I guess it is official now.

 

It is official. I am a small business operator on top of my regular day job. Here is the logo I made (in Microsoft Paint).

200x75

I organized a Limited Liability Company in North Carolina. I got a sales tax license and a federal employer ID. I even registered a domain name.

www.stealthmodephoto.com

I set up a twitter account: twitter.com/stealthmodefoto

And a Facebook Page:  www.facebook.com/stealthmodephotollc

I created full color business cards as well as advertised on Craigslist. I want to get paying customers before I decide to do any more. Until then, here is a photo I took. The maple looks like it is using the leaves as hands to cover up the face made by the bokeh light.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G@f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/200s

Bumble Bees!

I really wish I had a Macro lens. We have a ton of bumble bees this year! For some reason I am getting a flash back to the scene in Tommy Boy where Chris Farley is wearing David Spade’s coat. Bumble Bees defy the laws of physics. They’re also very difficult to shoot with a lens with 5 feet of minimum distance and using manual focus or DMF. I prefer to shoot them using manual or DMF as I like to trigger once I see focus peaking give me a slight hint I am in focus. I don’t have the macro ability, but I can crop the giant 24MP shots. I hope to get a little more reach today with my A77 if I get the opportunity to shoot them again.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/3.2, ISO 640, 1/1000s

Here is one I got the other day, a little bit slower, though.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 1600, 1/640s

OK, one more, just for good measure.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/3.2, ISO 400, 1/500s

Maybe a hair (or three) underexposed, but I was able to get the detail I wanted nonetheless. It does appear I need something faster than 1/1000s to freeze the tiny wings.

Catch Up Post #6: Other Random Stuff

Finally, we come to the Bit Bucket. And at the end of this I will have posted seven different things in one day.

Post #1 Update

First of all, an update on Post #1. I dropped my completed Articles of Organization and the filing fee in the mail today. It will likely be in Raleigh tomorrow and I’m not sure how long it will take to process. I also got a Federal Employer Identification Number today, which was refreshingly painless. Once I get the paperwork back from Raleigh, I will be able to get a Sales Tax license and I will be ready for business!

Filters

I’ve been a busy person, but I have also gotten out and taken a few photos along the way. Lately I have been shooting with a Zeiss Circular Polarizer or a B+W 486 UV/IR Cut Filter on the front of my lenses and I am pretty happy with the results. I need to do a comparison to truly understand the differences and what I am achieving these filters. That is a post for another day (or months from now, hopefully I’ll get that far).

Tricksy Birdses

I posted a while back about the elusive Cardinals in my back yard. I can say now, they aren’t nearly as elusive as I thought. In fact, they’re frequent visitors. It is just a matter of patience.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/250s

I have at least three males and three females who visit. Hopefully they will stick around, maybe bring more little visitors.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 160, 1/250s

I also have a woodpecker or two in the area which is a good thing and a bad thing. It is a good thing as they are beautiful birds. It is a bad thing as my trees are offering them plenty to eat so they stick around.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 160, 1/500s, +2/3 EV

We have a nest of hawks and a nest of owls in the neighborhood and they have eluded me for the most part. One of these days I’ll have my camera out when one of them visits and get a clean shot. This hawk is about 30-35 yards away and I took this shot from my upstairs bedroom window.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/3.2, ISO 100, 1/500s

I wish she had turned around.

Kids’ Activities

My oldest son is still playing Soccer, or Football as they say everywhere other than the United States. Last year he played his games at night which posed a few challenges I’ve mentioned before. The lights were poor and it was difficult to get the white balance right as different parts of the field were lit differently. I will say the A99 was a huge improvement over the A77 in the night sports arena. I was able to comfortably shoot in the ISO 3200-6400 range. This year, they play in the early evening, which allows their games to occur mostly in the daylight, which makes most of my setup negligible. I have been using Auto ISO from 100-400 and pegging Shutter Priority between 1/500s and 1/1000s. Here is a shot from earlier this year before the Bermuda grass started turning green.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 250, 1/800s

Even in the waning daylight hours, I was able to use available light to get a good shutter speed. A few weeks later, and with the nights coming later I was able to get higher quality, faster speeds.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 100, 1/1250s

I have missed the raw speed and the reach of the A77. I will probably shoot with the A77 for the next sunny game.

