Quick Note: Give Zoom a Chance

I know I owe myself the opportunity to finish my ISO experiment, however I made an acquisition worth mention. As soon as I write about my adventure bringing me to possessing only prime lenses, I go and purchase a zoom lens. It should come in the mail soon.

I currently carry 2 lenses full time; my 85mm f/1.4 ZA and 24mm f/2 ZA SSM. I also have a 10mm f/2.8 fisheye I probably will sell soon and I have a 600mm f/8 lens I use to shoot the moon.

My son plays soccer and I am going to Talladega next weekend to see the race so I wanted something a bit longer than my 85mm. My 85mm hasn’t let me down. I’ve shot ballet with it. I’ve shot hockey with it. It isn’t really meant for either. I was looking for a Minolta 200mm f/2.8 which usually goes for about $900-1000 for the first revision and $1000-1200 for the high speed version. I missed out on a high speed version for $700 a couple months ago. I found an unused open box Sony 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 G SSM zoom for less than half the retail price, so I am going to give it a shot and worst case scenario I will sell it and I may get a profit for it. We’ll see. I love the SSM on the 24mm, but f/4.5 on 70mm and f/5.6 on 300mm is not as bright as I am used to. Talladega will be outdoor, during the day, so the aperture shouldn’t matter. The soccer games are under the lights so I imagine I’ll be moving the ISO up a bit for the longer shots.

ISO experiment part II coming next time. My comfort zone for hand-held shots with the SteadyShot in-body stabilization is 1/60s, so I’ll show what the ISO differences do the the apertures at 1/60s at the expense of more noise.

Private ISO (part I)

If you’re familiar with film photography, the ISO of the film was effectively the speed of the film. The higher the ISO, the faster the film. ISO (pronounced Eye Ess Ohh) is actually an acronym for International Standardization Organization or more accurately, International Organization for Standardization. For film, ISO is an arithmetic and logarithmic scale, yet for simplicity the arithmetic number is used most commonly. As the arithmetic scale value doubles, the film sensitivity doubles. In digital photography it works very similar in theory, the lower the ISO value, for the same aperture or shutter speed, the brighter the picture. For fixed aperture and variable shutter speed, the higher the ISO, the faster the shutter speed. For a fixed shutter speed and variable aperture, the higher the ISO, the more closed the aperture is.

Sounds simple, right? Just jack the ISO up. Not so fast my friend. The higher the ISO, the more noise in the picture. For this post, I took a series of photographs in a controlled situation. I moved the ISO up from 100 to 6400 going up by double each time. I could have done logarithmic steps and gone 100-125-160-200-250, but I didn’t want too many photos, I just wanted a few to display some differences. I kept the camera in the same place each time and I tried to keep the light in the room the same. I let the camera automatically expose the shots, so the scale may shift as the shots get darker or lighter, but point remains the same.

Click on any of the images to see larger examples as these are constrained for blog viewing to 320 pixels wide. These first shots were taken with the aperture fixed at f/2 on my 24mm f/2 lens on my A77. I’ve also cycled the ISO 100 to the bottom for reference.

DSC04135 DSC04136

DSC04137 DSC04138

 DSC04139 DSC04140

DSC04141 DSC04135

So at 320×213, there is really no huge difference. The real difference starts to show at higher resolutions. Here are closer representations at 100, 400, 1600, and 6400.

DSC04135-2

DSC04137-2

DSC04139-2

DSC04141-2

At ISO 800 I may have moved my body changing the light a bit as the shutter slowed down from the expected 1/200s to 1/160s, either that or the camera wanted something like 1/180s and it chose the lower value, which would be consistent with the shutter speed increases from 800 to 6400. ISO 800 is where the photo really starts to go south, noise wise. These were taken straight from RAW with zero post-processing. The ISO 6400 shot is just plain nasty. But I get the 1/1250s shutter speed, right?

