On Gossamer Wings

Recap – Five Tips for Photographing People

In case you missed the piece a few months ago, you can always go back to read “Five Tips for Photographing People“.  I hope they help!

Canon Giveaway

You guys know I’m a Nikon man, but I still occasionally will let myself be seen with Canon shooters like Scott Bourne.  But only rarely, and if he buys dinner.  Anyway, Scott is running a contest over at PhotoFocus to win a free Canon 5DMKII.  Look at that picture on the page!  It doesn’t even have a lens… what a cheapskate.

Daily Photo – On Gossamer Wings

I had spent most of the day inside the Forbidden City, trying my best to find little bits here and there. Tiny discoveries, you know. I was pretty tired after a day of searching, but I still had barely enough energy to keep exploring into the night.  At that point, I decided to go to another, older area of the city.

There were hundreds of quaint shops, the smell of fresh food, families walking to and fro… it was all very nice.  I came to cross a little raised bridge, and I saw this woman standing there.  She was dressed in vintage Chinese grab and holding a delicate umbrella.  While talking with her friends, the light caught her umbrella just right, so I snapped a quick photo.

High Dynamic Range Photo

View Comments

Pretty Girl in Cherry Blossoms

Charity Update

Team Stuck In Customs has put just over $8,000 into Kiva… thanks everyone! To see more and join in the fun, visit our Charity page. Here’s a snippit from the page…. some of the stuff I have personally put money into:

I have lent money to a small potato farm in Peru started by a 25-year-old mom named Elizabeth, a bicycle repair shop in Vietnam managed by a gal named Nguyen Thi Huong, a car mechanic’s shop in Lebanon run by a gentleman named Ali, an 18-year-old girl named Iris in El Salvador that sells pretty flowers, a small livestock operation in Tajikistan run by a 47 year old gentleman named Tochidin, a family of 7 in Cambodia that does wooden house construction, a 39-year-old photographer in Mongolia named Batnairamdal who took a bad photo of himself, a small meat market in Ghana run by a 70 year old woman named Ama, a mom named Essi in Togo who sells dried fish, a 24-year-old gal in Ecuador named Cristina who sells rice, sugar, and tuna, and last, a 41-year-old woman in Nicaragua named Gladis who sells cosmetics and jewelry so her children can have a better quality of life.

Daily Photo – Pretty Girl in Cherry Blossoms

I started riding the wave of the cherry blossom bloom in Osaka before ending up here in Kyoto. All the news stations in Japan have a long nightly report that shows a fluttering line of pink cherry blossoms that flow across the map from the west to the east.

It’s a huge national celebration — and it’s really fun to be part of the sensation. There are hundreds of tiny and large parks all over the country that have cultivated gardens of these special trees. I visited a few dozen, and I enjoyed wandering around taking photos while the blossoms fell down like gentle pink snow. Millions of Japanese people also go out to enjoy the event. This girl was standing alone under a tree, taking photos and just sort of smiling, enjoying everything. I gave her the international sign for “mind if I take a photo???” She gave me a little bow along with a mouth-covering giggle before relaxing into a smile.

Pretty Girl in Cherry Blossoms

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/1.4
  • ISO220
  • Focal Length50mm (50mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

View Comments

Horses Aloof

Review in Germany

There’s a nice review of the HDR Video Tutorial on a German site called Fotografr. Of course, it helps if you read German. Danke!

New Video Tomorrow!

I’ll release the next Stuck In Motion video tomorrow… get ready! Tell your friends! :)

Daily Photo – Horses Aloof

Speaking of the HDR Workshop, I believe I edited this photo during the London Workshop. There is a portion of time when I select a RAW photo to convert into an HDR image, and this was the one I chose. I had never processed it before, and I really like doing these live in front of people. I talk out loud so that people can hear my thought processes. Inevitably, there are problems, but this is what I like about this format. I know that photography and post-processing is basically just navigating around one problem to the next. Maybe people think I don’t have problems when I work on these… but I do! And it’s good to see, maybe, how I get around them.

High Dynamic Range Photo

View Comments

Horse in Window

Daily Photo – Horse in Window

I can never decide if I enjoy naming photos or not!

I think I enjoy it when I come up with a good name, and I don’t like when I come up with a boring name. Let’s take this one for example: “Horse in Window.” I mean, how uncreative can I be? What’s wrong with me?

When I am editing photos, and the muse visits, I am like a man possessed. I can rip through a bunch of photos and make some nice little creations. But then I click “Save As…”, and I just blank out on a name. I think the creative part of my brain for making photos is different than the part for naming things.

I do enjoy writing, and I often find that the words flow easily. This bit of me seems disconnected from the photo-editing bit, though.

There is a small slice of solace, I think, in considering the names of some of the great paintings from my impressionist heroes. They have names like “Girl in Field” and “Sun on Water.” Not too exciting, but they do stand the test of time. But “Horse in Window”? I think not!

HDR Photo

View Comments

Horses at f/1.4

Review Update

House in Queenstown

Click to Zoom

Have you seen the Nikon 50mm Review? It’s been recently updated with a few new photos for you.

