Archive for March, 2011

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!


E-Session – Danny & Veronica

There were a lot of photo sessions happening in Pasadena yesterday, I wasn’t surprised since it was a nice gloomy Saturday. We spent a couple of hours walking around and I’m glad we did as we were able to get some good shots out of it. I just hope you guys didn’t get tired of smiling at each other from the session yesterday :) Congrats again!





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San Diego County Fair

We saw the Ferry’s Wheel and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Luckily, I didn’t get harassed because I had a tripod with me. 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:

Before


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?

Disclaimer
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.


Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

TramPalm Springs

Earlier this month, Kathy and I decided to go on a spontaneous trip to Palm Springs, Salton Sea and San Diego. We started at Palm Springs and get on the Aerial Tramway. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the largest rotating tramcar in the world. It takes 10 minutes to get to the Mountain Station (8,500+ft elevation) from the Valley Station (2,600+ft elevation). They say on a clear day, you can see the view of the Catalina Island and the light beam of Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas on a clear night. Too bad, the mountain was full of snow and they closed some of the trails. The mountain station offers a spectacular view of the Palm Springs valley. The weather in the mountain is about 30 degrees less than the valley.

If you want to get away and experience something new, head to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and enjoy a day hike or book a dinner reservation and enjoy the view.



Product Photography #2

Dolce & Gabbana - The OneIssey Miyake - Euro Summer Edition

So last night I posted two pictures of Vuqo Premium Vodka but I also took pictures of a couple of colognes that I just purchased. I played around with black, white, and gray backgrounds but I liked white background better for these products. Again, I used two lighting setup for these shots on white background.


Product Photography

VuqoVuqo

My brother came in town and we were supposed to do a photo shoot at this new location I found in Downtown L.A. but it got canceled due to the weather. We wanted to do a photo shoot with him in a nice European cut suit while smoking a cigar and holding a bottle of Vuqo Premium Vodka. So instead of going out in the rain, I stayed home and took pictures of the bottle and a few other items that I will post at a later time.

For those who who have not yet tried this vodka, please go out look for this fine vodka at a store near you. Some stores might not carry it at the moment but they will be soon! In the meantime, click at the following link to view a lists of stores that carry their product (Store listing)  Well, before you click the link, let me give you a brief history of Vuqo:

“The history of VuQo Premium Vodka dates back at least four centuries. VuQo Premium Vodka is based on an ancient technology practiced in the Philippines long before Spanish conquistadores set foot on its shores. It is the same technology that Filipino seafarers brought to Mexico through the Spanish Galleon trades to create the now popular tequila. Coconut vodka was the drink in those ancient times, on those far eastern shores. It was, in a manner of speaking, a tribal drink, one that sealed brotherhoods and with which the day’s bounty was enjoyed and shared. It is this spirit that VuQo Premium Vodka hopes to recreate and celebrate today.”

Try them for your next gathering and you will not be disappointed. This vodka is smooth and can taken straight or mixed. To try some of the Vuqo Mixes, click here

Here’s a couple of my shots from my gallery:


Camera 101 – What Lens to Get?

Camera Lenses

Image taken from: Teluglobe.com

If you thought choosing a camera was difficult, try lenses! Lenses are manufactured by the camera manufacturers or 3rd party manufacturers. When buying a lens, you always have to consider what it is that you are going to be shooting. Low light or plenty of light? Moving or still? What is the distance? Do you want to separate your subject from your background? These are just some of the questions that you need to ask yourself before buying your lens. Also, since you’re just getting started with DSLR photography, make sure that you stay away from using “Auto”. Use “P” mode instead, this is auto with smart features of your DSLR. I will talk about the modes on the next post.

What are you shooting?

People, Landscapes, Wildlife, Airplanes, flowers, etc. are just a few that I could think of, but there are plenty of other things to shoot. You might say “I want something that I can use for everything”. Okay, most likely, you purchased a camera with a lens kit and most kit comes with 18mm-55mm depending on which kit you bought. 18mm-55mm is a nice range when you’re starting and after shooting with that range for a while, you’ll start to want something and it is something that is missing from what you currently have. You might say “I like my shots, however they are not wide enough” or “I don’t have enough reach to get a close-up shot”.

