Saturday, February 27, 2010


(click on any photo to see a larger version)

Great Egret

Great Egret
Ardea alba
Ingram, Texas

I haven't had much luck photographing this bird. You can see other crappy photos of a Great Egret on my former blog here.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet?

This may be a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I saw one a few minutes earlier nearby.  (It was definitely a Ruby-crowned Kinglet - I saw the red stripe on his head... though I didn't get a photo.) This bird was the same size/shape & has a white eye-ring (but I couldn't see the top of his head). The dark spot on the neck makes me think it might not be. Can anyone help me with the ID?

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwings
Bombycilla cedrorum
Ingram, Texas
ISO 400     1/1250     f/8     @200mm

One of the few North American birds that specializes in a diet of mostly fruit. Occasionally, they eat too many overripe berries and become intoxicated, sometimes to the point of death. Cedar Waxwings don't nest in Texas so you will only find them here in the winter.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Winter on the Guadalupe River

(click on the photo to see a larger version)
Winter on the Guadalupe
Ingram, Texas
ISO 100     1/500     f/5     @85mm

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Melanerpes aurifrons
Ingram, Texas
ISO 500     1/2000     f/9     @200mm

A pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are building a nest nearby. This is the female (she lacks the red crown of the male). You can see more photos of the Golden-fronted Woodpecker on my former blog here and here.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee
Poecile carolinensis
Ingram, Texas
ISO 500     1/1250     f/8    @200mm

You can read more about the Carolina Chickadee and see more photos on my former blog.

White-winged Dove

White-wing Dove Landing
Zenaida asiatica
Ingram, Texas
 ISO 500     1/1600     f/8     @200mm

You can see more dove photos on my former blog.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

American Robin

American Robin
 Turdus migratorius
Ingram, Texas

The American Robin is the "quintessential early bird" known for their industriousness and cheery song. (They sing: "cheerily cheer-up cheerio")

Ringed Kingfisher

Ringed Kingfisher
Ceryle torquatus
Ingram, Texas

Ashley & I saw this bird yesterday when we were out walking. (Admittedly, the photo leaves a lot to be desired.) We thought it was a Belted Kingfisher but this bird definitely had a rufous belly (not just the flanks). So, it is almost certainly a Ringed Kingfisher - which would be unusual for this area (Kerr County in Central Texas).

The Ringed Kingfisher is the largest kingfisher in the Western Hemisphere. They are normally found in the Rio Grande River valley of Texas.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Eastern Bluebird

Snow & an Eastern Bluebird!
Sialia sialis
Ingram, Texas
 ISO 100    f/2.8   1/160   @200mm 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Coyne at Small Mouth Falls

(click on the photo to see a larger version)

Small Mouth Falls is located on a fork of the Guadalupe River in Ingram, Texas at By The River RV Park & Campground. 

I wanted to get some photos of the falls using a slow shutter speed (which makes the water look silky) but that little tree was in my way and obstructing my otherwise perfect view. Coyne volunteered to climb down the bank of the river and see if he could pull the tree up. But, it's roots were firmly planted in the rock and the tree wouldn't budge!

Since I'm too shaky to handhold and I didn't have my tripod I decided to forgo the slow shutter speed. I settled on the following:
ISO 100

The late afternoon light was really nice and I especially like how Coyne is backlit.

Coyne at work

(click on the photo to see a larger version)


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winning Entry!

(click on the photo to see a larger version)

I entered two photos in the Hill Country Camera Club Monthly Contest and they picked one of mine as the winning image! The theme was "Weather". The photo will hang at the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center for the next month.

Taken on Sept. 8, 2009 at La Lomita

Canon 5D
Lens: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L USM) @16mm
ISO 100,  f/7.1,  1/250
Printed on Kodak Endura Ultra Metallic Paper
Print size: 12 x 24 -inches

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fall 2010 Outdoor Portraits using Natural Light

Portrait or Snapshot?

A snapshot is TAKEN. A portrait is MADE


Camera Settings-
  • Aperture Priority (AV) or Portrait Mode
    • Use a wide aperture (f/2.8-ish) to blur the background
  • Low ISO (100-200)
  • Shutter Speed
    • Fast enough to handhold & freeze the action (minimum 1/100)
  • Metering Mode: Spot Meter (on the skin)
  • White Balance
    • Use a gray card. white card, the palm of your hand, or a digital color checker at each location. This will simplify your post-processing life
  • AF Focus Points
    • use single point focus (instead of 'cluster' or letting the AF pick the focus point)
    • use the 'Focus & Recompose' method (½ press shutter to lock focus then recompose the shot)
    • ALWAYS focus on the eye(s)
  • To avoid lens distortion in portraits, use 50mm or greater focal length

