Sunday, December 27, 2009

How to stay Passionate

We all go through it those times when life throws you curveballs, so how can you stay passionate about your Photography? 

How do you keep those creative tricks up your sleeves?

It can be a challenge. I found looking at other photographers work, shooting and thinking outside the box help me. When all else fails...grab the camera and shoot. Get in the car and drive and get lost on the road. You never know where it may take you. These photos were on my way to Joshua Tree in between LA and Palm Springs, all shot with D300, 70-200mm f2.8, 24-85mm f2.8-4 and the 16mm f2.8 fisheye.

This is a very surreal field, miles of generators and fans, almost feels like a different planet.

It isn't much to look at, very dry, odd looking trees, many hiking paths and warnings about snakes. But the landscape is beautiful. Untouched, minus a road that weaves around the thousands of acres.

I would love to come up here around sunset and see what I can create, there are camping sites and trails throughout. Water is necessary, and sunscreeen is needed.
So if you have the time, I highly recommend, getting in your car and seeing what road you find yourself on. Just make sure to take the camera. : )

New Nikon Toys Announced!!!

So late last night, Nikon announced two new products and two upgrades on lenses.

A D300s and a D3000
A new 70-200 f2.8 pro lens and the popular consumer 18-200mm lens.

As I have the D300, and no real need for video, I’m not that interested in the D300s, however, I have been waiting for the new 70-200mm lens, knowing that it was soon to be replaced, just due to the age of the older version.


I used to shoot and loved the older AF-S 80-200 f2.8, this lens was beefier and felt great in my hands. While the older 70-200mm lens was great and performed wonderfully, it felt off to me. The new 70-200mm lens looks like it might just be perfect. I will have to test the vignetting. But as we all know and should understand, ALL lenses will have this to some degree.


The newest D700, D3 and D3x, have a vignetting control feature which is great and really works.

A fun website to check out (and while this is a rumor site and can not be considered truth) it is fun to see how creative people can get with products.


Simply amazing. Simply Beautiful. I had the chance to shoot with the D3x for one day. The results were amazing. I pushed the ISO limits and shot with the Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens.

Downside: downloading 700 plus images took a couple of hours. Having one of the latest macs, I figured this would be quicker, but alas no. (more than likely due to my card reader)

While I have no real need for a 25 megapixel camera. I found the results to be fantastic and wishing I had the need.

Detail, Detail Detail. The details and the what you could see at 100% blew my mind away. I've included a few samples, but hard to really see unless at full size.

While he seems a lot larger, this was shot with the Nikkor 24-85mm f2.8-4, and he stand roughly 5-6 inches tall.

Raw + Jpeg Fine
14-24mm lens @14mm
ISO 1250
Shutter Priority
F 2.8
AF-S, Dynamic, 9 point

To see more of my images from my Day with the D3x, please go to:

Website Presence and Design

The freelance industry, for those semi-pros and beginners the industry has taken a nose dive. The economy has hurt so many photographers. I have heard of many photographers closing shop and packing their cameras away.

Typically the first of the year is slower; people have spent money at Christmas and are not looking to have photography done. This year however, work is literally non-existent. I have a few small side jobs, but not what I normally produce by the middle of May. It is frustrating and depressing all at the same time.

What to do? Spending money on advertising can’t happen; relying on Craigslist, word of mouth, random people browsing your website is all you have. Making sure your website is updated with all the latest info and photos is a must. Having a well designed website is also EXTREMELY important.
When I first started my business, I could not afford to pay someone to design a website. So using my basic skills with Photoshop, trying to understand what HTML was difficult to say the least. In 2000 this was not as well known by the masses that now have a myspace page etc. I spent an entire weekend and following week trying to learn HTML, playing with codes, words and images.

I developed by business name (with the help of a friend) purchased my website address, and sat at my computer for hours, stressing, chain smoking. Literally pulling my hair out to try and understand what specific codes did, how to make an image clickable. Mind you again this was 2000, very little info could be found and understanding the jargon was difficult.

Since that time, I have re-vamped, continued learning, continued to change my website look and feel numerous times. Moving to California, I knew I needed to step up my site and my game. I needed to try and stand out as much as possible from the others. In 2004, I received my first version of Dreamweaver. Opening this program was overwhelming. I had no clue. I spent weeks using the tutorials, with trial and error, and researching how to use this complex program, that I felt was written in Chinese.

For the next two years, Developing not only my website, but a friends, I had learned enough to get in trouble (as my mom would say). I had an understanding of how to create a site from scratch and make it a workable website.

Nothing fancy, but clean, eye-catching and usable. Once I had Dreamweaver understood, then it was on to Flash. I’m still learning.

Up until recently, I used a flash slide show that a friend had developed for me. It works but it was time consuming and no matter what I tried, I could not get the images that big. I wanted my art big, something that filled the screen and stood out.

