Revisit an Old Shot & Update on Portfolio

Looking Out BsAs Argentina 682x1024 Revisit an Old Shot & Update on Portfolio

Looking Out (BsAs, Argentina): D300 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/4, 1/60sec & ISO 200.

Hello everyone!  Well we are progressing on this week rather well I would argue.  For todays post I have gone back and selected an old image to reprocess and bring some life back into it.

I have also updated my Quest for a Portfolio page with another 12 images (you can see them HERE).  These are some pictures I took while in Argentina mostly from a trip I took with my father to a small town called Villa General Belgrano.  It was a GREAT trip.

The top image was taken back in 2010 when my youngest was still very small.  His mother had stepped out to the store and I was left watching him.  I was playing with him on the floor with my camera trying to take some “Family Photojournalist Pictures” but he kept going to the window to look for his mother.

I took a bunch of pictures that I love on that day.  Something about forgetting all technicalities, ignoring ISO limitations, allowing for a bit of movement and some soft focus images but just trying to capture a few minutes with my son.

Sometimes we have to return to basics and just capture moments in time and forget about what they will look like on Flicker or being critiqued by someone else.  Just capture a real moment with family!

And the final image will scare my wife as she is terrified of these little visitors!  While Australia is known of their arachnid population this particular little guy was captured in Argentina.  She had built a little web nest that went into a plant like a long tube.  I managed to get close and used a tripod.

Spider LL TT Argentina 1024x680 Revisit an Old Shot & Update on Portfolio

Spider (LL TT, Argentina): D300 18-200mm shot at 105mm, f/5.3, 1/60sec & ISO 200.


Full Frame, Fuller Frame, Fullest Frame

By Threes Macro Perth Australia 1024x1022 Full Frame, Fuller Frame, Fullest Frame

By Threes Macro (Perth, Australia): OMD 12-50mm shot at 43mm, f/8, 1/10sec & ISO 200. This image would have been lost as I was out for a walk and would not have taken my Nikon D800 due to the weight.

As many of you already know I have taken the Micro 4/3 plunge by trading in some airline miles for a Olympus OMD-EM-5.  To find our some of the reasons for this very large deviation of my regular kit you can read all about it HERE.  I have received a few questions about what it is like to switch from a 36Mp full frame camera to a 16Mp Micro sensor.

Let me be very honest.  I never really worried about the sensor size expect for two key areas.  The first was background blur. A full frame sensor traditionally gives much better bokeh which is a nice to have when shoot portraits.  The second is wide-angle shots.  In order to get a crop sensor to get a really wide-angle shot you have to do some really bending of glass.  This is difficult (read expensive) to get right as distortion becomes a major issue.

The rest never really bothered me.  You can see a great site HERE that goes into greater detail between the differences in sensor size.  I have borrowed their picture below to show the difference in size.  If not have a look at this video from Karl Taylor just below the image sensor size plot.

Screen Shot 2014 08 23 at 4.53.29 PM Full Frame, Fuller Frame, Fullest Frame


0 Full Frame, Fuller Frame, Fullest Frame

After getting a full frame sensor I stopped worrying about it and never looked back.  When doing some research for this post I came across the video below which puts everything into context.

0 Full Frame, Fuller Frame, Fullest Frame

Then there is the last argument that going full frame is cheap.  All you have to do is go to film.  I have recently done this and you can see the results HERE.  I love film photography and highly recommend any photographer to pick up a cheap film camera and have some fun.

0 Full Frame, Fuller Frame, Fullest Frame

But to answer the questions….yes there is a difference in sensor size.  Yes the detail I get from the Nikon D800 is amazing.  But the easy carry of the OMD-EM-5 makes up for this easily.  I have just purchased a Olympus 17mm for it to help keep the kit as small as possible and am amazed at how much quality I can get in such a small package.  For those interested, I will review this lens in a few days.

The OMD was purchased as my street / family event camera and it is working out perfectly.  A recent example is that I took the family on a three-day camping trip and took my Nikon D800.  I only took it out once to grab some shots of some wild flowers (Australia has some amazing flowers).  I would have been just as happy with the OMD and my back would have been much happier.