My daughter has been singing in her school’s choir and I got a couple of shots under poor stage lighting. This one I cropped out of the bigger picture.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.8, IS0 400, 1/100s, -1EV

My youngest of the three doesn’t have any formal activities. He likes to play with rocks and sticks and run around. He does those things quite well.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 100, 1/800s

My oldest son finished the Cub Scouts this year and may transition to the Boy Scouts next year. His favorite activity in his five years of Cub Scouts was the Pinewood Derby. His final race is this weekend. This was after his final Pack race.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/400s

And we had what has become an annual event at our house, the Easter Egg Hunt.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.7, ISO 800, 1/50s

We’ve been doing the Hunt for as long as we’ve owned the house, so all of the kids we have invited have gotten much older and more kids get invited every year. Because of this we’ve increased our egg count from a few dozen to nearly a thousand eggs and now we do the hunt at night.

Here is the best from the shots I took.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 6400, 1/80s, –2EV

All caught up, I guess.

That’s all I have today. Seven posts to catch up for not posting but once or twice in the past couple of months. Although it is still less than I would post if I weren’t preoccupied with work and other stuff, I feel like I’ve caught up enough. Hopefully I won’t be a slacker and not post tomorrow or at least later this week.      😉

Catch Up Post #5: Austria Trip

The wonders of the internet. Back in good old 1998 I was the web site admin for my college fraternity. Yes, fifteen years ago. I kept it simple, used only 640×480 photographs to allow all browsers and screen resolutions to render the page appropriately and in short order as I needed to cater to 56k modem connections. The web page had a guest book and one of the signers was the Panhellenic President (Each sorority appoints 1-2 people to represent their chapter in a council and she was the president of that council) at a school in a small town in the southern part of Georgia, about 1800 miles away. Being the steward of the web site, I sent an e-mail back for courtesy asking about her town and her unique name. We became pen pals, actually mostly keyboard pals for a couple of years. One year we sent each other Valentine cards as we mutually didn’t have anyone to spend Valentine’s Day with. We also talked to each other on the phone when we could. Back then it was pricy to talk on the phone long distance so we only did so when we could use calling cards or didn’t care about the cost.

Long story short, we both kept in contact and in late 2000 after she graduated from the school in the small Georgia town she got a job good enough to buy me a plane ticket to come visit. It was before 9/11 when people greeting arriving visitors at the airport could greet them at the gate. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew. I got hit by the Thunderbolt as they say in The Godfather. We were married only a year after and have been ever since.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.2, ISO 500, 1/100s

So yes, I met my wife on the internet. And yes, I am a lucky man.

This blog is what I do in my sparest of spare time. I hope someone out there is in the same situation I was a couple of years ago and maybe will learn something from one of my mistakes or discoveries. I’ve also made a couple of contacts over the internet and gotten some good advice and criticism from those people. One of those people is Christian who lives in Austria and also shoots using Sony equipment on the A-mount. Christian has posted a few comments to some of the posts I’ve made. He gave me an open invitation to see some of the places he has photographed in Austria. I spent a few months figuring out the logistics and once the pieces started to come together I figured I would accept the invitation and I worked it out to book the travel.

I am pretty excited about the whole thing. Christian has an array of lenses I can try out and a knowledge of the area only a person local to the region would know. I usually gravitate toward tourist attractions which sometimes is cool and sometimes I’m trying to shoot a shot others have shot before or are even concurrently shooting. When I was in Malaysia, I stood in line for a specific spot to mount my tripod to capture the Petronas towers. Everyone before me was using a zoom lens, I was using a 35mm prime but effectively we got the same shot. Theirs may have been a bit wider or maybe in landscape orientation instead of portrait, but we shot the same thing from the same spot. Don’t get me wrong, I hope to see some of the important attractions in that part of Austria, however I am absolutely thrilled to get the advice and guidance from a local. Christian has been a great mentor to me and has given me very constructive criticism of my photography. He notices things I just don’t think about.

