Food, Photos and Travel

Friday, October 20, 2006

5 Tips for Better Travel Photos

1) The right location at the right time. This will require some research on your part. Find out when sunset and sunrise will occur because that is when you will get the best light. Get to your location early, and try to avoid times of the day when there will be lots of people around, or conversely, know when the local festivals and activities will be taking place.

2) Don't be shy. If you see an interesting person you want to photograph, don't be shy about asking. Even if you can't speak their language, a simple gesture and a smile is generally all that is needed. Most people do not mind having their picture taken, and in some parts of the world it is considered an honor. Always be willing to show them your picture afterward (if you are shooting in digital) and always be respectful. If they say no, do not photograph them.

3) Get in Close. It's the small details that often get overlooked when visiting a new place, but they can often be the most interesting. Look around... door knobs, peeling paint, storefronts and city streets signs all make compelling compositions and subjects.

4) Know your camera. Getting a good picture isn't about having the best camera, but it is about knowing what to do with the camera you have. Read your manual, and be familiar with all of it's functions and settings. When a once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself, you do not want to be fumbling over buttons and menus.

5) Shoot lots of pictures. Digital makes this easy. When you are going to be gone for any length of time, be sure you bring enough memory and have a system of backing up in place before you go. This may be burning to CD's at local internet cafe's or bringing along a laptop or a portable hard drive to upload to as you go along. For my own shooting, I bring along 1 and 4gb memory cards and an Epson P-2000 for backing-up my files on the go.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Shots from Vietnam

I took a lot of pictures while I was in Vietnam, so I am still going through them and editing them when I have the free time. I love getting to relive the experiences every time I open my folder of RAW files, and then watching the colors come to life as I fine-tune the curves and contrast. I'm often asked what kind of post processing I do on my images, and the answer is not much. I always shoot in a low contrast mode, so I can capture as much fine detail as possible, but then I almost always add more contrast to the final image. Occasionally, I will boost the saturation a bit, but that's about all I do. Most images take me only 1 or 2 minutes to process.

This is a shot that I took as we arrived Ta Van village, at the end of our 8 mile trek. When we arrived in the small village, I was called over to a doorway with some music and singing spilling out. Inside was a group of young, pre-teen girls learning the traditional dances of their tribe. I like the softness and colors of this picture, especially the green wall contrasted with the bright pink and orange of the girls' clothes.

This is a shot from the Temple of Literature in Hanoi. This ancient university dates back almost 2000 years. The temple is located in the middle of Hanoi, yet it is very green and lush. It was very hot and humid when we visited.

Within the temple, dozens of Stelae carved with the names of doctors and teachers are carried upon the backs of sacred stone turtles.

Cua Dai Beach located on the South China Sea was about a 5 minute bike ride from my hotel in Hoi An. One morning, while relaxing in the hot Vietnamese sun, this little fishing boat came by but the driver seemed to be lingering close to shore for an odd amount of time. I soon realized that his motor had died, and he was trying to get it started. He eventually got it working, but there was lots of work and smoke involved!

I took a day trip from Hanoi to the town of Ninh Binh. Here you can hire a woman to take you on her boat down the small river, through a cave and to a small temple on the river bank. The area is also known as "Halong Bay on Land" due to the similiar limestone karsts.

You can view all of my photos from Vietnam HERE

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

October In Vermont

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back to the Market

I spent my day yesterday back at the Coventry Farmers' Market in Connecticut shooting some promotional pictures of their fall Harvest Festival. The market was hopping with customers and farm animals and tons of kids dressed in their new fall outfits.

When shooting an event like this, my goal is to cover all the aspects of the market. I make sure that I get some wide angle, overall shots of the market. Shots that show all the tents and crowds of people. Next, I move up close for the close details. If you look around, there are endless options from colorful fruits and veggies to sparkling jewels. I also need to make sure I include plenty of shots of people. Those are the shots that really portray the human element to the farmers market experience. I want to portray people savoring the weather and food and just enjoying life in general. I also have to make sure I get a model release form filled out from all of the people in the photos, since the pictures will be used in advertisements.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Nikon Master Class

I had the chance yesterday to attend a Nikon Master Class on Travel Photography in downtown Boston. The class was taught by master travel photographer, Rosanne Panella. It was held at the Radisson in the Back Bay, and was attended by about 150 other Nikon users and fellow photo geeks. She spent the morning giving us tips on approaching people in foreign lands and how to respectfully photograph them, and we learned some compositional and flash techniques. After lunch they broke us into 2 groups and we all ventured outdoors to the Boston Commons for a little hands on learning. They had hired models who were dressed in various costumes, and performers, who were there to smile and pose as we directed. Of course, we were fighting with 74 other photographers, so that made it a little difficult, but I did get the chance to practice some fill flash.

