A long exposure night in Chicago

March 15th, 2012 by John Batdorff

This past weekend’s warm weather made for some great night photography. I’ve lived in Chicago for nearly 15 years (on/off) and it’s a very rare evening that you can see the stars, given all the light pollution, but this past weekend was spectacular.

I decided to focus on taking a few long exposures to capture the energy and beauty of the city. The great thing about a long exposure is there’s very little that can go wrong once you have the setup nailed. The key of course is having a sturdy tripod, cable release, and lot of patience. There’s a lot of math that you can do to help achieve the right exposure, but I’m a simple kind of guy (that means math dumb) so I prefer to set my camera on B (bulb exposure), select a higher f-stop and start taking test shots. I usually start at around a minute and work my exposure time up or down depending on available light.

Chicago Lights



City of Lights

City of Lights (ISO 100, 268 secs, f/16, 20mm focal range on Canon 16-35) — This image took a significant amount of time to expose properly, tipping the scales at nearly 5 minutes. Now, I could have stopped the exposure at around 3 minutes, but I wanted an image that almost appeared overexposed, because it’s much easier to add black back into an image like this versus bumping up the lights (highlights). Later I finished this image off in Color Efex Pro 4 using several filters to bring my vision into focus. In terms of composition, I decided to leave the airplane lights in the image because I felt it added to the overall “big city” feel and energy.

UX For #togs – Your Site Is For Your Customers, Not You

March 14th, 2012 by Theodore Stark

UX For #togs - Your Site Is For Your Customers. Not You.

Hello there OPG folks! This article is the first in a series called UX for #togs. What is UX? Well, it stands for User Experience. UX focuses on research and the design of easy to use software (or websites). Aside from my photography, I also work as a User Experience Engineer. My love for UX and photography is what lead to this series.

Many photographers either currently have a website, are thinking of/or are designing a website, or have some sort of web presence. The question becomes, who are you creating (and designing) this web presence for?

Here’s a hint, it’s not for you…

In UX, we focus on user-centered design. At a high level, the needs and wants of the end user are at the root of every decision made when creating a user interface (in this case, a website). User-centered design approaches apply to elements such as the labels for your menus, your color scheme, typography, and task flows (for example, purchasing a print).

To have your users at the heart of your decisions, you must really get to know your users. Although helpful, this extends far beyond a target demographic. You must watch people interact with your design (and then your website). This will help you identify issues.

You would be amazed at the information you can get. Recruit about 5 clients (not photographers), have them meet you at a coffee shop (one on one), buy them a cup o’ joe, and watch them use your website. It is helpful to give your users a task (filling out a form, searching for a print to buy, etc.). This is called a task scenario.

As they try to complete the scenario, you want to encourage them to think out-loud. You can get tremendous insight by hearing your user’s inner monologue.

If your users struggle, do not immediately bail them out. The goal here is to see them struggle. The struggle indicates areas where your site needs to be improved from a UX standpoint.

Perhaps you think people really want to see all of the EXIF data for a photo. But, in displaying this EXIF data,

River Docks, Hudson River in Lightroom 4

March 13th, 2012 by Robert Rodriguez Jr.
River Docks, Hudson River


River Docks, Hudson River

Canon 1DS Mk III, 24mm, 25sec @ f/11, ISO 100

I processed this image entirely in Lightroom 4, and I’m really loving the new tonal controls and soft-proffing. I’m working on a video tutorial of my workflow, and some of the features I like best about this new version. If you use Lightroom, this update is well worth it.

Check out Robert’s website for images, workshops, webinars and more: LINK

Fotobug Everglades Podcast Video

March 9th, 2012 by Jim Caldwell

Follow Jim Caldwell and Fred Rogers as they make a two day dash through the Everglades, with Chris from OPG tagging along!  You won’t want to miss the footage Jim took from his remote control quad copter.

Jim is leading a workshop to Costa Rica this May for an unbeatable price!  Check out the details here:  Creatures of Costa Rica

Painting Water with Light

March 8th, 2012 by Rick Sammon
© Rick Sammon

I had some fun the other tonight painting the New Croton Dam with light. A bright moon and cloudy sky were bonus elements.

Some basic tips:
- Use a tripod
- Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release
- Set the ISO to 800
- Set the ISO to f/5.6
- Set the shutter speed to 30 seconds
- Use a powerful spotlight
- Paint away and experiment
- Have fun.

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40mm lens.

Explore the light,

P.S. My next class on Kelby Training is all about light. My current class in on composition.

What A Difference A Day Makes

March 7th, 2012 by Denise Ippolito


59th Street Pier

Image © 2012/Denise Ippolito Photography
59th Street Pier ~ Ocean City NJ

I made a last minute decision yesterday to head back out to Ocean City NJ to photograph the 59th Street Pier this morning. Friend/client Kate Ryan met me out there and I was glad to have the company. It was a heavy overcast morning with moments of the sun breaking through. The colors were not as intense as they had been on my first visit last week, so I decided to change my view up a little and work a little tighter, concentrating on the front piers as apposed to the entire pier. This image was processed using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. In situations where the color does not appeal to you or doesn’t fit the mood consider going with B&W.

