Posts Tagged ‘Resources’

US Parks Charging for Photos

If you’re a professional photographer shooting groups on United States National Park Service land, you now need a permit to do so.

In a move designed to offset the costs of maintenance and security associated with commercial photography on park land, professional photographers will now have to buy a permit costing between $50 and $250 depending on the size of the group being photographed.

So if you plan to have your wedding photos snapped at the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, you have to factor in the cost of the permit.

As a photographer, obviously this is disappointing. But for American photographers, this new system must be particularly aggravating since the land is publicly owned – so even though US citizens own the land, they now have to pay to use it for certain types of photography.

Camera Raw Default Settings

The Luminous Landscape has a brief, but good article about taking control of the auto settings in Adobe Camera Raw.

I use this trick myself. While I sometimes use the automatic settings as a starting point for processing my images, I find it helpful to begin the process with the image as it appeared in the camera. Once you have changed your defaults so that no adjustments are initially made, it is a quick press of Command/Control + U and you can see the automatic conversion. Going the other way involves a few more button presses.

And like Michael Reichmann notes in the article, it is often the case that the automatic adjustments flatten bracketed exposures into separate images that all look the same. It’s much simpler to view these images initially in their original state than it is to have to uncheck all the boxes that have been adjusted by the auto processing.

Off-Camera Flash

Strobist, an informative blog featuring advice, tips and articles on how to use small, shoe-mounted flash units has a good article detailing Ant Upton’s use of off-camera flash when shooting a soccer preview assignment.

Photo Printing at Target

New York Times tech writer David Pogue has a ridiculous story from one of his readers. In it the reader tells a tale about how Target Photo Centre refused to sell her the prints she had ordered.

This person had ordered prints online and went to the store to pick them up, but instead was greeted with the following:

“The very sweet young girl found my envelope, but it had a note attached to it. The note said, ‘Ask for Copyright release for the 2 pictures lying on the dryer rack.’

She called for assistance, because she was unsure what to do. The person who answered her call ALSO called for assistance, because she also did not know what to do. A third woman arrived.

She told me that because of copyright concerns, Target reserves the right not to sell any picture that appears to be professional. She said, ‘Anyone can just download any picture they want, and we’d be liable. I’m sorry, we will not sell you the prints.’

‘I proceeded to explain to her, as I had to the sweet teenager and the assistant, that one is a picture of my husband, and the other has ME IN IT with a camera! Surely that doesn’t appear to be professional staging. The manager reiterated, ‘I’m sorry.'”

As though any decent photographer needed any extra excuse not to use Target for their photo processing, this probably clinches it.

Beach Photography Tips

The Digital Photography School has posted yet another article full of tips, this time, they cover taking photos at the beach. It’s a good set of pointers for a photographic situation that can be difficult for some photographers.

And if you decide to follow these tips and take your camera to the beach, you may also want to read how to maintain your camera at the beach.

The Digital Journalist

The June issue of The Digital Journalist is online with an impressive collection of articles ranging from the innocuous woes of shooting high-school sports to the ponderous woes of the people of Sudan and Iraq.

This diverse collection of articles gives absorbing insight into both the photojournalists and the stories they are covering.

How to Photograph Sunrises and Sunsets

Digital Photography School has published another photography tutorial, this time on how to shoot sunrises and sunsets.

Off the top of my head, the only thing I would add to this article is to be a little careful about looking directly at the sun when you’re shooting through a an SLR or DLSR. Particularly if you’re using a telephoto lens to shoot, the effects of looking at the sun through a camera can sometimes be even worse than looking at it with the naked eye.

Miscellaneous Photo Links has a roundup of their picks for the best cameras in each consumer class that’s worth a look if your planning on doing some shopping.

The Small Object has a step-by-step guide on how to measure and cut a matte. A good do-it-yourself guide for photographers and artists.

World War I Color Photos is an interesting collection of very early colour photography. From the site: “Although color photography was around prior to 1903, the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, patented the process in 1903 and developed the first color film in 1907. The French army was the primary source of color photos during the course of World War One.”

And lastly, something ridiculous: a Flickr set of squirrels with cameras. No these aren’t just run-of-the-mill photos of cute backyard rodents, these critters appear to be amateur shutterbugs.

A Camera Lens Made of Ice

An interesting experiment with some nice results, Matthew Wheeler has created photos shot through a lens made of ice. It’s obviously not the sharpest or fastest lens, but the results are actually worth a look especially considering the lens was probably melting while he was taking some of these shots.