Would I take the OMD on a paid wedding shoot?  Nope.  Professionals do not have to worry about comfort.  They must focus on getting the best shot they can and who does not love a portrait of the bride with milky smooth bokeh?  But would I take a Nikon D800 to a friend’s wedding?  Nope too big. I would take the OMD to fire off a few shots.

So forget sensor size and get the camera system that is right for you.  If you are looking to become a photographer then look at what other professionals in your genre are shooting.




Building My Portfolio…Slowly, Very Slowly…

I dread thinking about building a portfolio.  The idea of going through your images to select the top 20 and showcase them to everyone as your “best” is a bit stressful to say the least.  This got me thinking about why I would want to create a portfolio.

For professional photographers a portfolio is vital to be able to showcase their work to clients or customers (yes there is a difference but we can leave that one for another day).  It is their way of showing the style of shots they take and their ability and talent.  I am sure that if your very living is relying on your portfolio you will spend time and energy ensuring it is the best work you have.

But this begs the question why would an amateur assemble a portfolio?  I do not make my living off photography so what possible purpose could a portfolio have?  I know it is important because I made it one of my Photography Resolutions for 2014 (granted I was probably drunk on Eggnog at the time but I am sure there was a reason!!!).

The truth is a portfolio forces a difficult but important process for any photographer.  That process is one of choice which requires a criterion to base that selection on.  In other words you have to decide what are the requirements for one of YOUR photos to make YOUR portfolio. Is your best work portraits?  Is it macro photography?  What theme should you build your portfolio on is the first and most difficult questions to ask.

In an effort to help me through the process of making a portfolio I have decided to break up all of my travel images into a trip specific portfolio.  I will do this slowly over the next few months (we have made a bunch of trips and this process is time-consuming) to see what images am I more drawn to.  Once completed I will then use these images to select my portfolio’s theme and then assemble it.

In order to make it easy I will assemble the mini-portfolios into a menu called “Travels Completed”.  Several friends have asked me for this for some time now.  With my quest to build my portfolio providing a suitable catalyst to actually making it happen.

The first one goes back to a trip taken in 2010 to Grand Cayman.  This was not very good photography to say the least for reasons explained in there.  But it represents the beginning of my photography travels.


The Pick-Up Truck Friend


Nikon D800 with 70 200mm 1024x768 The Pick Up Truck Friend

D800 with 70-200mm Stock: OMD 45mm shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/250sec & ISO 200 shot with flash.

Hey Peter (or Paul, John, Sam or Lee), I was wondering if you would mind helping me out this weekend?  I bought a bed (or refrigerator, oven, washing machine or playground set) and I need someone to help me bring it home and since you have a pick-up truck I thought that you could help me out.  The store wants to charge me an extra 50 bucks and here you are, able to help me out for free!

This is why I do not own a pick-up truck.  Friends will see it as access to free furniture moves. Being friends means helping one another out but it also appears to mean giving up your weekends to help move your friends crap around.

The same thing can happen when your friends know that you like photography.  They see a big, professional camera and figure that it is free for you to come over and “take a few shots”.  Take a look at this story here.  Anyone with a camera can be put in an awkward position very fast.  People who do not understand photography are under the impression that a big camera with a big lens means you know what you are doing and a few simple pictures at their wedding will be enjoyable for you.

Sheep Transport 1024x680 The Pick Up Truck Friend

Sheep Transport (Amman, Jordan)

The truth is it is stressful because the expectations are very high.  Most people will agree that they do not know how to take wonderful pictures but they will know it when they see it.  So old “Peter” with his expensive camera and lenses should be able to handle a simple wedding!  Most people do not understand that “Peter” is a landscape photographer and does not know diddly squat about wedding photography!

So if you have a big camera, with a long lens that makes you look like a professional keep it at home!  When they ask if you would not mind taking a “few shots”, find the nearest exit and RUN FOR IT!