  • Find the light!
    • Using a small mirror, look at yourself as you turn around 360-degrees
    • Use a golf ball, your fist, or your subject to find the right light
    • Look for north light
    • Look for open shade such as the side of a building
    • Look for a shady area under the trees (not dappled shade or deep shade)... look for the edge of the shade
    • Look for light reflecting from a wall, the ground, the side of a delivery truck up onto your subject's face (you can even use water to throw light up onto the face but be careful it's not too strong)
    • Look for open garages or other places with overhangs
  • Avoid midday/harsh sun (if possible)
    • Use a diffuser
  • Overcast days sometimes produces flat light.
    • May need a reflector to bounce light up onto the face so the eyes don't look 'dead'
  • Using a reflector to augment the light
    • White – creates low contrast, soft fill light w/o obliterating the ratio from light to dark )DIY: White posterboard or foamcore)
    • Matte Silver – creates more contrast than white but less than shiny silver. (DIY: cover foam core with the dull side of crumpled up aluminum foil OR use a auto windshield cover)
    • Shiny Silver – creates powerful, but neutral color fill. Throws light farther that white or matte silver (DIY: cover foamcore with shiny side of smooth aluminum foil)
    • Gold – creates powerful, warm light; can be good for skin tones
  • Mirror – good for providing a “kicker” or rim light from behind the subject. Don't bounce mirror light into your subject's face!! Throws light l-o-o-o-o-n-g distances.
  • For nice, blurry background stand far enough away from the background to get a nice blur (10 ft. is a good rule of thumb)
  • To create depth put something in front of AND behind your subject to create a foreground, middle ground (subject) & background
  • Eliminate distractions! Look for simple, uncluttered backgrounds.
  • If you have nothing but a busy/cluttered background alternatives are:
    • zoom in close & use the widest aperture possible to blur the background
    • change the angle (shoot from above, below, or just move around until you get a better, less cluttered background
  • Avoid mergers & intersections
    • power lines, trees, etc, intersecting subjects head
    • lines intersecting the neck (decapitation)
  • Light attracts, dark recedes
    • make the face the brightest area in the image
    • avoid placing a dark-haired subject on a dark background. (You want a separation between their hair & the background)
Clothing selection-
  • Viewer's eye will naturally be drawn to skin. For best results avoid shorts &/or sleeveless shirts to maintain emphasis on the face
  • Color of the clothing will reflect up on the face, particularly under the chin
  • Bold colors & patterns may draw attention away from the face.
  • When in doubt go:
    • dark
    • plain
    • with collar
    • long sleeves
    • long pants
  • “Hey” vs. “Cheese!
  • Shoot the awkward moments
  • Take the shot in the”after moment” or between shots... these are often informal, impromptu, & spontaneous
  • Fake laugh – best expression comes after the fake laugh when they lean forward
  • “Don't laugh”
  • For small children, introduce a prop (flower, balloon, teacup, or a tiny bit of wadded up sticky tape) to help focus their attention
  • Take a series of shots (use continuous shooting mode)
  • Take smiling, slight smile & no smile shots
  • Give them some cues (happy, sad, angry, surprised, puzzled, serious, etc). You might get a great expression OR you may get a natural looking smile/laugh because it's a silly exercise
  • Jump shot
  • Start with your “Go-To” poses. The tried-and-true. The money shots. Do these first just in case you subject gets tired or (in the case of children) they have a melt-down, temper tantrum, etc.
  • Take both pulled back & zoomed in for all the poses
  • Shoot the same pose from different angles (above, below, etc.)
  • General guidelines for Posing:
    • Crop between the joints, not at them
    • Leave space for subject to look into (don't crowd the frame too much)
    • No crotch shots or armpit shots (except for maybe high school seniors)
    • No locked joints. If it bends, bend it.
    • If there are two of them, make them different
      • for example: elbows at different heights &/or bent at different angles
    • Shooting from below will convey a sense of power (as will shooting straight on with shoulders squared)
    • Shooting from above will
      • reduce double chin
      • make the eyes appear larger & more open
      • produce a nice jawline
    • Miss American (or S-curve) pose... works well for thin women
      • Standing
      • Weight on back foot (no weight on the front foot)
      • Shift the hips
      • Feet should make a “V” with back foot at 45-degree angle & front foot with toes pointing toward the camera
      • Bend the from knee slightly toward the other leg
    • Lean forward pose (works well for overweight women):
      • Stand at a 45-degree angle (or more) to the camera
      • Weigh on the front foot
      • Lean forward (a little) from the waist
      • Elongate the neck
      • Shoot from an overhead angle
      • Don't press arms onto your sides
  • Posing Body Parts:
      • hand closest to the lens will appear larger
      • if hands are above the waist, direct the fingers upward & if below the waist, point them downward
      • Don't stack or clasp the hands - separate them & place them apart between the joints
      • Thumbs in the pocket looks better than a hand in the pocket
      • Watch out for 'flat' hands – the sides of the hands are more graceful, particularly on women
      • Female fingers should be long & elegant
      • Male's hand should be in a loose fist (like they're holding a small rock)
    • Feet:
      • Feet hip width apart gives a look of confidence & strength
      • Feet at different angles or heights gives better balance to depth
      • No straight arms!
      • No 90-degree elbows
      • With crossed arms, rest them lightly on the chest (otherwise they'll look fat)
      • No arms pressed against sides of body... space between the arms & sides will give the appearance of a waist
    • Head/Chin:
      • Head tipped back & to the “high” shoulder will feel fun & flirty & feminine
      • Head down toward the low shoulder can express power & looks more masculine
      • Head tipped slightly back will generally convey “attitude” (a good pose for senior guys)
    • Legs:
      • ship width apart conveys strength & confidence
    • Shoulders:
      • should be on different “planes” with one slightly higher/lower than the other
      • square shoulders convey confidence & strength – or confrontation
    • Joints:
      • If it bends, bend it.
      • Don't crop at the joints. (no amputations!) Crop between the joints.
    • Hips/Thighs/Butt:
      • Angle the hips to slenderize the body
      • Rotate at the waist & suck in the gut
      • Cross one leg in front of the other when standing (The I've-gotta-pee pose)
      • When sitting, don't put weight on both cheeks. Roll slightly forward toward the camera with the hip that's farthest away from the camera
Tips for shooting people with eyeglasses
  • Change the angle between the glasses, the light & the camera lens:
    • Light from one side & have the subject face the other way (not all the way profile, just a ¾ angle)
    • Raise the light
    • Raise the feet of the glasses (the part that goes behind the ears) ever so slightly to reduce glare. (It will feel 'weird' to the subject & they won't be able to see correctly thru their glasses.)
  • Watch for recessed cheek lines
  • Shoot one set with glasses & one set without. Photoshop in the frames (only).