Okay, if you’re looking for something wider, consider buying something lower than 18mm, the lower the number, the wider it gets.

If you want to get a closer/tighter shots, then consider buying a zoom lens that’s anything more than 55mm. Usually, it goes from 55mm-200mm or 70mm-300mm, depending on the manufacturer and the aperture (I will talk about this later).

These should get you started on what it is that you need.

Lighting Condition?

All of your shots depends on lighting. Avoid harsh shadows as much as possible such as direct sunlight or harsh lights produced by spot lights (unless you are going for that look). When shooting under direct sunlight, your images will have dark shadows. If you’re shooting a person, they will have “raccoon eyes” and the picture just won’t look good. There are ways to fill in those shadows and make your pictures look nicer if you really have to shoot under direct sunlight but I’ll talk about that some other time. I will focus on just the basics.

Plenty of light available

If you are shooting with plenty of available light, the type of lens you use doesn’t really matter (I know many of you will disagree with me but think like an amateur). With plenty of available light, your shots will most likely come out clear and crisp. However, low light condition is where the features of your camera will come into play. Your camera, your lens, your angles and everything else will come into play under this condition.

Low Light Condition

Under low light condition, your camera will try to adjust to get the best exposure and best shutter speed to get a clear and crisp shot. However, your camera is not perfect! You are still in control! There are a lot of things you can do to try to get your camera to take sharp pictures but that means that I have to get into technical terms. I want to answer your questions as simple as possible. So let’s try this, here are a few scenarios and what you can do to improve your shots.

You’re shooting in “P” mode and your picture is nicely exposed but it’s blurry (Let’s say you’re taking a picture of a person). What do you do?

- First, look at your screen and preview the picture that you just took, then click on the info button. This will provide you the aperture, ISO, Shutter speed, Exposure,etc.Look at ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Make a note of those and switch your mode from “P” to “M”. Some cameras automatically adjust the ISO but it needs to be enabled. Let’s say your camera doesn’t automatically adjust. What you need to do is increase your ISO and shutter speed and also adjust your aperture.

ISO – controls the camera’s sensitivity to light

Shutter speed – Freezes or blurs the picture

Aperture – Controls the amount of light

Now that you have some idea on what each feature does, let’s try to tackle the problem. Let’s say you looked at your image and the settings are: ISO: 200, Shutter Speed: 1/30s, Aperture: f/5.6. What this means is that you took the image at 200 ISO using 1/30 of a second and at aperture f/5.6 (f/5.6 on a kit lens usually means that you shot your pic at 55mm). Let’s do this step by step, but let’s start with the shutter speed:

- The rule of thumb is your shutter speed should be greater than or equal to your focal length. For example, if you’re shooting at 55mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/55th of a second or higher to get a clear shot. So switch to manual mode and adjust your shutter speed to 1/50th and take another picture. Is the picture now sharper but it also became darker? The reason for that is because your camera didn’t allow enough time for the light to properly expose the picture. So let’s try another fix.

Let’s do this by now adjusting your aperture. Since you are using a variable aperture (meaning, your aperture changes every time you change the zoom length), try using the lowest/largest aperture your lens allow. In this case, your lens probably only allows as low as f/3.5, so you have to change your focal length to 18mm. So now you’re shooting at 18mm at f/3.5

Take another picture, your picture should now be a lot clearer and a little brighter but still not as bright as how you would want it to be. Try changing that shutter speed, you can go as low as 1/20th without being blurry. If that’s still dark, try increasing your ISO. If your camera allows you to increase your ISO by 50, try ISO 250, 300, 400, etc. Then keep increasing it until you get your picture to come out the way you want it. Please note that the higher the ISO, the more noise it introduces (your shots will be grainy)

That’s it for now and I hope you learned something new. I will have a dedicated Camera 101 page will links to different sites that talks about everything that I just mentioned.

Click on the links below to view 5 episodes about lenses on D-Town TV by Kelby Media Group:

Lenses – Part 1

Lenses – Part 2

Lenses – Part 3

Lenses – Part 4

Lenses – Part 5


Camera 101 – Which Camera to get?

