A review of the Vanguard VEO 265CB tripod and Vanguard BBH-200 BallheadRead More
2015...WOW!!! What a year!!!
I try every year to do a "year in review" post as a way to relive what the year gave me. I had a LOT of pain and heartbreak this year, and that stuff will NOT be in this post. What will be here is a month by month breakdown of some of the highlights of the year. All of course with that recurring theme of....PHOTOGRAPHY!!
So to all of you who were a part of my photographic journey in 2015, thank you for making it the best year yet!! And I hope we all connect again in 2016 to make even more memories!!
April Pt.2: Yes...It deserves TWO parts!
Oh my! It's that time of year already...You know...Holiday shopping time!
It is stressful enough to do gift shopping when you have an idea of what to get, but it is 100x worse when your gift recipient is a photographer and YOU have no idea what to get them!
So relax a little, and read this guide to some simple gift choices for the photographer in your life. And this list is designed for ANY brand of camera user out there. And I have it broken up into three categories for three different budgets.
So let's stop talking and get to shopping!!
So that's it folks....Just a short list of gift ideas that range from super cheap and easy for anyone, to the more expensive gift ideas that are sure to wow!
Take care and happy holidays!
Jamie A. MacDonald
That title was my mantra this past weekend as my family and I headed to northwest Michigan in search of some autumn beauty. I decided that there would be no turning around, no looking back at the hectic life we left behind for the weekend. It would be just the four of us and our Shih-Tzu in the car in search of fall color and beautiful landscapes.
Below is a collection of images taken on our short journey away from the stress of every day life.
I don't have anywhere cool to go shoot.
I don't have the time to go anywhere interesting to shoot.
I don't have anyplace within walking distance to shoot.
Yeah well....Get off your butt and get out the door and MAKE A PLACE INTERESTING TO SHOOT.
So how do you do that? How did I do that?
Today I walked out the front door and down the block to this big old warehouse. The warehouse has a grassy, weedy, semi-overgrown lot that it sits on, and this I decided was where I would MAKE a place to shoot.
The building has a cement wall that runs along it and as I entered the field/lot I decided that the wall would be where I would find the photos. I love that as a photographer we can find interest in the mundane, beauty in the neglected and overlooked world around us.
I also decided that not only would the wall be my playground, I also decided that ALL the photos would be shared as is, straight from the camera with NO POST PROCESSING OR EDITING!!
This is actually no big deal since the camera I was using, the Olympus OM-D E-M10MkII has these cool Art Filters built in. So I could just let my imagination run wild as I wandered along the wall.
So the purpose of this post was to show you that there is no excuse to not go and create photos. You can go ANYWHERE and find something beautiful. How do I know this?
BECAUSE YOU ARE AN ARTIST, A CREATIVE SOUL WHO PAINTS WITH LIGHT AND YOUR HEART.
I believe in what you do, and I want to see what you create! Now go shoot!!
Let me preface this with a little info about why this comes so late.
My family and I were vacationing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and we had a very horrible thing happen. We were at a place called Hurricane River when my wife suffered a broken hip. The location we were at was quite remote. It is about a 15 minute car ride to even get somewhere that has a cell phone signal. It took 40 minutes for my 9 year old son to even be able to flag down a passing car and direct them to where my 14 year old son and myself were trying to work my wife back to our car. It was then a further 30 minutes before an ambulance arrive, only to then find out they would need a DIFFERENT ambulance to come because her injuries required a hospital that was two hours away in Marquette!
All in all it ended up being a 30 hour wait in a hospital to get an emergency hip replacement surgery, all while almost 500 miles from home, with no family, no friends and no support for several days.... And all within the first two days of our vacation. It was a nightmare. But we are home, she is healing quickly, and we are trying to get back to some sort of a normal life.
Now on to the image I want to discuss. This image was shot while I was on a camping trip I arranged for some of my photographer friends just a few weeks before "the vacation from hell".
I took my friends up to my camper with hopes of shooting a few specific places, one of which is the pier in Grand Haven. My goal for this night was to just swing up and get some great sunset photos. But when we started to head out we saw on the radar that a series of thunderstorms were marching inland from across Lake Michigan! The assumption was we'd not get a sunset, but could maybe get some lightning shots! What I ended up with that evening was both at once!!
When we arrived we found that we were indeed going to be treated to a sunset, (which if you haven't seen a Lake Michigan sunset then you haven't really seen a sunset) AND to a potential show of lightning! So my friends and I were at various places along the beach and both piers you can see in this shot. We were shooting the sunset and watching the lighting slowly come in form the distance.