I personally didn't like competing with that many people to get a shot of someone in a cheesy costume, so I did a little shooting on my own around the Commons. The light was very bright and harsh, so I looked for some strong back and side lit subjects...

After our outdoor shot, we headed back to the conference room for our afternoon session. During this time, we learned about what equipment Rosanne brings on an assignment, a little bit about capturing in RAW, and I was nearly falling asleep so I can't remember the rest.

Overall, while I enjoyed the experience of hearing Rosanne Speak about her photos and seeing her slide show of images, I didn't find the class to be very "master" at all. The first hour was spent discussing simple concepts like aperture and shutter speed. Most of it was just stuff I already know. I would probably take another Nikon class, only because I do enjoy listening to other artists speak about what they do, however I wouldn't go with the expectation of learning too much new information.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tilted and shifted

I recently purchased a very cool lens. It's the Nikkor 85mm PC f/2.8 Micro... an interesting macro lens with the ability to tilt and shift the plane of focus for some interesting effects. It's not a quick lens to work with. You need to meter, lock exposure, compose, tilt and/or shift, recompose, focus, stop down the lens, and then take the picture. You definitely need a tripod and some patience. I got it mainly for commercial work and to get more depth of field when shooting table top items, however I'm discovering that it is going to be very useful for more creative stuff. One thing that really suprised me is the extreme to which you can tilt the plane of focus. If you look at the pictures of the graveyard below, you can see that the plane of focus is almost perpendicular to the lens.

I really wanted to take this lens to a graveyard near my house to play around with some selective focusing. The weather was beautiful so I took a drive up there today. I'm not fully satisfied with the results, but here they are. I will go back for more...

Thursday, October 05, 2006


One of my pictures recently made it into the Dallas Morning News "Looks" edition...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Spoon Fudge

I really hate getting food jobs, because I inevitably gain 3 pounds by the time it's done.

I recently finished a commercial shoot for Charssi gourmet spoon fudge. The shoot went something like this...

*take a bite of fudge*
*take a bite of fudge*

This stuff is so gooooood. It's creamy, nutty, rich, chocolatey, and the little spoon makes it difficult to over-indulge too much. That's what I tell myself, anyway.

I recommend the sampler pack!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fall has arrived!

I love this time of year. The weather is cooling down and the leaves are starting to change, and we've been able to use our new woodstove, which makes the house so cozy.

It is also a very busy time of year, so I have not updated this blog much lately. I have some new stuff to share though, so I will try to take the time to post it.

I recently shot some cosmetics for Oberon Cosmetics . That was a fun job, but getting the colors accurate was a challenge.

I have spent far too much money on new equipment lately, starting with the D200 in August which I purchased as a back up for the D2X and a travel camera. I wanted a lightweight kit for Vietnam, so I purchased a used 20mm prime to take along with my 35 and 85mm primes. Then a few weeks ago Jon, Quentin and I went to a camera show in Albany and I picked up a used 17-35mm f/2.8. This nicely rounds out my range of zoom lenses. Today, I found a nice "LN" copy of the 85mm f/2.8 PC Micro Nikkor. It tilts. It shifts. It's a macro lens. I can't wait to play with this lens. I have wanted it very badly for a very long time. The purpose of the tilt and shift lens is primarily for work. It will help me achieve parallel lines and greater depth of field with my product shots, which can not be achieved with a standard lens. I will be sure to post samples as soon as I get it :)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Camera for Sale

For sale... If someone is willing to purchase it all at once, I'll sell everything for $1000 + shipping and paypal fees. It would make a great starter kit for a young person. Otherwise prices are as follows....

Nikon D70...$375 Camera body is almost 2 years old, but has been used very little for the past year. There is a little wear on the grip and the flash is a little off so it doesn't pop up when you press the button, you have to physically lift it up, but it still works. Everything else about the camera is in good condition. I have 3 years left on a 5 year mack warranty which is transferable for a $15 fee (imposed by mack, not me). The camera will come with several extra batteries (2 or 3, i'm not sure how many I have kicking around) and the charger. I will also include a copy of the "Magic Lantern Guide to the D70".

Nikon SB-600 flash.... $150 Used maybe 2 or 3 times only. In like new condition with the case, box and manual.

Nikkor 20mm f/2.8... $300 Excellent condition, sharp, lightweight lens. I hesitate to sell it but I just purchased the 17-35mm so it's now a bit redundant.

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8... $80 Excellent condition.

Nikkor 70-210mm f/4-5.6 D.... $250 This is a great lens, and sells for a lot on ebay. It is slow aperture wise, but it focuses pretty quickly and is extremely sharp when stopped down on a bright sunny day. Much better then either of the current 70-300 zoomz.

pm me if interested.