CanonNikon PentaxOlympus

Which camera to get? This is the most questions that get asked all the time! Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Olympus are just a few of the major consumer camera manufacturers out there. Leica? I’m not even going to talk about that! People who get that either has a lot of love for photography and has been into photography for a while or someone who has a lot of money and just wants to buy a very expensive camera. Since I can’t afford it, I wont talk about it. If you want to find out why, just google Leica Rangefinder and you’ll see why.

What Brand?

Now, which camera to get? I say get the camera that your friends own! So you can ask your friend on which lens, accessories to buy specific to your camera or even buy their used equipment. Most likely, your friend will upgrade his/her equipment and eventually sell it. Now that you’ve narrowed down the brand of the camera, another question is which one?

What Kind?

The question to ask really is “what is your budget”? You always have a number in your head that you are willing to spend on a camera. You might say, I’m just an amateur and I just want to take nice pictures. You can take nice pictures without spending a lot of money! Point and shoot camera will give you nice pictures, you just have to have an eye for it. If you don’t, spending on a more expensive camera will not give you a better picture, maybe a better quality but not a nice picture so save your money. Now, if you still insist on upgrading to a DSLR, then you need to find out how serious you are going to be in photography. Any entry level camera will do, it’s the lenses that you have to worry about. I’ll talk about lenses on my next update so this time, let’s just stick to cameras.

Pros and Cons of Entry Level Cameras: Pros: Cheaper Cons: It will not have the advanced features that most pro cameras have, but you’re just learning so it’s okay.

I use a Nikon and most entry level Nikon cameras do not have an Internal Focusing Motor(IMR). Having an IMR will allow you to autofocus on older lenses. Without IMR, you are going to have to manually focus to take shots. It’s really not that bad once you get used to it, but a lot of your shots will be blurry for the first…. let’s say, a thousand pictures! LOL.

So what kind of camera really depends on your budget. I say, spend less on camera and more on lenses and you’ll find out why once I start talking about lenses.
If you’re still undecided on what to do, watch the youtube videos below: “Pro Camera and Cheap Lens” Vs. “Cheap Camera and Pro Lens” & “Guide to DSLR”

Here is a Guide to Entry Level DSLR

Now What?

Now that you’ve decided which brand and what kind and your budget, you are now ready to start comparing the cameras that you’ve chosen. Luckily, I found a nice site that allows you to compare cameras side by side: http://snapsort.com/compare

 

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will try to answer your questions.

Watch out for my next post as I will talk about the lenses and camera features that you need to consider when buying a camera and lenses.


Photography/Photographie/Fotograpia/Fotografía

Finally! I am back! Those of you who followed my other blog (http://jmephotography.blogspot.com), I stopped updating it 7 months ago and 4 months prior to that. But that didn’t mean that I stopped taking pictures. In fact, I now have 14k + actuation on my camera! That’s right, after a year and 1 month of having my camera, I took that many pictures and I’m not even a pro!

Well, after 7 months hiatus, I have started a new website and a new blog. My site remain as JMEphotography; However, that domain name is taken and I didn’t want to purchase a .net domain. So before ending up with this name, I thought about JMEphotos, JMEFotos, JMEPhotographique, etc. But none of them sounded simple yet classy. When I hear the word classy, I think of James Bond and French this, French that! So, I sat down in front of my computer and went to Google translate and typed photography – Italian – Fotograpia, Spanish – Fotografía, Portuguese – Fotograpia, and finally, French – Photographie. I liked it! Headed to 1and1 webhosting and entered, JMEPhotographie.com – It’s available! I immediately registered to secure the name since I was afraid that I would have to pick another name. So now, I am done…. at least with the domain name and the blog.

I will be traveling again in the near future so keep coming back to this site for new photos.

In the meantime, click on the link below to view a slideshow of my favorite pictures. I hope these pictures help inspire you to also take pictures. First things first, do not take pictures when the sun is at it’s highest. Meaning, noon time! The best hours to take photos are during the “golden hours”. The golden hours are 1 hour before  and after sunrise and 1 hour before and after sunset. This gives you that nice golden color in your picture. That’s it for now.