Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

How to get a red road at night

Usually I light up the road at night with my headlights, but I figured out this strange trick by accident! I was parked, facing the other way, and the tail lights were illuminated because the headlights were on. There was barely any red visible on the road itself, but the long exposure ended up making everything on the ground and walls a wondrous red!

Daily Photo – Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

Here is another recent photo from my trip to the desert. This was a very long exposure from a beautiful road in the Valley of Fire. Those glowing lights in the far distance? Those are the lights of Las Vegas, plainly visible even though it is still 60 miles away!

Driving through the Desert - Destination Vegas Valley of Fire

Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

Photo Information

  • Date TakenAugust 18, 2013 at 4:02am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time15
  • Aperture4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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A Panorama of the Monument

Your favorite panorama software?

I used to use PTGui quite a bit, but now I’ve been using Photoshop more and more. It’s pretty smart. But sometimes it messes up. I know it depends (well, I THINK it depends) on the order in which you select the images for the panorama. But the way Photoshop figures this out is completely inscrutable.

Daily Photo – A Panorama of the Monument

Regulars here on the website know how rarely I make panoramas. It is both a combination of being lazy and the general feeling that a 18+ megapixel picture is more than enough. Maybe I won’t feel like this in the future, but it’s the way I feel know. But, I do occasionally make exceptions… like here on this morning in Monument Valley.

A Panorama of the Monument

Photo Information

  • Date TakenAugust 22, 2013 at 1:49am
  • CameraNEX-6
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/400
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length55.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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New Sony A7R Full-Frame mirrorless takes computational photography to a new level

Sony A7r Review

Go see the full Sony A7r Review here on the site!

The Scoop on the Sony A7R Camera


I got a sneak preview of the whole new Sony camera system. Here’s what you need to know. I’m not gonna take eight paragraphs to tell you the basics. You’re smart; here are the key factors about the new Sony A7R: Full-Frame, 36 Megapixels, Weather-sealed, Crazy autofocus tricks, Much improved noise-reduction, Built-in WIFI and NFC, Improved-everything-else.

Check Amazon to see if it’s available or perhaps try B&H Photo.

Eye AF — one of the coolest new features? Yes!

Eye-based Autofocus. What does this mean? It’s an extension of the face-recognition system that Sony already uses that will automatically focus on the eye. So when you have your sweet f/1.8 lens on there, it will just grip onto the closest eye it can find and nail it right away. Awesome! Even better, the viewfinder shows the appropriate background blurriness (bokeh) because you’re actually seeing what is on the sensor. If you’ve never looked through one of new electronic viewfinders, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The smarts of the AF system are view their upgraded BIONZ-X image processing engine (I think they wanted to call it the BIONZ-A, but that sounds confusingly like Beyoncé). The autofocus is 40% faster than the NEX-7. It’s not as good as the Nikon D4, for example, but it can do things with computational prediction that DSLRs cannot do such as the above eye-tracking. This is the kind of innovation we get with mirrorless systems combined with fast processors and clever software.

Just like the Nikon D800E, the A7R has no low-pass filter for increased sharpness. They showed me some side-by-side images with the D800E and I was convinced that the chipset (the aforementioned confusingly named Beyoncé chip) was able to do a sharpness interpretation that is superior. This will be an interesting aspect for my friend Gordon Laing to test over at Camera Labs; he rules the world with his OCD side-by-side tests.

Auto-Bracketing Updates

There are two items of consequence. One of them is that the IR wireless remote is now decoupled from the other shooting modes. If you don’t know what I’m talking about — on the NEX, there was a problem where you could either do IR or Auto-bracketing but not both. Anyway, that’s fixed. The other item of consequence is you can do 3 or 5 shots in your Auto-bracket. Strangely, you can step by up to 3 EV stops when shooting 3 photos, but when shooting 5 photos, the most you can step by is 0.7 EV. Inscrutable! And why can’t you do 7 or 9 stops? Isn’t it just software… oh, camera-makers, you slay me.