As the sun started to get really low on the horizon I had an idea that I hoped I could pull off. I wondered to myself if I could use Live Composite and capture the tail end of the sunset, but also maybe get some of the lightning as the storm approached.
So this is what I did.
I composed my shot in such a way as to leave a hint of sunset, but make the majority of the scene dark so it would let the lightning stand out. This was not easy because I had to try a few different shots to not get the sunset over exposed. I ended up being able to shoot this with the following settings
Manual Mode: Live Composite
Focal Length 7mm:
Base Exposure time: 3.2 seconds.
The Live Composite feature of the Olympus OM-D cameras makes going from a crazy spur of the moment concept, to shooting a once in a lifetime (at least for me) shot and getting this result STRAIGHT OUT OF THE CAMERA. The photo above has had NO EDITING to it.
I know this wasn't probably some wild in depth how to, but then, these cameras make some things so easy that the explanations for how to make images like this are rather short.
Thanks again for stopping in, and for those who reached out over the last few weeks to check in on my wife...Thank you so much! Your love and kind words have been a big blessing to us.
Jamie A. MacDonald
Welcome to the jungle!! Ok, the concrete jungle maybe.
So first off I am a few days late with this post and I apologize. I had scheduled it to go live, but I somehow had it set to August 28th and not July 28th. And it took me a few days to notice it hadn't launched...Ugh.
So yeah, I began this post with "Welcome to the jungle" and that is my little theme with this shot.
So let's take a look at the image and I'll explain what I was thinking.
The photo above shows the Detroit Renaissance Center as sunset draws near. It was shot from a parking structure across the street from it, and I was about 6 floors up from ground level.
When I got to the roof of this structure and headed towards the side facing the "Ren Cen" I saw a 4 foot tall wall topped with planters. At first I was a little upset because the view of the Ren Cen was going to be obstructed unless I extended my tripod out to its full height. I know some of the other people that were there with me saw the same potential "problem" and opted to find some openings in that wall to shoot through. I admit, I wanted to do the same thing at first. But then that landscape photographer in my head asked, "why don't we add some nature to this scene and use the plants in the composition?"
So that is exactly what I did. I was using the new mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO so I had all the width I needed to get all the tall glass buildings into the scene, but I also had that great depth of field shooting a super wide lens gives. This allowed me to not only have the buildings in the background in focus, but to also have the foreground elements (which were key to this composition) in good enough focus to be 100% identifiable in the final image.
So I set up the shot by LOWERING my tripod down to have the lower third of the frame filled with the yellow lily and other plants, then tilting UP to give the buildings an even more exaggerated height perspective. Once the composition was set in the camera I fired off a three shot bracketed exposure at +/- 2 ev.
When I got home I ran the bracketed shots through HDRefex PRO2 and exported the final image out to Flickr. So even when I am "in the city" I am always thinking of things the way a landscape photographer does.
Thanks for reading and I'll see ya around!!
Yes, I DID say the "sweet smell of leather" in the title because, well, there is nothing quite like the smell of leather. Not just any leather mind you, I am talking about high grade, Argentinian leather.
As photographers we are always adding gear to our bags. New lenses, camera bodies, all sorts of accessories that will get far much LESS use than a camera strap. So why do I see so many people with the same crappy strap that came with their camera? No offense to my sponsor Olympus, I love you dearly, but the nylon strap that comes with the camera just isn't my cup of tea. I like things that are hand made, crafted one at a time by humans and not created in a machine. And this strap ever so subtly says," I am beautiful, I am handmade, and I am perfect." Grandiose statement for a camera strap? Maybe to some, but to those who crave some class (in a reasonably affordable product) in their accessories I suggest you have a look at this strap.
So what else is there to love aside from supple Argentinian cowhide? Let's talk about how strong this strap is. Underneath that leather is a nylon/polyester core that is rated at 250lbs. of tensile strength. Or more simply put, this strap is strong and made to last.
There is also the Zamac® (zinc alloy) hardware which is impervious to weather and has a beautiful bronzed patina. The Cecilia branding is cast into this zinc hardware which gives it a look of quality that matches the build.
Another feature that I feel I should mention is the leather protective tabs that are placed on behind the split rings. These tabs are there to protect your camera from the scrapes and scratches that would happen from the split rings if no tabs were provided. This is an elegant solution that other companies overlook, or just completely omit.
