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Using Smaller Frames

On my computer desktop, I have a folder labeled “To Be Printed”.

Every once in a while as I’m editing my photos, I’ll drop a copy of a favorite image into the folder. As the number of images within the folder grow, I feel compelled to make prints and get them up on the wall.

Years ago I realized that I didn’t have to always make huge prints. By printing smaller sizes more photos would see the light of day and keep from setting my wallet back too much.

To make best use of the limited wall space, I started to use sets of identically sized frames. They are light weight with glass or plexiglass to protect the prints and easy to hang.

A few of the favorite photographs get special treatment – they are printed in a larger size.



these are all 4″ x 6″ prints



here is a small section of the wall with three different sizes



these are all 8″ x 8″ prints



these two prints are mounted in larger 16″ x 20″ frames



this single print is 24″ x 36″



So get those images out of your “To Be Printed” folder.

When your “To Be Printed” folder gets filled again, you can simply change the photos.

Remember that you don’t have to think big; smaller sizes make attractive displays.

Same Place – New Face

25th March 2021

Visiting Monument Valley with the Grandkids

I have a habit of revisiting fabulously gorgeous places. Some have a magnetic attraction that just keep me coming back.

Each fall I ferry Mom’s car to Arizona and then back to Michigan in the spring. When I can make the arrangements, I ask one of our grandkids to come along to keep me company and in turn share some wonderful sites with them.

The small town of Kayenta, AZ lies along the route between Phoenix and Michigan. A few miles north of the town along the Arizona/Utah border is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park – a most unique and eye-popping location. There you will leisurely drive along the 17-mile dirt road to view a multitude of amazing cliffs, buttes and mesas.

These photos were taken at a spot with with either the iconic West Mitten Butte or Merrick Butte in the distance.



Taken April 2011


Taken July 2014


Taken Nov 2014


Taken Apr 2015


Taken Apr 2018


Taken Apr 2019

The photos are a great way for me to remember this magnificent area. Hopefully the grandkids will recall their visit in years to come.

Zooming In

18th March 2021

Zambriskie Point is of my favorite areas to visit in Death Valley. I am awed by its magnificent landscape created by millions of years of erosion. When climb the steep path from the visitor entrance, you’re immediately greeted by the heavily textured, sandy colored alluvial fans.

This day as I walked up the path I could barely see two people standing on one of the flat areas in the distance. They looked like ants on the rocks. The juxtaposition of the tiny figures against the huge backdrop of these badlands was an interesting view.


 

My equipment was a Sony NEX-7 camera with a medium 18-200mm zoom lens.

This is the image that I captured of the couple.

The EXIF data tells me that the lens was zoomed to 44mm.



 

The above photo was the only one that I took of the couple.

When I viewed the image in my “computer darkroom”, I wanted to see how the scene would look if I had used the zoom feature of the lens. I magically zoomed by cropping the original image.

The result is that the the couple and the rocky landscape show up in much more detail.

Which one do you preferr?



While I like both images, I prefer the zoomed in version. This is an example of composing your image after the fact.

Fisheye On The Cheap

14th March 2021

A few years ago I upgraded from a Sony NEX7 to the newer Alpha 6000.

The A6000 became my everyday walk around camera. But I didn’t want to let the NEX7 collect dust, nor did I want to spend a lot more investing in more glass.

The one drawback is that this lens is manual aperture control and manual focus but I decided that I could live with these limitations.


 

So I started looking for an inexpensive lens. My preference was to go wide so I did a little looking around and found an affordable 8mm fisheye. I’m a fan of the way the images are elegantly distorted by lens’ curvature. The lens adds lots of interest to common everyday scenery and subjects.

The lens I chose is the 8mm Rokinon fisheye for about $300.

When the 8mm lens is coupled on the camera’s APS-C sensor it is equivalent to a 12mm full frame lens.

To use the lens, I set the camera to Auto ISO and using the manual exposure mode (M) rotate the aperture ring on the lens to a specific aperture (f/stop) and dial the shutter speed until the exposure indicator is centered.


