Filters – Why do we use them?

Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi

Filter is a must! Some might argue with me that filters diminishes the quality of your photo and I agree to some degree. However, it is only noticeable when you are more than 100% zoomed in! It is not really noticeable unless you are shooting directly at the sun or a light source that is huge enough to create glare. Other than that, you can’t really tell the difference.

I use a UV filter to provide extra protection to the front of my lens (water, dust, scratches, etc). Filters are cheaper to replace than lenses! I’d rather spend $50 on a filter than replace my entire lens for $1,000.

These pictures were taken at Salton Sea using a circular polarizer:

To show and demonstrate different types of filters and how they work, please watch the video provided below:


I hope you learned something.

Time Lapse!

“I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth………
……. Then I ask myself the same question.”

It has been a while since I’ve updated my blog. I have been really busy with everything else in my life that took away a little bit of time left for photography. But it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped taking pictures! I actually still have quite a lot of pics in my RAW folder that I need to edit. *sigh*

My last post was 5 months ago and since then I have traveled to different parts of Canada, Philippines, Malaysia and of course, the good ol’ California. Enough of my introduction, let’s get to the reason why I am creating this post, it’s about time lapse! You all have probably seen these pictures that looked like fast forwarded videos. Well, they are actually composed of hundreds/thousands of pictures played at a faster rate. I really wished I had this in mind when I traveled to different places last year and this year. But it’s not too late, I will probably do it in the future.

How to get started on Time Lapse. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • DSLR Camera – to help you capture high quality images
  • Timer remote or an intervalometer – it basically tells your camera when to take pictures so you don’t have to stand and take it manually
  • Tripod – to create clear pictures, you’ll need a very good tripod. Invest on a good tripod if you don’t have one. You can have the best camera but if you have a poor quality tripod, your pictures are going to be blurry!
  • Video editing software – I use Adobe Premiere, this software will allow you to combine your pictures and play it at a faster rate (24 fps +)
  • TIME – you need time! Without time, you cannot create a time lapse!
  • Patience – You need to be patient! Patience is virtue! lol

If you need a more detailed tutorial, click the link below:

Introduction to Time Lapse

Check out some of my new uploads on my website:


Have fun!

Camera 101 – What is Aperture???

I talked about Aperture a few posts ago but I didn’t really talk about it in details. Some of you found that using A mode or Av mode to be useful and takes better pictures than Auto but you didn’t really understood why. Well, first let me give you the Princeton definition of Aperture: a device that controls amount of light admitted; a natural opening in something; an man-made opening; usually small
In short, it’s that round thing that you see inside your lens. If you look close enough, your camera actually moves it to make it smaller or bigger. The larger the aperture, the more light it takes in. The smaller the aperture, the less light it takes in. Now, look at the pictures below, one was taken at f/5.6 and the other at f/1.4. The smaller the number, the bigger the aperture gets and the bigger the number, the smaller the aperture gets….. what???? Yes, this can get confusing sometimes. You might hear someone say “wide aperture” and that means “big” aperture or the largest aperture your lens allow. For example, if you have a 18-55 f/3.5-5.6, the largest aperture that your lens will allow is f/3.5 at 18mm. Since the lens has 2 numbers, this means that your lens is not a “fixed” aperture lens. Your aperture changes depending on your focal length. Now, examine the pictures below and tell me what you see:

Taken at f/5.6
Above: Taken at aperture 5.6 or f/5.6
taken at f/1.4

Above: Taken at aperture 1.4 or f/1.4
Now that you’ve looked at the pics, you will notice that one is clearer than the other. The first picture was taken at f/5.6 and this aperture will pretty much get everything in focus, it’s still a little bit out of focus but the background is still a little bit distracting. The second picture was taken at f/1.4, at widest aperture my lens allows (50mm). The subject in the middle is completely in focus and the rest are out of focus (my focus point was in the middle). You can actually change your focus without moving your camera. If you look in your view finder, you will find several boxes (depending on camera model), some will have 3, 11, 39, 51, etc. focus points. You can move your focus points by using the arrows behind the camera. If you can’t move the focus in the view finder, you might be in “Area” mode and not in “single/dynamic” mode (refer to your camera manual).

