One For You, One For Me, and One For Mom

One For You, One For Me, and One For Mom

I love how, in this picture, the kid is the one who noticed me, while the two adults had no idea I was there.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 1600. B&W conversion, crop, curves, and some mild dodging applied in Aperture 3.

Thoughts for improvement: I wish I had been able to nail the exposure a little better to get the kid's face a little less shadowy. There's also a fair amount of detail lost in the shadows in the lower left corner, mainly from the curves adjustment I added--I made a trade-off between overall contrast and shadow detail, but I wish I didn't have to.

Closing Up Shop

Closing Up Shop

Another one from Saturday's group shoot. I passed by this little souvenir shop several times as I walked up and down the foot path next to the beach. I noticed a few tourists from time to time, looking at sunglasses and postcards, but for the most part it was empty. Finally, it was time to close up, and I grabbed this shot of the clerk taking down the signs for the night.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens in aperture-priority exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/40, ISO 1600. I added a slight curves adjustment in Aperture 3 to bring down the highlights and darken the shadows just a little bit. I also cropped out the top fifth or so of the frame.

Thoughts for improvement: The crop ratio here is a little weird, and I much prefer to use standard aspect ratios whenever possible for ease of printing. If I could do this over, I'd either frame the shot a little lower to avoid having to crop, or I'd try to adjust the exposure a little so that the cropped-out portion is dark enough not to be distracting.



I went to another group shoot on Saturday with the San Diego DSLR club. This was my first night shoot, and I was a little intimidated, not having much experience with low-light photography. Being at Belmont Park, a local amusement park, there were a lot of places to set up for cool motion blur shots. I didn't end up taking many of those, though, mostly because it seemed like everybody else was. I mostly ended up taking candid shots of strangers, which was both exhilarating and a little nerve-wracking.

With this shot, I particularly liked the contrast of the bouncer's red shirt with the dark blue sky. I was also lucky enough to catch him from an angle where one streetlight was to his side and one was right behind his head, giving a nice little halo effect on his hair.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens in aperture priority exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 1600. No post-processing.

Thoughts for improvement: The main thing that bugs me about this shot is all the digital noise in the dark areas, especially the sky. Unfortunately, I have neither a good low-light camera nor good noise reduction software to clean it up in post. Something to save up for.

Good Oral Hygiene Is Very Important

Good Oral Hygiene Is Very Important

You might get the impression from this picture that Jason is good at brushing his teeth, but he's usually much more interested in rinsing the toothbrush than actually using it on his teeth. After his bath, I get him to stand on a little stool in front of the sink, then I floss his teeth with one of these. Then I hand him the flosser, which he plays with for a few seconds before dropping it in the sink. I pick it up and put it in the trash can, then brush his teeth thoroughly. When I hand him the toothbrush, he scrubs it across his front teeth once or twice, then holds it out to be rinsed. If I'm lucky, I can convince him to take a couple more strokes, but that's about it.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 1100. White balance set in camera to tungsten. Lighting is just the normal wall lights above the sink. I used Aperture 3 to rotate the image 90 degrees, but other than that, this is straight out of the camera.

Thoughts for improvement: That highlight on the countertop is very bright and distracting--it would be much better if I had taken more time to compose the shot to avoid it. Other than that I'm pretty pleased with the results. I set my Auto ISO settings for a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 after losing a bunch of party pictures last weekend to motion blur, and I think that works pretty well for photographing young kids, who generally won't hold still for a longer exposure.

Jason Is (Not) an Artist

When I picked Jason up from day care this evening, one of his art projects was waiting for me in his folder. We've been getting a lot of these since he moved up to the two-year-old class, and it's nice to see how he spends his time. This time it was a little paper plate that he had painted.

Walking out to the car, Jason, of course, asked to hold it.

"Jason hold that?" he asked.

"You want to hold this?" (I repeat his words back to him a lot, sometimes to make sure I understood him, but sometimes just to make things take longer.)

"Yeah! I made it."

"Oh, yeah, you made it." (See?)

He pointed at it. "Put food. On there."

"No, it's not a plate anymore. It's art now! Are you an artist?"


"Oh, OK. Do you think you might be an artist some day? That would be OK with me."


"OK, buddy, whatever you want."

A few minutes later, as we were on the way home, Jason was staring intently at the plate.

"It's a moo!"

"It's Shamu?"

"No! It's a moo!"

"The moon?"

"No! A moo! It's a moo!"

"Oh! A moo? It's a cow?"

"Yeah! It's a cow."

"I see."

"Cow swimming. The water!"

"The cow is swimming in the water?"

"Yeah! Shamu lives. In the water!"

"Yeah, Shamu lives in the water."

"With the cow!"

A few more minutes later:

"Don't like it."


"Don't like it. The cow."

"Why not? What did the cow do?"

"I don't know."


"It's wet."

"It's wet?"

"Yeah. It's wet. The water."

So, apparently, this piece is a wet, swimming cow that lives in the water with Shamu, which Jason doesn't like, executed in paint on paper plate. Would you like to see it?

