them to go.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

House Demolished For Wind Farm While Owners Were Away

Dilapidated Desert Home - Mojave, California
There are hundreds of abandoned homes among the wind turbines in the Mojave Desert. When wind farms expand or new ones are built they buy out the necessary properties, some of which contain houses or other structures. Sometimes the homes are demolished, but often times the homes are left standing. They're just abandoned.

Recently one homeowner refused to sell. Their small vacation home in the Mojave Desert, which sat on five acres, had been in the family for over 100 years. It was furnished and contained antiques and old family photographs. When the family went to visit the house last March to perform maintenance, they didn't find the house. It was gone. Completely gone. Nothing was left of it.
Forgotten Desert Home - Mojave, California
As it turned out, the Rising Tree Wind Farm demolished the building. They said that they were attempting to demolish a different building, but got the location mixed up. They completely wiped out the family's vacation home and all of the memories and keepsakes contained inside.

The family has filed a lawsuit, which undoubtably they will win. I'm sure that there were things in the home that no amount of money will replace, but I'm sure the family will receive a good deal of money for their loss. I hope that charges are pressed, too. If I destroyed my neighbor's home I would be in jail. Why should it be different for a corporation?
Purple Beretta - Tehachapi, California 
This is the dirty part of "Big Green." Destruction is the side effect of all of the wind farms being erected on the hillsides. Destruction of homes. Destruction of beautiful landscapes. Destruction of birds, including some endangered species.

Perhaps society will deem this destruction worthwhile. Perhaps society will look back and wonder why they allowed this to happen. Perhaps society will remain largely unaware. Perhaps society just doesn't give a darn.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Convenience Over Quality - Devolution of the Camera

Forgotten Cans - Mojave, California
Captured with a Nokia Lumia 1020 cell phone.
I dislike posting about equipment, but that's what people want to read about. There is a reason that the most successful photography blogs focus on gear.

People have backwards ideas on photography. Equipment is not nearly as important as photographic vision, creativity and the decisive moment, but few seem interested in those things. And what is important about gear is often ignored.

The evolution of the camera over the last 80+ years is actually a devolution. What we now call large format used to be the standard format. It blows away anything made with even the best digital cameras today, yet few use it. Why? It's big and heavy and slow and otherwise inconvenient.

That's the story of camera (d)evolution: convenience over quality. We traded large format for medium format, then traded medium format for 35mm, then traded film for digital. Each trade was an evolution in convenience and a devolution in quality.
Hot Kitchen - Goodyear, Arizona
Captured with a Samsung Galaxy S cell phone.
People spend hours and hours on the web searching for opinions on cameras, but they fail to understand that it doesn't matter because all of the cameras that they're interested in are sub par compared to what photographers used to use. Cameras now are "good enough" in quality. For most people and most uses, a cell phone is good enough. Any DSLR is good enough. Yet only a few of them are as good as a 35mm film camera (let alone large format!).

If people were really interested in quality, we'd all still be using film. But almost everyone prefers convenience over quality. Few want to fuss with a large format camera in order to gain superior image quality. Me included.

My point is not to bash digital photography. Heck, I use digital cameras just about every day. My point is simply that people will waste all sorts of time worrying about the insignificant differences between DSLRs, while ignoring what really matters. People will chase the latest advancements with modern cameras, yet those cameras aren't as good as cameras made 100 years ago.

That time people waste researching the latest cameras could be used to understand what is truly important in photography. Cameras are tools, and beyond being a means to an end, they're unimportant. You could home-build a camera and capture amazing images if you wanted to.

The less time one wastes trying to figure out which convenient camera is less worse than the others, the more time that person could be actually creating art. Any camera is capable as long as the photographer is capable. If you are truly interested in image quality, forget the latest DSLR, go find a good medium or large format film camera.

Friday, May 8, 2015

No Flickr Friday Today

Picture This by Ron Pinkerton
I'm taking a break from the Flickr Friday Favorites series today. As you may be aware, The Urban Exploration Photography Blog has a Flickr group called Urbex Images. As a conjunction of the blog and Flickr group, I'm publishing a series of posts called Urbex Images - Flickr Friday Favorites, showcasing some of the best images from the Flickr group pool.