Measuring about 3″ long and weighing just a few ounces, it is miniscule compared to the two other DSLR fisheyes in my equipment stable. The Rokinon 8mm has a well-marked aperture ring, smooth focus ring, a small built-in sunshade and lens cap that total covers the outer lens surface. I am very happy that when mounted, my fisheye camera is very compact and easy to carry.

 

The important question is how does this inexpensive fisheye perform?

I’ve taken hundreds of photos with the 8mm. I’ve found that the images are tack sharp. The resolution of the NEX-7 is 24MP and with this lens I’ve made several 16″ x 20″ enlargements including three below.


roaming through the cypress groves in the Everglades

amazed at the super bloom in Death Valley

viewing part of Mammoth Hot Spring in Yellowstone

a very wide view of the front porch on our house

The compact size of this camera/lens combination makes it a great way to have a tag along camera and use it for the wide views without having to change lenses.

For many excursions, I carrythree cameras: this fisheye combo, a second with a long lens telephoto (80-400mm) for wildlife and a third with a medium zoom (24mm to 200mm) – all without breaking my back with the weight. In the case of the 8mm fisheye lens, I have a winner at a very decent price.

Having done a little looking around, I know that there are other inexpensive fisheye lenses available for all of the major brand cameras. If you too like the interesting effects that the come from the ultra curved lens surface you’ll be able to find a fisheye to add to your camera bag.

Summer Faces

31st May 2016

 


 

Just Faces

Here’s a small album of pictures that show you that Summer is here.

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 



 

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What a View

27th August 2014

Wide Angle to the Extreme

It’s eye-catching when I see a photo that “bends” the horizon.

This bend comes from the camera’s lens. Use a very wide angle lens and you’ll see the curved “barrel” distortion on the images. One well-known type of wide angle lenses is the fisheye. These lenses typically have a field of view approaching 180 degrees – allowing you to capture the entire scene in front of the camera.

Until recently, fisheye lenses were expensive. I have one that cost well over $1500. But when I was looking for an ultra-wide angle for my Sony equipment, I found an inexpensive lens made by Rokinon. With its $300 price tag, I was a little skeptical of the quality of images from such a low cost lens but decided to try it regardless.

Here’s a short gallery of some of the scenes that I captured during my first outing with the lens a few weeks ago.
 
 



This is an 8mm f/2.8 fisheye. I wanted an ultra-wide angle for an extra Sony Nex7 mirrorless camera.

The Nex7 is very compact and lightweight. The Rokinon 8mm fisheye is also surprisingly compact.


The Sony Nex7/Rokinon 8mm setup is only about 1/3 the size of my Canon 6D with a Canon 8-15mm fisheye – a true space and weight saver.

One of the first images that I recorded with the new lens was in the Tetons. I especially like the curved horizon.



Here in Yellowstone you can see that the bridge rail curves upwards. The lens does not support the camera’s autofocus feature.

However an 8mm lens has a very wide depth of field which makes focusing less critical as you can see in this image taken at Mono Lake.



At Grand Canyon, the bend in the horizon is amazingly scenic. The lens does not support autoexposure so I set the camera shooting mode to manual, set the lens aperture to f/8 and adjusted to the proper shutter speed.


In both of these photos, you can see that the exposure for both a shaded and sunny scene were correct. Neither the manual focus nor the manual exposure requirements of this lens is a concern.



At Monument Valley I took advantage of the lens’ extreme wide view. Here I was able to take in a 180-degree view to photograph this huge monument within a single image.


The fisheye excels for those of you who like shooting portraits that include the vast surroundings.



At Mesa Verde, we encountered another “tight squeeze”. However, we were able to capture this with the lens’ wide view.


In Rocky Mountain National Park, the lens took in not only the winter’s left over snow but the billowing overhead July clouds.

What about the sharpness?

Here I’ve enlarged a small section of one of the above images. You can clearly see the detail in the face, the lettering of the cap and the tufa formations in the background.