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With an imagination like that, it's too bad he's so set against being an artist.



Would m'sieur care for an aperitif?

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 55mm, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/16, shutter 1/2 sec, ISO 200. Lit with an SB-400 from the right and above, set to 1/8 power and shot through a home-made diffuser. White paper taped to a cookie sheet placed to the left for a reflector. Background is lit with a flashlight, shining through a pilsner glass and the bottom of a brandy snifter. I used Aperture 3 for RAW conversion and to clone out a speck of dust on the sensor, otherwise this is straight out of the camera.

Thoughts for improvement: Because I don't have a proper lightstand, I ended up holding the flash and diffuser with one hand while I triggered the shutter with the other. This meant that I had to hold the flash really close to the diffuser, which created a hot spot instead of evenly lighting the diffuser. You can see that in the catchlights on the glasses. I could get around this by either getting a proper lighting setup or by using the shutter release timer, freeing up both hands for the flash and diffuser. I think I might also like to try using a wider aperture--leaving the back two glasses out of focus might give more of a feeling of depth to the picture.



No deep story behind this one; I just felt like playing with lighting and close-up shots. This one had the added benefit of getting me to practice some of my old bartending tricks--in order to get the color change from the bottom to the top of the liquor, I layered blue curacao on top of Chambord. There's green apple schnapps on the bottom, too, but by the time I got this shot set up, the Chambord had completely diffused down into it and I had to settle for only two layers.

It's actually kind of a good thing that I had this idea, because it got me to clean out my liquor cabinet a bit. The apple schnapps actually had several dead ants floating in it. Shows how often I use apple schnapps.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 55mm, in manual exposure mode. Aperture 5.6, shutter 1/2 sec, ISO 200. The glass is lit with a Nikon SB-400 from camera right and above, set to 1/128 power. I taped a white piece of printer paper to a box for a fill card on the left and hand-held a red Netflix envelope under the flash for additional, warmer fill on the right. The background is lit with a flashlight, which is shining onto a wall through a wine glass and a pilsner glass. I used a cordial glass instead of a wine glass for two reasons: first so that I could have it be completely framed by the light on the wall without getting too close to the wall, and second so that I could use less liquor. By getting close up, I was still able to give the illusion of a full-sized glass.

I'd also like to take just a moment here to feel good about myself, as apart from the normal RAW conversion process (which includes some sharpening), this image hasn't been manipulated at all. It's straight out of the camera.

Thoughts for improvement: I was constrained here largely by the need to balance the flash with the background light. If I could get a brighter background light, the layers would be more noticeable in the liquor and I could also get more definition in the glass. It would also be good to get some better fill cards, as you can actually see the Netflix lettering in the glass if you look closely. I also should have done a better job cleaning the glass, as there are a few streaks near the rim.

I Only Have Eyes For You

I Only Have Eyes For You

On Sunday we met up with some friends this weekend to see another free outdoor concert and, as usual, I took a bunch of pictures of the crowd. I was experimenting with manual exposure, trying to get a feel for it. Many of the shots I got were too dark or way too bright, but the ones that worked out seemed to get much better tone than when I use an automatic exposure mode.

In this one, I liked the way that the woman is looking at her boyfriend, and how he seems to be leaning slightly away from her. I also liked the way the way the sun highlighted her face and hair, and how you can see his reflection in her sunglasses.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DX VR lens. Aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/400 sec, ISO 200. White balance correction, B&W conversion, curves, sharpening, dodging and burning applied in Aperture 3.

Thoughts for improvement: It's hard to plan candid shots, exactly. The main thing, I think, is to just have the camera close to hand and preset as much as possible for the correct exposure. The composition could also probably be better, but as grab shots go, this doesn't seem so bad.

Swing, Baby!

Swing, Baby!

We went to another birthday party for one of Jason's friends this weekend. Parks make good venues for kids' parties, in part because they're less crowded than a house when you have a lot of guests, but also because there's a built-in activity for the kids. As you can see, Jason enjoyed himself.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens in aperture-priority exposure mode. Aperture f/8, shutter 1/640 sec, ISO 200. White balance correction and curves applied in Aperture 3.

Thoughts for improvement: This shot was taken right near mid-day, so the light was very harsh. If this had been a professional portrait shoot, I'd have preferred it to be earlier in the day or to have had an assistant holding up a screen to help diffuse the light. Some fill light, either on-axis or from camera left, would probably also have helped. This particular frame worked out well enough with the exposure, but since I was in aperture priority mode, a lot of the others from the party were blurry due to slow shutter speed--in the future I'm going to have to either set my auto ISO configuration better or learn how to expose manually.

The UPS Store

The UPS Store

This building is on the corner down the street from my office, and I drive past it every day as I go to and from work. I've been waiting months for some decent clouds to show up at the right time of day so I could take a picture of it.

Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, aperture f/11, shutter 1/500 sec, ISO 200. Lens correction for barrel distortion, curves, dodging and burning applied in Photoshop CS5.

Thoughts for improvement: The big mass of clouds at the right could have a bit more texture. It would also be good to try shooting around sunset, when the light is warmer.

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