This series is highly popular. Look at the right side of this blog under "Popular Posts" and you'll see that eight of the top 10 most viewed posts are Flickr Friday Favorites. People really seem to like it! I feel honored to be able to do it.

Flickr Friday Favorites began as a weekly thing, but that was too overwhelming for me. It takes some effort to put it all together. The last several posts have been every-other-Friday. I'm considering reducing this to once-a-month, perhaps on the first Friday of each month. I haven't decided for sure if that's what I'll do.

It is Friday, so I encourage you to re-look at the previous Flickr Friday Favorites posts. There are plenty of inspirational images to see. Perhaps you missed one or two posts from the series. Click the links below to view past Flickr Friday Favorites.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tell A Story With Your Photographs

Broken Souls - Newberry Springs, California

Photography is a form of non-verbal communication. Successful photographs say something that is meaningful to the viewer. The best photographs tell a story.

All photographs speak. Some say, "I'm boring." Some say, "Pay no attention to me." Some say so much that it's confusing. Obviously, you don't want images that speak like that.

You want images that say something interesting. You want images that grab the viewer's attention. You want storyteller photographs.

In order to achieve images that tell a story you must have photographic vision. You must know what story you want to tell before you can begin to tell a story through a photograph. Images that tell a story begin in your creative mind.

After you know what story you want to tell, you then must figure out the strongest way to tell that story. Often good stories are lost to poor storytelling. Ensure that only what is important to the story is included in the frame.

The final element to telling a story with a photograph is capturing the decisive moment. There is one moment where the scene is the strongest. If you can find that moment and capture it, you'll have an image that will engage the viewer's eyes.

The main take-away is to communicate as strongly as possible with your images. Think about what you want your photographs to say, and try to make that communication happen.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Compositional Rule of Three

Three Eaves - Rosamond, California
I'm not big into photography rules. If anything, rules are made to be broken. Rules guarantee mediocre results, while rarely allowing for greatness. People should never look at photography rules as rules, but more as starting points or general guidelines.

One rule that is not discussed enough is the Rule of Three. This is not the Rule of Thirds, but something entirely different. The Rule of Three states that objects grouped in three are more visually appealing than objects grouped in two, four, or any other number. Odd number groups are better than even number groups, but three is especially good.
Abandoned Motel - Rosamond, California
There are three angled beams.
One easy way to increase the impact of an image is to exploit this rule. Group items by three when composing your photographs. There is a significant difference in visual impact between an image which has three of the same item in it compared to an image which has two or four of the same item.

The number three has a balance that we recognize and appreciate. There is a harmony and symmetry in the number three. Use the Rule of Three when you want those attributes in your photographs.
Old Dormitories - Boron, California
Notice the three large structures.
If you want an imbalance in your photographs, do not use the Rule of Three. If you want an uneasiness in your images, group like objects in even numbers.

The Rule of Three applies to so much more than just photography. It is used in all mediums of art, it is used in presentations and speeches, it is used in plays and movies, it is used in books and comedy. Our minds respond well to the number three.

I want to repeat that rules are meant to be broken. I don't use the Rule of Three all of the time. But it is helpful to understand what the rule is so that when the time is appropriate you'll be able to effectively use it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Abandoned In Boron - The Story of Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison

The Old Boron Housing - Boron, California
This is a place of extremes. Within 150 miles are both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous 48 states of America. It is extraordinarily hot in the summer. It is surprisingly cold at night. The seemingly unrelenting winds blow strong. Water is scarce. Vegetation is scarce. Lizards, spiders and venomous snakes call this place home. This is California’s Mojave Desert.

Very few are brave (or dumb) enough to live in such a harsh and inhospitable environment. Yet this land has secrets. Gold and silver mines have made some men very rich. The largest borax mine in the world is found here. This area is important to aerospace—a history that’s still being written. Many world records have been set and broken close by.

The U.S. military has been using this desert land since before World War II. Edwards Air Force Base, just to the south of Boron, was commissioned in 1933. George Air Force Base, located not far to the southeast of Boron, was open from 1941 to 1992. The Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station at Mojave, found 30 miles west of Boron, was opened from 1942 to 1961. The Marine Corps Logistics Base at Barstow, situated 40 miles east of Boron, has been opened since 1942.