About 8 months ago, I began researching the internet and looking at various photography sites. I had found many that I had like. I thought they were clean, simple yet effective. I began to notice a pattern, while each site essentially looked different, they worked the same. I had discovered LiveBooks; a company that developed websites for photographers. Gorgeous. I love this site; it had everything I was looking for in a website. It was clean, had large images that filled the screen, had music, flash, and was easy for someone to understand that was visiting the site.

Then I looked at the price. OUCH!

My dad has always told me I had a Cadillac ass and VW budget (when VW’s were inexpensive). I wanted this service but I could not afford it. So what do I do? The top price package, which gives you everything you would want, unlimited room, space and images, was over $3000.

I didn’t have that, let alone the time to save the money. I wanted to change my site but have more control of design and change of design. (I tend to change around my site once or twice a year.) I needed the flexibility and control of how my world was run. I needed something in my price range.
Having a better knowledge and understanding of HTML, CSS and some flash, I researched online and found a couple of programs/software that would work. The program I found only cost me $80. A one time charge. I self installed and have now a program that is very close to LiveBooks, but will allow me to build the page around their programming. If you are interested, please visit the site below.
Since beginning to learn basic webdesign, I now have designed online shops, informative websites and expanded my knowledge in what I believe the world is becoming an online based business driven industry.

What’s the first thing you do, when looking for information? Google it? Search for it online? Or do you go to the library? Last time I stepped into a library to use for research was at least 7 years ago and even then I believe it was for an assignment I was covering at the newspaper.

If you do not have a website yet, get one. It is vital to any photographer today looking to display work, drive business.

If you need hosting, I recommend 1&1, I have used their service for the last 3 years and found them to be the most affordable and offer the most space and capabilities. Click the image link below for more information.


Fun "Mini" Image

Amazing Assignments...

As a photojournalist for a newspaper, some very rare times you get the opportunity to have amazing experiences. I was one of the few not afraid of heights or being a little daring. So I was able to enjoy many of the assignments where others preferred to keep their feet on the ground.

The photo to the left was taken over Lake Erie, high above downtown Cleveland. Three WWII planes were in town for a local air show. One of the reporters (an ex) was given this assignment. I was then assigned to also go. My heart pumping as I drove to the Airport Marina in Cleveland excited to perform maneuvers over Lake Erie.

We meet the pilots, talked about their experiences. They travel all over the US to attend these events. The planes were original, used during the war and re-built. After a brief discussion of what we will do. Both the reporter and I climbed into our own planes. He with his notebook; and I with my D1 and 28-70mm f2.8 lens in my hands and around my neck. I had my camera bag wrapped around my feet and zipped.

I climb in, and am instructed to put on the head phones so we can talk while in flight. Take-off is smooth and my heart beings to pump, a smile growing wider across my face. We are off and all three in perfect formation flying over Cleveland. He then asks me, “So what would you like to do?”

Smiling I said “everything you got” The first move was a loop. All I could do was yell “Whoohoo!” The first move showed me how hard it was to hold a D1 with a g-force pushing everything in your body your hands downward. My D1, which was a normal weight, tripled. All I could do was laugh. Looking through the camera was impossible, not unless I wanted a black eye or bloody nose.

So I shot from the hip, in a sense (more like shot from the shoulders); it took all my strength, energy and control to keep the camera up. My arms hurt for three days after the assignment. Thank god I didn’t have to change rolls of film. That would have been impossible.

We did barrel rolls, more loops, and created a smoke trail. The world became a confusing, upside down place, not sure how they maintain any sense of directions about them. It was one of the best experiences, assignments, I have ever had. We finally land; I am smiling from ear to ear, ready for more. My adrenaline is raging. As the reporter and I are walking back to the car, I ask him what he thought. He said “I don’t know I had my eyes closed.”

All Io could think was “WHAT!!!” are you kidding me???

The assignment should have been given to a reporter that would have enjoyed the day. I was floored, and then realized why it was a good thing we were no longer together.

SUPER lenses

Seen on B&H Photo:
A $120,000 lens!!! It’s a Canon lens that costs more than I think most people would spend on equipment in their lifetime. While it may be fun to shoot with once; just once. I have no need at all for this. Amazingly it is a fixed f5.6 and understandable the price for a lens at that length with that aperture.

The lens itself weighs in at 36lbs, with a close focusing distance of 49 feet. And more than 2 feet long (33 inches). This 1200mm lens is a beast but it was autofocus (circa 1993). I think though at that range, I would more than likely manual focus as it seems getting accurate focus would be difficult. The largest zoom lens made by Canon that I could find was an 85-300mm lens.

