Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Revamp Coming Soon

So, as my counter tells me, I only have ten posts on the site so far but it's time for a revamp. I have been working furiously on some new pictures and a couple of new projects that are taking longer than expected, the reason for my sporadic postings, and as these come together I'm also redoing the site so I can more adequately update it and maintain it. It may be a week or so until I get the new site up but it will still be here on blogger but should be a little bit more polished. We'll see what I can do but under any circumstances I will have more regular posts coming up. I know I keep promising it but this time...its going to happen!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Hoover Dam

Welcome back yet again!

I'm officially back sitting at my desk again and trying to work on some photos. I have to say, this trip to Vegas has certainly taught me something. Number 1 - Nevada is hot. But that's besides the point. Number 2 is the real meat of the issue. I need a better workflow. It has really never been an issue before but with so many photos in one trip, it has gone way, way out of control. I took about 2763 photos between 5 days...and 2 of those days I didn't even carry a camera around with me. Not good. Well, actually it's a perfectly fine thing but when you have no management for the data let alone the actual working on photos, you're just putting unnecessary strain on the shutter.

This isn't really an insane amount of photos. There are probably a couple hundred that I dedicated to panoramics (which may or may not get built depending on time I have available) and many were forays into the world of HDR. I have a couple HDR images in my portfolio but nothing since those has really been very effective (I haven't dedicated much time to this pursuit). So we can, in fact, drop the number of photos by, let's say, 200.

This leaves me with just about 2500 photos, give or take a few. Not a terribly huge amount but not easy or good to work with if you have a low powered Intel Atom netbook and your woefully underpowered desktop is halfway cross the country. I was stuck in a position where I had to dump my cards to the netbook and leave them to be worked on at a later date. By time I got home, the number was too much to handle in 5 sittings let alone 1. So, I have been gradually working on them one by one every couple of days and have a handful that I'm proud of.

But I will never be able to find all of the good ones. My life would be dedicated to editing for the next month (if my only editing time is after work and Sunday mornings) without even adding new photos to the catalog.

So what could have been done to avoid this disaster?

Step 1 - This can be no stronger message for a powerful laptop. Now, I'm not saying that you should do all of your work on a laptop but a solid machine could have saved me some serious trouble here. That will be the next purchase.

Step2 - Now that I have successfully whined about gear as any self respecting photographer/technophile would, I have to point out that a large portion of my problem is the inability to let go of photos. I believe one of the biggest hindrances to a photographer can be too many photos. This may sound like a contradiction but too many photos all in one place can make it hard to navigate and edit the ones that are diamonds in the rough.

I think it's important (and I haven't done this till now) that photographers need to use some sort of rating system to categorize photos. Lightroom uses a star method and I'm sure Aperture has it's own method as well. I will be implementing a new plan myself for separating the wheat from the chaff before I ever edit one photo. Chris Marquardt, a German photographer with an awesome podcast, Tips From The Top Floor, suggested a great method in one of his podcasts that I will be using a variant of for my own work (I can't recall all the details so if this sounds exactly like his then all credit goes to him!) I will label my photos 1-5 stars. 1 stars get pitched IMMEDIATELY. There will be no movement on this. 2's make it to a second pass and either get upgraded to a 3 or are put into an archive before any other editing, 3's are in need of processing. 4's are finished but could be better (the bulk of the processed work: good photos that aren't "Portfolio" quality) and 5's are....well...Holy God.  (I don't expect many of those)

This should certainly make it easier to work with my photos and will eliminate any unneeded excess.

