Posted by Gary Ramey on July 30th, 2012

What Is Bracketing?

Backeting is taking several shots of the same subject using different exposure settings. Usually three shots are taken.

  • The exposure the camera thinks is correct
  • One shot darker
  • One shot lighter

Any of the settings that affect exposure (aperture, speed, ISO) can be used to manually bracket shots.

Why Bracket?

The main reason I bracket is to produce three shots that can be merged together as an HDR image. When bracketing to create an HDR image, don’t change the aperture — just change the shutter speed. If you change the aperture, you will also change the depth of field in each of the bracketed shots. Changing ISO could introduce digital noise. Since HDR images are already noisy, reducing digital noise is the better choice. When bracketing for HDR, exposures are usually 1-2 stops  apart. I have successfully used 3 stops between exposures.

Another reason to bracket has to do with lighting conditions. If your camera is having problems finding the best exposure, you can turn on bracketing so that you have a range of exposures for every shot. When bracketing to get the best exposure, use more subtle settings. Depending on your camera, you can set the bracketing to 1/3 or 1/2 stops between exposures. Click to read more »


Video: Getting the Most from Canon Speedlites

Posted by Gary Ramey on July 22nd, 2012

“Canon Speedliting with Multiple Flashes” is a two hour video by Syl Arena uploaded to YouTube by B&H Photo Video Pro Audio. Many of the concepts in this video apply to any flash setup that you might have whether you use Canon, Nikon, or studio flashes.

Key Concepts

  • Master/Slave
  • Groups
  • Ratios
  • Enabling/Disabling Master
  • Channels

In this Canon-specific video, you will learn the how and why of using multiple Speedlites off-camera. The emphasis is on the wireless system built into Canon Speedlites but Syl mentions how Nikon flashes differ from Canon flashes throughout the video. He explores the settings on both the master and slave Speedlites as well as the in-camera settings that can be made by recent Canon cameras that can act as the master for Speedlite flashes. Click to read more »


Moon Watch: August 2012

Posted by Gary Ramey on July 21st, 2012

There will be three opportunities to shoot the moon in August. On August 1, the moon will be full and rise before the blue hour. On August 2, the moon rises during the blue hour.

Location: Miami, FL (All Times EST)
Sun Moon
Date/Phase Rise Set Rise Set
July 31/97% 6:46 AM 8:08 PM 6:55 PM 5:08 AM
Aug 1/Full 6:46 AM 8:07 PM 7:42 PM 6:12 AM
Aug 2/100% 6:47 AM 8:06 PM 8:24 PM 7:14 AM
Aug 3/97% 6:47 AM 8:06 PM 9:02 PM 8:14 AM

Read my posts How to Shoot the Moon, Night Photography, and Night Photography Tricks Revealed.


Video: How to Shoot Fireworks

Posted by Gary Ramey on June 30th, 2012
Other than your camera, the most important piece of equipment is a tripod. The exposures required for fireworks are too long to handhold your camera. I found an excellent video for how to shoot fireworks on YouTube from

Basic Settings for a DSLR

  • Manual Mode
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter speed: 1 second to start
  • ISO: 400
  • Focus: Turn off auto focus and manually focus on infinity

I agree with the video’s suggestion to just change the speed if you need to adjust the exposure. Increase the shutter speed if your shots are too bright or slow down the shutter speed if your shots are too dark.

Even if you don’t have a DSLR, you can still take photographs of fireworks. If you have a compact digital camera that doesn’t have Manual mode, look for a Scene (SCN) mode for Fireworks. As with a DSLR, it is manditory that you use a tripod.

Feel free to post links to your fireworks photographs in comments.


Review: Digital Landscape Photography

Posted by Gary Ramey on June 30th, 2012

Summary: I highly recommend Digital Landscape Photography by John and Barbara Gerlach. If you are at all interested in landscape photography, get this book! Digital Landscape Photography covers cameras, lenses, exposure, composition, HDR, and panoramas.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1. Landscapes are Everywhere
  • Chapter 2. Cameras and Accessories
  • Chapter 3. Choosing and Using Lenses
  • Chapter 4. Mastering Exposure
  • Chapter 5. Techniques for Sharp Images
  • Chapter 6. Light on the Landscape
  • Chapter 7. Composing Pleasing Images
  • Chapter 8. Special Subjects
  • Chapter 9. High Dynamic Range Images
  • Chapter 10. Panoramas