So this brings up a good point. Sometimes ISO is associated with sports. High ISO means sports, right? For me, I look at ISO as a tool to figure out how wide I can be at a shutter speed I am comfortable with or a shutter speed for an aperture/Depth of Field I am comfortable with. My minimum level of comfort for hand-holding shots is around 1/60s for slow moving subjects and 1/120 for my kids, 1/250 for my son playing soccer. I like 1/400 for Hockey as it is fast enough to capture most detail, but leaves a streak if they’re playing fast.

The Sony A77 gets a lot of slack from high-end enthusiasts and professionals for its high ISO quality. As you can see in the samples, the smaller 320 pixel shots all look similar, however the close-ups reveal the weaknesses. The maximum resolution on the A77 is 6000×4000. To give you an idea of what that means, my monitor resolution on this laptop is 1440×900. Most HDTV screens are 1920×1080. The new “quad HD” screens are 3840×2160 at a reasonable $25,000 a pop. The maximum resolution width on Facebook seems to be 1024 pixels wide. So sometimes you’ll read or hear someone saying “ISO 6400 is usable” or “ISO 1600 is usable”. In my short experience and opinion, I have shot exactly three or four usable shots in ISO 3200 or 6400. Ideally I stay between 50-400, and sometimes I will go up to 800 if I really need to. 400 is where I start to get nervous. The first set look nearly identical at 1/5 width, however it gets really noticeable at 1600 and beyond.

So what about post-processing? I took the examples above and used the Noise Reduction Luminance slider, setting both to 50, on the ISO 1600 and 6400 shots. For baseline reference, I have included the ISO 100 unedited original.

DSC04135-2

DSC04139-2

DSC04139-3

DSC04141-2

DSC04141-3 

The noise reduction feature is also a detail reduction feature, however if you’re worried about noise and are willing to sacrifice detail, the edited ISO 1600 doesn’t look bad, and the ISO 6400 is probably usable for the web and smaller prints.

So you’ve seen the difference in ISO from the f/2 shots. Next time I will keep the shutter speed constant and we’ll see the aperture difference. But at what cost?

Post-process this!

In my last post I talked about my equipment. I carry prime lenses exclusively. One of the advantages of prime lenses is they usually have wider apertures than zoom lenses. The wider the aperture, the more light allowed in to the sensor. Unfortunately, with a wider aperture, you have a shallower depth of field and more margin for error. This and other reasons are why you use photo-editing software.

What photo-editing software do I use? I use three programs exclusively. The first and foremost is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The word “Lightroom” is a play on the word “Darkroom” (Good job Captain Obvious), and in theory Lightroom allows the same visual function for digital photos as a darkroom would for film processing. I don’t know about darkrooms, but I do know Lightroom does 99% of what I need it to do.

I could write a book on all you can do with Lightroom, but there are an abundance of books out there already and I don’t like to use books to learn how to use software. I will say, there are two core functions of Lightroom I use. The first function of Lightroom is organization. Lightroom has a very intuitive interface for sorting, keywording and cataloging photographs. The example screen shot below is a built-in function. I didn’t do a single thing other than upload photographs to produce these sorting results. The Library filter as I enclosed in the red box below can take the EXIF data on the photograph, or keywords added by the user, and use all of it for sorting. EXIF data is the specifics of the photograph as provided by the digital camera, which include date and time stamps, body and lens data, and specifics on the camera settings. EXIF data can also contain things like GPS coordinates. The example below, I am looking for all photographs taken in September 2012 with the Sony A77, regardless of the lens used, at any aperture.

LRLibrary

Click on the photo to see a larger example.

