Sedona in HDR

March 15, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Blogging, Flickr, Photography | Leave a comment
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This weekend I went to Sedona for a wedding. So, of course I took my cameras. I decided early on I was going to shoot it a bit differently than I normally do, this time. I set the trusty Canon to Aperture Priority and turned my Auto Exposure Bracketing on.

Three shots, spaced between 1 and 2 stops apart. That was how I shot everything. Why? Well, Sedona is famous for its red rocks and blue skies. Since it had just rained, that meant lots of greens on top of the reds. Add to that some puffy white clouds and shadows and you have a lot of dynamic range to try and capture with a digital camera. I wanted to see if I could accurately capture all the mountain details without blowing out the sky or resorting to any camera filter other than the circular polarizer I brought along.

Now, I’m not going into all the details of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, bracketing (AEB) or why the mountains are red. I’m just going to say it was a great time and share a couple of shots with you.

If you have seen HDR before, you may be expecting to see really vivid, almost cartoonish colors here. You won’t. This is a real landscape and the bracketing and HDR composites have been made with that in mind. I wanted to show you that HDR doesn’t have to look surreal. It can be used to capture and display all the details your eyes see. As I mentioned, in Sedona that means lots of red, green and blue. It  just so happens to be colors your camera is made to capture. The bracketing is perfect for sucking details back into the pictures.

How I Take Lightning Photos

September 10, 2008 at 10:42 am | Posted in Flickr, Photography | Leave a comment
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First off, let me tell you that this is not a definitive tutorial on the “right way” to take lightning photos!

This is just how I have done it lately. Early on, I did it the harder way…stand in the pouring rain and point your camera around with the shutter open for as long as it can, or as long you think you can hold it somewhat steady. My first lightning photo was taken this way, and I’ve been trying to improve on that since.

This latest photo, was done using my now preferred method.

I wait for the evening monsoons to roll into the Phoenix area, then I grab my Canon 20D (which hopefully has a full battery charge), a fresh memory card, and my tripod. Oh yeah, and the Wireless Remote Control for the camera. Oh – and the stone bag for the tripod.

What’s a stone bag? Well, its pretty much what it sounds like. Its a three sided canvas bag that clips onto my tripod legs. When the tripod is standing, and the bag is opened – you can toss stones, dirt, water or whatever else might be on location into the bag to add weight. Essential concept if you have a thousand bucks sitting 6 feet above the ground in a decent wind!

Ok, so now the tripod is set up, camera atop it. Stones in place. I point the camera towards where there is lots of lightning. Then I fumble with the controls since it is dark and get the camera set to manual. Lens Focus to Manual – infinity. Aperture to around f8 as a starting point. Shutter to around 15 seconds. This setting allows me to click the shutter a few times without seeming like forever to see if I got any lightning strikes into the camera. With any luck, I have a couple of shots out of 20 that have some strikes. This allows me to see if I need to crank the aperture up or down.

If the bolts are really bright, I may go down to like f11 or if they are far away and quick – maybe bump it up to f5 or so. All depends on how much light is getting in, and how fat I want the bolts. Remember – the shutter is open for 15 seconds and the bolt is pretty darned quick so its 15 seconds of ambient light (street lights, porch lights, headlights, what have you) trying to balance out a blast from the sky that is about a gazillion times brighter, only really fast. Keep in mind when you get to your computer and load these images up for viewing at full resolution 2000*2000 or whatever you are shooting at – all this ambient light will create noise problems. That’s a different story altogether…

So, back to the shots. I started at 15 seconds, f8. By now I have determined how bright the bolts are after a few captures, and adjusted aperture. Now, I can switch the camera to bulb mode and vary the length of shutter. If I get lucky, I open the shutter and BAM! Lightning bolt. Close shutter. Usually, it is open shutter, wait…30 seconds later figure the shot is doomed to noise hell close shutter…BAM! Lightning Bolt.

If there is one thing for sure when snapping lightning photos, the best bolts WILL happen right after you close the shutter. Or, right after you turn the camera in another direction there will be a bolt that splits into 50 fingers that would have filled your megapixels with glory, had you not got impatient and pointed away.