The Boron Air Force Station, located on a hill a few miles northeast of Boron, California (a little ways beyond the borax mine), was commissioned in January of 1952. This was not a typical Air Force installation in that it wasn't an airport. There was a single helipad on-site, and a couple miles away a small dirt runway was constructed. But, for the most part, this was not an airfield.
Old Yield Sign - Boron, California
Instead, Boron Air Force Station was part of an air defense network that provided detection and early warning of non-friendly (enemy) aircraft. They operated RADAR antennas and carefully monitored the coastline and the southern border. This was to prevent a “Pearl Harbor” from happening on the west coast of the mainland.

During the early 1960’s the Federal Aviation Administration began using the RADAR antennas at Boron jointly with the Air Force. A mid-air collision over the Grand Canyon in 1956, which killed 128 people, prompted the federal government to take steps to make flight safer. In 1958 the FAA was founded, and shortly thereafter air traffic controllers were using RADAR data to guide and separate aircraft across the vast expanses of America.

The FAA had been building and maintaining their own RADAR sites across the country, and it was redundant for two agencies to simultaneously operate RADAR antennas. It was determined (as part of the Joint Surveillance System) that the FAA would be the primary operator of RADAR sites, and that the Air Force would have access to the data.

So in 1968 the air defense network began to decommission many of the RADAR antennas operating at Boron Air Force Station. On June 30, 1975, the base official closed and the main (and last operating) RADAR antenna was turned over to the FAA.
Burnt Building - Boron, California
The federal government soon found a new use for the remote base, now abandoned but still in good shape. In 1978 the Boron Air Force Station was converted to the Boron Federal Prison. The airmen dorms were converted to “cell blocks” for 540 male inmates. Several structures were converted into work stations. The military housing became homes for the guards.

This was not a typical federal prison. This was a minimum security prison meant for white collar non-violent offenders. There were no guard towers or barbed-wire fences to keep the prisoners in. The vast harsh desert and the easy punishment were the main escape deterrents.

Some people have said (although I could not find anything other than word-of-mouth to verify) that security was so relaxed that some prisoners had jobs in the nearby small towns. Supposedly one inmate served as a little league baseball coach for many years. Inmates were unofficially allowed to leave the prison just as long as they returned when they were supposed to be accounted for.

Prisoners built car parts for the federal government under the Federal Prison Industries program (also called Unicor). A number of buildings were converted to machine shops and other industrial structures. Inmates earned a small income, but, more importantly, they earned a potential early release.
Old Dormitories - Boron, California
Life at Boron Federal Prison was more resort-like than prison-like. There were televisions and recreation rooms all over the place. There was a gym, garden, amphitheater, and handball, tennis and basketball courts. There were two full-time recreation coordinators who planned activities to ensure that inmates were entertained and happy. If you had to go to prison, Boron was where you wished to be sent. And if you were assigned to Boron, it was because you were either very fortunate or you had connections.

In 2000 the Boron Federal Prison closed for good. The inmates were moved to a facility near Victorville. In the extreme desert environment, one resource that is essential yet difficult to find is water. It is water—or, really, a lack of water—that caused the resort-prison at Boron to shut down.

Now the old military base and federal prison sits abandoned. The buildings have been ransacked and vandalized. There is graffiti everywhere. Windows are broken. Walls are falling apart. The harsh desert and delinquents have not been kind to the many standing structures. A fire destroyed a couple of the buildings.

Five miles north of the tiny community of Kramer’s Junction (which sits a few miles east of the town of Boron) along Highway 395 is the entrance to the Boron Air Force Station. There are two old signs that used to proclaim what this site was, but now stand as monuments of confusion to the highway travelers zipping by. The old signs don’t say anything anymore; you just have to trust that you’re at the right place.
RADAR - Boron, California
Officially the turnoff is Locust Road (which seems like an appropriate name), but you’d be hard pressed to find any signs telling you the name of the street. This paved road takes you about ¾ mile west of the highway to the base gate (which is open) and the old visitor’s parking.

When you enter the site there is an apocalyptic feel. There are dozens of structures, all of which have missing windows, open doors and are in various states of dilapidation. The vegetation is either overgrown or dead, depending on how drought-resistant it is.

The road to the left leads you down to the housing. Going straight leads you past the recreation and support buildings and the dorms. Further ahead up the hill are the work buildings, helipad and hangers, the RADAR antenna, and the chapel.