I’ve outlined the Catalog function in the orangish-yellow box above, which is another sorting mechanism. Say you upload 200 shots, knowing you need to process 10 immediately; you can tag the ten photos, putting them in a quick collection, and have only those show up in your view so you can focus on those. Outlined in pink I have shown a few photograph thumbnails in the Library, the little circle on the upper right hand corner of some of the thumbnails show I have marked those to be placed in the Quick Collection. The first thumbnail has a 2 on the upper left, signifying I have made a virtual copy of the photo next to it. The little boxes in the lower right all mean something. The first one looks like a cartoon bubble, it signifies GPS coordinates are available for the photo. The second one shows the photo is in a collection. The third one shows the photo has been cropped, and the fourth one shows the photo has been edited. A lot to remember, but after you learn it it becomes second nature.

Almost everything is adjustable in Lightroom when it comes to the view you get of your photographs. You can make the thumbnails bigger or smaller, change the sorting, hide panels, and more.

The second core function is the obvious one. Photo editing. The Library module has quick adjustment settings, however the Develop module has the advanced settings.

In the example screenshot below, the pink outlines some of the basic settings in the panel on the right side for editing. There are many more potential settings, including lens profiles for certain camera/lens combinations, adjustments for any and everything you can think of from individual color adjustment, sharpening, noise removal, and more. I have outlined the most important function of the Develop module, for me, in red. Lightroom keeps a history of all of the edits you’ve made on any given photograph. Lightroom doesn’t adjust the original file.

LRDevelop1

Click on the photo to see a larger example.

This is very important. It keeps track of the changes and you can export a file based on the changes, however the original file is left intact. So if you want to revert a change, or go back to the original, you can do so. You can also toggle between changes to make sure the change is the right one to make. Below I have shown an example of the same photo as above reverted to the original photo as uploaded.

LRDevelop2

Click on the photo to see a larger example.

As you can see, as I outlined in red above, I made a lot of changes but comparing the two samples the differences are mildly different in comparison. Where the history is important is when you’re able to achieve results you want, you can make a note of the changes you made, and Lightroom allows you to copy those changes and paste them to other photos. So if you take a dozen shots in the same environment, similar lighting, similar camera settings, you can apply those changes to all of the shots, which can speed up processing or create a new baseline for editing the next shot.

One thing I can’t emphasize enough is the wealth of options for editing your photo. You can remove facial blemishes, whiten teeth, remove or add individual colors as well as change hues. One of my favorite things to do is remove color to isolate a subject. Below I take the same photograph, make no exposure or light changes, I just straighten it, remove green, yellow and aqua, and increase blue, red, orange, purple and magenta. I also used a brush to reduce saturation on the fence in the background which appeared blue once the green and yellow were removed.

LRDevelop3

Click on the photo to see a larger example.

Notice the orangeish-yellow box. I used these sliders to make the color adjustments. The subject now pops out of the shot.

I’ll reiterate what I said above. I could write a book. But this is a blog where I explain what software I use. The second piece of software I am reliant on is Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE). Microsoft ICE is a free program which does photograph stitching for panoramas, or to upload to their PhotoSynth viewing service. So what I would do is take a few pictures to stitch using identical camera settings, edit one to my liking in Lightroom, copy the editing settings, paste them to the other photos, and use ICE to stitch them together.

Microsoft ICE is the main reason why I carried an 85mm lens exclusively for a long time. As nice as it would have been to have something wider, I could take multiple shots with the 85mm and use ICE to stitch the shots together.

In the screenshot below, I have uploaded 26 shots to produce one large panorama, as shown outlined in pink.

ICE1

Click on the photo to see a larger example.

Outlined in red, the camera motion dropdown gives you a couple of options based on how the individual pictures were taken; three different planar motions, a rotating motion, and an automatic option where ICE will guess. If the stitch you wanted doesn’t appear as you would like it to, you can adjust the camera motion as shown below.

ICE2

Click on the photo to see a larger example.

Notice the Rotating Motion setting is different than the Planar Motion 3. The shoreline appears to rise and then drop left to right in an arc, where the first panorama has a shoreline which is relatively flat. Since I used a tripod, I am thinking the Rotating Motion is the right one, but the Planar Motion looks better.