Review: The chapter on cameras and accessories emphasizes investing in a camera system not just the camera. The authors recommend Canon and Nikon cameras because both brands have an excellent selection of lenses and accessories. This is the same advice that I give my students. The book is filled with excellent tips such as how to use a back button to auto-focus rather than having the shutter button initiate the auto-focus function. 34 out of 36 customer reviews on Amazon, give Digital Landscape Photography 4 stars and above with 26 5 star reviews. This is an outstanding book that is clearly written and informative. Click to read more »


Videos: Steel Wool Light Painting

Posted by Gary Ramey on June 7th, 2012

Warning! Even though burning steel wool creates spectacular effects, it is dangerous and you need to take safety precautions for yourself and everything around you!!

The first video does a great job of giving you a brief rundown of how to take photographs of burning steel wool but I highly recommend that you also view the second video before trying out the technique. The second video goes into much greater depth about the process and the reasons for needing to be safe.

Click to read more »


Moon Watch: July 2012

Posted by Gary Ramey on June 6th, 2012

There will be three opportunities to shoot the moon in July. The moon will rise just before the blue hour on July 3 and during the blue hour on July 4.

Location: Miami, FL (All Times EST)
Sun Moon
Date/Phase Rise Set Rise Set
July 2/98% 6:32 AM 8:17 PM 7:21 PM 5:16 AM
July 3/Full 6:33 AM 8:17 PM 8:16 PM 6:21 AM
July 4/99% 6:33 AM 8:17 PM 9:06 PM 7:26 AM

Read my posts How to Shoot the Moon, Night Photography, and Night Photography Tricks Revealed.


Photoshoot: Spanish Monastery

Posted by Gary Ramey on May 31st, 2012

Spanish MonasteryOvercast skies would have produced rather flat photographs so I waited for a bright sunny day. Finally the weather allowed me to schedule the photoshoot. I called ahead to ensure that there weren’t any conflicting events. I was told that weren’t any events until after 3:00 PM. That wasn’t quite accurate.

When I pulled into the parking lot at 11:00 AM, it looked full so I expected quite a few people to be roaming around the monastery. Unfortunately, I had to share the monastery with a band that was taping a video. They had staked out the back half of the monastery. They basically stayed in their area but did come into my field of view several times. I was able to take quite a few photographs but I had to use a vertical composition to keep the band members, videographers, and their equipment out of my shots. Next time I visit the monastery, I hope to be able to take some horizontal shots.

I was glad that I had thought about the photoshoot and was prepared but I still felt rather rusty when I started to take photographs. Photography is like playing a musical instrument. You must practice to be proficient and I hadn’t been on a photoshoot in about a month! It took a few shots for me to feel comfortable with my camera’s settings. My subject wasn’t going anywhere so I didn’t miss any shots but I did feel awkward at first. Click to read more »


Practice, Practice, Practice

Posted by Gary Ramey on May 31st, 2012
My Take: Practice is important! As I found out recently, even an experienced photographer can feel awkward after a period of inactivity.

What Does Practice Mean When It Comes to Photography?

In sports or almost anything else one learns there is a period of practice or apprenticeship, a time of learning. I’ve said before that one needs to take lots of pictures as part of the learning process. But like anything else try and do the ‘practice’ part correctly.

If someone were to drill scales on the piano but started off and kept going while doing them incorrectly they would have drilled an incorrect procedure into their muscle memory. The same could be said for a sport like ballet or martial arts. Hundreds, even thousands of hours are spent repeating certain motions in these arts until they become natural, fluid and if not effortless and least they look effortless.

Elite athletes continue to do basic drills. You can watch professional hockey players drill puck handling and skating. Professional musicians will practice their scales and new songs over and over and over. An Olympic level gymnast makes it look so easy. But the hours of practice that go into the routine to make it look so effortless, most of us could not even imagine.

But there are gradients to everything. And one should learn while one does. I see many people taking reasonably good photographs that with a few minor tweaks could be improved considerably. Part of this is working with one of your main tools, your camera. A lot of photos that I see posted are slightly washed out. Most cameras have a setting whereby you can adjust the contrast and brightness. If you have a camera with this option (check the menu), then try a couple of hundred pictures with these functions adjusted. See if you like them better.

Read the rest of What Does Practice Mean When It Comes to Photography.


Review: Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark

Posted by Gary Ramey on 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 read more »