In closing I only have one thing to say....YOU DESERVE THIS STRAP. That next gizmo for your camera bag can wait, but this extravagance that has both form AND function cannot wait. Stop advertising the camera brand, and start advertising style.
So head over to CECILIA GALLERY and have a look around. And if you purchase a strap from them....Tell them Jamie sent ya ;)
One more thing....I did a review a while back of one of their other straps....I think you should maybe check that one out too.
Today I went on a safari.....It was full of exotic creatures, fraught with danger from hostile insects, and I did this all.......500 feet from my home.
Welcome to the grasslands of.....Eaton Rapids Michigan.
You really didn't think I went to Africa or some other exotic far away land did you? I figure I can have an incredibly fun time doing a macro safari right down the street from my home much easier than trying to fund a foreign safari.
So to embark upon this trip I took one piece of equipment, and that was the new Olympus TOUGH TG-4 point and shoot camera. I chose this camera because I had very particular criteria for my "expedition" today. The main thing about today's adventure was that I decided to limit the subjects I would photograph to those that were NO LARGER than the last joint on my index finger. And let me just tell you....I don't have long fingers. So this meant that my subjects were going to be tiny!! How fun is that!?!??
This is all made easy with the TOUGH because it has a wicked macro mode which Olympus has named "microscope mode". And when you use it you will understand why! So let's have a look at the exotic fauna I photographed today!
Another thing to note is that this camera has wicked good image stabilization. It was not easy to hold still and shoot while crouching in the weeds with ticks everywhere. Yeah..TICKS! I said this expedition was fraught with danger, and I had to deal with hostile insects!
It isn't often that you get butterflies to sit still for a photo...So when they do, you take advantage of it!!
To give you an idea of the size of things I was shooting.....I give you this HUGE pink flower...Well....Huge is a relative term I guess.
Ok...So I DID find one thing to shoot that was bigger than these little insects.......
I said he was bigger...But at this scale...Bigger doesn't mean big!!
So what do you think? Backyard safaris can be awesome!!! All these photos were straight out of the camera. No editing....Just good old fashioned shooting and sharing.
So what are YOU waiting for?!!? Get out there and let the adventure begin!!!
Hey everyone! I am back with #3 in my series of articles explaining what went into a particular image I have shot. This month's photo was shot in one of my favorite places here in Michigan, Grand Haven. Grand Haven is located on the west side of the state on the shore of Lake Michigan and has a wonderful pier for walking and fishing from. It also has a very cool lighthouse and accompanying lighthouse keepers building. And while this may sound like the perfect subject for a photo...and it is.....It is not what I was after when I went there to shoot.
Let's take a look at the image below and explore how I made it, and what motivated me to shoot it.
*Click the image for a larger view
So first let's talk gear. I know gear isn't "everything"...But sometimes it really is. The body used was the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The body selection here isn't the most important part because I was mounted to a tripod when I shot it. That way I wasn't relying on the camera's image stabilization, and I could follow this person as the walked along the pier while keeping the horizon level. Of course it could have been done hand held, but keeping a level horizon while panning can be tricky.
Now remember I said that gear DOES matter sometimes? Well this is the piece of gear that made the shot. The mZuiko 75-300mm was used for its long 300mm focal length. Sure the girl walking on the pier was a little ways away, but I chose the 300mm length to help "magnify" the sun. If this were to have been shot with say a 12mm lens, or 75mm lens, the sun would look like a small dot on the horizon. But with the lens zoomed out to 300mm we get that enlarged appearance of the sun that I desired. So there is a little trick for you there. If you want the sun(or moon!) to be BIG on the horizon in your photos, use as long a lens as you have. The longer the focal length the more pronounced the enlargement will be.
Now how did I get the shot to be silhouetted? I was shooting in manual mode, but you could easily do this in say aperture priority mode. I had the camera set to center weighted metering, and metered off of the wisp of clouds to the upper left of the scene. Actually, that is where I set focus too. Shutter speed was 1/6400th of a second as that is what was needed to expose the clouds properly and help throw the foreground into shadow creating my silhouette. Aperture was set at f/6.7 for no other reason than it happened to be there from a previous shot.
Long focal length
Expose for the sun and sky
And keep the iso low. I was at 200 iso in my shot.
So now the inspiration for this? It is simple really. I wanted to give the feeling of solitude one can get while enjoying a glorious sunset. It was easy to do as this person was walking alone, and seemed lost in their own little world while the day came to stunning end.
I hope you enjoyed this little write up and I look forward to any feedback you may have.