Microsoft ICE is simple, and it is free. Two of my favorite qualities also displayed in the third and final program I use. Microsoft Paint. Yes, the paint program included in Windows. All of the screenshots above were cropped and edited in Paint. Paint also allows you to select rectangular or free form portions of a photograph, copy them, and paste them. This is good for blemishes which are much larger than smaller spots. Lightroom can remove small spots, where I can use paint to remove large areas.

Let me be perfectly clear. Of these programs, I use Lightroom 98% of the time. All of my photos are imported using Lightroom as RAW files and converted to JPG files to be used in other programs or uploaded.

I’ve ran out of time here on this adventure. My next post will be more educational. It will show all of the differences when ISO changes in a controlled environment. I hope to learn more and hopefully show someone new the benefits and costs of raising or lowering ISO.

Prime Time! Why I carry the equipment I carry.

In my last post, How did I get in this dilemma?, I mentioned my trip to Europe with my wife. I brought a Sony Nex-5 with a 16mm f/2.8 lens and that was it. Eight days in Europe; Lisbon, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Palma with one wide prime lens. I learned and became very comfortable with a very valuable concept.

I don’t need a zoom lens.

Shortly after the Europe trip, I got rid of my zoom lenses. I had the kit lens which came with my A390, the standard 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, an old Minolta Beercan lens 70-210mm f/4, and a lens I picked up at a garage sale a Quantaray (Sigma) 75-300mm f/4.5-6.3. All of them sold. I was down to three inexpensive primes on my A390, the 30mm f/2.8 Macro, the 35mm f/1.8 and the 50mm f/1.8. And on my Nex-5 I had the 16mm f/2.8.

Andratx

This photo was taken in Andratx in Mallorca. (Sony Nex-5, 16mm f/2.8 lens)

I learned if I wanted to get closer, I could crop or walk closer. If I needed something wider, I could stitch or walk further away. When the A77 came out I sold the Nex-5 and the 16mm lens, the A390 and the three primes. The money I raised covered the A77 and an 85mm f/1.4 lens. I had been juggling used and cheap lenses for ten months when I A77 + 85mm combo. For the next ten months, 90% of my shots have been with this combination. Since then I acquired a 600mm mirror lens really cheap which I use to shoot the moon, and I have experimented with other lenses, the latest being a 24mm f/2 lens. The good thing about camera lenses is they don’t depreciate much if you take care of them. I took an accumulative $28 loss on the 30mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/1.8. I made money on the Minolta Beercan and the Quantaray Zoom at the end of the day. Camera equipment in general depreciates well. I sold the A390 body and kit lens at a $75 loss and the Nex-5 and 16mm lens at a $50 loss.

DSC01910

Another shot of the moon. (Sony A77, Sigma 600mm f/8 mirror lens)

I travel a lot. In a one year span from mid-January 2011 to mid-January 2012 I visited 20 of the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Thailand, and Malaysia. I really have to carefully choose the equipment in my bag. If I acquire a new lens, if I want to keep it in my bag I need to sell or shelf another to make room.

DSC08585
This monkey really liked coconut. I took this in Malaysia. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

Right now, in my bag I have the Sony Alpha A77 Digital SLT with an 85mm f/1.4 lens, a B+W XSPro UV filter, a 24mm f/2 lens, a Minolta 3600 HS flash, a SanDisk 32GB ExtremePro SDHC, battery charger, extra battery, and a Giotto’s rocket blower. I also carry various other little supplies including LCD wipes, sensor swabs, cotton swabs, white balance cards, and an extra 16GB SanDisk 16GB ExtremePro SDHC in a small tin. This is to supply my habit. I also have to carry a laptop, power supply, cell phone charger, cell phone, and anything else I am bringing with me. So minimizing the load I am carrying is crucial.