Nikon also made a lens with an extended range of 1200-1700mm special order lens (circa 1990), with an aperture of f5.6-8, it weighed @ 35lbs and 35 inches long; a manual lens and the largest Nikon has ever produced in a zoom. Nikon also produced a 1200mm lens with an f8 capability, similar to that of the Canon but their first version of this lens was produced in 1964 and continued to advance with the growing lens technology until 1985.


Use of this equipment would only seem to be for the high end government agencies (ultimate spy lens) that require a distance to shoot, view, observe a subject that otherwise is almost unattainable. I don’t see many sports shooters needing this range, even if they are at the Superbowl and can only stand in one spot. Most events allow photojournalists to move around so needing a super-telephoto or super-zoom lens is unnecessary.

The heaviest lens I have ever shot with was the Nikkor 400mm f2.8 AIS lens, it was too much, I had used it for a couple of games but decided to stick with the 300mm f2.8, which was much easier to carry around.

But if you had $120,000 to spend on this lens…Would you? That is the question. I think I would rather buy a couple of D3X’s, new computer system, maybe a house (or at least a down payment on a house here in LA)!

Random Images

I've decided to start posting a few of my images, just because…. Well I’m bored. Want to try something new, to show samples, show off work, etc. These a few more images, that when I captured it, I knew it was the image I was looking for.

Through the Looking Glass

Choosing the Right Camera

Making that decision can be nerve racking. If you are a beginner or seasoned Pro the decision on what you purchase is very important. While having the latest is what everyone desires. It may not be the best choice for you.

First things first: (all this based on my knowledge of Nikon) Canon provides the same comparable models; I just don’t know their latest equipment.

Determine your need
Do you want a camera that you can carry around, that is perfect for those quick moments where you need to take a photo?
-Then a point and shoot compact Digital camera will be your best choice. I have one that I carry with me at all times, a small Coolpix S series camera. It’s perfect. Fits in my purse, great for nights out with friends or attending events where I don’t feel like carrying my DSLR.

Determine Skill
I recommend to anyone that may be looking at a DSLR, consider your skill level; this is very important because it will help you decide what is going to work best for you. If you are looking to get into photography and you want something more than a point and shoot, look at beginner DSLR cameras like the D60, D40, this will give you the basic features but allow you to shoot in Auto if all else fails. Understand the amount of photos you will be able to take in a single second is minimal, especially when using the pop-up flash.

The step up from that is the D90, while it has auto, it has more manual controls needed for greater image control. There are some added benefits to shooting with the D90 over the D60, older lenses can be used. The D60 is limited to the latest AF-S lenses. Auto focus and metering will not work correctly if you use an older AF lens on this model. If you have older lenses then the D90, is a better choice over the D60.

If you are a beginner or have some understanding; before you spend the 2k, on a D300 or more on the D700, D3 or D3x. TAKE A CLASS!!!!

Do not make this purchase unless you can be confident you will understand the equipment. If you do not know what aperture, shutter, depth of field or ISO is… TAKE A CLASS!!!
If you do not, you will not only regret your purchase, you will loose money and time trying to learn all that you can with out the understanding of how the camera actually functions, which is VERY important as each photograph has varying lighting conditions, unique shooting conditions, that with understanding comes the confidence.

Anytime anyone has ever asked me about their camera choice, that they want to learn about photography, I recommend they spend @$200 on a used film camera that allows you to shoot manually, and take a beginner photography class at a local community college. While this may seem archaic, you as a photographer will learn so much more which will carry over to when you are ready to make that “BIG” digital purchase

Determine Use
What are you going to use the camera for? Occasional shooting, possibly the kids playing sports etc.; as you increase in the model, the more you can do, but the more complicated the camera can get. I do not recommend anyone purchasing a D3, unless that has an understanding of Nikon digital equipment and what shutter, aperture and depth of field mean.
If you are a pro, then you know what you want. Your choice is FX or DX.

The skill level from beginner to expert is as follows: (current cameras)

D3000 > D40 > D5000 > D60 > D90 > D300 > D300s> D700 > D3 > D3s > D3X

Many pros use the D300, because of the 1.5 factor, which is important if you are a sports shooter. Having that increase in focal length is a huge benefit. Or they have stayed with the D2x.

Do not buy a D40/D60 model expecting to make money as a “Successful” photographer, while some images will probably work, understand that as a “Professional” photographer, you are being paid to capture those moments, you are being paid by the client to provide them with quality images. Don’t blame the equipment when you are getting under exposed, over exposed, blurry images. 9 out of 10 times, it’s not the camera, it’s the user that is making the mistakes.

FX vs DX:
FX = Full Frame (D700, D3 and D3x)
DX= Digital Frame (D40, D40x, D50, D60, D70, D70s, D80, D90, D100, D200, D300, D1, D1x, D1h, D2h, D2x)

For film shooters, this is easier to understand, FX frame has the same size sensor as the 35mm film plane, DX frame is a smaller sensor, with a 1.5 increase on lens focal length.