Monitor Calibration

Screen Shot 2014 08 10 at 11.09.15 AM Monitor Calibration

Picture from:

One of the items on my New Years Photography Resolution was to calibrate my monitor to ensure it is rendering correct color.  As you may recall a few months ago I purchased an Epson R3000 (you can see the review HERE) which brought home the reality that color coordination between what I see when I am post processing and what comes out of the printer is vital.

There are a few things I learned about my workflow and the importance of managing my color space consistently throughout the workflow.  But one overriding issue was to ensure that my screen reflected the colors that were being digitally recorded on the photo file.  So I went out and purchased the Spyder 4PRO – Advanced Color Calibration system (you can read about it HERE) and set out to see how I can correct my monitor.

Lavander Macro Perth Australia 2 768x1024 Monitor Calibration

Lavander Macro (Perth, Australia): OMD 12-50mm shot at 43mm, f/6, 1/80sec & ISO 200 with on camera flash and a small reflector. This image has subtle color that would be impossible to predict without a calibrated monitor.

So the video below is a little bit of a marketing ploy but it explains the reason that color calibration is needed in a very short video.  It is much more entertaining than what I can put together for you so have a look.

0 Monitor Calibration

The basic idea is to get your monitor to show you what your printer will give you.  The process is very simple.

Step 1:  Load the software on your computer.

Step 2:  Start the software and it will guide you through the key steps.

Step 3:  After a few minutes (the video says 3 min but I think it is closer to 5 min) it is done and you have the choice to apply the new calibration or not.  It will show you the before and after.

What I found:

So the first thing that I found is that my Apple Cinema Display was too bright.  It also cooled the image down and it added contrast to get things to jump.  After my calibration the image on the screen was darkened, the images are warmer and the contrast is a bit less so the images jump out a little less.

When I print a picture I find it matches very closely what the screen is showing me.  I see a few differences in a particular shade of yellow but frankly it is very small.  All other colors are dead on.  The dimmer display certainly helps but I ended up getting an application that helps dim Apple monitors with a bit more control.  This allowed me to set the desired brightness with a finer adjustment than the factory settings normally allow.

In terms of everyday use I have gotten used to the new settings and I no longer see the difference.  I recalibrate every month but thus far the calibrations have been spot on.

As an added benefit the Spyder can stay connected to your computer and measure background lighting.  If you calibrate in very different lighting than you work in then the perception of color will change.  The Spyder can tell you if the lighting has changed too much and if the calibration must be redone.


If you are printing pictures or sharing pictures with other photographers then the subtle changes in color will be important to you.  If you are enjoying the photos with friends and family save the money for other things.

Brush up on Flash Photography

Flash Stock 1024x683 Brush up on Flash Photography

Flash Stock: D800 85mm shot at 85mm, f/2.8, 1/60sec & ISO 100. A flashlight was used to highlight the details of the speed light.

The review of my New Years Resolution was worthwhile in that it reminded me of what I really wanted to do with my photography in 2014.  One of the resolutions had to do with Flash Photography.  You can review my early learnings of flash photography HERE.  Earlier this year we moved houses and I put away my flash equipment and largely left them put away until the previous post.

So I have to pick up where I left off on my flash photography training and what better way than a quick look through You Tube.  I did that early this morning and found the following video from Karl Taylor that effectively explains the inverse square law.  I thought I had a good understanding of what it means but the implications of this did not really sink in until I saw his second video on the topic.

0 Brush up on Flash Photography


0 Brush up on Flash Photography


Even if you think you understand this it is worth taking a look again as the videos are just a few minutes long each.

I took a quick snapshot of the diagram he shows at the end of the second video because it is worth spending a few more minutes looking at it.

Screen Shot 2014 08 10 at 10.03.30 AM Brush up on Flash Photography

Inverse Square Law Diagram taken from Karl Taylor’s Video explaining light fall off.

As you can see the light fall off is greatest close to the light but as you get father away the difference decreases dramatically.