DSC09382

(Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

Why do I carry the equipment I carry? I wanted the Sony Alpha A77 for the sheer speed. It is capable of shooting 12 frames per second in a single burst of 24.3 Megapixel RAW+JPEG files at 30-35 MB per shot. It does continuous bursts of 6-8 shots without a dedicated mode. The A77 had the lens versatility I had in the A390 and some of the key features which attracted me to the Nex-5. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Once you get to the 12th or 13th shot in the large burst, the buffer fills up and requires a second or two to clear. This is why it is essential to have the fastest SDHC on the market with the SanDisk ExtremePro at 95 mb/s. There is one other camera on the non-Sony DSLR market capable of the speed the A77 has and it costs 4-5 times more. The A77 also does full HD 1080 60p video with autofocus. The only non-Sony DSLR better at video costs nearly ten times as much.

DSC03017

I was in the third deck when I took this game-winning overtime goal. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

I can shoot my kids in bursts and chances are, one or two will turn out how I want.

 

DSC02490

Hopefully there aren’t bills in there. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

I decided on the 85mm lens as it was better quality-wise than the cheaper 50mm f/1.8 I had, and the 50mm f/1.4 on the market. I was a bit uneasy about 85mm on an APS-C body as it was much longer than I was used to in the 50mm lens. My goals in acquiring the 85mm lens were simple; it needed to be bright, it needed to fit on a full-frame body if I ever upgraded, and it needed to review well.

DSC09417

My favorite thing to do is shoot random flowers and plants, especially exotic locations, like this in Fajardo, Puerto Rico (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

The 85mm lens I acquired is the best lens I have ever shot with. It does precisely what I wanted, without me really knowing yet what I wanted. It looks good wide open. It is sharp enough to crop details out from shots where I would have thought I needed something longer. The 24.3 MP APS-C sensor on the A77 has to have a good lens to account for the pixel density. The 85mm f/1.4 ZA the bill. It’s not without fault. It uses a screw-driven autofocus, which is louder and a tad slower than the Smooth Automatic Motor or Super Sonic Wave Motor lenses. Wide open at f/1.4 in backlit situations it allows some Chromatic Aberration to creep in to the shot. The sharpness of the lens makes up for the shortfall.

dsc06890-2

My little girl is my most cooperative subject. She dresses up for me. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

With the A77 + 85mm combo, I have shot tens of thousands of frames. I have captured all three of my kids looking and smiling. I have gotten hockey pucks hitting posts and crossing goal lines at the exact moment they hit or crossed more than once each at different games in different countries. I shot a monkey 5 feet away and the shot has made its way into a coffee table book being sold for charity. And I finally got shots of my wife. 

DSC09215

My beautiful wife at El Morro. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

My latest lens excursion is the 24mm f/2. It works out to be a 36mm equivalent on the APS-C sensor, so it is close to the classic 35mm focal length. The jury is still out. I am still getting a feel for it. It seems like a good lens, but I always find myself getting back to the 85mm lens. Definitely a habit I need to break.

DSC02997

The colors captured by the new 24mm f/2 lens are good, that’s for sure. (Sony A77, 24mm f/2 lens)

So what about software? That is a story for my next post.

How did I get in this dilemma?

I’ve always enjoyed photography, at least as long as I can remember being able to use a camera. My first experiences with photography, except for those where my parents didn’t let me play with their film camera with film in it, were with the little cardboard cameras you could buy at drug stores and return the entire camera when you were finished to get developed. My first camera which was actually mine was actually a digital camera. A 1.2 Megapixel Sony Cybershot DSC-S30 I got while I was in college as a gift.

I was an amateur webpage developer in college, I built pages designed to load quickly on 56K modem connections. So the Cybershot was stuck in 640×480 mode. I estimate I took over a hundred thousand shots with the camera. It witnessed a number of events in college, it produced photos which became fraternity rush posters, and many found their way on to various web sites. It was present at my job interviews, college graduation, my wedding, as well as my first and second child’s birth. In 2004 I took my wife and two young children to Colorado, where we visited Cripple Creek, an old mining town now home to a number of casinos. In getting my daughter in her stroller, the Cybershot fell out of the bag it was in and hit the concrete. Goodbye first camera.