I don’t know if it is a difference in culture between how I was raised in Colorado or how I currently live in North Carolina, I am certainly not used to the kindness Christian has shown me and his offers for accommodation. What impresses me the most, other than some of his photographs, is the tact he has used in delivering messages to me when I may not be doing something the right way. When there is a better way to do something; whether it is framing or coloring a photo, or choosing a hotel in Vienna, Christian has figured out a very effective way of delivering the message to me. This is a skill I fail to achieve.

All I know is, I am going to Austria. I actually fly into Germany and I will likely be taking a train to Austria and staying outside of Vienna. I haven’t worked out those logistics yet as some of the web sites won’t let me make reservations more than 90 days in advance, so I have some time to make those plans. I did order the Rosetta Stone German Language software as I hope to be able to effectively ask where the restroom is. I know most Austrians are very well versed in English, I figure I would at least give German the college try in the few months between now and the time I visit.

My biggest worry right is bringing enough memory cards or ensuring I have enough storage to take all the shots I want to take. That is a wonderful place to be, in my humble opinion!

And yes, I am going to hang out and shoot photos with someone I met using the internet.   🙂

Catch Up Post #4: NIK Suite

When it comes to post-processing I always start with Lightroom 4, and I have my workflow. I import, apply the Camera Standard color profile to everything I import, and then I start tagging the ones I want to work on and export out. I’ve always wanted to see where Lightroom was perceived to fall short and one area where I figure there would be some improvement would be in Black and White post-processing. I had heard great things about NIK Software’s Silver Efex Pro but I wasn’t ready to spend $200 for what would amount to be a Lightroom Plugin for what I use it for. 

And then Google acquired NIK Software. And I knew that was my sign I wouldn’t be purchasing Silver Efex Pro.

Let me tell you right now. I HATE Google. I despise Google. I haven’t used Google in nearly eight years. I use Bing, which is really the same engine in Yahoo, or I use Ask.com, but I would say in the past eight years I used Bing or its predecessor Live.com 99% of the time. It was a learning curve at first, but now I am an expert search engine user. It doesn’t hurt Bing has gotten much better.

Why do I hate Google? I’ll tell you why. All of it goes back to April 2005 which would reassure me it really has been eight years. And really it started the day before April 2005. March 31. I was just accepted for a transition internally within my company to a different and better position. One of my co-workers congratulated me on my acceptance and told me he was interested in seeing my résumé so he could craft his to be advantageous for submission for a similar position. I was walking around with an inflated ego at the time so I gladly gave him a copy. The next day was April 1. April Fools Day. And my co-worker decided to post my résumé to every big job website on the planet. With my real address, my real e-mail address, and my real home phone number. He informed the logic within those sites I was willing to take a massive decrease in salary compared to what I was earning at the time and I was willing to relocate, take contract work… Everything which a desperate person with good qualifications would want. I came home on April 1, not knowing this had happened to a full 20 messages on my home answering machine and 26 unique numbers on my caller ID.

Needless to say, my life was a bit busy those next few days, and that wasn’t because my 3 and 1 year old were both still in diapers. I had to change my phone numbers, my e-mail address, and I had to get all of the job websites to remove the résumés which wasn’t enough as most of the big search engines also have cached information and headhunters utilize this when they’re really desperate to fill a spot. Live.com, Yahoo, Ask.com, they all took my résumés out of their cache as soon as I asked. Google didn’t answer my calls. Google didn’t answer my e-mails. Headhunters still sent me mail, they were persistent enough to call my new unlisted and unpublished number. For weeks I got a call every day on average. Some days I’d get a break. Some days I’d get three calls. It took me hiring a lawyer to get Google to remove the résumés from their cache. A bit before then I had made the decision never to use Google again.