New Years Resolutions Re-Visited

New Years Photo Resolution 1024x1024 New Years Resolutions Re Visited

I love the feeling of starting over.  A fresh start, new chapter, new approach but with all the experience and wisdom from before.  I use a Moleskin notebook at work and I usually take about nine months to fill one up.  I really enjoy opening a new, clean book to start using.  It gives me a chance to ask myself what I want to do differently with this book.

New Years is a great chance to take a close look at ourselves and decide what needs to be changed.  I did this at the beginning of 2014 and came up with a set of resolutions for my photography.  It was time to see how I am doing as I am quickly running out of time to make things happen this year.

The results….mixed.  I must admit I am doing better than I thought I would but have a read for yourself below.  If you want to see the full outcome just click HERE.

#1: I believe that shooting in film will teach me some fundamentals that I may have missed by jumping straight into digital.

This resolution is going well.  I have continued to shoot, found a place to process my film.  I also realized that a part of what makes film so romantic is the photo you end up with.  Few people ever just processed their film to have the negatives.  Most people had photos made and kept the negatives.   

#2 I need to go through the images that I have taken and build my portfolio.

I have not done this yet.  I have done some reading on how to set up a portfolio and will indeed start putting those lessons to good use.  

#3 My goal is simply to have 3 go-to lighting setups and 5 go-to poses.

Unfortunately nothing has been done in this regard.  I will have to work on that for the last few months of this year.

#4 I have often heard about micro-focus tuning your lenses.

COMPLETED!  Yup you got that right and you can see the post HERE.

#5 Color Calibration is something I have postponed for some time.

COMPLETED!  Yup you got that right and I will be putting up a post about it this week!

#6 My goal for 2014 is to not buy any gear.


So overall I would give myself a passing grade on this years.  If I can complete a portfolio, develop some go-to lighting setups I will have largely accomplished my photography goals for 2014.

How about you?  Have you revisited your goals?



Refocus on Photography

Gabriel Hide Perth Australia 1024x791 Refocus on Photography

Gabriel Hide (Perth, Australia): OMD 45mm shot at 45mm, f/9, 1/100sec & ISO 400. Even my son is afraid of the questions being asked by photographers….

Not sure if it is the change of the seasons or just a bit of a mid-photography-life crisis but it seems that all 40 something photographers are going through a bit of a crisis.  Maybe it has nothing to do with all of that and in reality we are drowning in images all over the web begging us to ask what it is EXACTLY that we are adding.

I have been devoting some time to this over the past few days and I have found that different people attack this “crisis” different ways.  I have heard these great photographers argue that it is time to refocus on what it is you want out of your photography.  To determine what their “voice” or “vision” is.  I believe we are just now seeing the changes that digital photography has brought to our world….let me explain.

I believe that the photography world has changed faster than people do.  We still hold firm to beliefs and perspectives from film days that are no longer as true or relevant anymore.  The fact is that making a living from photography was always difficult.  It took years of dedicated work to stand out.  You began working from the bottom of the photography ladder….in some news room getting the coffee.  After a few years you got your hands of a camera and began crossing the country in a beat up old car to capture different events.  As your photography improved so did your reputation.  A few years later you are flying to different events to capture them.

Over your career as a photographer you would take maybe 100K photos of which maybe 100 were good ones.  It was a game of experience and numbers.  Pictures were expansive.  You shot three or four rolls of film on a shoot and this was considered plenty.  That is maybe 100 pictures.

Today digital has changed all that.  It has made photography affordable and hence has brought in the masses.  Think about this.  Imagine a young 20 year old kid.  He gets a job (or asks his parents for the money) and buys a digital camera…say a Nikon D610, a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, a memory card, laptop and Lightroom / Photoshop all for about USD 5,240.  He then lives in his parent’s basement and shoots pictures all year.  He goes online each morning and picks an assignment for himself and goes out and shoots all day and processes all night.

Car Nap Perth Australia 1024x768 Refocus on Photography

Nap In Car (Perth, Australia): OMD 45mm shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/640sec & ISO 200.

He can shoot and process 2,100 images a week (assuming 300 shots per day) which is almost 110K images in a year!  He does not need to spend a single dollar more.  He will have a portfolio that would rival that of a professional photographer after a 20 year career and he would have done this in ONE YEAR!