Step 3 - TAKE MORE TIME. This sounds like an easy one, but I regret, with my job it isn't really possible. I do have a job that is not photography related so photos are a hobby...for now. But until further notice I need to take more time, if possible, in composing and thinking about my photos. After this trip I have been sorely disappointed with my performance and I know that a lot of it can be attributed to rushing. Admittedly, this was not a photo excursion. This was a trip for celebration and I tried to adhere to that. But I produced a lot of terrible images along the way. Which leads to the point: for a trip like this the DSLR may have been overkill. We were on a "Run and Gun" status and lugging the DSLR and 5 lenses was a totally unacceptable way to travel. So, in response, I will be using limiting my kit from now on on trips like this. More time changing lenses means more time not spent composing a shot. My ultimate preference would be to get an Olympus EP-2 or the like for this purpose but money doesn't allow for that right now so I will be limiting myself to my D90 and my 18-200 lens. It has a broad range and is totally versatile for the types of shooting I usually do. So without the extra lenses and the desire to avoid just spray and pray tactics, I will dedicate more time to composing and thinking about my shots and my lighting.

This seems like enough of a rant for now but I will have more to say on this subject tomorrow so be sure to look for it. As for now, enjoy a couple parting shots and keep shooting!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Las Vegas Lights

First post in a while but I'm back at it now and hope to be doing some more regular posts. There should be some more now also because I'm going to begin working on a couple photo books. One of which is going to be a car book that I've been thinking about and another one as a book about Lake Erie. The last, and most recent idea, is a book on, what else? Vegas. In one day I took about 1200 photos and tomorrow we will be going to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam and that's sure to be some more photos. But as of right now I'll show off a couple photos and start posting some more as the books progress!

P.S I added two Grand Canyon pictures but I want to put a little caveat on them... the computer I am using to post process these is neither calibrated nor powerful enough to handle photos....of any sort. So these are really just so that you can see them right now as opposed to waiting till I get home. But I promise I'll have several more fully fledged posts when I do get home!

But there will also be a quote of the day now, heard this in the lobby of the Aria casino

Girl 1 (drink in hand) - Hey listen to me!
Girl 2 (grabs Girl 1 by shoulders) - Chelsea! Shut the F*** up! We have to get to the next club! There are more drinks to be had!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nate Deyarmin Memorial Benefit and Poker Run

I'm back from my hiatus! It was kind of a strange break, one I wasn't planning on taking but it happened anyway. A lot has been going on since my last post and I haven't had the time necessary to write anything or get any photos posted. But don't worry I haven't stopped taking photos and actually have a pretty nice back catalog of things I'd like to get posted as soon as possible so look for a set of posts coming in rapid fire pretty soon.

But I do have three pictures today that I would really like to show. These are shots of a gentleman's car at the Nate Deyarmin Memorial Benefit and Poker Run (an event in my town that my dad's band plays at - Check em out at! They do 50's and 60's rock and roll!) This Cobra was a great looking car and has always been one of my favorites.

That's it for the post. Check out the photos and check back often for the next couple posts and there will MOST CERTAINLY be more car photos coming up!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Flowers....Somewhat Macro

Well it's that time of year again and as you've probably noticed in the blog posts, the weather is generally cruddy in this part of the world in mid April. It usually rains more than it should and nice warm dry days are like teasers as they only come along once every 2 or 3 weeks or so. But however there are some good days and there are the occasional great days. On those days I try to take the opportunity to get out and take a ton of pics (such as my model shots I wrote about yesterday).

Most of these shoots are impromptu things with little to no planning. But recently my mom commissioned me to take some photos for her to hang in her newly redecorated room. I don't know if she hasn't realized who shes been living with all of these years or not but when you ask me to take photos you usually and in mass quantities.

I took this opportunity that she presented and turned it into my own little photo exploration project and attempted to seek out as many photos of flowers and general flora to pack a book with (which I have considered doing...that may be a summer project of mine this year). So far I've taken a significant amount but unfortunately with the rains we've received (as was expected) the flowers have been short to bloom this year. However, of the several hundred I did take I managed to crank out several pretty good ones.

This go round I attempted to use a significantly larger depth of field with these shots and even on one of them cranked it all the way down to f/22 (pictured right). Some of them work but some of them didn't so I think you'll see a smattering of both wide open and really broad depth of field.

I'm going to quit rambling for a while and let you bask in the sunshine of the flowers while I sit in the cold dark of my room and watch the rain outside.