From Wheeler’s site:

“Matthew Wheeler took his first picture through an ice lens in response to a challenge by Scientific American and CBC calling on listeners to light a fire with a lens made entirely of ice. Too easy by far – Matthew took it one step farther and started photographing the natural beauty of his surroundings through the ice lenses he made.”

Time-Lapse Photography

Check out wonderful time-lapse photography at Some of these nighttime nature shots are lovely and watching the stars spin over mountains is a fantastic sight.

Loading up the large images can take some time, but it’s worth the wait.

New Issue of the Travel Photographers Network

The May issue of Travel Photographers Network is up and worth a look. The June articles include a guide to shooting Scotland’s lovely Isle of Skye and a good portrait series from Rajastan, a review of Adobe Lightroom and other worthwhile pieces.

Timing for Better Night Photography

Ken Rockwell has written a good article on waiting until just the right moment to get the best lighting for your night photography. The quick summary of his piece is that you need to wait until the artificial lights on the ground are balanced out with the fading light of the sky. And trust me, he’s exactly right.

Tips for Better Candid Photography

Digital Photography School has an article about taking better candid photographs. There are a few good reminders here for when you’re shooting without the subject’s knowledge.

Recently, however, while travelling, I have been getting away from candid photography. I have preferred approaching subjects and getting to know them a bit more before taking their photo. If I’m lucky, the photos appear candid because they have become comfortable with me and my camera. I find the results have a greater intimacy to them and I get the added bonus of interacting with some great people.

These close-up candids are a extremely different from raising a long lens at someone from across the street. The skills required are just as much interpersonal as they are photographic. The fact that most of the people I’m dealing with are from foreign cultures whose language I don’t speak and thus, the challenge is even greater. By no means have I mastered the techniques involved, but as I travel, I’m gaining more of the courage needed to continue trying it.

Of course, surreptitious shots can have their value too, and for those occasions, have a look at the article mentioned above.

Before and After Photo Retouching Examples

Brian Dilg has an interesting gallery of retouching examples that show the before and after of a photo and his thorough adjustments to the original image.

These pictures remind us that in this age of ubiquitous Photoshop trickery, what you see is no longer what you get.

As a side note, this site doesn’t seem to load up properly in Safari, so you might want to check it out in another browser.

Top Photoblogs

If you’re a photographer lacking inspiration, check out some of the top sites on this list of the best photoblogs. Maybe the work of others can get you going.

And of course, if that doesn’t do the trick, there’s always my article on Breaking Shooter’s Block.

A Guide to Concert Photography

DIY Photography has an article about concert photography. One of the people commenting on this article mentions the rules change when you’re in a smaller venue and I agree.

When I’ve had the chance to shoot shows with small, independent bands, I like to play around with the flash. Particularly, for more vivacious acts, I like to fire off a flash burst combined with a longer shutter speed. The Flash gives definition to the subject, but the longer exposure catches a lot of the ambient light – those stage lights don’t go to waste. When the band is especially energetic, you can often get interesting streaking in the photos. It captures a lot of movement and truly conveys the vitality of the show. This can also sometimes have the benefit of allowing you to work with lower ISO settings or slower lenses without having to worry about blur.

All this makes me wish I was back in a country where I could see some bands play. I miss rock.

Photographing Northern Taiwan

Taiwan shares its ancestry with its behemoth neighbour China, but the compact island nation has a personality all its own. A traditional legacy resides in the hearts of the older generation and the cultural heritage of Taiwan explicitly reflects this tie to mainland China. Simultaneously, an independent spirit courses through the veins of the younger generation looking to get out from under China’s shadow. The two influences blend to produce a country whose riches include centuries-old temples, the world’s tallest building, and some of the friendliest people you may ever meet.

It’s these warm and avuncular people that, above all else, can make Taiwan a joy to photograph. The capital city, Taipei is decidedly international and foreigners are not uncommon. Even so, the Taiwanese people are quick to recognize a foreign face and welcome you to their country.

As a traveller, this means you’ll always have someone to happily point you in the right direction when you’re lost and someone to recommend the best sights the area has to offer. As a travel photographer, this means your requests to take photos of people will rarely be met with a brusque wave of the hand and a dirty look. Instead, you may often find people are flattered by your desire to include them in your compositions.