Here’s a video that pretty much shows you how aperture works.

Downtown LA Walk

Downtown L.A.Light streak

So last week, my friend Jesse wanted to go out and take pics to try his newly purchased DSLR. I decided to take him to one of my favorite spots to take pictures of the L.A. Skyscrapers. Unfortunately, the Water and Power District Building is currently under renovation (Inception was also filmed at this location, some might not recognize it since it has been altered by CGI.). So we ended up across the street to take pics of the water fountain using long exposure but we were only able to take a few pics since I was using a tripod and the security guards came to inform us that we cannot use tripods. We ended up walking around the block to the Disney Concert Hall and ended the night.
Disney Concert Hall

Neckstrap? RS-Strap? B-Grip? That is the Question…

If you constantly take pictures, you probably don’t like how the factory strap feel. First, they’re uncomfortable on the neck especially if you have a heavy lens/camera. Second, they’re too short to be worn as a shoulder strap. So what do you do? Well, there are many companies that have developed different types of straps to fit your needs. I use the RS-5 strap system with fastener 3 by BlackRapid. This strap makes a big difference especially when you’re traveling. BlackRapid offers a lot more products but RS-5 works best for me. It costs around $65. See below:

Another option is the B-Grip camera holder by Adorama ($74). I have never tried this product but it looks nice and comfortable. This is useful when you’re hiking, rock climbing or any type of outdoor activities as it prevents the camera from slamming into your body. See below:

I hope these videos helped you decide on which product to buy. Trust me, it makes a huge difference!

San Diego County Fair

Some of these shots were taken using a Nikon 12-24 F4 lens with a shutter speed from 1/10th to 4 seconds.

Slow Motion

Slow Motion

Slow Motion

Slow Motion

Slow Motion

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

This place is beautiful weird. You’ll know exactly what I mean when you visit! From Wikipedia: ”

The Salton Sea is a saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault predominantly in California’s Imperial Valley. The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink in the Colorado Desert of Imperial and Riverside Counties in Southern California. Like Death Valley, it is below sea level; currently, its surface is 226 ft (69 m) below sea level. The deepest area of the sea is 5 ft (1.5 m) higher than the lowest point of Death Valley. The sea is fed by the New, Whitewater, and Alamo rivers, as well as agricultural runoff drainage systems and creeks.

The lake covers about 376 sq mi (970 km2), 241,000+/- acres, making it the largest in California. While it varies in dimensions and area with changes in agricultural runoff and rain, it averages 15 mi (24 km) by 35 mi (56 km), with a maximum depth of 52 ft (16 m), giving a total volume of about 7,500,000 acre·ft (9.25 km3), and annual inflows averaging 1,360,000 acre·ft (1.68 km3). The lake’s salinity, about 44 g/L, is greater than the waters of the Pacific Ocean (35 g/L), but less than that of the Great Salt Lake; the concentration is increasing by about 1 percent annually.

Anyway, the sunset here is spectacular! I’ve never seen anything like it before and the sea meets the water and it constantly changes colors from purple to pink to red to blue to orange, you name it! If you’re ever in that area, stop by and you will see what I mean. It’s a photographer’s heaven!

Camera 101 – Settings (P,S,A,M)


camera stuff

So you’ve purchased your first DSLR and you start taking pictures but your pictures are still coming out like it was taken using a compact camera. Now, you start to wonder why you wasted your money at a more expensive camera and get the same results. Hmm… Then you start playing around with the settings and you might find that you like a particular settings, maybe that one setting with a picture of a person with the star, yeah, that’s the one! The night shot mode! But you didn’t buy a DSLR to just use one settings, you wanna use it in full manual mode but you are not getting the picture you want.

Okay, let’s break this down to a level where everyone can understand and I’ll have a few scenarios. First, let’s forget about those settings with pictures and STOP USING AUTO!!! You know, the Green Box! Let’s just focus on the following modes:

  • Program
  • Shutter
  • Aperture
  • Manual

Program Mode is just like auto but you have control of the flash. The camera will automatically adjust the exposure, shutter speed and aperture to get that properly exposed picture. Some cameras will automatically adjust the ISO but you have to set it first (read the manual). I use this all the time when I’m just walking around and not looking for a particular look.