Staying in Queenstown

I had a heck of a time finding a house that looks to the west, so I can selfishly take photos every evening at sunset! Here is a quick photo of a place in Queenstown in an area called Kelvin Heights. We found this spot on Bookabach.co.nz — which is a great resource for finding rental houses. Thanks for all the suggestions to use that site from visitors here on the site. I appreciate it!

Daily Photo – Horses at f/1.4

Everything looks better at f/1.4! Kids, flowers, horses, and anything else with nice details really look amazing at f/1.4. In fact, this is a tiny little secret in the photography world. Even a rookie can make something look pretty special when using this lens! Sure, it doesn’t always work out, and you still need good composition, but some extremely unique photos pop out from time to time.

By the way, if you get one of these lenses, a simple tip is to focus on the inside part of the closest eye. That usually works out very well.

I saw this guy on a little photowalk in Yellowstone. I gave the photowalk group an assignment — to find interesting stuff and take photos on aperture priority. This is one of the ones I came back with to present on the big screen. It was fun to sit there with everyone after the walk and compare/critique photos. I usually don’t have a chance to do that on photowalks, but the leisurely pace was a welcome change in my too-busy life!

HDR Photo

View Comments

Horse in Field

Compression

Do you enjoy taking photos while making use of compression?  It’s sort of a geeky photography technique that involves zoom levels beyond what the eye can do on its own.  These end up having a bit of an “interesting” look, just because these view cones are impossible to the naked eye.  Personally, I don’t do a lot of it because my wide-angle lens is usually on… but I do enjoy the look.

I have this photo included in the full Nikon 200-400 Review.

Daily Photo – Horse in Field

In the afternoon, the horses at the ranch where I was staying are let out of the corral to graze in the meadow.  The sun gets low, and just before sunset, everything is lit with a very strong light at a low level of incidence.

View Comments

Man Crossing Street

From the best-selling ebook ever!

Can I share a secret with you?  Our eBooks have made more money than my major-market Peachpit book.  Yes, that’s right!  Even though the real book sold out on Amazon in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, these ebooks have just been amazing.

The best-selling one is “Composing the Photo“, which is one of our 3 ebook offerings.  Today’s photo below is shown towards the beginning of the book.

Thank you all for participating!  I know that many people are on a budget and want to improve their photography.  That’s why we offer a variety of things at many prices…  So I hope for the price of a few cappuccinos that we can make your photography world even more wonderful.  Even if you are just a beginner, there should be many great nuggets in there for you!

Daily Photo – Man Crossing Street

I spent a lot of time in this dynamic area of Tokyo.  It’s sort of the techno-nerd electronic center of the Japanese world.  So I felt right at home there with my fellow nerds.

But this guy certainly stood out.  He was crossing the street and looking extremely Japo-cool.  I pulled up my 50mm and waited for the time to feel right before I snapped the photo.  Afterward, of course, it is kind of fun to look at little bits of the photo and find out, compositionally, why the photo did indeed feel “right” to take at that moment.

HDR Photo

View Comments

Wheat Horses

Your Favorite Woody Allen Movie?

So, some of you know that I am a fan of Woody Allen stuff. In fact, I just finished his audiobook from Audible… there were some funny bits in it.

I have a few favorite Woody Allen movies — what are yours? This title comes from Love & War. It was kind of slap-sticky, but there were some super-funny scenes in there. At the end, they start talking about “wheat”, and it reminded me of these horses.

Daily Photo: Wheat Horses

This HDR is from a single RAW file, as about 20-30% of my photos are. If you look in the free HDR Tutorial here on the site, you can see page 3 talks a bit about how to do this. It’s quite easy!

Before, I talked about my desire to try to get off the main highway in Iceland. But when you have cool horses like this lining up along the highway, it’s hard to find a reason to get off!

I don’t always like to use a flash when taking photos of horses because I think it scares the animals. I prefer just to shoot wide-open with natural light and see what I can recover later with the HDR process.

In this case, these two horses were playing with one another, weaving their heads and necks together in a little dance. I stood there with my camera, trying not to intrude on their private horse-moment, when they stopped for a quick second in this pose.

HDR Photo

View Comments

Five Tips for Photographing People

Five Tips for Photographing People

I’ve been talking about this for a long time, so I wanted to go ahead and give you some free tips for on-the-street people photography.

From various conversations, I think that photographers are REALLY interested in taking photos of people they see on the street. We can’t help it, right? Our eyes are drawn to interesting “things” — not just landscapes. And if we see an interesting person, we really want to take their photo, yes? But then, often times, we don’t even pull the camera up to our eye because we are shy, embarrassed, or think about all the horrible things that could go wrong. So, maybe these tips will help!

Look, honestly, I don’t know if these will do you any good or not. But these are some things that I personally think about. So, insofar as some of my insights are useful to me, maybe they will be useful to you too!

Even though I’m known for “landscape photography”, I actually enjoy all kinds of photography! I take hundreds of people photos, object photos, food photos, model photos, B&W photos, etc. I assume that you take many types of photography too.