Boron Air Force Station is open to explore. There are no signs warning you to keep out. It doesn't appear as if it gets patrolled often, if ever. However, this is federal land and I’m sure that the federal government doesn't want trespassers. There is a risk of getting caught. It seems like a case of the controlling agency not having the ability or desire to enforce “no trespassing” (so much so that they don’t even display warning signs), but you never know when that situation changes.
Oh, Well - Boron, California
Other dangers are asbestos, mold, venomous spiders and snakes, coyotes, human excrement, rusty nails, broken glass, and unstable structures. One should exercise extreme caution and not take many risks when exploring this place. Wear appropriate clothing, bring plenty of water, have a first-aid kit, and a charged cell phone.

There are over 50 buildings to walk through. It takes a full day to explore everything. Some buildings have artifacts and furniture that were left behind, but most do not. Many of the structures are empty except for trash left by vandals and delinquents.

As you explore the old base it is easy to imagine what life was like here.

When it was a military base, it must have seemed like Mars to those stationed at Boron. It’s remote now, but it was even more remote 50 years ago when the tiny towns around it were even smaller and the larger towns and cities within an hour drive were nothing more than small towns. The base is on a hill so the views were spectacular. What you see now out of the broken windows of the base housing are pretty close to what was seen when the houses were brand new. Not a lot in the desert has changed.
Razor Fence - Boron, California
When it was a prison, it must have seemed like a tropical paradise. There were no bars and only a few fences. There was plenty to do—lots of recreation. There was even limited access to the “outside” world. For those who worked for the Department of Justice, this must have seemed like a cushy job compared to other prison assignments.

The FAA still operates the RADAR antenna at Boron. It is the one structure that isn't falling apart. It is fenced off, and “no trespassing” signs and video surveillance warn you not to enter. It seems out of place, but only because it is obviously maintained while everything else is obviously not.

A trip to the old Boron Air Force Station (and later Boron Federal Prison) is one of those bucket-list type places for urban explorers. It has an interesting history and there are a ton of abandoned structures to see. This extremely interesting site seems to be deteriorating at a fast pace, so don’t wait too long to visit.

Note: I wrote this article back in January for a magazine. They intended to publish it, but then (for whatever reason) didn't. So I'm publishing here on The Urban Exploration Photography Blog for your enjoyment.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Photography Basics

"Getting the technological foundation to make perfectly exposed photographs was easy, but amounted to nothing on its own. I simply had to commit myself, to express feelings about what I was undertaking." --Bjorn Rorslett
Capturing photographs is easy. Anyone can do it. Most cameras can do it completely on their own nowadays. But if you are not controlling the image and just letting the camera decide, you are a capturing pictures and not making photographs.
"The difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is that the amateur thinks the camera does the work." --David Hemmings
Cameras can do all of the work for you, but that amounts to nothing. In order to make meaningful images, you must take the camera out of auto-mode and force the camera to capture the images as you want them to be captured.
"You don't take a photograph, you make it" --Ansel Adams
In order to force the camera into capturing the photograph the way you want it to be, you must know what everything does. It occurred to me that not everyone reading The Urban Exploration Photography Blog has this basic foundation. So let's talk about some of the controls that are on your camera.

Broken Angels - Bodfish, California
A large aperture was used for this photograph.
Aperture is an adjustable opening in the lens that lets light into the camera. Adjustments are measured in "f-stops" and the exact f-stops available will vary from lens-to-lens. The smaller the f-stop number, the larger the opening (aperture) will be in the lens and the more light will reach the camera. The larger the f-stop number, the smaller the opening (aperture) will be and the less light will reach the camera.

The larger the aperture, the smaller the depth-of-field (amount of the image in-focus) will be. The smaller the aperture, the larger the depth-of-field will be. A small aperture like f-16 will have a large depth-of-field, while a large aperture like f-2 will have a narrow depth-of-field.

However, because of something called diffraction, generally speaking, the larger the aperture the sharper the image. This demonstrates that depth-of-field and sharpness are two different things. You can have tons of depth-of-field but a fuzzy picture and you can have very little depth-of-field but have a sharp image. So choose the aperture that gives you the depth-of-field and sharpness that you desire.