So fast forward seven years and a bunch of months later. Google acquired NIK Software earlier in the year. Then they pull a nasty trick and put the whole NIK Suite on sale. The NIK Suite (HDR Efex Pro 2, Color Efex Pro 4, Silver Efex Pro 2, Viveza 2, Sharpener Pro 3, Dfine 2) was made available at $149.99 base, where there a million coupons online to drive the price down even further.

It took me a couple of days but I figured I was ripping them off at the price I bought the whole suite at compared to the price I almost bought just Silver Efex for, so my justification was made.

…And I have to admit, I like what I see so far.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/250s, +1EV
Post-Processed on the left with Lightroom, exported into Color Efex Pro 4 to produce the result on the right.

The layout of the tools are simple. Most of the tools have suggested filter settings and then you can tweak those how you see fit.

One of these days I’ll post a walkthrough but since I am hoping to post seven times today I want to just show some results. Here is Matt and Ashley redone using Silver Efex 2:

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/80s
Post-Processed on the left with Lightroom, exported into Silver Efex Pro 2 to produce the result on the right.

One program I am having fun playing with is HDR Efex 2. I feel like I haven’t touched the surface of what I can do yet, but it is fun making ordinary landscapes look like Rockwell paintings. Here is my house with the “Structured 1” filter applied. No other changes.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/1000s
Post-Processed on top with Lightroom, exported into HDR Efex Pro 2 to produce the result on bottom.

I haven’t done all of everything I can do quite yet. But prospects are up there. My first instinct was to go into my vast library of photos and redo all of them. And I did redo some… There’s more to talk about here but I also hope to post seven times today.

Catch Up Post #3: Spring!

I’ve said it in so many posts, I didn’t bother to backlink it… I love the Spring in North Carolina. Daffodils, Tulips, Azaleas, Dogwoods! And I have them all in my yard! This is the front of my house.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ F/4, ISO 400, 1/500s

This Spring came a lot later than last year. Last year we transitioned from Fall directly into Spring. We had Azaleas in February. This year they waited until April.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f.4, ISO 400, 1/250s

You can’t really tell from the small house photo, but the new addition this year is the tulips and boy were they welcome!

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.5, ISO 100, 1/800s

We had red, yellow and orange.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f.4, ISO 400, 1/250s

And I added a few extra daffodils this year, which came in different colors and sizes than the yellow ones we already had.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f.4, ISO 200, 1/250s, +1/3 EV

I also have peach trees which blossom pink and white.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f.4, ISO 400, 1/250s, EV+1

The last ones to the party this year (so far) are the dogwoods.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f.4, ISO 400, 1/250s

And there’s always my go-to subject, the Japanese Maples.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f.4, ISO 100, 1/250s

Still yet to come are my Apple and Pear trees, and a bunch of other randomness I have yet to shoot!

Catch Up Post #2: Kayden

A few weeks back I talked about “Jennifer”, the world’s number one offender of the “kissy face” or “duck face” pose on Facebook. She had asked the Facebook audience what their recommendations on a camera was. I told her I would bring a couple of mine over, shoot a couple of shots of her baby, Kayden, and we’d discuss. My secret agenda was to get her to put one of my shots up as her Facebook Profile photo. I almost accomplished the agenda, as she used this one as her cover photo instead.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.5, ISO 50, 1/1250s

It was a sunny day but windy. And it was a cool wind, which is not a great thing for a three month old. So we got as many shots as we could. I learned more about shooting the little one outside than I had bargained for.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/250s, +1EV

I also realized I may be post-processing these shots with a little too much Cyan. I am generally happy with them, though. I also had some issues with the shadows in the park, so I had to improvise on a couple, including this one which I could not get rid of the sun. Next time I’ll bring an umbrella or a sheet of cardboard.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/250s, +1EV

And the A77 made it out of the bag for a few shots as well. It was good to have this old friend back.

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SLT-A77V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 50, 1/1250s

Which will lead me nicely into my post regarding the NIK suite, which I cannot wait to attempt to post-process some of Kayden’s shots with. I just haven’t gotten that far yet!