Sunday, April 25, 2010

Outdoor Photo Shoots

So I'm new to shooting a model in any sense of the word and don't tend to try to do anything in the way of adequate studio lighting, not even 1 single off camera flash (although I have received a new SB-600 for my birthday a couple weeks ago!). So this whole thing is very very new to me as I usually shoot on the run and in just ambient light. So I knocked off one of those items off my list a couple weeks ago at the park near my home.

My girlfriend and shooting partner Lauren went down to the park to walk for a while but ended up doing a whole set of "model" shots using just the ambient light. This worked pretty well for me, however, and 5:15ish allows for some pretty adequate lighting regardless of not even having a flash. Although, now that I have the SB-600 I realize I would have liked to just add some fill on her face for a couple of shots. But all in all it worked really well from an impromptu standpoint.

Anyway to get back to the story at hand... we got to the park and walked out in to the widest open portion of the park and realized the light was perfect for a couple quick shots. So I just went ahead and pointed the camera at Lauren and took a shot....well then...that...looks...good? I was pretty impressed with the ambient that we had coming over the trees behind us which really softened it out. When I looked at the LCD and noticed that this quick shot I took looked pretty decent with absolutely no effort. Now I'm getting myself on a roll shooting. I told Lauren to walk toward the nearest group of 5 or 6 trees otherwise completely out in the open and had her do some poses while I took some shots. After a little while I turned around and realized that I had taken something like 200 photos in 15-20 minutes without the intention of actually doing it. Well it ended up working out for me again. I flipped through the shots while we were in the car on the way back and realized that I had some pretty good shots.

Came home a little later and sat down with the trusty Lightroom and their fantastic flagging feature and started with the intention of just picking out the ones that were half decent. Well that ended up being more than I had anticipated! Now when all was said and done I came out with about 12 that I was really happy with and have decided I need to make another attempt at this with some more preparation in the future.

Lauren and I are currently working on setting up a small shoot outdoors complete with costumes (in the sense of proper clothing for what we're trying to capture...regardless of the fact that we haven't decided what that look is yet) and some actual proper studio lighting. Now that I have one SB-600 I would like to purchase another and get at least a basic lighting kit for some quick and dirty lighting ability and hope that we can nail some great ambient light like last time to really crank out some quality stuff!

Here's a couple of the best photos from that impromptu shoot...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sunset Photography

Ever tried to take a photo of that fantastic sunset outside and totally missed it? Well that tends to be me usually but under some circumstances get my rear in gear and actually play with those knobby things on my camera that seem to cause changes to my photos!

Oh wait...those are my controls...I need to get on using those in a more efficient matter. Note that I use my knobs (as Emeril would say) early, and I use them often. But sometimes I disregard the best practices for setting up for specific shots.

I have to point out in advance I think, that these photos were mostly taken on the Aperture Priority mode that the D90 offers accompanied with matrix metering. That's right folks...I admit it...

My name is Mike....and I use Aperture Priority over Manual Mode

Ok, that isn't entirely true. I usually shoot manual but on this particular instance (part of the Lake Erie - Marblehead trip) I had just got up out of the car after 2 hours of driving and saw the sun setting over the old quarry across the street from the condo. Reminiscent of the old Flash comics, I dropped the luggage I was carrying and pick up the camera and threw it into Aperture Priority so that I wouldn't miss what would prove to be some pretty successful shots.

Don't get me wrong, I may not be the best person to take advice from but I do have some tips that I think would be helpful to my fellow photographers out there.

So, without even asking permission of the photography gods, I'd like to share how I got these photos of the sunset that, I think, are pretty successful.

As I said, in this particular case I put the camera into Aperture Priority, which to some photographers, is worse than death. Some will have you believe that manual is the only way to go. However, I believe there are some really good times to use this particular mode. Not only is it great for the rank amateur but it is also a good mode to let the photographer really release from needing to worry about exposure and worry about compositional things instead. I was able, in this instance, to use the method to allow me to concentrate more on working out the composition.

The combination of Matrix Metering and Aperture Priority is really the key for me for getting these kind of shots. It helps prevent from blowing out the sun and darkening the shadows too terribly much (which I ended up forcing down in Lightroom anyway but that's a separate matter).