For example:
FX; shooting with a 20mm lens, like the film cameras, it is a 20mm lens
DX; shooting with a 20mm lens, is like shooting with a 30mm lens (a 1.5x increase in focal length)

Determine Cost
What can you spend vs. what do you want to spend.

Digital camera a lot like cars, decrease in value each year. Technology advances so quick with digital that models that are 2-4 years old, are not really worth 1/4th of what you originally paid. My first digital, which only had 6 megapixels, was $2500, without the lens. I sold it for $400 (very sad). My D300, without the lens was nearly $700 cheaper, had better image quality but will probably turn into a paperweight or backup once I replace this a couple of years down the road.

New models for top end DSLR’s are produced on average every 18-24months.

If you don’t have the money but really want a certain model, don’t settle, SAVE! It is important to pick the camera that is best for you, if you chose to step down because you don’t have enough money but you need a camera now. Rent one, save for what you want. Most large camera companies do not offer an upgrade program. So realize what you purchase will be it, no chance to trade-up, and you probably will not get what you paid for if you decide to sell later.

Research, research, research!
This is very, very important and why I said it three times. Research online, look at specifications, what will the camera come with (accessories etc), some dealers offer packages. Go to local dealers, play with the camera, hold it, and shoot with it. Does it feel good in your hands?

Once you choose the model, you can then price online, but be aware of import/gray market vs. authorized. Key; if it’s too good to be true more than likely it is not an authorized product, which will not have the manufacture warranty, nor will it ever be able to be service by the Manufacture. (Please see my previous blog on Gray Market:

Feel free to comment, send a message if you have any questions on this or if you are unsure and want advice on which camera is best for you.

Things to shoot on a LOW to NO budget..

Unfortunately we are all feeling it, lack of funds, lack of corporate responsibility (AIG shame on You!). So what can we do as creative, passionate individuals?

For the last month, I have been researching places and things to do in LA for free or at little cost. Generally mostly cost gas and some time. My ultimate goal is to try and go one place each month over the year. While it may seem like a little, it won’t burn you out from driving and creates the sense of a mini-vacation.

A few things I came across: Queen Mary (was free for two weeks for soCal residents). I went on the last day; while an interesting history about the ship (larger than the titanic) I was not that impressed. It appears that during the 70’s many of the characteristics of the ship were remodeled; leaving it with this very odd style that does not fit the era of the ship. Photographically the only thing that caught my eye, was the radio room (which was re-done for a local station) and the engine room, dark, mysterious, lots of old dials and controls. Parts of the ship were closed off and you had no access to which left me bored after two hours. Other than that, I am happy it was free, because it would not have been worth the $30, plus parking to see it.

Places I plan to see this year:
Gorman Hills. I have heard this is supposed to be beautiful, and plan on taking a road trip up there this spring.

Catalina Island:
Although not a small cost, a package which includes the boat ride over (@$70), plus two hours on shore, will lead to possible whale sightings and some amazing images. It would probably be @ $100 with parking and lunch on the island.

A mecca of places to see at night; Worth just going with one or two lenses, maybe a tripod if I plan on doing any long exposures.

The PCH:
Just a drive along it is worth anytime spent or gas used.

Getty Center:
Still have to check this out, I have heard this is a very nice place, and it is free.

Downtown LA:
I would like to shoot downtown at night, but really refuse to go alone. I have a shot in my head I would like to capture, but requires being on the SE side of downtown.

Santa Barbara:
Last time I went I didn’t really get to enjoy it the way I would have liked but it was gorgeous. Lots of unique little shops and places to see.

I just wish I had more time to do all this, more free-time, but yet again, I’m glad I have a job. I guess the idea, make the most out of what you are shooting while you are doing it.

Additional Places, someone reminded me of Mulholland Dr, great views and there is an amazing trail that leads to the top of one of the hills. Great View of Downtown and Hollywood. Also Griffith Observatory, I had forgotten they reopened last year.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall... PRACTICE!

I have spent many years trying to perfect my craft, hone my skills and creatively produce images that stand out. Shooting since I was 15. (Skip ahead 22 years) As of lately and highly due to the digital era, you hear of many people “wanting to become photographers”.

Just because you may own a camera does not make you a professional or a photographer. It takes years of learning, critiquing, and understanding a camera completely. Now I’m not saying that someone that picks up a camera can't take amazing photos, I am simply stating, it does take more than that.

I have heard stories of a few people buying a D40 or a Rebel and believing they can begin to make money and “become famous”.

To book jobs it requires many things, contracts, professionalism, understanding lighting, understanding if something goes wrong with your images, it more than likely because of you not having a full knowledge to what to do in certain shooting conditions. Not the equipment. Realize that if you screw up, your client, the one that hired you, can sue you for not providing them with the service and the photos they paid you for.

