Go See Do Photography

The Photo Blog of Mowers Photography, LLC

Category: Photo Tips

iPhoneography

Railroad JunctionThey say the best camera is the one you have on you, so I have been making a point lately to leave the DSLR at home and to work on my iPhoneography. Will my phone ever become my serious camera?  Not anytime soon. But, this practice is good because I don’t bring my DSLR with me everywhere I go and there are times when all I have with me is my camera phone. I want to be able to get the most out of those photos.

Just like you would never shoot your serious camera in auto mode, to get the most out of your phone photos, you have to get away from the native camera app. I use the Lightroom Mobile app (which is free and you don’t have to have Creative Cloud to use it), but there are other quality shooting and editing apps out there. Before taking the picture, the app lets you adjust your exposure, white balance, and your focus point. On the iPhone 7, Lightroom is able to shoot in RAW which is awesome because after the fact, you are able to get more out of your photos. After you take a picture, Lightroom Mobile allows you to do basic edits of the image and then you can save it to your camera roll and share it out on social media.

I recently did a comparison between two photos of the same thing, one of them was shot with my D3100 (which is not a high end camera by any means) and one was shot with my iPhone. While the iPhone camera has come a long way, and apps like Lightroom Mobile allow you to be more creative with your images, it still does not measure up to a DSLR.

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Photographing Winter Festivals

20170127-20170127-DSC_0098A few weeks ago was Snowfest in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Snowfest is an annual snow sculpting and ice carving competition and though its chilly, its really a fun thing to experience. After photographing the festival two years in a row, I have some advice for anyone looking to shoot a winter festival like this.

Although as you can see from the photo, there wasn’t much snow on the ground for this year’s festival, these types of festivals typically lack contrast in the photos (white ice sculpture against a white snowy background) I recommend staying away from the festival during the day. Personally, I prefer to shoot under the lights after the sun goes down. Some festivals, like the Plymouth Ice Festival, will backlight their sculptures bringing out the contours of the piece and adding interest the sculptures. With night shooting, be sure to bring your fastest lens and in a few places, I wished I had brought my off camera flash. I think that could’ve helped a few of my shots. If you’re trying to catch action, a tripod won’t help you. If you can go when the artists are out working, I find that my best pictures (both this year and last year) are of unfinished pieces that show the action. And if you can catch the ice flying like in this shot, even better!

Camera Gear:
Nikon D3100 with 18-55 kit lens, handheld

Date Taken:
January 27, 2017

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Finding Inspiration in the Changing Seasons

Tiger

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I always lose motivation. The trees are bare and the temperatures are cold. I’ve been making a point to take my camera with me when I go out and I don’t even pick it up. I have been using this lack of inspiration as an excuse to organize my lightroom catalog. I’ve been going through my old photos and making sure everything has a star rating and proper keywords. One good thing about doing this is I stumbled upon some good shots I didn’t know I had. This shot of a tiger is one of those I discovered. How have I not posted this before? Hopefully, soon I will be snapping pics of the Christmas tree and holiday festivities, but for now, rediscovered old photos is keeping me occupied.

About the Photo:
As this shot was from 2 summers ago, I really can’t tell you much about my thought process when I took it. It was a single RAW exposure with basic edits done in Lightroom.

Camera Gear:
Nikon D3100 with 55-200 kit lens handheld

Date Taken:
July 22, 2015

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Taking a Photo a Day

Chipmunk #11

Once again, I am embarking on a Photo a Day Project this summer. I enjoy this because it forces me to look for interesting subjects in the every day. Also, I like to use this project to learn new techniques and editing styles. Back in 2011 I tried a Project 365 (where you take a photo a day for a year) and that was just too much for me. First off, it is very hard to start a project like this in the winter. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find all white landscapes very inspiring. Not to mention, I really don’t enjoy spending time outside when its below zero. If you’re looking to try something new and get some inspiration, I highly recommend trying a photo a day project, whether you have the dedication for a 365, that’s up to you.

About the Photo:
This guy comes by my house all the time but I’ve had a hard time capturing him. I know how fast he moves, so I knew I fast shutter speed was in order, so I used my 50mm lens because it is the fastest in my arsenal. Because Mr. Chippy was sitting in the shade, I upped the ISO to 800 and got a shutter speed of 1/500. The D3100 doesn’t have great noise performance so I had to do some noise reduction in Lightroom to smooth out the green.

Camera Gear:
Nikon D3100 with 50.0 mm f/1.8

Date Taken:
June 8, 2016

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page.  To make sure you don’t miss any of my photos during the summer, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see what’s in my camera bag, check out my gear page!

Lets Talk Editing!