But this isn't the whole story. I tried several formats, focal lengths, apertures and positions and got a unique variety of looks. After the I took the photos I passed them through Lightroom, amped up the color and gave them a little more punch. And voila! Fully finished sunset photos!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


So this is a town I don't get to see enough in my life. In fact, I'm there quite infrequently and I suppose I'm going to have to remedy that. 

Pittsburgh is a fantastic city especially down by the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. There is a ton to do and see. But this time around the focus wasn't the museums (although we did go to one while we were there) but rather a focus on shooting some street photography. 

Now I have to admit this isn't something I do all that often and frankly my skills are significantly lacking. Trying to get a shot of a guy on a bike while crossing a busy street and missing that the light has turned green? Never a good thing to do... 

Not to mention, and this is something I hadn't noticed until the most recent trip, the bus lanes for the city run opposite to the flow of one way streets! That makes life a little more interesting when you think cars are only coming from the left but lo and behold there is a city bus bearing down on you from the right. Splat...

But I managed to stay away from becoming a human piece of roadkill and got a couple of great shots. However the top one isn't one of them! In fact it's a shot that my girlfriend and always traveling partner, Lauren took.

The story goes that I didn't have my camera on me at the time (shocking I know but I didn't want to lug around the long lens I brought while inside the museum) and as we trudged back to the car I saw this composition and had to have it. So instead of relinquishing the camera, she took the shot herself at my direction and I did all of the post processing on it. So i laid it out, edited and posted it so I consider it at least 70% mine...the world may say otherwise.

But that being said it was a successful day trip and should be highly recommended to anyone capable of getting to Pittsburgh. There is plenty to see for several days and if you're capable of doing a quick trip, its an excellent escape for a little while.

I'm going to be posting some more photos soon from the trip so be sure to check back and see a couple more pics and hear a couple more stories!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Marblehead - A Weekend at the Lake

Welcome back!

This past weekend I spent some time at a family friend's up on Lake Erie and it was the perfect time for a couple of shots!

All in all I spent most of the weekend with the camera, unfortunately the weather and my lens choices limited the quality of my photos. I took nearly a 1000 frames over the weekend, (kind of a slow weekend for me) and I wasn't inspired by a lot of the frames. But luckily there were several that I did like and I did a little post processing on them.

Over the weekend there were several places we hit up and got a chance to take some photos. Saturday we saw the Black Swamp Wildlife Refuge (that is close to the name but may not be totally correct, I'll fix this as soon as I get my notes in front of me again). It was the time for some bird photos but I didn't have a long enough lens in the kit. I took just the 18-200 I just bought and have been trying to force myself to get used to using it and what it can and can not do so I'm not terribly upset. I learned that length is a limitation on that lens! Not a bird lens... but otherwise I really enjoy this lens and have some impressive photos from it on pretty much the first week I've had it.

Later that night from the deck of the condo I shot a couple frames with long exposures. I was using a bulb (well technically a wireless remote) for about 15 second exposures out over the water. The condo sits about 2 miles from Cedar Point which you can see all of from the deck so originally the plan was to shoot the park during the night. But unfortunately the park isn't totally open yet so it was pretty dark and didn't work as I had planned. But as soon as I shifted the composition to include the marina behind the condo I started pulling off some great shots. I think one of them really was successful and it'll be up here as soon as I get back to the main desktop. (I'm sitting on campus right now). I'm also going to upload a look at Picasa 3's photo collage function and what I think I can do with it. I have a specific idea I want to do with it and you'll see it later. It's a project I've been wanting to try and finally have the opportunity! But that's about it for now enjoy the couple I have on here and wait for more to come!

Here are the photos as promised!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Volcanic Eruptions

Good morning one and all!

For all 3 of you that are reading this I thought I'd pass this little tidbit on.

In Iceland today there is a pretty large eruption of a volcano charmingly called Eyjafjallajokull and usually I wouldn't put this on a photo blog of mine but, as of now, is flickr related so there are pictures!