Afterward, it seemed like every other holiday my wife or I received a new camera. We had Canons, Nikons, random off-brand digitals, even a Hewlett-Packard. Nothing took pictures like the Sony Cybershot. Hindsight being 20-20, I could have gone to eBay and found the same Cybershot model when the first one was broken. It probably would have saved me a fortune. Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this, either, had I gone down the path I did.

My wife Leilani asked for “a real camera” in 2006 or 2007 where she wanted it to be hers (and not used by anyone other than her). I was a bit of a lush when it comes to holiday spending, but usually in volume of gifts and not in quality. The first attempt I got her a 35mm film Canon point and shoot. She used it to shoot about a half dozen rolls of film. The next year I spent about $250 on a Canon Powershot. It never really did what she wanted. It took me a couple years to clue in. My wife also wanted a hobby that was all hers, and didn’t want me to pursue the same one. Unfair? Maybe. I understand now where she came from then, though I selfishly didn’t get understand it or like it at the time. Probably still don’t like it to a certain degree, but I understand regardless. I will say, although I may have acted selfishly, I don’t regret it. I regret being deceptive, which I will explain a bit in detail later, but I don’t regret taking on the hobby. 

In December 2010 I bit the bullet and bought my wife a Canon Rebel XS. I was absolutely thrilled with the results it produced. As an always-learning husband I knew better than to buy myself a camera alongside buying hers. My wife has never been okay with me buying her a gift and me buying the same one for myself. I waited about three weeks, maybe four before I bought myself a DSLR. I hid it from my wife for as long as I had it.

It was January 2011. My adopted brother Ernie was headed to Afghanistan and I used some of the airline miles I had accrued from travelling for work to surprise him at my going away party. I wanted to take my wife’s new camera but I was too scared to ask. So I went to Best Buy and bought the Sony Alpha A390 before going to the airport. It met the criteria I was looking for. It was the least expensive Sony they had. Little did I know, the money I spent that day would end up becoming something which would consume a good amount of my free time.

Pikes Peak, cloudy day

One of the first photographs from my A390 in Colorado

How did I hide a DSLR from my wife? I travelled a ton that year. After visiting Ernie in Colorado, I went to 20 different United States, Sweden and Denmark. Photography as a hobby became what I did in my downtime on the road. The second or third week I had the DSLR I was in Oklahoma City and it snowed. My customer’s site was snowed out and the city was effectively shut down. I spent the day taking pictures of water coming out of the hotel water faucet. When I went somewhere new I would try to take pictures of skylines, or water, or trees – really anything different. I was challenged, I loved the results but I was never fully satisfied, either. It was the pursuit of the perfect shot. I didn’t know how to use my DSLR at first. I look back and the shots had horrific white balance, the ISO was too high or something else was wrong. I was still learning but the results were still better than I could get on my cell phone or my point and shoot camera.

Bouncing water

A photo of water I took snowed-in at Oklahoma City.
dsc03322
Photographed in Kosta, Sweden.

My next challenge came in June 2011, just 5 months later. My wife and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary (SIDENOTE: Yes, we had been married 10 years and I hadn’t learned to not hide stuff from my wife. We’re past 11 and I am getting better, I promise. I’m still learning!) and we were going on a cruise in Europe. I certainly could not go on a cruise or Europe without my camera! My wife would have hers, but I needed to get one that was different and did different things hers did so she wouldn’t think I was doing the same things. So I used some of the reward points I had accrued to purchase a Sony Nex-5 and I took it to Europe. My wife was not happy about me having a camera, certainly not one better than the one she had. I explained to her it did different things, but wasn’t better. I had a 16mm lens, she had two zoom lenses – an 18-55mm lens and a 75-300mm. Big difference. She could zoom in, while I was capturing high resolution wide angle shots. It allowed me to take pictures in Europe and it was easier to ask forgiveness than it was to ask permission.