There are “apps” on the phone and you can add more. I hope there is an auto-bracketing app. But if the apps are as poorly executed as they were on the NEX-6, of which I have a haunting feeling, then I will just save us all time and slash my wrists right now.

Weather Sealed

“We poured a glass of water on it!” the Sony guys told me. I guess that is a way they test these things — I don’t know. But they said it has the same weather sealing as the D800, which is probably good enough, I figure. The lenses are weather-sealed too. That’s good news… finally.

Lenses, Let’s talk lenses


Oh, we’re talking lenses? Oh yes, I came up with that heading. Well this discussion is almost over because there are only five lenses at launch. Sad emoticon. But, you can use the other 21 lenses from the full-frame Sony Alpha system with an adapter, so that is cool. Let’s say there are 26 lenses, okay? Well, that is how I am gonna think about it because the 5 new lenses aren’t quite enough for me.

Here are the five that are available at launch: 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6, 24-70mm constant f/4, 70-200 constant f/4, 55mm f/1.8, 35mm f/2.8. I really want a wide-angle zoom… but it looks like that won’t come out until the middle of 2014. In the meantime, I’ll just have to use an adapter and select from a few of those other 21 Full-Frame lenses from the Sony Alpha system.

You can get adapters to use ANY lens, really. Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc., etc. It’s a pretty cool idea to use these camera smarts on your other full-frame lenses you’ve been collecting your whole life.

How big is it?

Holding up both the NEX-7 and the A7r side-by-side, there is hardly any difference! I’d say the A7r is about 10% bigger… but nothing even close to the size of a Nikon D800 or much less a Nikon D4. All the lenses are nice and tiny too, again, only a bit bigger than the NEX-7 lenses. This goes right in line with the trend of lessening my load when I travel!

Am I switching?

Yes! Absolutely! I consider this a major upgrade from my NEX-7. Now I get: Full-frame, 36 megapixels, Better Autofocus (including the cool new Eye AF!), better EVF, better noise-reduction, hands-free auto-bracketing, and weather-sealing. That’s a pretty solid list I say! Plus, I get all the OTHER things that originally made me switch from Nikon to the Sony in the first place: 5-6x smaller than the D800, lighter, focus peaking for consistently sharper shots, and a smart EVF to give me important real-time information about the shot.

The only thing I’m giving up are my wide-angle lens that I love (I hope I can find a Sony Alpha one that I like… I dunno… I’m a babe in the woods on that). The other thing that I am giving up a bit is the new A7r only does 4 FPS, which is quite a bit slower. This isn’t a huge thing, since I mostly shoot travel and landscape shots, but it will be a bit slower when grabbing photos of people in motion, where I prefer more FPS.

I’ve thought about getting a Metabones so I can use my Nikon 14-24mm lens, but that lens has been sitting with Nikon Professional Services in Australia for over four months. I’m not sure I’ll ever see it again. She used to send me letters… but now I never hear from her any more…

Another new RX camera too?


Yeah – it is pretty interesting. I wasn’t so into the RX-1 because it did not have interchangeable lenses. Well, the new RX-10 (just announced and available in a few weeks) still doesn’t have interchangeable lenses BUT BUT BUT BUT it has a 28-200mm at a constant f/2.8. INTERESTING, eh? And it is much cheaper at just $1,299. That’s quite a machine… and 20 megapixels too.

You’ll never be able to shoot ultra-wide or do hardcore African animal photography with it to see zebras a mile away, but not everyone needs that. I’m considering adding that as a mid-range option in our camera recommendations. I haven’t actually played with the thing yet, but it is a very compelling idea that nobody else is doing. Sony makes a point that a lot of people buy a DSLR and never change the lens. I bet that is true… so, they designed this camera with that idea in mind.