Practice, take a class, and get out of the AUTO mode. Buy a flash and use it. Buy a film camera that is completely manual and USE it.

Know what ISO - ASA is, Shutter, Aperture, Exposure compensation, why using a lens like an 18-200mm is not the best choice as a “professional”, learn to use a flash properly and learn what happens when you bounce the light. Learn why you have to spend the money on a F2.8 lens. Make mistakes; learn from them; just don’t make them while on a job.

Learn about the ones that came before you. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Eddie Adams, Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Weegee, Joe Rosenthal, Helen Levitt and controversial photographer Mapplethorpe; these are just a few. But they are considered the Masters of Photography; they are our teachers and our counselors.

I have an older friend that used to shoot with Ansel Adams, used to discuss photography and where it was going. (I love hearing his stories). He was told that if photography started with the 35mm cameras, Ansel Adams would not be the photographer he is today. He would not have picked up his first camera. What would of the world been like, no Zone System? No knowledge of the perfect prints or negatives?

Ansel Adams is more than just a poster you can hang on your wall. He developed what was widely used by many photographers that shot black and white then and today. The Zone System which is a photographic technique for determining optimal film exposure and development, formulated by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer in 1941. The Zone System provides photographers with a systematic method of precisely defining the relationship between the way they visualize the photographic subject and the final results. Although it originated with black & white sheet film the Zone System is also applicable to roll film, both black and white and color,negative and reversal,  and to digital photography.

There is so much to learn, I learn everyday; through research and practice. I keep up with the latest equipment, software and techniques.I recommend you do the same, even if for a hobby or professionally.

Lifes' Curveballs

As a photojournalist for 15 years, I had covered many aspects of life, from the good to the bad. The good, thankfully outweighed the bad, but there were those stories, that had a permanent effect that stayed with you forever.

While working for my first paper, out in Idaho; a small town roughly 25,000 people with one light that stopped traffic in the 3-4 downtown blocks; I had the opportunity to meet one of the strongest, amazing families in my life. Two years prior to our meeting, they had discovered a very rare disease had affected their family of five. While it was cancer related, this disease, quickly destroyed the functions of their 5 year-old daughter.

Doctors had discovered the disease was genetic, which meant someone else in the family was affected. While they had the knowledge that their little girl, would someday no longer be able to fight this battle, crushing news came when dad developed the same issues but at a much faster rate. He was expected to survive 6 months. He out did the doctors and had survived so far a year.

The first day I met them, was for her 5 year-old birthday party as a small tea house. All of her friends were there, dressed to the nines. Her two brothers dressed in suits and ties. After the party mom and I began talking; we bonded quickly and found we had many thing in common, shared interests and we both loved to laugh.

The following week she called and invited me to dinner. I spent the next year developing a very close friendship with them. They were the brightest, most uplifting family I had ever met. Nothing could keep them down; they loved, laughed and played often. Cancer was not going to stop or limit this family from getting the most out of life. Six months before I was to leave to begin at another newspaper, they asked if I would photograph their 50 year wedding anniversary, the following month. They had been married only 10 years.

Their dad and husband, knowing he would not be around, planned a 50-year renewing of vows during the Relay for Life. A tent on the field had been converted to a Tiki Hut, those walking the track stopped to watch and cheer them on. Everyone in attendance knew this would be his last Relay.

As time goes, people loose touch, things change and everyone grows in different directions. I tried emailing them a couple of months after I moved to Ohio, but the email came back undeliverable. Last I heard his wife was now speaking about Cancer and about her story. I do not know the outcome, as I could not find them anywhere. I would like to believe that everyone had survived the cancer.

Shooting Style...

Everyone thinks they need one...most people tend to find theirs, but the nice things as a photographer just capturing those moments.

Mine tends to be random...whatever floats my boat at the time I'm looking through the lens, I love irony, white space, sometimes simple but complicated images. I like to see what most people tend to ignore. Below is an image I took while walking around an old farm house in Canton. The house I don't think had been painted in decades and paint was peeling off the walls. I saw this and just laughed. An unplanned optical illusion. This was the first print I ever sold.

The Fleeting Moment...


The key, don’t rely strictly on the autofocus drive of the lens and the camera. While in most situations you will find it is perfect, many times you need to trust your eyes.

Turn Autofocus OFF!!!

Shoot like that for 1 month, not only will it give you the understanding of what you can do, you may find the results are far better than you expected. If you have bad eyesight, adjust the diopter to work for you. Or shoot with your glasses.

Put the camera in Single shot/Single Servo; let it focus without the need to rapid fire. It’s takes a split second to capture that perfect image, if all you are doing is holding down the shutter. You are not a photographer, but someone that should be shooting video.

Henri Cartier-Bresson said it best…

“Think about the photo before and after, never during. The secret is to take your time. You mustn’t go too fast. The subject must forget about you. Then, however, you must be very quick.” ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

One of his most recognized images.

Derrière la Gare de Saint-Lazare, 1932

Creatively as a photographer, you will tend to think out what may happen as you approach subject matters to shoot, you get the idea in your head what you are looking for.

I would be on assignment, watching the world open up before me through my camera, through my lens. I would know the instant I caught the photo I wanted. In my head I would think “That was it” and all the images that may have followed after that felt wasted.
I would go back to the paper to edit my images from the day and knew the exact photo; the moment I had captured was exactly what I wanted. I told the story with one image.

The following Bresson image is that same idea. The fleeting moment. That split second. When you know it is perfect and exactly what you wanted.

“…photography, for me is a supreme moment captured with a single shot.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson, FRANCE. The Var department. Hyères. 1932.

Try it, shoot manually, even if you don’t know what you are doing. You may learn something.

Building my Arsenal...

So since the digital age has begun, I had been very (very) slowly building up my arsenal of equipment. Things have vastly improved over the last year and I have been able to purchase more equipment for needs and future use.

As of now I own:
Nikon D300
AF Nikkor 50 f1.8
AF Nikkor 24-85mm f2.8-4
AF-S Nikkor 105mm F2.8 VR
AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6
What I personally use to own until the D300:
Canon A2e
Canon 10D
AF Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8-4
AF Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS
AF Canon 100mm f/2.0
What I have used and shot with during my years as a photojournalist
Nikon FM2
Nikon F3HP
Nikon F4
Nikon F5
Nikon D1
Nikon D200
Nikon D3
Manual 50mm f1.2
AF Sigma 14mm f2.8
AF-S Nikkor 28-70mm f2.8
AF Nikkor 20mm f2.8
AF-S Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8
AF-S Nikkor 300mm f2.8
Manual 300mm f2.8
And the beast among all of them, the Nikkor 400mm f2.8, manual lens (circa 1985)
Manual 500mm f8 Reflex Mirror

I guess you could say I have experienced many different aspects and equipment uses. After all this, I can honestly say, camera choice depends on your preference, your comfort, what you are used to. While I was shooting many of the film Nikon bodies during my years as a photojournalist, I was personally shooting Canon. Essentially the cameras are the same, same capabilities but the buttons and options are simply in different places.

I prefer Nikon, due to the quality of glass. I do honestly believe Nikon produces top of the line large glass and even in the variable lenses, I get outstanding results. The Nikon D300 and D3 produce simply fantastic image results and believe my next big purchase beside the Nikkor 17-55mm DX lens and the Nikkor 10.5mm DX is:

Nikon D700
Nikon D700

Unless something else comes out before I purchase this...  : )

Aperture / F-Stop

Ok, I have talked about Depth of of the many settings in a camera that affects depth of field is aperture. Or F-Stop (focal ratio) as it can be called; which in the simplest terms is the hole/opening in which light goes through. Just like our eyes dilate to adjust to lighting conditions, the aperture blades of a lens can do the same thing. Only we have to make those adjustments in the lens within the camera.


Aperture effects depth of field and shutter speed. The more light that can come through the lens the higher your shutter speed will be and the shorter your depth of field will be. The less light that comes through the lens the greater depth of field you will have and the slower your shutter speed will be.

Some typical shooting conditions and how I would set up the camera:

High school gyms actually have really bad lighting and can get tricky. I would shoot in Shutter Priority to maintain the shutter speed as the aperture will stay as wide open as it needs to be especially for night games.

Sporting events:

ISO: 400-800 I would push to 3200 when I couldn’t use flash
Shutter: 1/250th , no less than 1/125th
F-Stop: 2.8
Lens: 80-200mm f2.8, 17-55mm f2.8
Flash: TTL (could only be used in basketball and wrestling)

Night Games: Football/Soccer
ISO: 400-800 I would push to 3200 when I couldn’t use flash
Shutter: 1/250th
F-Stop: 2.8
Lenses: 300mm f2.8, 80-200mm f2.8
Flash: None

Day Games: Soccer/Football/Track/Baseball
ISO: 200
Shutter: 1/500th
F-stop: f 2.8-4
Lenses: 80-200mm f2.8, 17-55mm f2.8
Flash: None

These are typical results when using Pro Glass (any lens that has an F-stop of f2.8 or lower). Obviously, things can change and having the flexibility as a photographer is needed. When I first began shooting, everything was manual. There was no “Auto” anything. That experience taught me what I could do with a camera and lens and how to push the envelope.

Given that most people can not afford the pro glass, and have lenses that have variable aperture, you will be limited. By increasing the ISO though, you may get the results you desire, within the limits of the lens you are using.

Landscapes/Artistic Photography

This is and would be considered user preference; based on what you as a photographer likes. What you subject is. Having shallow DOF or a large DOF. The lighting or lack there of. My general rule of thumb, largest file, lowest ISO possible, Adobe RGB, and RAW + jpeg

Everything else is up for change, to affect the final image. This weekend, I went to Hollywood to shoot night shots using CLS and shutter speeds at 1/20th to 1/8th of a second for an album cover. I used the lights in Hollywood to help light my subject as much as possible and had an SB-800 as a wireless light to light the face.

The results came out pretty amazing and can’t wait to begin working on the Album Cover Design. (fyi, I have not only 15+ years as a photographer, but have also worked as a graphic designer/illustrator for many years professionally)

I have always thought and have been taught; it’s not the camera but the glass that is more important.

Growing up Creative

Reading some of my earlier post today, I realized how boring this blog has become….I get so wrapped up in going over some of the basics; I forget to tell some of the stories. Shooting for more than 15 years now, I have had so many different experiences. Some not so great, some I will never forget. 

In the beginning…
I was 12 years old, my aunt was my idol. She traveled, saw the world, and captured many photos while doing it. As kids (cousins) in our family we had a tradition of gathering around the kitchen table as my grandfather set up the old movie reels, and played silent movies that showed our parents and grandparents seeing the sights and the world. Hours upon hours of noiseless history.

On my mom’s side I have two uncles and one aunt. Each had 2 kids. (There were 6 of us that grew up around the same time, all within a 10 year age period, I was the oldest). Every holiday after dinner, we would all gather in a 6x12 kitchen, with an oversized table that took up the entire room. Grandpa would set up the movie projector on one end of the table, the lights would go out and the fun began for us. We saw our parents as kids, our grandparents much younger than we ever knew them. We laughed as my uncle would pick on my mom. We saw them visit landmarks like “Old Faithful”, family in Montana, Wyoming, riding horses, running around in places that we would eventually see ourselves. My grandfather was an avid movie maker and picture taker. Not only did he have boxes of reels, some miles long, they had drawers and drawers’ full of old black and white photos, my grandpa had taken. I would and could spend hours going through all the photos. 

My grandfather, not only was a photographer, he was a geologist and collected rocks, a film maker (you actually have to wind this camera to get it to work), a graphic designer (creating Christmas cards every year from photos he had taken), and he was an archeologist, (using his metal detector to find hidden treasures buried in the ground or at beaches.) He was a musician, (harmonica, wooden flutes and drumming on anything he hands ended up on), he was an Military man, spending a few years in California on duty (met my grandmother there). It wasn’t until years later during his funeral that I realized my creativity, didn’t actually come from my aunt, but from her dad and my grandfather. His influence on our family was astounding. Of us (the oldest cousins) we have a photographer, stock broker, archeologist, musician, military man, and business manager. We are all part of who this man was.

Since I was the oldest, I grew up with my mom’s sister, who when I was two was still in high school. So I spent much of my younger years, hanging out with my aunt. When she finished college, she traveled the world and took photos as she went. I remember sitting at my grandparent’s house going through all her photos and thought “I could do this”.

That was the turning point at 12 years old; I knew I wanted to become a Photographer. I then spent the rest of my childhood, usually with camera in hand. The Kodak 125 camera, was the first one (still have it to this day), I eventually graduated to the lost art of 110 cameras and film and then on to 35mm. My first real SLR camera was a Minolta SRT201. Sometime during college, I upgraded my camera and bought my first Canon. I wanted Nikon but I could only afford so much.

My first 35mm camera
My first 35mm camera
I miss the Minolta. It was a simpler camera, no bells, no whistles. It shot the way I wanted it to.

To be sharp or not sharp...that is the question

I get a lot of questions about focusing; generally, the first thing people do is blame the equipment. Step back; look at your lens, and body. Make sure it is the equipment. Many times it is “user” error. Now there are all types of focus tests that state they are accurate, but again user error can prevent this from being the truth.

Things to note and observe:
What is your ISO? (Set around 200), make sure you have plenty of natural light
What is your shutter? (Needs to be high to eliminate the possibility of camera shake)
Are you on a tripod?
If you have Vibration Reduction, is it off?
Make sure you are on AF-S (Single Servo), with a single point of focus selected

Now, just because focus may be off, does not mean a malfunction of the equipment. Many companies allow equipment to be backwards compatible; this allows those that have been shooting for years to use older lenses. And although these lenses will connect and work, technology has advanced and auto focus has improved. An older AF lens, while it may work in most situations, might not have perfect focusing every time.  Due to improvements in auto-focus technology, you may find shooting situations where an older lens, any lens previous to AF-S technology, does not appear consistently sharp.  This is the result of technology growth with the auto-focus system. 

Lenses can be tested by the company and checked to make sure they are within specs. If they do not find an issue or something wrong; realized that you are probably exceeding the capabilities of the lens or that it may be the contacts on the camera body that need to be looked at or that it may be user error.

Searching online for “lens focus tests” you will find many that offer advice and how to do this properly. Below are a few that may work for you.

The Test (from
To use the chart you set it up at 45 degrees to the axis of the lens as shown below.


Once you have everything setup you select your focus point (use the center point) and make sure the focus area/zone includes only the single focus point. Then you take your shots. Take several and refocus each time. Try several manual focus shots also. Use the maximum aperture of your lens so as to get minimum DOF.

The picture above gives you the basic knowledge to attempt a focus test. Again, make sure you follow the instructions.

Ethics and Photography

Below is the standard in which every documentary photographer, photojournalist should live by. While this is was major part of my life, following rules and personal ethics; due to changing the type of work I now do and the advancement in art, digital photography and computers, ( fine art, headshots ) I have learned to bend my rules. I call it "Photo Illustration"

It took some serious self-reflection. The idea of not-manipulating work has been such a part of my daily life, I couldn’t do. The first headshot took me twice as long to edit because I couldn’t grasp the idea that it was “ok” to clean up the image (within reason and while I still prefer it as natural as possible),  if an actor is having a bad skin day, making them perfect/clean (not plastic) is ok. 

If for any reason the image you shoot resembles, is, a documentary image, this manipulation is NOT OK!!!!

The NPPA ( ), is a great place for resources, information and basic guidelines on photography.
 The National Press Photographers Association, a professional society that promotes the highest standards in photojournalism, acknowledges concern for every person's need both to be fully informed about public events and to be recognized as part of the world in which we live.
Photojournalists operate as trustees of the public. Our primary role is to report visually on the significant events and on the varied viewpoints in our common world. Our primary goal is the faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at hand. As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its history through images.
Photographic and video images can reveal great truths, expose wrongdoing and neglect, inspire hope and understanding and connect people around the globe through the language of visual understanding. Photographs can also cause great harm if they are callously intrusive or are manipulated.
This code is intended to promote the highest quality in all forms of photojournalism and to strengthen public confidence in the profession. It is also meant to serve as an educational tool both for those who practice and for those who appreciate photojournalism. To that end, The National Press Photographers Association sets forth the following Code of Ethics:

Code of Ethics
Photojournalists and those who manage visual news productions are accountable for upholding the following standards in their daily work:
-Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
-Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.
-Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one's own biases in the work.
-Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.
-While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.
-Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images' content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
-Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.
-Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
-Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.

Ideally, photojournalists should:
-Strive to ensure that the public's business is conducted in public. Defend the rights of access for all journalists.
-Think proactively, as a student of psychology, sociology, politics and art to develop a unique vision and presentation. Work with a voracious appetite for current events and contemporary visual media.
-Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects, recommend alternatives to shallow or rushed opportunities, seek a diversity of viewpoints, and work to show unpopular or unnoticed points of view.
-Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one's own journalistic independence.
-Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in dealing with subjects.
-Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.
-Strive by example and influence to maintain the spirit and high standards expressed in this code. -When confronted with situations in which the proper action is not clear, seek the counsel of those who exhibit the highest standards of the profession. Photojournalists should continuously study their craft and the ethics that guide it.

Examples of Manipulated work: (from NPPA)

Our credibility is damaged every time a reputable news organization is caught lying to the public and one of the most blatant and widely recognized cases was the computer enhancement of the TIME Magazine cover photo of O. J. Simpson. TIME took the mug shot of Simpson when he was arrested and changed it before using it on their cover. They would not have been caught if NEWSWEEK had not used the same photo on their cover photo just as it had come from the police. The two covers showed up on the news stands next to each other and the public could see something was wrong.

TIME darkened the handout photo creating a five o'clock shadow and a more sinister look. They darkened the top of the photo and made the police lineup numbers smaller. They decided Simpson was guilty so they made him look guilty. (There are two issues here: one is a question of photographic ethics and the other is a question of racial insensitivity by TIME in deciding that blacker means guiltier. The black community raised this issue when the story broke and needs to be the subject of another article. My concern is with the issue of photographic ethics).

In an editorial the next week, TIME's managing editor wrote, "The harshness of the mug shot - the merciless bright light, the stubble on Simpson's face, the cold specificity of the picture - had been subtly smoothed and shaped into an icon of tragedy." In other words, they changed the photo from what it was (a document) into what they wanted it to be. TIME was making an editorial statement, not reporting the news. They presented what looked like a real photograph and it turned out not to be real; the public felt deceived, and rightly so. By doing this, TIME damaged their credibility and the credibility of all journalists.

-John Long
NPPA Ethics Co-Chair and Past President
September 1999