Purple Beretta - Tehachapi, California
A fast shutter speed was used for this image.
The shutter is a curtain in the camera body that opens and closes to allow light onto the sensor or film. Shutter speeds can be super fast or super slow or anywhere in between.

By controlling the speed of the shutter you control how movement is captured. A quick shutter speed will freeze motion while a slow shutter speed will show motion as a blur. You must choose a shutter speed that is appropriate for how you want motion captured. A slow shutter speed will likely require the use of a tripod to prevent camera shake.

Copy Machine - Mojave, California
A "grainy" high-ISO image.
ISO (sometimes called ASA or "film speed") is the sensitivity of the film or sensor. The lower the ISO number the less sensitive it is to light, while the higher the ISO number the more sensitive it is to light.

In order to achieve that greater light sensitivity, the higher ISOs will create a more "grainy" or "noisy" image. Lower ISO images look "cleaner" than higher ISO images. Maybe you want the cleanest image possible, or maybe you want a grainy-looking image. Choose an ISO that is most appropriate to how you want the image to look.

On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
A challenging exposure situation.
Aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together to create an exposure. An adjustment to one will have an effect on the others. For example, if you increase the aperture, you are now allowing more light to enter the camera and perhaps you will have to use a faster shutter or a higher ISO setting.

Cameras nowadays all have pretty good light meters built-in, and will 99% of the time get the exposure correct. Under extreme or unusual lighting conditions you may find that the camera's light meter is incorrect and you may have to figure out the correct exposure yourself. You can change the exposure in manual mode by changing the aperture, shutter speed and/or ISO.

Something else that should be mentioned is dynamic range, which is the sensor's or film's ability to handle highlights and shadows. In a scene with bright highlights and dark shadows, you simply cannot capture the full scene because the sensor or film is not capable. There is not enough dynamic range to keep details in the highlights or the shadows (or sometimes both). This is a limitation that you should be aware of, and you should consider how this may effect the image. You may want to over-expose slightly to retain shadow details or you may want to under-expose slightly to retain highlight details.

Rusted Bolt - Loraine, California
Focus is what visually separates the bolt from the busy background.
Auto-focus works well on most cameras. I don't mind manually focusing to make sure that I have it where I want it. The smaller the depth-of-field the more accurate you must be with focusing.

Sometimes you may want something in the foreground to be in focus and the background out of focus. Sometimes it might be the other way around. You want to draw the viewer right to the subject and careful use of focus is one way to accomplish that.

Do Not Disturb - Mojave, California
This image is toned a little warmer than what the light naturally was.
Different lights give different hues. Some lights are warm (orange) and some are cold (blue). Auto-white-balance typically does a good job of correctly choosing the correct setting for the scene to give a natural-looking hue.

Don't be afraid to play around with the white-balance. Maybe you want the image warmer or cooler for some reason. There is no right or wrong white-balance setting, just whatever looks right to you.

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." --Henri Cartier-Bresson
The best way to learn the basics of photography is to get your camera out and use it. Play around with it. Try different things with it and see what happens. There is nothing like hands-on experience.
"The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it." --Ansel Adams
Once you've got a good grasp of how a camera works, then you can start on the hard part of photography: creating art. To create meaningful images you must have photographic vision. You must dig into your mind and heart.

Friday, May 1, 2015

What Cameras Were Used

On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
I get asked sometimes what cameras I use. People assume that I have a whole bunch of high-end gear. They're usually surprised when I tell them what equipment was used to capture certain images.

Interestingly, of the photographs that are currently in the Abandonment gallery on my website, the majority were captured using a Nikon D3300. The D3300 is Nikon's least expensive and most "entry level" DSLR. In fact, it might just be the cheapest DSLR on the market. 27 of the photographs in that gallery were captured using my D3300.

19 of the photographs in the Abandonment gallery were captured using a Sigma DP2 Merrill. Again, this is a camera that's surprisingly affordable (and surprisingly quirky).

One image was captured with a Nokia Lumia 1020, which, as you may know, is a cell phone. And one image was captured using a Samsung NX200 (an inexpensive compact interchangeable lens camera that I used to own a couple years ago).

I have two quick points here. First, your camera doesn't matter. Use what you have to the best of your ability and be careful to avoid camera envy. Second, you should always be improving. You must keep moving forward. More than half of the images in the gallery were captured within the last year.