Taipei’s temples offer a fantastic opportunity to experience this hospitable character in picturesque settings. At the top of the list of temples to see in Taipei is Longshan temple. Almost always bustling with devotees, the incense smoke is invariably thick inside this ornate Buddhist temple. Both the temple itself and the flurry of human activity within its decorated walls make for great travel photography opportunities.

Other temples worth a visit include busy Bao-an temple, Xingtian temple where women clad in blue robes dispense incense to worshipers, and the comparatively spartan Confucius temple. At the last of these, I had the opportunity to photograph a group of local musicians playing children’s songs for a group of primary school students. The young girls and boys were just learning English and were more than happy to try out their limited phrases on me. Hardly different from anyone else in Taiwan, they revelled in the opportunity to have some fun with a foreign face.

But the sights in Taiwan are certainly not limited to temples. The sensory overload of the markets is another must see/must experience when visiting Taipei.

Asian markets aren’t for everyone. Every major city on this continent seems to have some narrow road where hawkers, vendors and customers converge in an effort to both exchange goods and to cram as many people as possible into one constricted space. Agoraphobics beware.

Taiwan is no exception, but the night markets of Taipei take the phenomenon to a new level. The usual items show themselves in plentiful numbers: knock-off designer handbags and athletic shoes, souvenir teapots, cheap watches and so on. So far, the crowded Taipei streets can hardly be differentiated from Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur, but that’s not good enough for the Taiwanese.

They have a number of tricks up their sleeves to imprint themselves in the memories of their visitors. Perhaps at the top of the list are the snake handlers of the Snake Alley night market. Men wielding microphones will casually tap cobras while exhorting you to sip some snake’s blood. It’s probably an acquired taste and no one will force it upon you. Nor will you be forced to watch the extrication of the aforementioned blood. Again, that’s not a sight on the top of everyone’s list. Just note that these are examples of the visuals you may encounter at certain markets.

And these visuals are examples of what a travel photographer might be able to put in front of their camera lens – just don’t get too close to the live cobras. And do note that certain stalls do request that no photos be taken. Some vendors waive this rule if you ask with a smile to take a photo, but if they waive you off, don’t push the matter or you may end up the next meal of a boa constrictor.

If the vegetarian in you doesn’t find the animal handling and mystery meats to be appealing subjects, other more tame markets await you. One example is the Dihua Street market (most active during the afternoon) whose primary purpose is the vending of sundries and candies. Friendly vendors there will often let you include them in a shot of their goods. Sometimes you may even find people are flattered that you chose to include them in your travel photograph. If that isn’t reason enough to check out Dihua Street, a walk up and down this market may very well leave your pockets full of free samples of candies – some delicious, some simply bizarre.

Shooting the night markets can be tricky business. While plenty of colourful lights will illuminate your subjects, they are not always as bright as you might prefer. There is hardly a patch of ground you can claim for yourself to set up a tripod, so you may find yourself relying either on a higher ISO or on a faster lens. This is especially true if you intend to photograph the people of the markets as a faster shutter speed is necessary.

That doesn’t mean you should be leaving your tripod at home. Taipei has plenty of other subjects available for night shooting. The Xinyi district glows at night with illuminated modern high-rise architecture topped by the massive Taipei 101. Currently the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101 is an impressive architectural feat that will have you gazing skyward with your jaw agape and forcing you into shooting vertical shots – you can hardly fit this mighty edifice into a horizontal frame unless you’re far from its shadow.

Other potentially fruitful subjects for night shooting in Taipei abound. The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and surrounding buildings are lit up and the enormous arch at the entry blazes white in the darkness. Many of the city’s temples are open well past sundown and long exposures inside these buildings can look unreal. The neon-lit city streets are also worth a long-exposure or two. Bright signs and endless streams of traffic mix together in colourful compositions.

Of course, Taipei has a lot more to offer than what has been covered so far, but it isn’t the only place worth visiting in Taiwan. You could spend a week exploring the Northern half of the island alone while being continually kept interested by a wide variety of subjects and destinations.

My trip took me first to Lugang (also called Lukang), a centre for traditional streets and buildings. Surrounded by generic Taiwanese buildings, the town centre retains a taste of old Taiwan with its perpetually curving, narrow alleys, old, character-filled temples and craftspeople who have mastered Taiwanese arts. Both Longshan and Matsu temples are worth a visit while the twists and turns of Old Market Street and Nine Turns Lane will disorient and amaze you.