Shutter Priority Mode lets you control the shutter speed and the camera adjusts everything else. So let’s say you’re shooting a concert and you want a sharp picture and you know that you cannot shoot the photo at less than 1/320th of a second. So you set the shutter speed to 1/320th of a second and the camera will do the rest to give you that shot. Of course you have to increase your ISO for that.

Aperture Priority Mode let’s you control the aperture. The aperture is round thing inside your lens, the bigger the aperture the more light it allows and the smaller the aperture the less light it allows. So if you want to shoot a concert or a subject at a very low lighting condition, you have to shoot at biggest aperture to allow as much light. This also controls the focus of your subject. I am sure most of you who got a DSLR want that out of focus look when you’re shooting a subject to totally separate the background from the subject. I know I got my DSLR for that! Well, it really depends on what you shoot. Another example is if you want to shoot landscape then you have to shoot at a smaller aperture to get everything in focus. Just play around with the settings and you’ll eventually get it and figure out what it’s used for.

Manual Mode – this is where the camera gives you total control. It is so easy to mess up in this mode but this mode will also give you shots you’re looking for. You control the Shutter, Aperture, Exposure, ISO and everything else! I only use manual when I have my camera on a tripod or I want a specific look. But let’s just be honest, we’re not gonna get the exact look we’re looking for with just the camera.

Photography is expensive and you always have that need to acquire new equipment that you think you might think you need! I have gone through several lenses before I stuck with my current ones. So before you go out and buy those things, ask yourself, what would Jesus do?lol. Actually, no, don’t ask that, just ask yourself, “what am I shooting and do I really need this?” This will save you money!

So with all the things I just said in mind, go out and shoot! Play around with the settings and you’ll find something that you really like. The beauty of it is that it’s digital, it doesn’t cost you much to take pics unlike film. Yeah your shutter count increases but the life of your shutter is probably at 150k+ clicks.

Have fun! Again, if you have any questions, feel free to just comment below or email me.

EDIT: I found a very useful video on camera basics. Understanding your camera.


Photoshop – Before/After

Some have asked if the picture above was photoshopped or if it was taken in front of a mural of Optimus Prime in Arizona (I don’t think that exists). So to answer the question, this was actually photoshopped and it’s composed of 3 photos: Optimus Prime (left), Robot Hand (bottom right) and a Plane (upper right). I also added the lens flare coming from behind the plane (i believe it was 105mm Prime Lens flare).

Here’s the picture before the edits:


The Photographer’s Rights

The Cloud Gate - Millenium Park

If you ever wonder what rights do you have as a photographer, the guide below might give you some idea. I literally copied and pasted this information from a PDF file I downloaded from the internet a couple of years ago. I don’t know where I got it but you can download it here: The Photographer’s Rights

About this Guide
Confrontations that impair the constitutional right to make images are becoming more common. To fight the abuse of your right to free expression, you need to know your rights to take photographs and the remedies available if your rights are infringed.

The General Rule
The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs. Absent a specific legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance, you are legally entitled to take photographs. Examples of places that are traditionally
considered public are streets, sidewalks, and public parks. Property owners may legally prohibit photography on their premises but have no right to prohibit others from photographing their property from other locations. Whether you need permission from property owners to take photographs while on their premises depends on the circumstances. In most places, you may reasonably assume that taking photographs is allowed and that you do not need explicit permission. However, this is a judgment call and you should request permission when the circumstances suggest that the owner is likely to object. In any case, when a property owner tells you not to take photographs
while on the premises, you are legally obligated to honor the request.

Some Exceptions to the Rule
There are some exceptions to the general rule. A significant one is that commanders of military installations can prohibit photographs of specific areas when they deem it necessary to protect national security. The U.S. Department of Energy can also prohibit photography of designated nuclear facilities although the publicly visible areas of nuclear facilities are usually not designated as such. Members of the public have a very limited scope of privacy rights when they are in public places. Basically, anyone can be photographed without their consent except when they have secluded themselves in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as dressing rooms, restrooms, medical facilities, and inside their homes.