ANYONE can do this.  Anyone can raise the money and put in that time.  This makes for a world of wonderful images being shot by very talented photographers being loaded onto the internet everyday.  How does a “professional” photographer compete against this?  I believe that the likes of the Zach Arias, Jeremy Cowart and Joe McNally have come to realize that they make more money teaching and coaching than from actual photography assignments.

So the question left to those who choose to share their photography across the internet is what exactly are we adding?  There are so many talented photographers why should anyone spend their time looking at what we are adding?

I look to Zach Arias’s photography for the answer.  His pictures do not have the lighting perfection of Joe McNally or the feel that Jay Maisel brings to his work.  But Zach brings his personality.  He talks to people and sets them at ease.  He looks odd but is so very approachable and friendly that he brings out something special in most people.  He then captures this like few people can.

So it is not Arias as a photographer that is so striking but him as a person that allows him to capture these images.  When I look at his portfolio his personality comes through.

Sabrina and Audrey Sydney Australia 1024x683 Refocus on Photography

Sabrina & Audrey (Sydney, Australia): D800 70-200mm shot at 82mm, f/2.8, 1/250sec & ISO 3200.

As for my own photography I am still learning the mechanics.  I am still learning how to use a slower shutter speed to indicate some movement without creating a complete blurry mess.  I am still celebrating blind luck and the images I capture thanks to it.  I am beginning to understand color and the power it can have.  What value am I adding to the vast number of incredible images on the internet?  Nothing….yet.





Photography Cliches I Have Used

Citroen Rome Italy 1024x819 Photography Cliches I Have Used

Citroen (Rome, Italy)….SELECTIVE COLOR!!! Sorry….

“Every guilty person is his own hangman.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The other day I saw a YouTube video by DigitalRev TV that really hit a nerve.  The video discussed Photography Cliches that people should stop using.  I enjoy many of the DigitalRev videos so I figured I would have a good laugh.  I am thrilled I did because I came away having realized that my development as a photographer is not unique.  I have used each of these clichés many times as a inspiration crutch.

0 Photography Cliches I Have Used

Here are the ones that really hit home for me because they are the ones that I have used over the years.  You will see many of the archived posts here using them.  Heck in some I explain how  to use these cliches.

Sunrise Paihia Paihia New Zealand 1024x683 Photography Cliches I Have Used

Sunset Paihia (Paihia, New Zealand) Ok another boring sunrise…sorry.

Same Old Sunset Photos…Yes I have a ton of these.  I love the wonderful colors and am drawn to them like vanilla.  But when you see Kai go through the on-line photos of red sunsets you see his point.  While the colors maybe vibrant it is not enough to make a picture dramatic.

Mountain Capped Close Up 1024x645 Photography Cliches I Have Used

Capped Mountain Close Up (Chile): Ok so here I have both the border and the watermark….sorry.

Using Watermarks.  Yes I used them for a long while.  My logic was that I did not want people to use my shots but I quickly realized that if someone was going to steal a photo it would not be one of mine!  I also got tired of the attention going to the watermark instead of the picture.

Adding borders.  So I got my first copy of Photoshop Elements and one of the first tutorial videos was how to put a border and so I did.  I felt that the black outline (or white) would help make the colors of the image pop!  They are not needed and just add another step to a workflow that is complicated enough.

Landscape Panoramas.  Yup been there, done that and got the tee shirt.

Self Portrait Perth Australia 1024x1024 Photography Cliches I Have Used

Self Portrait (Perth, Australia)….ok one of two that I have shot….sorry.

Photography selfie…guilty.  I have taken two but like them so I will still use them.

Blue Bird copy 556x1024 Photography Cliches I Have Used

Blue Bird (Rome, Italy)…ok so I like the image….but apparently this is not good photography…sorry.

Selective coloring….wow.  So I like selective color.  I have stopped using it because I find that it is too simple and obvious of a way to walk someone through your image.  It was interesting to see what Scott Kelby had to do when he accidentally put a selective color photo in his new book.