After going to Europe, I had a couple interesting work assignments, including another trip to Denmark and Sweden. And I had two really good camera bodies in the A390 and the Nex-5. The A390 was good for framing shots, and I had acquired a couple of cheap prime lenses and a couple of old Minolta zoom lenses off of eBay. The Nex-5 was portable and had a couple of really neat features, it filmed HD movies and did stitch panoramas. In September 2011, Sony announced the A77. It did everything the A390 did and had the same features the Nex-5 had I liked. So I justified the purchase of the A77 by selling the A390 and the Nex-5. I received the A77 in November and didn’t look back. My wife didn’t know fully about it until earlier this year.

DSC01707

This is one of my favorite non-human or animal subjects, a Japanese maple.

Let me get this perfectly straight. I’m not proud of the fact I hid these things from my wife. It was only a month or two ago I really got from her why she would be/was angry at me for picking up photography as a hobby. As much as I disagree and don’t like it, I understand where she’s coming from. I hope one day she’ll have the hobby alongside me, rather than parallel to me. As mad as she probably still is at me, I hope eventually she will see past it as I think she’s naturally better than I am and I know I could learn from her. I get where she’s coming from. I am a highly technical person and I pick up the complexities of camera quickly, which I imagine is intimidating. I can fly in the editing software. She wants to figure it out for herself, at her own pace, and certainly not have me show her. I also have the benefit of time. When I am on the road, I have downtime. Her job gets harder when I am on the road. When the kids are in school, she’s working, doing volunteer work, or cleaning the house. When the kids are home, she’s keeping them out of trouble, helping with homework, and getting them to do their chores. She likes to unwind at night. I like to take pictures of the moon.

DSC01011
The moon.

As an artist, the most frustrating thing about my wife not knowing about my passion for photography was she was my most desired subject. My wife is beautiful. I really like photographing her. My second favorite subject, or the three little ones tied for second favorite had to fill the void for a very long time.

dsc06951
My amazing wife, Leilani.

Photography fulfills a couple of things I need. First and foremost, it keeps me busy and gives me something to do. Secondly, I am a technical person, I work with computers for a living and I have a Mathematics degree. The technical details when it comes to focal length, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, color temperature and aesthetic details like the rule of thirds scratch a strange itch I have to use qualitative data to solve a quantitative problem. I’m never fully satisfied with any of my pictures and I am always looking for something better. Third, I am a technology junkie. No explanation needed. Finally, I find post-processing therapeutic. So much so, I rarely watch television when I am on the road. I spend a lot of my time fixing old photographs when I am not taking new ones.

DSC00796
My wife and oldest son.

dsc01103

My three kids!

I still have a ton to learn, and I feel like my approach is one many others strive to take. I don’t know if I can provide any value above and beyond the plethora of sites out there, but if I can strike up one conversation or give someone one inspiration to try something different, or maybe if there is a way I can explain something so someone can understand it differently, my time here will not be ill spent.

DSC07194

Seattle, Washington USA

My next post, I will discuss the equipment I carry and the reason and rationale for carrying it. Until then, thank you for reading this far, and have a great day!

–Shawn

Introduction

Hello! My name is Shawn and I am a married father of three living in a town just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. I am a consultant who travels frequently and recently I have taken “serious photography” as my primary hobby. The intent of this site is to show my approach, lessons learned, and maybe a horror story or two along the way.

I am not a professional photographer. I am a professional who likes to photograph. Photography as a hobby has revitalized my downtime. I travelled for my company for six years before I purchased my first “serious” camera. I used to go to the customer site, do my work, go back to the same hotel room as last time (regardless of location or hotel brand), and watch the same eight channels. Now I look for things to shoot.

More about me later…