You can see Denise’s website at www.deniseippolito.com.

Camera Awesome is Awesomely Creative

March 6th, 2012 by Rick Sammon
Camera Awesome image by Rick Sammon

I downloaded a new iPhone app this morning: Camera Awesome by SmugMug. Above is my first Camera Awesome image, created from the original iPhone photo below of the New Croton Dam.

Original dull and boring photo by Rick Sammon

Awesome, indeed.

The free app (with paid options) offers unlimited creative control over photos you take with the iPhone, as well as photos that are in your Photos gallery on your iPhone.

Getting back to “unlimited” creative control, the app has almost 300 presets, filters, texture and frames, but you can tweet them and combine them for endless, and original, effects. Thirty-six of the effects, more than enough to start your photo fun, are free. You can buy other effects in groups of nine for 99 cents.

For the opening image for this post, I used the More Wang effect, one of the man Presents. Other cool effects/options include: Awesomize, Transform, Filters and Texture.

Rick Sammon talks Induro BHL Low Profile Ballheads

February 24th, 2012 by Matt Dennison

Check out Rick’s video and browse the Induro Low Profile Ball Heads in the OPG store.

Hey, I’m Rick Sammon. Now, a lot of people ask me, “Rick, what is your specialty?” Well, I reply, I say, “My specialty is not specializing, because I do it all. I do people. I do travel. I do wildlife. I do studio. I do HDR.” Now, all of these specialties actually have something in common. Of course, you need a good camera. You need a good lens. You need a good tripod. But a lot of people don’t realize you also need a good ballhead.

Now, the coolest ballhead I found is from Induro. It’s called the Induro BHL. Now I think that “L” stands for low profile, because these ballheads are smaller, lighter, more compact than most ballheads out there. They also support more than most ballheads, but I think that “L” also stands for love, because you’re going to love this ballhead. It’s going to make your photography more fun, and you’re going to get better pictures.

Let me show you what I mean. All the ballheads come with a universal mount; which means you can mount them on any tripod. I happen to be using one of my Induro tripods. They also come with an Arka Swiss compatible quick release plate; which means you can very quickly, very easily release your camera or lens. You see here I have one plate mounted on my lens, my telephoto lens, and I have one plate mounted on the bottom of my camera so I can change lenses very quickly and very easily.

But, and this is a big but, this is really cool. It has a double locking system. What I can do here is if I release this, watch this. The camera and lens is not falling out on the ground or in the drink, and it’s not falling forward. It’s kind of like a watch stem. You release it and then you have to turn it so this is really cool, and I’ve seen this happen, believe me, in a lot of my workshops where the cameras fall on the ground. So you lock it in very quickly and tighten this up and then you’re ready to shoot.

So, get this. All of the Induro ballheads, just like all of

Cyclamen and Window Lighting

February 23rd, 2012 by Denise Ippolito


Image © 2012/Denise Ippolito Photography
Canon 5D, Canon 100mm Macro lens, 1/50 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 400


I photographed this Cyclamen with the use of natural light and a window!

Many folks ask do I “exactly” use the window as a light source. Well I place my subject close to the window. I position a reflector behind the flower so that it bounces some light onto the other side of the flower to “even out” the lighting. Once I am happy with the lighting I start to look for the background. By positioning my camera up/down or sideways to include the part of the background I like.

For the example image above I used the grass for the green background so I had my camera and lens positioned downward. If I wanted a blue or white background I would have positioned it towards the sky. Next I make sure that the background will be blurred. Because I am shooting from a window chances are my subject and background are far enough apart that I can use an f/8 or even an f/13 with out any problem of bringing in “too much detail” from the background. However I wanted the flower to be a little softer so I stayed with an f/6.3. Why a little softer? Well, in my opinion flowers are pretty and they lend themselves nicely to a softer look. If you get every detail in focus sometimes you will portray a hard look with out it being your intention. The same is true if you over sharpen or over contrast your flower images or even if you over-saturate your images. There is no right or wrong it is just a matter or preference and I prefer my flowers on the Softer Side.

To learn more about creating a softer look for your flower images check out my eBook “The Softer Side of Macro”

You can see Denise’s website at www.deniseippolito.com.

We Have A Winner in our Gura Gear Contest!

February 18th, 2012 by Chris Klapheke

Congratulations to photographer Justin Marx for winning our Gura Gear Kiboko 22L+ contest!

We drew Justin’s name out of our “virtual hat” and emailed him the good news yesterday.  And what do you know, it was his birthday as well.  Double Bonus!

By the way Justin’s a wonderful photographer, and you can see his stuff here.


We also handed out quite a few Gura Gear lens cloths and t-shirts.

Many thanks to our wonderful pals at Gura Gear, and to all our customers and supporters!