Butterfly House

Over and over on the blog, I preach that the gear does not make the photographer. One simple way to elevate your photography is by upgrading your photo editing software. When I got started in photography, I used Google’s free editing software, Picassa. Its inexpensive and enables the photographer to make very simple changes to a photo (i.e. exposure, contrast, simple color adjustments, crop). It is good for basic snapshots, but doesn’t really do what a serious photographer needs. Photoshop is expensive, so my first upgrade was to Photoshop Elements ($74 on Amazon). While it is a step in the right direction, it is not easy to use. And, like Picassa you have to save a copy of every photo you edit which takes up a lot of space on your hard drive, not to mention its a pain when you want to re-edit a photo. Then, I hear about Adobe Creative Cloud, a $9.99/month subscription service in which you get Lightroom and Photoshop. I signed up for a 30 day free trial and never looked back. Lightroom is so much more user friendly than Elements and its Library function is a godsend in photo organization. All three of these programs have RAW editors, but I definitely recommend Lightroom. If you’re not interested in a subscription service, you can purchase Lightroom 6 on Amazon. Of course, you do need Photoshop for more advanced edits. I’ll have Chris write on that later.

About the Photo:
This was a single RAW exposure with basic edits done in Lightroom. In a future post I will detail what I mean when I say “basic edits”.

Camera Gear:
Nikon D3100 with 55-200 kit lens, handheld

Date Taken:
June 3, 2016

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page.  I have started my summer photo a day project again this year. To make sure you don’t miss a single day, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr!

Tulip Festival

Field of Tulips

I saw recently that the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan was just rated the #1 flower festival in the US by USA Today readers. This was the second year that I made the trek over to Holland to see the blossoms and it really is beautiful! To see tulips of all colors, lined up in rows really is a sight to behold! The festival is over now, but if you are planning a visit for next year, I highly recommend Windmill Island Gardens. One thing to note, it gets very crowded during the Tulip Festival. If possible, plan your trip before the festival starts to get the gardens to yourself!

About the Photo:
If you are into photography at all you have probably heard about the importance of lighting. In the middle of the day on a sunny day, the sun is directly overhead and it casts harsh shadows. I’ll be honest, I’ve heard this over and over again and I tried to obey it but I never really understood what it meant. Well, looking at my Tulip Festival pictures, I finally understand. You can see the uneven shadows on that white tulip. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it. All rules are meant to be broken sometimes, and I think the shadows add something interesting to the image. Below, I’ve posted a photo from my visit last year when it was overcast and lightly raining. It doesn’t look as bright as the above photo (a flash would’ve helped with that), but the cloud cover provided nice, even light. The water droplets don’t hurt either.

Water on Tulips

Camera Gear (for both photos):
Nikon D3100 with 8.0-55.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens handheld

Date Taken:
Top: May 8, 2016
Bottom: May 10, 2015

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! Visit TulipTime.com to plan your Tulip Festival visit!

#igtravelchallenge May: Great Skies

`Lighthouse & Lens Flare

When talking skies, I had to go back to my trip to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Rain was on the forecast, but we decided to take the chance and drive up there anyway. The results were stunning! We got beautiful shots of the rain falling over Lake Michigan. I learned my lesson, that’s for sure! Don’t let the weather deter you from exploring and photographing!

About the Photo:
When I saw the sun in the sky this day, I knew it was the perfect candidate for a sunburst! To do this, you’ll want to be in Manual or Aperature Priority Mode on your camera and set a small aperture (larger number). I recommend starting around f/16 and taking shots, each time getting a smaller and smaller aperture. Especially if you are shooting RAW, you may not see the results on the back of your camera, but once you import it into Lightroom, pull out the highlights and you should see a sunburst in the sky!

Camera Gear:
Nikon D3100 with 18.0-55.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, handheld

Date Taken:
April 1, 2016

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr!

Storm Rolling In

Sand Dune Panorama

Over Spring Break, one of the places I wanted to visit was the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. It was supposed to start raining and turn into snow on the day we had chosen and I was skeptical about whether or not we should still go. Well, Chris talked me into and I’m glad I decided to brave it! It was a great photographer’s sky! Those rays in the sky are not Photoshopped in! That is the rain coming in off the lake! Tip for photographers: Don’t let “bad” weather stop you from exploring and shooting! Be brave! Clear sky days are the time to stay home and do housework!

About this Photo:
I knew going to the dunes that I was going to want the widest lens I have and that wasn’t even really wide enough, so I decided to go the panorama route. This was 5 shots stitched together in Lightroom. Once Lightroom did its thing, I did my basic edits and voila!

Camera Gear:
Nikon D3100 with 18.0-55.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, handheld. Tip: If you’re planning a visit to the dunes, bring your camera bag with you. It is quite a climb up there and you don’t want to get any sand in anything!

Date Taken:
April 1, 2016

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr!

