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PhotoTube Update

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Sorry for not posting much during February. I’ve been spending most of my time working on PhotoTube.info and I’m starting to see results. For one thing, it now contains over 800 instructional photography videos. Be sure to check it out. Here is a list of current categories and the number of videos in each category:

Video: Levitation Photography

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

If there is anything that I learned from the video it is that it takes more than just jumping in the air to take photos that look like someone is floating, i.e. the video is more entertaining than instructional. img_253bda16424f42f737068fff3f4dce1183acbf03Nevertheless, two good tips from the video are to use a tripod and fast shutter speed. Click the following link to the website that he mentions in the video:


This site is filled with amazing levitation photos like the one to the right.

Levitation Photography: 65 Stunning Examples & Tutorials

Follow this link to another source for levitaion photography:


Want more? Check out Trick Photography and Special Effects. It contains excellent tips for shooting levitation photographs as well as a whole lot more.

Use Panomonkey.com to Stitch 360×180-Degree Panoramas

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Join Panomonkey.com and stitch 360×180-degree panoramas for free. Well, mostly for free:

Creating panoramas can be absolutely FREE on Panomonkey. Every successfully stitched panorama can be downloaded and shared to Twitter and Facebook or embedded to your website. The FREE version of the panorama is 3000 x 1500 pixels and can be viewed up to 100 times.

Hign-resolution panoramas of up to 6000 x 3000 pixels can be purchased for $2.50 / €1.80 (that’s “one banana” in Panomonkey language) and can be viewed up to 1,000 times.

Additional views of the hign-resolution panorama can be purchased in bundles of 10,000 views for one banana ($2.50 / €1.80).

The free version of your panorama will display a watermark along the bottom of the image. I’m assuming that you have to purchase the stitched image to get rid of the watermark. I haven’t purchased an image, yet, because my tests didn’t stitch properly.

For my tests, I uploaded photographs that I had successfully stitched together using Hugin or PanoramaPlus. The results were less than stellar. To be fair, PanoramaPlus also had problems with one of the sets of images, too. Neither Panomonkey.com nor PanoramaPlus have the ability to manually add control points, Hugin does. Click to continue »

Review: HDR Efex Pro 2

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Summary: HDR Efex Pro 2 is a major improvement over the original version. Not only is it much faster, the presets are usable right out of the box. Finally, Photomatix has competition. I highly recommend upgrading. If you already own HDR Efex Pro, the upgrade cost is only $49.

Review: I seldom used the original HDR Efex Pro. It was deadly slow and, quite frankly, I hated the presets. Version 2 fixes all that and more. I could now find HDR Efex Pro 2 my go-to program for HDR. The new presets are extremely usable and the program is now speedy. Click to continue »

Review: Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark is a amazing book that has many examples of fantastic night photographs as well as step-by-step instructions for how to get the same kind of results.

Click to continue »

Review: Crafting Reality: Painting with Light

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Captain America and 3-D BoyCrafting Reality: Painting with Light is an inspiring eBook by Eric Curry. The photographs in the eBook look like HDR images but they are created in quite a different way. Small sections of the subject are illuminated from different directions then merged together with Photoshop. Eric goes into detail about how to take the photographs and the settings to use in Photoshop.

Throughout his eBook, Eric emphasizes that you should think and plan your shots.

So often during my public presentations and coaching new photographers I advise them to think in terms of “concepts.” Do not just go out into the environment and photograph neat stuff you happen to see, but take the next step and envision an idea first, then try to create that vision you see in your mind’s eye.

This is good advice and Eric spends a lot of time telling you how to plan a photoshoot. He tells you what he does and why as well as which equipment he uses. Crafting Reality: Painting with Light is an extremely thorough how-to book and I highly recommend it.

You can find more videos about painting with light at Eric’s YouTube Channel and on his website American Pride and Passion.

Review: P-Series Filter Kit by Cokin

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Cokin H250A P-Series ND Grad Filter Kit

Summary: I finally had the opportunity to use rectangular graduated neutral density filters and I’m glad I did. The Cokin H250 P-Series ND Grad Kit is an inexpensive kit that will help get a good exposure of the sky and land at the same time. The main advantages of using this kind of filter as opposed to circular filters is that the rectangular filters can be used with different size lenses and that the graduated filters can be moved up and down in the filter holder so that the edge of the gradation lines up with the horizon line.

Review: The H250A Filter Kit by Cokin contains a filter holder and three filters. The filters are Cokin’s most popular neutral density graduated filters. The darkest part of the filter can change the exposure by 1, 2, or 3 stops. The filters can also be “stacked” in the holder. Lens flare can occur when filters are stacked but in my test shots the main lens flare was reduced except for a few artifacts. I did not notice any color shift.