Photoshop Digital Diet

(This is a handout from the Feb HCCC presentation I did on Photoshop Digital Diet)

Vertical Transformation:
  1. Duplicate the background layer (Cmd/Ctrl J)
  2. Edit > Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl T)
  3. Click & hold the top (middle) handle of the transform box and drag it upward
  4. While dragging the upper handle watch the HEIGHT box on the Options Tool Bar. Make sure to keep it between 100-104%
  5. Hit Return/Enter to apply the transformation
  6. Click the eyeball on the upper layer to see the before & after
Horizontal Transformation:
  1. Duplicate the background layer (Cmd/Ctrl J)
  2. Edit > Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl T)
  3. Click & hold the left or right side handle and drag it toward the middle of the image
  4. While dragging the handle watch the WIDTH box on the Options Tool Bar. Make sure to keep it between 96-99%
  5. Hit Return/Enter to apply the transformation
  6. Click the eyeball on the upper layer to see the before and after

Liquify for Spot Reduction:
  1. Duplicate the background layer (Cmd/Ctrl J)
  2. Filter > Liquify
  3. Check "Show Mask"
  4. From the Tool Bar select the Freeze Mask Tool (F)
  5. Paint the areas you don't want to liquify
    Use the Tool Options to control the Brush size, density, etc.
    If you need to make corrections to the mask:
    paint back over the area with the Thaw Mask Tool (D)
  6. Uncheck "Show Mask"
  7. Select the Forward Warp Tool (W) from the Tool Bar
  8. Click, hold, and drag the area you want to liquify
      Ctrl/Cmd Z will "undo" one move
      Use the Reconstruct Tool (R) to undo the liquify
  9. Click OK to apply the changes
  10. Click the eyeball on the upper layer to see the before and after.

Resources for Photoshop Actions/Plug-ins

(This is a handout for the Feb HCCC presentation)
Free Photoshop Actions:
  • Coffee Shop-
    A terrific resource for free actions. Click on the "Actions & Presets" tab find dozens of free actions for photo enhancing, retouching, web actions, storyboards and digital frames. Look around her site for photography/photoshop tutorials and instructions on how to install and use actions. 
    The following CoffeeShop actions were used to process images in the slide show (these are clickable links):

  • The Pioneer Woman-
    A fantastic website by Ree Drummond with lots of photography information, Tutorials are geared toward beginners but there's something for everyone: gorgeous images, assignments, contests, tutorials, photoshop actions, etc.

