Reenactments: Unique Opportunities for Images

I love photographing most any subject, but reenactments give us a unique opportunity to photograph days gone by. I recently spent 2 weeks at a reenactment in PA. My friends and I have an encampment of white tents and colorful banners. We step back in time to the Middle Ages of Europe.








Look for portraits of interesting individuals with unique clothing.





















Fighting or ceremonies make for nice imagery. Here is a shot from a rapier bout.








Also a shot from Court with the current King and Queen, yes there is even royalty!









It’s a different look from the everyday 21st century. Enjoy capturing a bit of yesteryear!









This type of event is only accessible to members of the group however there are many public options out there. The Maryland Renaissance Faire is coming up this fall. Also there are tons of Civil War battles such as Gettysburg. Don’t forget about airshows and World War II reenactments as well. Enjoy shooting!

Website Design with Lightroom

I’ve been meaning to update my website for 2 years now. It is outdated and stagnant, but time, money and my innate procrastination skills have put it off for too long now. So my friend Rod Barbee put me onto these cool website creation plug ins from The Turning Gate.These plug into the Lightroom web module and allow you to create a website from scratch with update-able image galleries. Which is great since all of my images are organized in Lightroom.

These tools make website creation fairly straightforward. As with everything there is a learning curve! The company has great tutorials to walk you through the various stages of creation and the on screen information is good as well. It helps that I’ve actually had experience writing my own website so I understand the basic coding behind it, but there is so much new stuff out there I didn’t want to learn an entirely new language to have a modern looking website. You could also pay someone to design a site for you and if I had the money I would go that route! Sadly the nature photographer is not so highly paid.

As with all things it takes some time to determine the ‘look’ of your site. I find this tedious but necessary for branding and cohesiveness of your business. The Turning Gate offers several free templates to get you started and then you can customize colors and images to your hearts content. Take some time to look at other peoples websites to get an idea of what you want and what you like.

Then map out what you want to offer. For example you’ll have a splash or home page, galleries, services of some sort, about you and contact info. Write down everything you want and under what heading you want it. Do you want to sell from your site? Turning Gate has cart options as well. There are a ton of options available to the photographer.

If you are starting a business I highly recommend having a graphic artist design a logo for you. Fortunately my friend helped me out. Make sure it is something you like and use it everywhere, again branding is the key!

So if you’re looking to create a website and are already using Lightroom check out Turning Gate. The prices are good for the variety of options available plus you can mix and match to create what you want!

Check out Rod Barbee’s  site to see what he did with the The Turning Gate and be on the lookout for a new website from me!



Setting the right Shutter Speed – part 2 – Hand Holding

Many people hand hold the camera to take photographs. This is fine but it is critical that you have a minimum shutter speed for you to  acquire a sharp image. What is this speed? For a normal lens (24-100mm) and a normal person it’s about 1/60 of a second. Some people are steadier and others more shaky.

Portrait at 1/60 of a second










If you have an image stabilized or vibration reduction lens then you might be able to get consistently sharp images at 1/15 of a second.

Portrait at 1/15 of a second with Image Stabilization











If you are using a large heavy lens, ie a 400mm then the minimum shutter speed needs to be faster. Why? Because the lens/camera combo is heavier and therefore harder to hold steady. A general rule is 1/focal length of the lens. For this example you would at least need a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second.

400mm lens hand held from a kayak, 1/4000 of a second

Use the following exercise to determine the minimum shutter speed you need for each lens you have. The lighter the lens the slower you can hold up to a point.

Exercise: Try photographing a written sign 6 times each at various shutter speeds: 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60

Download the images onto the computer and zoom into 100%. You want at least 5 out of 6 images sharp for you to say you can consistently get a sharp image at that shutter speed. For instance, say you got all 6 sharp at 1/60, 5 sharp at 1/30, 3 sharp at 1/15 and 1 sharp at 1/8. The minimum speed you should ever use while hand holding is 1/30 second to get consistently sharp images from your end.

Getting sharp images also depends on the subject, mentioned in the previous lesson on stopping action, and whether you properly acquired focus on the subject. Depth of field, aperture, also plays a role. We will address them all in subsequent posts. For this lesson find out what the minimum shutter speed is for you for each lens you own.  Check the speed before you take the shot! We’ll talk about how to adjust aperture and ISO to get faster shutter speeds in subsequent posts.

Next time we’ll look at how the ambient light affects the shutter speed you can get.