More coverage coming soon

My friend Karen Hutton (whom many of you may know has twice been on the cover of Downward Dog Magazine) is getting to play with the new gear soon and will be taking a ton of photos. She’ll post her story here to StuckInCustoms.com — thanks again Karen, and thanks for making millions of people jealous! :)

Other Resources

- Sony NEX-7 Review – recently updated after my switch from Nikon
- Camera Recommendations – good, better, and best (will likely change when the above cameras are available)
- Free HDR Tutorial – a fun guide if you want to make your photos prettier
- Lightroom Presets and other tools – check my fun online store! :)

Daily Photo – Handheld Glacier

Here’s a handheld glacier shot I took with the NEX-7 a few weeks ago. How old is that camera now? About a year and a half old? I dunno… anyway, I can’t wait to see what this new Sony can do… Moore’s Law in Effect! Yay! :)

Alaskan Glacier

Handheld Glacier

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/7.1
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length18mm (27mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire, compulsory flash mode
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

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The Sunset Bathes the Deck of Disney’s Wonder

Auto-Align Update for Photomatix

I have news! Well, news to me. Or, let’s say, news that is ever-evolving.

I used to not like the auto-align feature very much with Photomatix. I thought it didn’t do such a great job, but now it has made great strides and the algorithm continues to improve! This shot, for example, was handheld in pretty low light. Not only did Photomatix do a perfect job of aligning the -2, 0, and +2 exposures, but it also made everything perfectly sharp and lucid.

BTW, in case you are new to the site, here is my Photomatix Review.

I’ve been doing more and more auto-aligning lately with Photomatix, and it really feels like it has come a long way. So now, if I occasionally have to do handheld shots, I feel happy to all my trust in there.

Daily Photo – The Sunset Bathes the Deck of Disney’s Wonder

Right after dinner was the best time to hit the top decks for some photography. Most nights we had amazing sunsets, so I feel lucky for that.

See that little room to the left with the glass? That’s where I spent most of my days, relaxing, reading, drinking coffee, and working on photos!

Disney Wonder Deck

The Sunset Bathes the Deck of Disney’s Wonder

Photo Information

  • Date TakenJuly 18, 2013 at 5:40pm
  • CameraNEX-6
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/40
  • Aperture4.5
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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The Hat Store in San Francisco

Episode 1

I don’t know if you saw this or not… but you may enjoy Episode 1 of The Art of Photography tutorial. Here’s the whole thing in its entirety! :)

Daily Photo – Hat Store in San Francisco

These are the kind of situations that really call for a wide angle lens. It takes every single line and makes it 2x as extreme. When you walk around with your “wide-angle” mindset, you start to pay special attention to high contrast lines. Lights, stripes in the streets, car streaks, and anything else starts to take on a new sense of drama. If you’re looking to make your photography a bit more exciting and see things in a new way, go borrow (or rent) a wide-angle lens and give it a try! :)

Hat Store in San Francisco

Hat Store in San Francisco

Photo Information

  • Date TakenOctober 21, 2011 at 10:06pm
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time0.7
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+2

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More Beijing at Night

Tip for Noise at Night

I’m getting re-used to APS-C sensors! Man, you really gotta keep that ISO at 100 to keep the noise to an absolute minimum. The noise is barely visible at 100, but it is definitely there. A little nudge of the Noise Reduction slider in Lightroom will take care of it though. Easy Peazy!

But, if you crank the ISO up to 400 or higher, there may indeed be too much noise for LR to fix for you. Noiseware can still help you out, but that’s an extra plugin you’ll need… here’s the Noiseware Review on the site for you.

Daily Photo – More Beijing at Night

I usually don’t do this – post photos of a similar subject matter within the same week, but I thought I would show you another angle of the same place at night. Remember that “bakery” shot from a few days ago? This is basically the same spot (you’ll recognize it) much later at night.

This was another one of those cases where I was not quite used to the 10-18mm lens. I normally walk RIGHT to the spot I want to be in then pop the 14-24 on my Nikon and fire away. But now, I’m always off by a few steps with the NEX-7! But, I quickly re-adjust then shoot. If you have shot with a wide angle lens, then you may know about this concept of picturing things from that vantage before you even do it!