    Download her two free action sets here:
    The following Pioneer Woman actions were used on some of the slide show images (clickable links):
      Lovely & Ethereal
      Quick Edge Burn

Photoshop Plug-ins:
  • Portraiture-
    Excellent portrait retouching plugin available for Photoshop, Lightroom, & Aperture.
    Download a free 15 day trial
    Buy for $199

  • Topaz Adjust-
    Quickly and easily make your photos pop by using Adjust's creative exposure, powerful detail enhancement, and unique color manipulation tools.
    Download a free, full functional 30-day trial
    Buy for $49.99

Distortion Correction

(If you want to go straight to the tutorials, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

There are two types of distortion: lens distortion & perspective distortion.  

Lens distortion is an optical distortion caused by the lens. It is more likely to be noticeable when you are using a wide-angle lens, when you are very close to your subject, or when your subject is very large (such as a building).

Types of lens distortion include:

Barrel distortion
-associated with wide-angle lenses & at the wide end (zoomed out) of a zoom lens
-grid lines appear to bulge out from the middle (like a barrel)
-most easily seen around the edges of the image
-fisheye lens

Pincushion distortion
-associated with telephoto lenses at the tele end (zoomed in)
-lines appear bowed inwards or pinched in the middle
-most easily seen around the edges of the image

Mustache (or Complex) distortion
-a mix of both barrel & pincushion distortion
-not easily fixed by software
-Canon 24-105mm f/4L is known for its mustache distortion

Chromatic Aberration
-color fringes in high-contrast edges, sometimes worse in the outer part of the image
-simplified explanation:
    the lens is splitting the light (much like a prism does) which should not happen
-occurs more frequently in wide angle lenses
-less likely to occur at wide apertures

-darkening of the corners of an image
-caused by uneven illumination of the film plane or digital sensor
-occurs with:
   wide-angle lenses
   the use of converters
   sometimes with the use of a lens hood (particularly if it is not properly sized for the lens)

Perspective distortion is caused by the angle &/or distance from the camera to the subject (not by lens distortion), regardless of the lens used. It happens when the camera lens is not straight-on/parallel to the subject. The image itself is not distorted but it is perceived as distorted.

Types of perspective distortion include:

-image appears to be leaning backward or forward
-the problem exists anytime you need to tilt the camera back to get something tall into the photo
-most noticeable with buildings due to their straight parallel sides
-keystoning is one type of vertical perspective problem:
-gets its name from the keystone of an arch
-lines are straight but leaning inward at the top
-can also occur as an upside down keystone (straight lines that lean inward at the bottom)

-one side of the image appears closer to the viewer than the other side
-example: in a portrait where the head is turned & one eye is closer to the camera, the closer eye will appear larger

Horizon Misaligned (not truly a perspective distortion but I've included it here)
-horizon is not straight


Hardware solutions:
-Buy an expensive Tilt/Shift or Rectilinear lens

Software solutions:
-Photoshop CS2 & later (Lens Correction Filter)
-Photoshop Elements 5 & later (Lens Correction Filter)
-GIMP version 2.4 & later (Lens Correction Filter)
-Lightroom 3 (Lens Correction Filter)
-DXO Optics Pro - the ultimate lens distortion correction software - $199
-PTLens - use as a stand alone application or PS plug-in; good if you have earlier versions of PS/PSE w/o lens correction features) - $25

TUTORIALS (with some clickable links):
If you have GIMP or PS Elements watching the Photoshop videos below may help you.

Lightroom 3:
-Lightroom 3 Lens Correction tutorial 

I'm not familiar enough with GIMP to recommend a tutorial but I'm sure you can find some by googling "GIMP lens correction filter" 

Photoshop 7 & earlier:
-I was unable to find a workaround for the lens correction filter in these versions
-You can correct for vertical/horizontal distortion and keystoning (only if there is no barrel or pincushion distortion) by using the Transform Tool (EDIT > TRANSFORM or EDIT > FREE TRANSFORM)
-Here's a video tutorial on how to use the Transform Tool (the first 2 minutes are tutorial & the last section is a useless commercial)
-Try using PTLens as a standalone application (I have not used this program but it generally gets good reviews)

Photoshop CS:
-Try using the "Spherize" command to correct for barrel/pincushion distortion
FILTER > DISTORT > SPHERIZE    (Sorry... I couldn't find a tutorial)
(Tip: increase your canvas size by 50-100% first so you can correct the whole image & prevent Photoshop from crashing)
-Use the Transform Tool for vertical/horizontal distortion & keystoning
-Try using PTLens as a standalone application (I have not used this program but it generally gets good reviews)

Photoshop CS2:
-Tutorial here: Lens Correction filter in CS2 

Photoshop CS3 & CS4:
-Video tutorial here: Perspective Correction in PS

Photoshohp CS5:
-Video tutorial here: CS5 Lens Correction 
-There is a vastly improved Lens Correction feature in Adobe Camera Raw 6.1 (compatible only with CS5) It does not come pre-loaded in CS5 but you can download it HERE

Hope that helps! 
If you have any questions please feel free to email me: