Category: software & equipment

I was clicking away some pinata-punishing photos at a birthday party for a friend when I heard a disturbing sound from my camera. Thinking the shutter may have folded, I figured I was holding a fancy paperweight anyway, so I tried shooting again: the viewfinder went black. Interesting. I shot again: the viewfinder went half black. I realized my mirror had issues; not the shutter.

Moment of Dislocation
Moment of Dislocation

Read the Post In a Mirror Darkly

This camera is most definitely my new favorite suggestion for those folks who ask me what camera they should buy. There is no one camera to suggest for everybody’s needs, but almost everybody who asks is in the looking-to-step-up-to-something-nicer-than-my-point-and-shoot category. For those buying a professional or serious amateur choice, I am rarely asked what I think, because they know what they want without asking me. So, almost everybody is in that middle range: no more point-and-shoot cameras and no felt-need for $1000+ purchases.

For the needs of most, I would suggest the Fujifilm X10. My coworker once asked me, after watching me suggest different cameras for different people, “Why do you suggest different cameras and why do you never suggest your own camera?” I try my best to understand the primary concerns people have, what they want out of their camera, what has been the biggest problem with their current camera, and what kind of photography they will be doing. More often than not, price is the driving concern, and the X10 provides much more for your money than any camera I know of in a similar price range. Read the Post Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Camera Buy

Your battery will inevitably die at the very worst time, right? Today is my son’s 4th birthday. I did not realize till we arrived at the shopping center for his choice of pizza and ice cream cake that the battery was dead. And no, I did not tell my wife at first. Things always seem to work out, so I figured I would just not touch the camera and wait till just before I wanted to (hopefully) resurrect it for a few shots, and see what happened.

Now, I try to play it safe with my camera batteries. Having two batteries is a must for me, and with my shooting style and load, I have never even gone through one battery in one day of heavy shooting, so I figure two is twice as much as I have ever needed. The bigger problem is knowing which day my battery is finally going to die. That day was today. Read the Post When Your Camera Battery Dies

How about a wallpaper for your computer desktop background? I switch my own regularly, just to keep things interesting, and since this one was actually one of my own photos, I thought I would share it with all of you. In honor of our summer visit here in my wife’s native Thailand—have to let the kids see the grandparents, you know—I am sporting the Thai flag and a beautiful tree in bloom this time of year. Enjoy.

Read the PostThailand Wallpaper

We are back to that recurring question: what camera should I buy? I am often asked, but having recently put some work into finding the best options for a coworker who was buying a first camera setup for her son, I thought it might be helpful to share what I found and suggested. I worked quite hard to stay within a $500 budget, though some of the options below rely on used gear, and availability certainly can change quickly.

My chief aim was to avoid the kit lens which comes with all of the entry level digital SLRs. Not that they are rubbish, necessarily, but you will constantly be fighting their limited aperture, your photos will have the same feel as everybody else’s, and more than likely you will be more satisfied with a cheap, fixed-length lens with wider aperture. So, here we go… Read the Post $500 Camera Budget

My daily work in the darkroom back in high school year book class has continued to pay off in all kinds of ways…I just never quite thought of this one. Sure, it helps me understand how to work on my photos in digital post processing. And yes, the love of the negative leaves me with no choice but raw over JPG. And without a doubt, there is something in those chemicals soaking into your finger tips that makes you a better photographer…or at least a more interesting one.

However, I never would have imagined my boss would hand me her one surviving photo of her two parents, faded, cracked into a strange and very non-conformist geometric shape, taped together from a suspicious rift right between the couple, and caked with a darkening grime which had presumably become a part of the photograph. To top it off, she is going to use it on the cover of the book she just finished. Enter Long-Since-Retired Darkroom Man! Read the Post Darkrooms, Heirlooms, and Kiddy Chopsticks

Aperture is just funky. Well, if you sit around with friends calculating the area of a circle and talk about the next digit of π, then maybe you are just a different kind of normal and aperture is your cup of tea. For the rest of us, though, I highly suggest a time honored method to understanding your camera, though understanding why the numbers are weird will elude you: memorize.

Any of us can calculate that ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 100, and ISO 400 is twice as fast as as ISO 200. With film sensitivity, a stop of light is easy to figure. Even with the shutter speed, though they inconveniently do not use exact numbers, the key numbers are approximately exponential: 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500, 1000. There is a little funny business going on in there, but basically, it is easy to figure a stop of light. Aperture, though? Not so much. Read the Post Memorize Your Aperture Stops

The boy, just being himself.

At first glance, the title about antique portraits does not seem to fit at all with the photo above of my boy…but it does…at least to me. Not that anybody is actually going to think this photo is antique, but there is some characteristic here that clicked on in my head as soon as I saw this photo on the back of my camera. Read the Post Antique Portrait Look


I have really fallen in love with the Ee-S focusing screen for the Canon 5D. This is not a review in the sense that I will try to cover everything, but it is in the sense that I am sharing my thoughts on Canon’s über-accurate manual focusing screen. I have been using it almost totally in conjunction with Nikon lenses. The why will come later, but I mention it now because using it with Canon or non-Canon lenses is actually quite a different experience, and the answer to this question will make a little more sense with that information in mind.

Basically, the matte screen from Canon is made to manual focus wide aperture prime lenses. Since almost all (if not all) cameras display (in the viewfinder) at about f/2.4ish, the depth of field you see is quite different than the actual depth of field on an 85mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4, or some such lens. Meaning, you never really know if you are crystal clear where you want to be crystal clear and you just have to trust that the camera focused right where you wanted it. Read the Post What is it like using the Ee-S manual focusing screen on a 5D?

“Name a space shuttle.” Silence. I did not really think it was that hard of a question, but when questioning elementary-aged children at a city summer camp on space trivia (we had just been visited by a representative from Space-X which tests their rockets here locally), I finally realized these children have grown up post-Columbia. The have been few shuttles going up and the excitement has been waning for many years. So, these kids know very little. So, when thinking up the week’s project, I decided to do a mini documentary film on the Columbia disaster to help create some shuttle-related memories for them.

Read the Post Mini Documentary on the Columbia Disaster