Discovery and Neighborhoods

There’s nothing like a brisk walk in the cool Pacific NW air after a long flight from the East Coast. While walking around my sisters neighborhood on Fox Island, I came upon the site for a new development. It’s all gated and fancy with manicured plantings and a road. No homes yet, but here comes the Discovery part, beautiful overgrown fields filled with wildflowers!

I assume this is an old farm site that has gone wild. The chaos as nature tries to reclaim what was hers is lovely to witness. It makes me sad to see the plot numbers evenly spaced out. I wish more communities could try to save a few of these places for natural areas. I know it takes money, but how lovely to have a place for all to share and enjoy a little piece of nature?

Anyway, I have enjoyed this moment in time and will continue to enjoy it during my visit. I know it is fleeting, but have taken a few shots with my Panasonic Lumix to document this period in time and remind me of the joy of discovery in a new place.




















Panasonic Lumix GX1

So I have been looking for a small good quality digicam for years now. Most point and shoots are too slow and have terrible quality at ISO 400 and above. This past weekend at Bill Allard’s workshop I noticed he is using the Panasonic Lumix 4:3 cameras. I was impressed by how compact and lightweight they were, the amount of features and control and hey, Bill Allard is using them!

So I went home and did some research on They did a nice job outlining all of the features and comparing it to other top contenders. I was seriously considering the Sony NEX 5N and the Olympus EP3. They both have faster fps but Sony had issues with the video, the Olympus was rather pricey and both have more limited lens choices. I read a lot of reviews and decided on the Lumix GX 1.

How is it? I’ve had it less than 24 hours and I’m in love. It’s compact and lightweight even with the 25mm Leica lens I got for it. I am impressed with the detail and lack of noise at all ISO levels, even 3200 is good. It’s pretty fast, not like my 5D Mark II, but not bad. One drawback is how to hold the tiny thing. I have really small hands and it’s a bit of a challenge to get your grip just so and not accidentally press buttons on the back.

Check out these images below and judge for yourself. I will have more on this camera later once I’ve explored all of it’s features and read the manual!

ISO 160 at F 1.4
ISO 3200 F 1.8








ISO 3200 F 1.8
ISO 200 at F 1.8










ISO 1250 F 8
ISO 3200 F 2.8


Bill Allard Workshop

I was fortunate to experience a workshop taught by William Albert Allard, a National Geographic legend of documentary photography. Since documentary photography has never been my strong point I learned a lot and got a glimpse of how Allard works with his subjects.

The purpose of the workshop was to document a local farm, In Partnership with the Land was the official title. While a weekend barely scratches the surface of true documentary photography, Allard often spends months to years documenting his subjects, it was a start and gave me a look into how to achieve such a project.

It was also a pleasure to meet several local photographers and meet up with some past students. Nature/wildlife photography is a lonely business and it was nice to work with others for the weekend. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Below are a few of my images from the weekend. A link for more is here:























Setting the right Shutter Speed part 1 – Stopping Action

Shutter speed is one of the main camera settings. It determines how long the shutter is open to allow light in to hit the sensor and give you an exposure for an image. Ambient light plays a big part in how fast or how slow of a shutter speed you can achieve.

As we discuss shutter speed we will look at stopping action, blurring action, hand holding, light and variables such as distance, lenses and ISO. Today we start with stopping action.

It’s important that you have a fast enough shutter speed for the subject you are shooting if you want a sharp image. If the subject is moving and the shutter speed is too slow you will get motion blur. How fast do you need? There are a lot of variables but let’s start with this general guide:

  • Slower than 1/15 second you need a tripod and still life
  • Portrait 1/60 second
  • Walking 1/125 second
  • Person running 1/250 second
  • Horse running 1/500 second
  • Bird flying 1/1000 second and faster

You can never have too fast of a shutter speed to stop action, but you can have too slow. In order to achieve the faster shutter speeds you will need to have adequate ambient light. Stopping action indoors or at dusk/dawn is difficult. We’ll discuss solutions for this when I get to ISO.

Exercise: On a bright sunny or cloudy day, not indoors or near sunrise or sunset, try to stop the action of kids playing soccer for example. Set the camera to shutter priority with an ISO of 400, white balance auto, continuous shooting and shutter speed of 1/250 second to start.

Make sure the camera gives you an aperture reading and that it is not blinking (Canon) or showing HI or LO (Nikon). If so you will get an image that is too bright or too dark, in other words the aperture options and the shutter speed you chose will not work under these lighting conditions.  If it is then you will need to adjust the ISO or find a brighter day.

The aperture setting is irrelevant for the exercise, just that you are getting one. Adjust the shutter speed up to 1/500 and 1/1000 and down to 1/125 second to see the results you get. Check images frequently to see if you are getting sharp images. Make sure to zoom in to see if they are really sharp!