Permissible Subjects
Despite misconceptions to the contrary, the following subjects can almost always be photographed lawfully from public places:

  • accident and fire scenes
  • children
  • celebrities
  • bridges and other infrastructure
  • residential and commercial buildings
  • industrial facilities and public utilities
  • transportation facilities (e.g., airports)
  • Superfund sites
  • criminal activities
  • law enforcement officers

Who Is Likely to Violate Your Rights
Most confrontations are started by security guards and employees of organizations who fear photography. The most common reason given is security but often such persons have no articulated reason. Security is rarely a legitimate reason for restricting photography. Taking a photograph is not a terrorist act nor can a business legitimately assert that taking a photograph of a subject in public view infringes on its trade secrets. On occasion, law enforcement officers may object to photography but most understand that people have the right to take photographs and do not interfere with photographers. They do have the right to keep you away from areas where you may impede their
activities or endanger safety. However, they do not have the legal right to prohibit you from taking photographs from other locations.

They Have Limited Rights to Bother, Question, or Detain You
Although anyone has the right to approach a person in a public place and ask questions, persistent and unwanted conduct done without a legitimate purpose is a crime in many states if it causes serious annoyance. You are under no obligation to explain the purpose of your photography nor do you have to disclose your identity except in states that require it upon request by a law enforcement officer. If the conduct goes beyond mere questioning, all states have laws that make coercion and harassment criminal
offenses. The specific elements vary among the states but in general it is unlawful for anyone to instill a fear that they may injure you, damage or take your property, or falsely accuse you of a crime just because you are taking photographs. Private parties have very limited rights to detain you against your will and may be subject to criminal and civil charges should they attempt to do so. Although the laws in most states authorize citizen’s arrests, such authority is very narrow. In general, citizen’s arrests can be made only for felonies or crimes committed in the person’s presence. Failure to abide by these requirements usually means that the person is liable for a tort such as false imprisonment.

They Have No Right to Confiscate Your Film
Sometimes agents acting for entities such as owners of industrial plants and shopping malls may ask you to hand over your film. Absent a court order, private parties have no right to confiscate your film. Taking your film directly or indirectly by threatening to use force or call a law enforcement agency can constitute criminal offenses such as theft and coercion. It can likewise constitute a civil tort such as conversion. Law enforcement officers may have the authority to seize film when making an arrest but otherwise
must obtain a court order.

Your Legal Remedies If Harassed
If someone has threatened, intimidated, or detained you because you were taking photographs, they may be liable for crimes such as kidnapping, coercion, and theft. In such cases, you should report them to the police. You may also have civil remedies against such persons and their employers. The torts for which you may be entitled to compensation include assault, conversion, false imprisonment, and violation of your constitutional rights.

Other Remedies If Harassed
If you are disinclined to take legal action, there are still things you can do that contribute to protecting the right to take photographs.
(1) Call the local newspaper and see if they are interested in running a story. Many newspapers feel that civil liberties are worthy of serious coverage.
(2) Write to or call the supervisor of the person involved, or the legal or public relations department of the entity, and complain about the event.
(3) Make the event publicly known on an Internet forum that deals with photography or civil rights issues.

How to Handle Confrontations
Most confrontations can be defused by being courteous and respectful. If the party becomes pushy, combative, or unreasonably hostile, consider calling the police. Above all, use good judgment and don’t allow an event to escalate into violence. In the event you are threatened with detention or asked to surrender your film, asking the following questions can help ensure that you will have the evidence to enforce your legal rights:
1. What is the person’s name?
2. Who is their employer?
3. Are you free to leave? If not, how do they intend to stop you if you decide to leave? What legal basis do they assert for the detention?
4. Likewise, if they demand your film, what legal basis do they assert for the confiscation?

This is a general education guide about the right to take photographs and is necessarily limited in scope. For more information about the laws that affect photography, I refer you to the second edition of my book, Legal Handbook for Photographers (Amherst Media, 2006).

This guide is not intended to be legal advice nor does it create an attorney client relationship. Readers should seek the advice of a competent attorney when they need legal advice regarding a specific situation.