Nearby Changhua’s main attraction is its enormous great Buddha statue seated on a hill overlooking the city. Also a relatively non-descript town unto itself, the hill named Baguashan features the 22-metre high Buddha, the Nine Dragons Pond, a pair of white pagodas and a multi-storey Buddhist temple.

Changhua is the jumping off point for the nearby Jiji Small Rail Line where you can make stops in small, rural towns and take in some of Taiwan’s countryside. The towns of Ershui and Jiji are the most fruitful locations for sights and in both you can rent a bicycle to explore the nearby paths. My personal favourite location along Ershui’s many roads was the Monkey Protection Area where groups of macaques emerged from the bamboo forest to try to goad visitors into supplying some food.

One way back to Taipei from the Jiji rail line is to pass through Shuishe Village, the main jumping off point to explore Sun Moon Lake. A popular honeymoon spot for the Taiwanese, the sparkling blue waters of the lake make a beautiful foreground to the hazy mountains surrounding it. Among the top sights in addition to the landscapes surrounding the lake is Wenwu Temple, a colourful, multi-tiered Buddhist temple overlooking the azure waters.

Only a week in Taiwan seems too short. In addition to the above locations, extra days in Taipei, a visit to one of the island’s best known attractions, Taroko Gorge, and a trip to Tainan would be welcome additions to the agenda.

Travel Photographer Tips

The gear I used was relatively simple: Two bodies and two lenses (one long zoom and one wider-angle). At the temples, I sometimes found myself using both cameras at once. The energetic activity at a place like Longshan temple in Taipei changes quickly and trying to keep up with it while switching lenses would have gotten tiresome. But other than that, you could make due with one body and just choose your lens based on the situation.

As I mentioned, a tripod is a welcome addition to your gear. Ample opportunities for night photography will make you regret it if your tripod doesn’t accompany you. In fact, I accidentally left my tripod behind while running for a train and lost it. Thankfully, Taipei is one of the better places to find camera gear and I had almost the exact same model replaced within a couple hours.

A polarizing filter may help to cut down on the effects of Taiwan’s pervasive haze, but it will often also aid you in capturing the brilliant orange of the temple rooftops. Without a polarizer the shiny roofs may blind your meter.

As for when to visit, summer typhoons can put a damper on travel photography, so it might be wise to schedule outside of the summer months. I visited in January and except for a ubiquitous haze, the conditions were wonderful – not a drop of rain to be found and the temperatures were comfortable as could be. That said, getting such good weather in Taiwan may be more a matter of luck than planning – other than the typhoons, the conditions are relatively unpredictable.

Breaking Shooter’s Block

If writers get writer’s block, do photographers get shooter’s block? Whatever you want to call it, we photographers are sometimes stumped for an idea of what we should place in front of the lens.

Snapping out of these doldrums (sorry for the pun) is usually just a matter of trying to see something new or seeing familiar subjects in new ways. Sometimes a fun exercise or two is all you need to get your creative gears spinning once again.

The following suggestions for exercising your eye come from a variety of sources (and one of those sources happens to be the brain of yours truly), but one source I must recommend for shooters who could use some help regaining their vision of the world is the writing of Freeman Patterson. His two books Photography And The Art Of Seeing and Photographing The World Around You are both excellent sources for subject ideas and techniques to get you viewing your surroundings in a fresh fashion.

But if you want to go out and shoot right now, here are a couple exercises to try that are based on Patterson’s suggestions. Pick a unit of measurement (e.g. a city block, a meter, a mile, a furlong, whatever), then go out your front door. Go straight for 4 of that unit of measurement. Then, turn right and go 7 of that unit. When you get to the end, take at least 30 photos of anything within the ten meters/yards of where you stopped.

Here’s another one. Get a hula hoop. Go to a place that might have some fun stuff to photograph in your subject matter. A few suggestions: a forest, a junkyard, the city dump (but maybe bring a nose plug), a garden, etc. Now, take the hula hoop, spin around and throw it in a random direction. Take 30 photos of things that fall inside the perimeter of the hula hoop. A macro lens may help with this one, but you might be able to manage without.

Now, those suggestions are not likely to land you a lot of opportunities to photograph any moving subjects. If you’re inclined to have a person in front of your lens, but you don’t happen to have a willing model on hand, perhaps it’s time to try a bit of street photography.