So I have learned that my journey as a photographer is not unique.  I have used the same cliches as many others in the hope of creating something unique.  As I look back on it I realize how sorry that sounds but I had fun doing it and I have learned why I should not do it.

Have you used these cliches?  Do you still use them?


Oh My Darling…E-M5

Olympus 40 Years 1024x481 Oh My Darling...E M5

OM-1 compared to the OMD-E-M5. Some great similarities.

Time to come clean…I have converted to Mirrorless system.  Ok I really have not converted but I have gone out and gotten a mirrorless kit.  Let me explain why.

My Nikon D800 is the perfect camera for my style of photography.  I take it on all my travels and I absolutely love it.  The problem is that it is heavy and bulky both of which I am willing to overlook as I seek that perfect image of that once-in-a-lifetime landscape image.  The problem is that I am unwilling to take this to the corner restaurant when we go out to eat with the family.  This means I am missing out on some great photographs of our town’s street life and of my kids!

So I went to find something light and small that I can use to take less obtrusive street photographs as well as family daily moments that make life great.  My rule was that I needed something inexpensive, decent image quality, super fast (those great life moments happen in a flash), small and flexible.

Sabrina Reading Perth Australia 1024x819 Oh My Darling...E M5

Sabrina Reading (Perth, Australia): OMD 45mm shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/200sec & ISO 200. This is an image I would have missed as it was shot at a restaurant while Sabrina waited for her food.

The Micro 4/3rds world meets most of those points.  The small sensors (2 x Crop factor) allow them to be put into smaller packages.  They have a great lens assortment (very important for growth) but I was worried about the Image Quality (IQ).  After a bit of reading I found that the IQ had improved over time and it is very “acceptable”.

Finally I looked at the OMD-E-M5 which looks very much like my father’s old OM-1 camera which I LOVE.  I tried Nikon, Sony and Fuji but I found the Nikon and Sony too modern for my taste.  Fuji was a very close option but I liked the looks of the OMD and opted for that one.

I traded in a bunch of airline miles and very little money and purchased a OMD-E-M5 with a 12-50mm kit lens.  An with this purchase I have broken my vow (see HERE) and purchased more gear.  No excuses I am weak willed.

Screen Shot 2014 07 27 at 10.52.07 AM Oh My Darling...E M5

OMD with 45mm and 12-50mm Lens. You can see the size difference.

When my virtually “free” camera arrived I was impressed with its size but disappointed with the 12-50mm length.  this lens is almost as long as the camera and it sets the balance off.  I also did not like the gimmicky zoom control.  So I went out and found a 25% off sale on a 45mm f/1.8 prime lens (I had to buy a spare battery after all) to fix the situation.

The result is the fastest autofocus beast I have ever seen!  The tilt OLED screen on the back gives me more street photography options and the small package makes it very unobtrusive.  Best of all it fits in my coat pocket and looks GREAT!

Mushroom Perth Australia 1024x1024 Oh My Darling...E M5

Mushroom (Perth, Australia): OMD 45mm shot at 45mm, f/3.2, 1/100sec & ISO 800. This shot is full of detail even the top of the mushroom shows some sharp detail even at ISO 800.

In regards to image quality I am very impressed.  The color rendition is some of the best I have ever seen and the low light performance (something I was worried about considering the low light in restaurants and many street scenes) was astonishingly good.  Below is a test shot at ISO 6400 to show you that it is still useable.  Please see the full review HERE to see the different ISO performance.  Note that no noise removal was done.  This is RAW to JPEG conversion (just the automatic sharpening that Lightroom applies) without any alterations.

OMD ISO Test 6 1024x768 Oh My Darling...E M5

Test shot at ISO 6400. For full ISO tests please see review.

The images were taken on a tripod with a set aperture of f/8.  But as you can see on this ISO 6400 shot the noise is very manageable.  This coupled with the 45mm f/1.8 lens and the PHENOMENAL stabilization that the OMD offers, I have a very wide light range to work with.

So if you are interested in a full review please have a read HERE.