So, that’s it. A little methodology…a lot of luck. As for other details like ISO – I start at around 200 and go up from there. The higher I go, the shorter my shots are. No ISO 1600 shots for 5 minutes. Bad idea, at least with my camera. Perhaps you have a better one.

Oh yeah – safety. This is an inherently risky hobby. That’s why I am not telling YOU how to do it. I am telling you how I do it. But, in the sake of safety – a great way to do it would be to find a parking garage where you can see lightning from and shoot from the 2nd highest level, so you have a roof over your head to protect you and the gear from rain and death. If you find a parking garage that is unguarded, surrounded by cool backdrops that are photogenic at night…good for you. I haven’t found that yet, but I read somewhere on the net that it is an excellent way to do this safely.

Seriously. Standing in a thunderstorm with a thousand bucks or more standing on a metal tripod is risky business. If you can’t hear the thunder but are getting good shots…stay at it. If you hear thunder when you see the bolts…pack up and go home. If you are lying down on the ground and shooting the bolts directly above you…please write up a quick note willing your gear over to me after your death. Have it notarized.

So, that’s it for now. Check out my flickr pages on weather for some shots…

Flickr RSS Problems – Any techies out there with some answers?

August 16, 2008 at 9:02 pm | Posted in Adobe/Macromedia Dreamweaver 8, Atom, Atom 1.0, Dreamweaver, Flickr, HTML, RSS, Web Development | Leave a comment
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I have been experimenting with pulling RSS feeds into my webpages. In fact, this blog gets pulled over to it, as a test.

Right now I am having some problems with pulling a flickr feed. If there are any Dreamweaver Developers around who are familiar with flickr, and/or Atom 1.0 feeds – please read on!


IF I pull in the RSS 2 Feed, from the latest uploads eg: I can work with it well, and do whatever I want.

IF I pull in a set feed (which is apparently Atom 1.0) eg:

I get nothing usable in Dreamweaver 8.

I have pulled every single item from the feed into the dreamweaver page, and nothing. Not even a space or paragraph jump to indicate it tried to pull something, but couldn’t.

Now – if I change the photo set code to reflect that is an RSS 2 feed (ie. add – &format=rss_200) to the end of the line where it connects to the source, I get the same information as I do when pulling the “latest” feed, and can work with it no problem. No problem while previewing the XSL fragment anyhow. Once I call that fragment from an ASP page, it gives me this error:

MM_XSLTransform error:

“flickrgalleryfeed.xsl” is not a valid XSLT document.

Reference to undeclared namespace prefix: ‘media’.

I have tried to declare media using a declaration from the page that works – to no avail. It just wont parse.

How can I hack the page so that it thinks it is parsing RSS2? Is this a dreamweaver problem, an IIS 5 problem, or what? Please help. What is being checked, and by what, to tell my browser (FLock 2 and IE6) that there is a problem???

Remember – the XSL fragment page previews correctly on it’s own. Once it is called by the ASP page it has a problem and generates the error.

I have viewed the feed directly with Flock and other feed readers, so I know that there is valid data there, I just can’t get it to display.


I have posted this in the flickr help forums, and Adobe forums, figured I would toss it up here as another avenue seeking help!

Camera Gear

August 16, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Flickr, Photography | 2 Comments
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Currently, I am using a Canon 20D DSLR with a 28-135mm IS USM lens strapped onto it. I also have an Olympus SP-560UZ. The Olympus is a fairly advanced point-and-shoot which allows quite a bit of manual setting, and it has 18X zoom, which translates to something like a 435mm telephoto, and it goes really wide…10mm or so? Both of them are so great, I can’t begin to tell you! Oh, and I recently bought a nifty little gadget that allows me to open the Canon shutter wirelessly. Makes it a breeze to photograph stuff like lightning, while sitting at my desk with the camera outside. Check my flickr stream for shots of that! Or, even better, I will add one here!

Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike


August 16, 2008 at 7:14 pm | Posted in Flickr, Photography, Social Networking | Leave a comment
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Currently, I am a flickrholic. It’s a disease, really. It has caused me to spend way too much money on camera gear. However, I am hoping to turn this latest hobby into a profession. Perhaps this blog will allow me to do that, by networking with other photographers. If you are a photographer in the Phoenix area, and would like to get together – drop me a line! If you are a model in the area, and want some shots for your portfolio, perhaps we can work out a trade.

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