Missing focus on a moving target can also cause blurry images so keep trying. A good action photographer is lucky to get 10% of the images that look good!


Portrait - 1/60 second


Tennis - 1/500 second


Horses galloping - 1/640 second

Camera Setting Basics

This is the first of several posts that will address how to control the basic settings on your SLR camera. An SLR is the big camera that you can change lenses on. SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex as there is only one lens. There are also Twin lens reflex cameras out there that use 2 lenses one on top of the other, these are pretty rare.

The primary settings for your camera are – shutter speed, aperture, ISO and exposure. You have to have a combination of these in order to get an image that comes out looking the way you want. I will briefly outline these settings here then subsequent posts will address each in more detail.

Other settings and variables such as light, white balance and flash will be addressed later.

Shutter speed is expressed in seconds and controls how long the shutter is open to allow light to reach the sensor or in the old days, the film. Shutter speed is one variable that controls whether the image will be sharp or not. A 1/500 second shutter speed is fine for the sitting bird but is too slow for the flying bird which results in a blurry bird.

Tufted Titmouse 1/500 second still
Tufted Titmouse 1/500 second in motion


Aperture is expressed as f stops and controls the depth of focus. When you focus on a subject, f stop is one variable that controls what is sharp or blurry in the image. Below I focused on the middle spike of the fence, at f 2.8 only the one spike is sharp, but at f 32 all of the spikes are sharp.

Only center spike is sharp at F 2.8
All spikes sharp at F 32










ISO is how sensitive the sensor or in ages past, film, is to light. A low ISO needs a lot of ambient light while a high ISO can render an image in low lighting at the cost of increased grain or noise in the image.

ISO 200 low grain/noise
ISO 12800 low light high grain/noise


Finally, exposure puts all of the above together. Exposure is the result of combining a shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting under ambient light to give you an image that is not too dark or too light, but looks just right. This is where the art of photography comes in. Balancing the settings to get the image you want.

Exposure too dark
Exposure too light
Exposure just right


Next time we’ll look at shutter speed in more detail.



Spring Abstracts

Viewing the world abstractly offers a wealth of creative freedom. Blurring out recognizable subjects or using water reflections are 2 techniques to create abstract images. The first image blurs tulips by using a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second on a windy day. The wind moves the flowers around to create an impressionistic effect.

The second image uses the same shutter speed but now I moved the camera up and down while the shutter is open to create a blur effect.

The next set of images were taken on a pond right after sunrise. The intense warm light creates lovely color on the trees while the gently rippling water distorts the images for a creative effect.


















The final image of a lone feather is all that remains in the wake of an epic battle of Mallard males. The tranquility of this image greatly contrasts with how it came to be.

Get creative and try these techniques!


Lightroom 4

The newest version of Lightroom is out. I just purchased the program and had no problems with installation. Opening the program for the first time seamlessly updated my current catalog. If you have been considering getting Lightroom now is a good time. The full version is $149 from Amazon and the student/teacher version is $79 from Amazon. Amazing prices for this program.

New features for LR 4 are expanded controls in the Basics Tab. You now have highlights, whites, shadows and blacks replacing brightness, recovery and fill light. This combined with the new process version 2012, which renders a file for editing in Lightroom, helps you recover information in dark and bright areas and define the black and white points with more precision. If you have no idea what I’m talking about I will try to expand more in a future post. There are other new features to talk about!

There are 2 new modules, Maps and Books. Create books and export them to PDF or have them directly printed via Blurb a popular online printing service.  The map module lets you utilize GPS information from the camera, if you have it or apply GPS info via Google maps once you mark the location of the images on the map.

For printing there is a soft proofing control. This gives you an idea of how the image will look printed.  For video buffs there are controls to edit and organize videos. I doubt these are very high end but if you are new to getting into video this may be a good starting point.

So should you upgrade? If you are into editing images and enjoy the process by all means! If you already have Lightroom 3 and are new to the interface, stick with it for now unless any of the new features really grab you or you have to have the latest technology! For a really in depth review of Lightroom 4 and the features it offers visit:

If you don’t have Lightroom at all, well now is the time!

I can’t recommend this program enough. The combination of a friendly interface and variety of editing tools far surpass any other program out there. Photoshop does not have the friendly interface and few programs that come with your camera or iPhoto can match the editing options. Make editing and organizing easier by jumping in with Lightroom 4. To get going take a class, I offer several! Or get a book by Nat Coalson and/or Scott Kelby to help you get started.