Fall Color with my new little Sony

During my first of many adventures in Japan, I noticed that I had a camera gap. Meaning I felt there were times where my DSLRs were too much camera to use while site seeing. As well as my iPhone 11 Pro max did not offer the versatility of a point & shoot camera. I really enjoy how freely it is to capture images with it and not interrupt the pace of the experience. But the major drawback of smartphone camera systems is the inability to change settings such as aperture, shutter or ISO.I still love shooting any of my DSLRs but… they are cumbersome when it come to taking photos in the moment without becoming an observer.

And ever since then, I’ve wanted a point and shoot camera to fill in that gap. Something pocket size with a respectable auto focus system, about 20 megapixels and with a fast wide to medium zoom. And Thursday, my new Sony’s ZV-1 showed up. It has a 20.1-megapixel sensor, Zeiss 9.4-25.7mm (35mm equivalent, 24-70mm) F/1.8-2.8 lens. It too has a shit ton of autofocus points and I can fit it into any of my pockets with no problem. Now with new gear, it’s testing time.

I wanted to spend some time getting familiar with my new Sony’s features and functions along with capturing some images of the fall foliage in and around Detroit. After a long non-creative workday Friday, I was eager to get home and play with my new little point & shoot. But unfortunately, Mother Nature was being a bitch and was not willing to cooperate. The weather conditions were hit or miss, and I’d hope for more favorable weather in the morning. Woke up early Saturday morning but my plans were to do chores before playing. I needed to start laundry, gas up my car along with do some grocery shopping. And after that, I was going to go and have some fun at Belle isle with my little Sony.

During the overnight hours, the temperature dropped down close to freezing, so I remote started the car. Grabbed my glasses, wallet, keys, mask and was out the door. Stopped at 7-Eleven to get gas before heading to the grocery store. And as I was patiently pumping gas in the frosty morning air, I looked up and noticed the abundance of fall color popping all around me in the soft morning light. That’s when I heard myself say, “Go back home, get your camera and let’s go shooting!”

So, I raced back to my apartment, left the car running and doubled stepped it up the stairs. I thrust the key in the door, twist right, push and the door fly’s open! Sprinted directly to my cheap Meijer nightstand where my Sony was chilling and scooped it up. Locked the door behind me and it was a mad rush to the car. As I made my way to the freeway, I spotted a vibrant autumn scene at a nearby church. It looked like there was something going on at the entrance of the church and I didn’t want to disturb them. So, I timidly pulled in the driveway, stopped short and turned on my hazards. With my little Sony in hand, I respectfully and inconspicuously captured the stunning autumn scene. Then jumped back in my ride for some quick heat and was excited to continue taking photos on at Belle isle.

Once on the island, it took me a hot minute to scope out my subjects. And when I did, my little Sony preformed magically. It rekindled my dwindling passion I once had with photography when I first began. I found myself wanting to shoot anything and everything. One subject after another, I stop, half ass park my car, rapidly compose and shoot then hop back in to warm up and chimp. After about an hour or so, that star of ours was well on its daily journey to the horizon and it was time to make my way back to Southfield.

After a few stops to get groceries, I made it back to my apartment safe and sound. And once I got my food put away it was time to see how I did with my little Sony. The images straight from the camera are amazing. Sharp details and rich colors. And no, I did not bump up the saturation or add any vibrant in post. (Only minor exposure adjustments and resized them). I was a little leery about the touch screen and using it to select what I wanted to be in focus. But the more I used it, it quickly became second nature and thoughtless to use. The only issue with my new Sony is that it didn’t come with some type of lanyard or hand strap. But a quick search on Amazon took care of that.

All in all, I’m really excited about my new ZV-1 and the rekindling of my passion for photography. I can’t wait for the United States to get its shit together and get healthy so I can safely travel again and experience new adventures.

Stay safe and keep busy,

Steven

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Photographing more Consistently: Having a Shooting Routine

Ever since my love affair with photography began, I’ve noticed the images from seasoned photographers had a uniform look and feeling to them. And I wanted to do the same with my images. I figured they had a system or a process of their own to achieve such a look. As a result of that thinking, I started developing a shooting routine to aid in capturing a consistent look to my images. “Shooting routine? What’s that? I define it as a checklist of things to do to help you see the image and think about how to capture it before you take the shot. Thing such as which body and lense to use, to shoot it landscape or portrait, how is your depth of field along with many others. After years of try, fail, learn and repeat; I’ve come to trust my routine. It has become something I do instinctively. I’d like to share it in action at my favorite place in Detroit, the conservatory on Belle isle.