Hundreds of flights have been canceled due to ash that has been dispersed out into the air via the eruption. Ironically enough, the volcano is erupting near a glacier so there is an incredible amount of steam as well as the possibility for some fantastic photos and videos. Check out the home page today for a whole gallery of photos and videos!

I'm going to try and keep this photo related so I won't share the gory details but if you're into that sort of thing (which I am so if you're reading this you probably will be too) the just click on the source links!

Photo credit orvaratli

  [ telegraph via gizmodo ]

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Different Angle

I apologize for the poor quality pictures...the point and shoot has seen better days...


Welcome to my latest and, hopefully, greatest blog! This time round I'm going to focus on my two greatest passions, travel and photography. Sadly, however, I don't get the opportunity to do enough of either so most likely this will focus more on the photography I try to do every day. Things always seem to step in the way; work, school, car payments, whatever. All of these things have always kept me somewhat at bay when it came to buying that new lens that I've been lusting over or, more importantly, walking off into that sunset that has always drawn me from home. I think, in my case specifically, there has always been a fear of the unknown. If I don't hoard enough money will I make ends meet? If I buy that gizmo will I be unable to pay for school? If I pick up and go looking for the adventure of a lifetime will I throw my well ordered life into complete and utter chaos? The last question is probably the most important and its answer is somewhat of a double edged sword. Will my life be thrown into a vortex of confusion if I pick up and leave? Probably. Is that a bad thing? Ah, there's the rub…

Let's back up a second. What well ordered life am I talking about even? Well, currently I attend the University of Akron and, on top of the school work, I work as an engineering intern at a firm here in Akron, Ohio that designs software for different military outfits around the world. This includes the U.S Navy and our allies and while this job is rewarding and even is what I chose as my career path (I am a Mechanical Engineering major) I have come to the conclusion that it is most certainly not all I want out of life. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it, but I want to see things, I want to meet people and I want to experience the world.

That brings me to my point. Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear a speaker that the University had lined up that pretty much solidified my opinion on my question as to whether or not I should throw a little monkey wrench into my life. Kevin Connolly, author and photographer, exemplifies an outlook on life that we could all stand to emulate. As a college student, he traveled around the world and photographed the experience. When all was said and done, he produced somewhere on the order of 30,000 images that would become part of his "Rolling Exhibition". It is, at least for a suburban boy who has never made it farther than the next state over, inconceivable that someone could take what little money they may have and travel to a multitude of countries and have an experience most will only ever dream of.

But that isn’t the end of the story. Kevin has one more attribute that sets him apart, he was born without legs and this puts him into yet another level of “incredible” in my book. I have to just bow down to how incredible I find it that anyone could make that journey let alone how much more amazing it is that he could do it without the use of legs, a feat that most people would believe impossible.

I don't want to write this in homage of overcoming of disability but rather focus on the spirit that one person can have. During my time talking a bit with Kevin at a meet and greet before the talk and during the talk he gave I couldn't get over how badly I wanted to have my own experiences such as these in the world. I thought to myself, this is someone who is worth imitating.

Kevin’s photos are gripping and fascinating most certainly not just because he has a disability (which if you ever see him get around doesn’t exactly seem like the right word) but because they are fantastic in and of themselves. His style relies heavily on his situation; he shot all of the shots for the Rolling Exhibition from the hip while moving at a pretty good clip on his skateboard and you really get a sense of a fleeting moment in the resulting feel. I highly recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen his work yet go check it out at for his blog and for the site for the Rolling Exhibition specifically. Both sites are great and Kevin is a great guy and very entertaining so you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks go out to Kevin for the great talk and the pictures!

Kevin Connolly’s Blog

The Rolling Exhibition


Check Out The Flickr!


Tallmadge, Ohio, United States
I'm Mike and I'm The Perpetual Hobbyist! I'm an avid home brewer, tinkerer, and traveler. Even though I work a 9-5, I always find time to indulge in my passions - even with a tight schedule. Join me as I make the most of my free time - learning and doing as many things as I can