1) If you prefer to take photos of people as they are acting naturally, go ahead and take the photo before they notice you. You are a photographer, and this is you. You capture life… if you see something interesting whether it is a landscape, a pile of peaches, or a person that strikes your fancy, go ahead and do it. If you like and it is convenient, you can always go show them the photo after you are done. I do this whenever it makes sense, and I have a nice little interchange with the person.

2) Keep an extra camera ready for people shots. When walking the streets, I normally have my “big” camera ready to go for city landscape shots. My tripod is on. My wide-angle is on. It’s in that “mode.” If I am going to have to switch lenses, it will take forever, and the moment will be lost. So, I carry a second camera on a sling around my shoulder for people shots. On that camera, I have an 85mm or 50mm prime lens. Now, you don’t have to have this exact setup by any means, but having ANY kind of second camera for people shots is recommended.

2b) I find that the 85mm prime keeps me outside something I call the radius of intimacy. That is, when you use a 50mm, you are so close that people often stop acting naturally, unless they are a professional model or a natural thespian.

3) If they ARE likely to notice you, be confident and deliberate, softly asking permission with your eyes. This is a very subtle and hard thing to explain. I usually raise my eyebrows while I raise my camera, clearly indicating, “I’m about to take a photo. Everything is okay.” If they don’t want you to, they will make it clear. Usually, they say it’s just fine. People like to be thought of as interesting.

4) If they are very close, I ask permission out loud. Often times, I don’t want them to pose… so I say something (smiling!) like, “You look very interesting — can I take a photo?” Once they say yes (98% of the time they do), I usually ask them not to pose and carry on about their business. Then I start taking a bunch of photos and enjoy the pressure of capturing the moment.

5) Don’t be shy! If you feel overly shy, it may be a larger indication that you are letting fear motivate you rather than the opportunities that life provides. So, if you feel doubt or fear, just try to channel me and be brave and forthright.

Regarding that last one, seriously, folks, just be cool and confident with it. If you want to do it, and it feels right, just do it. Do not worry so much about rejection. Yes, you WILL get rejected 2-10% of the time depending upon how likable you are. Out of 500 people photos, I’ve been rejected maybe 10-13 times. It doesn’t bother me a bit. So what? People say no… big deal. The fact is that MOST people LOVE to have photos taken of them. To be interesting in a world of same-ness is a tremendous thing. Chances are that no one has ever taken a photo of them before, and they will feel special that you thought they were special.

Most of the time, after I take a photo and people look over at me, wondering, “Why did you just take a photo of me?” I usually say, “You look cool!” Or, “You look awesome!” Or, if they don’t speak English, I give them a thumbs up and a facial indication that I think they look cool. 99% of the time, they smile and carry on.

If you’re taking a photo of a kid, just get a steady nod from the parents before. Bend down to take the photo, look up at the parent, saying, “is it okay?” with your eyes. They’ll say yes or no… There is a significant number of moms out there that watch too much sensational news and assume that 50% of the population are pedophiles… but, maybe you’ll hit that other 50%! Again, we’re all just photographers, and if we see a cute or interesting kid, of course we want to take a photo! It’s what we do! There is no need to apologize for it! :)

Daily Photo – Salaryman in Tokyo

While I was in the middle of making a time-lapse sequence (see the video below the photo), I was using my D3S on a sling to take quick photos of interesting people. They were everywhere!

Behind me, waiting for the light to change, was this young salaryman. Salaryman is the Japanese word for “businessman”. That word salaryman always cracks me up for some reason. Anyway, he was this young kid, standing there in a most unassuming way in this nice suit. I spun around and grabbed a quick shot.

He looked a little confused at me after I took it. I gave him a nod of thanks, and he smiled in a surprised way then went merrily on his way.

HDR Photo

Videos – Life in Japan

While I am busy shooting landscapes and people in Japan, I also take time to make some videos.  Below are a few of them from recent past.  The music from both is by the great Patrick O’Hearn (buy his stuff!).  Enjoy!

View Comments

The Golden Knights are Bad Ass

Having a Great Time at OpenCamp!

I gave a little talk yesterday called, “Clever Tricks for Making Your Blog More Beautiful and Popular”. We had a good time, and I hope the crowd enjoyed it! If you want to know more about OpenCamp and the other speakers, including Chris Pirillo, Cali Lewis, and more, see this Open Camp Day One writeup by Phillip Coxwell.

Daily Photo – The Golden Knights are Bad Ass

I have not had much time this weekend to process new photos, but I did take a moment to process this one.

This was taken during an evening demonstration on the night before OpenCamp began. It was an unforgettable night with the Knights! After falling a few miles from the sky, the skydivers would open up their chutes & pyrotechnics and let loose. Since I had jumped with them the day before, they let me get up close on the landing to get some tight shots.

I also may go out to Fort Bragg, where they are based, and do a bunch more shots in the future. I look forward to that very much!

Visit the Golden Knights on their website, and follow them on Twitter at @ArmyGK.

HDR Photo

View Comments
Welcome to STUCK IN CUSTOMS Welcome to my travel photography blog!
Enjoy the daily photos, tips, tutorials & more!
Newsletter Sign Up
The Most Beautiful Newsletter Ever!


x