I start my routine by walking from room to room, camera still tucked away, curiously seeking out subjects of interest. All the while keeping mental notes on what’s catching my eye. After I’ve made a complete lap of the conservatory, it’s time to get the camera out and revisit those areas of interest. As I approach my subject, I choose what lens I’m going to use and closely study it. Trying to sort out what is catching my eye and where are the edges of my shot. Next, I either stand or setup my tripod in the location where I want to create my image. As I Look through the viewfinder, I ask myself a series of questions.

  • Where do I want my subject?
  • Will it be a landscape or portrait shot?
  • How large or shallow do I want my depth of field?
  • Is there anything in the foreground and or background that would be distracting to the viewer eyes?
  • What’s in the light and what’s in shadow?

If I’m satisfied with my answers to my questions, I’ll then take the shot. After the exposure, I will review the shot to see if it matches the image in my mind’s eye. If not, I’ll ask myself “What must I do to match the shot in my head?” Do I need to get closer or farther away? Larger or smaller aperture? Or do I need to completely recompose the shot? After doing whatever necessary changes, I’ll reshoot and review. And will repeat this cycle until I feel I’ve captured the image I was looking for. Sometimes I’ll walk the route in reverse. For a different point of view. If I find something interesting, I’ll go through the same steps to capture the shot.

Shooting Routine_1

As I said earlier, I’ve come to trust and rely on my routine to capture images. It helps me shoot with intent and allows my creative eye to be my guide and not my impatience. It has also help me develop my sense of aesthetics and focused in on what has caught my attention. There are times where I cannot use my routine and I’m forced to improvise. For example, while doing my research on Antelope canyon, I found out the guided tour moves in one direction and you pass through it only once. And with the amount of money I spent on hotel, rental car and airfare, I wanted more than one chance to capture the fluid like sandstone and sharp contrasting desert light. So, I scheduled two tours to double my chances to shoot successfully. You can see the results of that adventure here, Antelope Canyon 2.0.

Something else that help me develop my shooting routine was when I lived in downtown Detroit. I had a habit of walking around the city with my headphones in and actively looking for images. I did it as often as I could and at every hour of the day. And during all four seasons including winter until it was too cold to walk around. I would pick out a certain area of the city and would crisscross the area searching for compelling subjects. I would frequently walk the same block, from every possible direction. Continuously taking notes on what’s in the light and shadows as well as what time of day it is. Was it going to be a morning, midday or afternoon shot? Would it be a wide or narrow field of view? And when I felt the time was right, I would head out with my camera and capture the shot I had found. I have very clear and fond memories of each of those images. During that time, I not only explored Detroit, I began to understand the importance of going and looking for a shots along with having a shooting routine. It took me years to develop it and I’m always willing to improve upon it. But it’s “My Routine” and it may not work well for you. It’s up to you to come up with or piece together a routine that works well with your style of shooting.

Shooting Routine_2

For me and my photography, having a shooting routine is a healthy practice to have. It has become an unconscious habit with a cadence that is unique to my shooting style. Stopping me from becoming impatient and helps focus my creative eye to capture more exciting images.

 

Until next time,

Steven

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How I shoot with intent: Setting some personal goals

If you follow my blog, you know I’m always stressing how important it is to know what it is your trying to show before you start shooting. This practice is called shooting with intent. You may ask yourself, “Why is that so important?” For me, it motivates ambition and sparks creativity. Along with allowing your creative eye to be your guide. To shoot with intent means you consider many factors before creating an image. Such as what camera and lense to use, where are the edges of your shot, what auto focus point to use, just to name a few. Putting thought into your photography and not hoping that you’ll “Get lucky” and somehow magically capture the images you want. For me, setting some goals for myself insures I shoot with intent. Let’s talk about goals and how to come up with some of your own.

The only wrong way to come up with goals is to not to have any. It could be as simple as looking for some interesting light or trying some different settings. When it comes to making goals for yourself, you want to state what it is you wish to accomplish, how long you’re giving yourself to do them and ideas on how to meet them. Keep in mind, you’re not writing an essay; simple one liners will do fine. You can keep them on your phone, in a notebook, on the back of a business card, somewhere to keep track of them. And bring them with you every time you venture out. I keep mine on my phone, so I know they’re always with me and I can add to and or edit them wherever I go.

It’s important to be realistic with yourself when making them and that they’re within reach of your skill set. Something that if you push yourself just a bit, you’ll be able to accomplish it. It’s a good idea to set deadlines for them as well. A day, a weekend, a month or a year. Some kind of time frame so you don’t get lazy and procrastinate. The idea is to challenge and expand your creativity, not to overload yourself. If you don’t meet your goals or a deadline passes you by, don’t be hard on yourself. Reset them and try again later. Just don’t give up on them. Follow the links below to see examples of my shooting with intent.

In each instance, I had a clear target to aim for. Some took me longer than others to check off my list, but they kept me focused and actively seeking the images I wanted. It also helped me rediscover my excitement about photography that had been slowly eroding away from doing the same unstimulating routine over and over again. Shooting with intent also help me define my growing style of photography. And after meeting each goal, I have a greater level of satisfaction and fulfillment with my photos. Because of that, I always have a list of ongoing goals to insure I’m shooting with purpose. Here are a few of them.