The Great Camera Bag Search

Camera as Subject
I feel like my life purpose has been to find the perfect camera bag. I want something that I can travel with, that doubles as a purse so I don’t have to carry two bags (granted, since I got an iphone wallet, I rarely carry a purse these days). I want something inconspicuous; I don’t want it to yell “HEY! I’M CARRYING A BUNCH OF EXPENSIVE CAMERA GEAR!” And the trickiest parameter, I want it to be fairly fashionable. Let’s go through the bags I have and my thoughts on them:

Lowepro Passport Sling:

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This was the first camera bag I purchased for my DSLR. This was the perfect bag for my Disney trip! It held my D3100, an additional lens, camera accessories, and everything else we needed for a day in the parks (sunscreen, ponchos, fold-able water bottles, etc.). I like that it is a sling design, so you’re not carrying all that weight on one shoulder, and you don’t have to take it all the way off to get anything out of it, the way you would with a backpack. It is a larger bag, so if you’re looking to just carry a single camera body and lens with minimal accessories, this is probably not the bag for you. While this is a good bag, its very utilitarian looking and didn’t meet my fashionable needs. This is the bag Chris uses these days, but all of the pockets can make it hard to find things, especially little things like extra memory cards.

Eddie Bauer Adjustable Shoulder Strap Camera Bag:

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Honestly, this is not a bag we use too much. We bought a used camera and it came with this bag. But, if you’re looking for a simple bag to carry a single camera body and lens this is a good, inexpensive choice (its $11.99 on Amazon).

Ghope Black Canvas Messenger Bag for DSLR Camera:

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These days, my gear lives in this bag. I’m able to hold my D3100 – lens on and two backup lenses (although one is a small prime lens). There are two pockets in the front for small accessories and a pouch on the back for skinny things like cable releases. The detailing on the front gives it a little added aesthetics and while its pretty boxy for a a messenger bag, it doesn’t scream “camera bag”.My one complaint is the strap is kind of short so it rides a little high if I wear it cross body.

My dream camera bag, if you’re looking to buy me a gift, is the Kelly Moore B-Hobo Bag. It looks like a handbag, but has built in padding for your gear. The price tag is the only thing holding me back. I haven’t been willing to shell out over $150 for a camera bag.
Thanks for stopping by! Do you have a camera bag you love? Let me know in the comments! To see what I carry in these bags, check out my gear page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on  Flickr! This month I am taking part of an Instagram Travel Challenge, posting a travel photo a day on Instagram and I’d love for you to follow along!

What to look for in a camera

Photographing the Photographer

Chris photographing the Livingstone Lighthouse on Belle Isle.
I’m sure if you did a search for most commonly used phrases on this blog, the phrase, “you don’t need an expensive camera to take good pictures” would probably come out on top. This is something I mention a lot because I know the price of camera gear can hold photographers back from pursuing their hobby or make them think they can’t make good images on cheap gear and that is just not true. Yes, an interchangeable lens camera system (either DSLR or mirrorless) will make it easier to get quality shots, but the camera does not make the photographer. I figured its time to start a series of photo tips on the blog and I wanted to start at the beginning – choosing a camera. I won’t get into the Nikon vs. Canon debate (although I’m a Nikon shooter, only because it was cheaper that day) or DSLR vs. Mirrorless  (there’s a lot out there on this topic right now) but just simply what specs to look for when purchasing your first serious camera. Let’s get to it!

In my opinion, one of the biggest things you want to look for is that the camera has the capability to shoot in RAW. I didn’t understand what RAW was when I first got my DSLR so  up until recently I did all my shooting in JPEG. When I go back and look at those older images I’m frustrated because I’m unable to do as much to them as I am to RAW files. My friend Steve at Burnsland.com recently posted a great article about the power of RAW files that is a must read for anyone who is scared to switch from JPEG!

Another thing to look for when camera shopping, is manual controls – the ability to control your aperture and shutter speed and do it easily (a lot of cameras have the setting buried in menus and that’s no fun for anyone). To be able to get full control of your images, you’ll want to be able to control your depth of field and the motion in your shot and you just cannot do this in camera that will only shoot in fully programmed mode.

And then there’s the sensor size question but honestly, any camera on the market today has a big enough resolution for most of the things you’ll be doing and, if you ask me, some of these new giant megapixel cameras are kind of a gimmick. Go out on one shoot and your hard drive is full! It is important to note that with smaller image sizes it is harder to do any significant cropping to the image without taking a hit in quality. But, for the average photographer doing basic printing and online sharing, you’ll be fine with most any camera in today’s market.

Interchangable lenses like mirrorless and DSLR camera systems have are obviously a better but more expensive choice than a fixed lens camera. But, if your budget doesn’t allow for that, definitely consider something with a optical zoom (the lens comes out of the camera) over the strictly digital zoom (like an iphone camera). My first digital camera was strictly digital zoom and I hated it because the zoom was basically worthless; it made everything very noisy. But, if that’s all you can afford, you always have the old-fashioned zoom, your feet!

So, to recap, when looking for a camera look for the ability to shoot in RAW, manual controls, and optical zoom. If you’re looking for an entry-level DSLR, I highly recommend the Nikon D3x00 series (I have the D3100 but the D3300 has newer features). You can also get older cameras used for a good deal (although, this is where you’d have to watch out for megapixel count)!

Thanks for stopping by! Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on  Flickr! This month I am taking part of an Instagram Travel Challenge, posting a travel photo a day on Instagram and I’d love for you to follow along!

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