Beijing Street

More Beijing at Night

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 28, 2013 at 10:23am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1.6
  • Aperture13
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.3

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Exploring the old Village – and new Behind the Scenes Video

Newsletter Special

Those of you that sign up for the free Newsletter not only hear about specials, but you sometimes get to see videos early! Like this one below… Happy subscribers got to see it first! :)

Behind the Scenes in the New Zealand Forest (silly video warning)

I ran around in the forest in New Zealand with Curtis, Karen, and Scott. We decided to make a video after we got to a stopping point… Anyway, here’s something fun (and maybe a tad useful) for you :)

Daily Photo – Exploring the old Village

If you ever get to Mont Saint Michel, give the whole place a full circle on the curtain wall. It’s easy to get up on the wall (and quite safe to walk on… even though walking on a wall sounds dangerous). There are stairs to get up there and everything. Anyway, the wall circumnavigates about a third of the old village and monastery. There are countless good angles. It’s also worth walking this route at least three times – Sunrise (or sunset), mid day, and night!

Castle Village

Exploring the old Village

Photo Information

  • Date TakenNovember 13, 2012 at 11:18am
  • CameraNIKON D800
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/30
  • Aperture8
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length15.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-2

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Snow over the Creek

Snow in HDR

This is a common question I get. Basically, I think it is a bad idea to HDR the snow and ice part. It just looks dirty. You want it looking nice and pristine, and the HDR will add a little too much texture and grit for me. This seems to happen to an alarming degree with human skin and snow (and a few other things). Anyway, using layers and masking in Photoshop is an easy way to slice-n-dice your way out of that problem!

Daily Photo – Snow over the Creek

There is a place called Pyramid Lake just past Glenorchy that is perfectly wonderful in the winter as long as you have the traction. This shot is from the end of last winter when I caught a little bit of snow. You’ll notice I don’t have a ton of snowy shots from NZ yet, but I think I’ll get a lot more this winter. I’m really looking forward to some good snowfalls, in fact! I’m sure if you’re in the northern hemisphere that you are sick of the cold and ready for the warm… but I really am looking forward to the change!

Snow over the Creek

Snow over the Creek

Photo Information

  • Date TakenJuly 7, 2012 at 10:47pm
  • CameraNIKON D800
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/30
  • Aperture22
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length32.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+1

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The New Garden Path Along the Great Wall of China

Video from the Great Wall

Here’s a video I took while up here!

Daily Photo – The New Garden Path Along the Great Wall of China

Just to get to this point required a long walk through a rocky forest. It wasn’t like the super-pristine part of the Great Wall (which is actually quite fake and Disney-like) — where you can drive up in a huge tour bus and park in huge parking lot. No, it wasn’t like that at all. Instead, there was a “path” that was barely discernible (much less so when I walked back in the dark alone!) that wove up through a forest along an old creekbed. I’m not sure I could find it again if I had to!

Great Wall of China

The New Garden Path Along the Great Wall of China

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/20
  • Aperture6.7
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+3

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The Skies of Sydney and Photomatix Presets

Photomatix Presets

Do you have (my!) Trey’s Photomatix Presets? I still use Photomatix all the time, as many of you noticed from my recent tutorial video. I think my presets are much more interesting than the ones that come with Photomatix, but you can be the judge! If you don’t agree, you can have all your money back… no problemo!

Here’s a screenshot for ya!

Daily Photo – The Skies of Sydney

Sydney? Check. Sunset? Check. Easy photo? Check!

Man, this was such a lay up… I can’t claim much credit for it. I just kinda walked up and it was like this. Good sunset shots are not always easy, but this one was… I admit it! :) Now, it was made a bit easier with post-processing through Photomatix, but I kind of take that for granted now.

Sydney Opera House

The Skies of Sydney

Photo Information

  • Date TakenSeptember 25, 2012 at 4:43pm
  • CameraNIKON D800
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/125
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length90.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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