  • Finding a unique image
  • Interesting light and shadows
  • Sense of speed
  • Sense of aesthetics
  • Strong and interesting composition

Adding some type of goals to your routine can be a healthy challenge to motivate your drive and grow your creativity. Something to guide your creative journey through photography and to start to shoot with purpose. I hope this post shed some light on shooting with intent along with encouraged you to set some goals for you and your photography.

Stay safe and keep busy,

Steven

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Common mistakes made in Aviation Photography

I like to shine a spotlight on some common mistakes I’ve made in the pass along with countless others who love photographing aircraft. Mistakes if left unchecked, can turn into bad habits and poor processes. There are four common errors I want to discuss that deals with aviation photography, but the same infractions can be seen in other genres of photography as well.

The first is pure black shadows. The undersides of wings, tailplanes and anywhere that falls into shadow. If your image were shot in early morning or late afternoon, most likely your shadows will be extremely dark. It’s those images shot mid-day with shadows that are as dark as night that I want to address. Here’s the thing, shadows are darker tones not pure black. Don’t believe me, go outside and take a look. So, why does this happen? One of two reasons. Either it’s a result of poor exposure or bad post processing. You the photographer, should understand how your camera exposes an image and know how to properly adjust your settings to get the correct exposure. If you use Lightroom, Photoshop, Elements or whatever… You should have a good understanding on how to correct and adjust exposure in your software. I can’t stress this enough, Google and YouTube are your know it all friends. Take advantage of them and learn from them.

The freezing of propellers on aircraft and rotors on helicopters is the next issue. When you freeze the rotors on a helicopter or the prop on a plane, you end up with a very silly looking image. As if they’re floating motionless about to fall out of the sky. It’s an easy mistake to make and can be challenging to overcome. It’s a result of having your shutter speed too fast. And it goes against that saying of having your shutter speed be at least your focal length. Meaning, if you’re shooting with a 400mm lens, your shutter speed should be at least 1/400th of a second. Even at 1/400th it’s just barely enough to blur a prop and will still freeze a main rotor. Here’s a technique that I’ve use with a fair degree of success. I’ll start shooting around 1/320th and after each pass of an aircraft, I’ll lower my shutter speed. Shoot and chimp to see if it’s sharp. If it is, I’ll either go slower or stay where I’m at. And if the image is blurry and out of focus, I’ll crank up the shutter. Getting rotor blur on helicopters is much more difficult. They spin much slower than props. Which means you’re going to need to lower the shutter speed even lower. I’m not going to try and make it sound easy. Because hand holding and shooting a large telephoto lens at slow shutter speeds is not. But with time and practice, you can and will find the shutter speed range you’re comfortable with.

Next, let’s discuss poor composition. Not talking about images of flying aircraft. Which is heavily influenced by what auto focus point you have selected. I’m talking about images of aircraft on the ground. Placing your subject dead center of the frame is not only boring, it’s less appealing then a well composed image. An overlooked aspect of composition is foreground and background. Having them cluttered or distracting can take attention away from your subject. I feel the biggest accomplice to poor composition is being in a hurry to “Get the shot” and not thinking about what’s visually interesting and how do you want to show it.

Therefore, I feel every photographer should nurture their creative eye as much as possible along with develop some type of shooting routine. To understand what makes an image “Pop”, how to draw your viewers eye deeper into your image and to connect with them. It’s always good to have somewhat of an idea of what you want to shoot before heading out to an event. Just knowing what it is your trying to capture is a start to having a routine. And it’s part of mine. Once I’ve an idea of what I’m trying to capture, I then try to find the edges of the frame that is catching my eye. I then compose my image, shoot and review. If I’m not pleased with the way it turned out, I then recompose, shoot and review until I’m satisfied. There will be situations where you will not have enough time to go through your routine. But if you have one and you practice it enough. When the time comes, you’ll be ready and be able to quickly go through the motions of your routine to capture the moment.

Good Composition

Finally, is poor sorting of images you’re showing. Showing 7-8 slightly different images of the same aircraft is a quick way to lose your viewers’ attention. If it’s your personal website, Facebook or Instagram. You should be able to find the best images of what it is that you want to share with your audience. Coming up with a sorting process will help you find the right images to show. Having some sort of process and the discipline to follow it is key. Here’s a link to my process that I’ve been using successfully for years, “The Pain of Sorting”. It may work well for you or it may not. You should find a sorting process that is right for you.

With a better understanding of exposure, a newfound confidence in panning, some experience with composition along with knowing how to find the images that best express what you want to show, your photography will continue to grow.

 

Until next time,

Steven

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