John Brownlow has some excellent suggestions for street photography, in particular overcoming shyness. Check out his article on the subject here. Here is the beginning of his technique for getting started shooting street photography:

Here’s how I suggest you begin to lose your fear. Take four rolls of film and tell yourself that you are going to shoot those four rolls as if you had no fear. Just those four, no more. You are going to believe that you have a total right to be doing what you are doing, and that people are going to accept you. Now shoot those rolls, without worrying if the pictures are any good or not. That’s not what we’re working on here…

To read further, click the link above and follow some of his ideas for getting out of a creative rut that may be caused by the fear of photographing strangers.

If, however, shyness isn’t a difficulty but you are still looking for something a little more unique than your city’s daily life, start planning to shoot at an event. Is there an upcoming festival in your area? A parade? A concert you can shoot? Professional wrestling? A hot dog eating contest?

At all of these kinds of events, people will be expecting the presence of photographers and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting either natural behaviour or willing participation in your photography. When present at such events, I find one helpful technique is to imagine I am covering the spectacle for a local newspaper or a magazine. I ask myself what images would best capture the spirit of the event and what would best compliment a story. You may be surprised at how this will get you moving around and interacting with the players of the events. Whereas you might naturally be inclined to find a comfortable spot and root yourself to it, if you feel like you have a job to do, you will find yourself more willing to challenge yourself to find the best possible coverage of the event.

So, start scanning event listings in your local newspaper and online. Also, ask your friends to keep you abreast of any events that may be of interest to a photographer. That’s exactly how I learned about Calgary’s First Annual Zombie Walk. Without the reminder of a helpful friend, I would never have witnessed the march of a few hundred undead through the downtown streets. An occasionally good source of event information is What’s on When (which, I should note, is a good place to check if you’re planning a trip with flexible dates – you don’t want to end up in Edinburgh a week after the Fringe Festival has ended).

Perhaps event photography isn’t where your passion lies. Perhaps you don’t know where your passion lies. One option is to begin participating in some competitions. Both DPChallenge and Fred Miranda run weekly competitions that feature talented photographers and stiff competition. Each week, a new topic will be assigned and you will have to shoot your photo within the week. The winners are decided by votes from users of the sites. Above all else, winners with get a shot of pride at having bested a talented group of peers. But, perhaps an even greater reward is just the motivation these contests can provide. Similar competitions are also available at Worth1000 and other sites.

Some of the talent at these sites may be daunting for a blocked shooter and not everyone thrives of competitions with others. An alternative is to check’s Word of the Day and give yourself some time to produce a photo illustrating that word or a concept related to it.

If there is no shortage of interesting subjects for you to shoot, but you still find yourself a little unmotivated, perhaps try some new shooting techniques. Do you normally shoot in colour? Try seeing the world in black and white. Never tried cross processing? Give it a go (and yes, you can try it digitally if you want). Never use your flash? See how you can get some different results with it. Always use your flash? See what you can do with natural light. Normally use a tripod? Consider throwing your camera into the air.

The idea here is to break out of your routines. The easiest way to get out of a rut is to change your direction, so do something that doesn’t follow the same path you’ve been taking. Examine your habits then see if you can do something different or even opposite to what you are used to. If you are feeling uninspired while using your current techniques, it’s probably time to stop living in your comfort zone and try something new.

As I think of more, I would like to add further ideas for shooting, but I would be happy to have contributions from readers as well. If you have a good idea, please consider adding it in the comments below.

Street Photography in China

I just noticed a good article by Michael Reichmann from The Luminous Landscape on street photography in China. The article has a bunch of good tips for photographing locals in their own environment and is worth a read.

It reminds me of an older and very helpful article by John Brownlow on street photography on overcoming shyness.

Free E-Book on B&W Photography

For all the black and white film enthusiasts out there, wander over to for a free e-book copy of ‘Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual.’

Virtual Sightseeing

With the advent of the satellite images implemented in the super-sexy Google maps application comes a blog devoted to virtual sightseeing. See some famous landmarks from miles above.

144-Megapixel Camera

If your DSLR just isn’t giving you the size and quality you want, you could always try this 144-megapixel camera.

Granted, it’s not exactly a hand-held DSLR, and I imagine the image files are a bit of a hassle to work with, but I’d love to see just one of the full files to see the detail this contraption would deliver.