  • Includes 121L, 121S and 121M Graduated Neutral Density Filters
  • Kit includes a Cokin P series filter holder but does not include an adapter ring

Many other Cokin filters can be purchased that will fit into the holder.

Vignetting could be a problem with wide angle lenses. I didn’t see any issues with the 18mm-55mm kit lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor. The Cokin U961 Z Pro Grad Kit FH-121L-123L-125L Kit will be a better choice if you have a full-frame camera and a want to use the filters on a super wide angle lens.

An adapter ring is not included in the H250A Filter Kit. The first two items in the chart below are choices of adapter ring kits. I am recommending kits that contain various size adapters so that the Cokin holder can be mounted on different size lenses.

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I have written an eArticle, Selecting the Best Cokin System, that you can receive free by taking one of the actions below:

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Read my Ezine article How to Use the Cokin Filter System to Take Properly Exposed Landscape Photos.

Photography Ideas: The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Get your inspiration from what is around you! Don’t forget that you are surrounded by photographic opportunities. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to go somewhere special. One of the best ways to break this mindset is to imagine yourself as a tourist and try to find out what attractions are available in your immediate area. Do a Google search and you will probably be surprised how much your home town has to offer. Open yourself up to the opportunities!

Photography Tip: Levels

Friday, November 11th, 2011

You may have noticed the bubble levels on your tripod and tripod head. Use them! Each serves a different important function. The following is a list of level and tripod related tips:

  • The level on your tripod itself is used to ensure that your tripod doesn’t fall over. If you are using your tripod on uneven ground and the legs are different lengths, the level can be used to center the center column of the tripod over the legs which centers the weight of your camera over the legs so that the tripod will be less likely to tip over. If the tripod is level, the center column will be perpendicular to the ground.
  • Another important tip for your tripod is to always have one leg toward the lowest ground. Let’s say that you have positioned your tripod on a hill with the camera pointed up the hill. One tripod leg should be toward you rather than two legs. The single leg toward you will be more stable and the tripod less likely to tip over. The tendancy is to always have two legs toward yourself so that it is easier to approach the camera. This is the time to not do that.
  • Add weight to your tripod. I know, you bought a carbon fiber tripod so that it would be light and easy to carry but, while shooting, you may need some extra weight to keep it from moving. Tripods often have a hook on or near the center column of the tripod. I have a backpack camera case that I hang under my tripod.
  • The bubble level on your tripod head is used to ensure that your camera itself is level.
  • If you shoot a lot of landscapes, you will want to invest in one more kind of level. It fits in the hotshoe of your camera and can be more accurate than the round levels attached to your tripod head. I use a hot shoe level to make sure that the horizon is level. There are times when I am taking long exposures at night and I can’t even see the horizon. I use the level to make sure the camera is level and I know the horizon will also be level in the photograph. I only need to illuminate the level to see it, not the subject. Works great and I highly recommend that you get one.
  • For panoramas, you can use the hotshoe level to ensure that your lens is parallel to the gound. That is what I do when I am using my Rokinon Fisheye Lens to take a 360×180 degree panorama. I mount the camera on a Panosaurus panoramic head and make sure the tripod is level, the head is level, and finally that the camera is level and the lens is parallel to the ground. If everything isn’t level, software such as Hugin will have difficulties stitching the shots together. Click here to read my article about using a Panosaurus panoramic head to shoot a 360×180 degree panorama.

How to Shoot 360×180 Degree Panoramas with a Panosaurus Panoramic Tripod Head

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Required Equipment: Panosaurus

17th Street Causeway BridgeShooting 360×180 degree panoramas usually requires a special tripod head. Trying to shoot this kind of panorama hand held would not be an easy task. Each picture has to overlap by 25-30% not to mention the likelihood of seeing parallax errors in the final image. Parallax errors occur when the camera rotates around a point other than the no parallax point of the lens. The bottom line is that the shots can’t line up properly if there are parallax errors. I have gotten great results with an inexpensive Panosaurus panoramic tripod head. Click here to read my review of the Panosaurus.


To stitch the images together I rely on two programs. Hugin is free software and does a great job with a 360×180 panoramas shot with a fisheye lens such as the Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Lens. If you use an 18mm lens, then Serif PanoramaPlus X4 is a better choice. Each program has its strengths; what one can’t stitch together the other can. Click here to read my review of PanoramaPlus. Your camera may have come with software that can stitch together panoramas but don’t expect it to work with a 360×180 degree panorama. Click to continue »