I found the sharpness of this inexpensive lens to be very acceptable.


After my short time with this lens, I am no longer skeptical of it’s quality. The images are tack sharp with very good color reproduction. If you’re on the lookout for an ultra-wide, include this lens in your search.

The Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 fisheye is also available for other camera models as well: Fuji, Samsung and Canon M mount. Other similar versions with a maximum f/3.5 aperture are available for Canon, Nikon, Sony A mount, Pentax and Olympus 4/3.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 
 
 

Vacation Time

24th July 2014

Documenting the Memories

I have to admit that I like vacations.

I especially like the ones where we drive and see many different scenic parts of our vast country. Having just returned from another such jaunt, I’ve already recovered from being away from home these past few weeks. Here’s a look back to some of the photos that I took on the trip.

On this vacation we drove some 6300 miles and took in some wonderfully gorgeous areas including the Tetons, Yellowstone, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, San Diego, Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde and finally Rocky Mountain National Park.

My wife Kris and I left Grand Rapids and at this time in our lives, instead of traveling with our children we had four grandkids in tow. One of our goals was to drop off two of the grandkids in Reno. But these two also had a wish to see Yellowstone, so we set the GPS to guide us to Old Faithful. Afterwards we would meet up with several of our adult children and additional grandchildren as we made our way to additional destinations.

Naturally I had several cameras with me to record our travels. And while I thoroughly enjoy photographing the amazing mountains, canyons, monuments, waterways, forests, sites and scenery, more importantly are the photos that let me recall the precious time that we spent with our family.

Here’s some of the pictures that illustrate those moments.


Admiring Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton Nat’l Park
Waiting for Old Faithful in Yellowstone

In awe of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
cooling off in the Firehole River in Yellowstone

at the swimming pool in Reno
aggressive paddleboarding at Lake Tahoe

inspecting the tufa at Mono Lake
colorful wildflowers of Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite

surfing the Pacific in San Diego
catching a mermaid in San Diego

picking grapefruit in Phoenix
sitting on the edge of Grand Canyon

among the wonders of Monument Valley
straddling NM, AZ, UT and CO at Four Corners

As you can see, we visited some very gorgeous landscapes: incredible mountains, pristine wildernesses, jaw-dropping gorges, crystal clear lakes, raging rivers, enormous farmlands, five sensational national parks – just a vast array of features that make up our amazing country.

And while I have many more images that record these places that we visited, I’m just as content to see the faces of the grandkids, many of which we get to see but once a year.

house warming at Mesa Verde

How lucky we are to be able to capture the smiles on their faces like this.

above the snow and clouds at Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park

 

 
Photographs are certainly a powerful way to record memorable events.

Whether I’m on vacation or not, I try to keep the most meaningful memories as part of my photos.

 

 

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

Sony Alpha 6000

17th April 2014

Sony’s Newest “MILC” – Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

I’m apolitical when it comes to camera brands. I use equipment from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, etc.

When traveling for assignments I carry a quality camera and several lenses. For the past few years I’ve gravitated towards the smaller and lighter cameras. What’s more is that lenses for these cameras are also smaller and lighter too so packing is easier.

My go-to camera is now a Sony NEX7 which is half the size and weight of the Canon 6D or Nikon D800. But the one downside of the NEX7 is its slow focusing speed and accuracy in low light situations.

Naturally I was interested in seeing the new Sony A6000 at the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Expo last month. This new model addresses the focusing issue by using “hybrid” phase detection for fast response combined with contrast detection for improved accuracy. Sony claims that the A6000 can record an amazing 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus. Whether shooting still or video this is a welcome and impressive feature packed into a camera this size and cost.

The A6000 is similar to my NEX7 in many respects including a 24 MB APS-C sensor and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). I find the EVF essential when using any of the interchangeable lenses rather than relying on the rear facing LCD screen especially in bright light. Another advantage of the high resolution EVF is that it displays a preview as you make exposure and/or white balance adjustments.

The bright, tilting LCD lets you shoot from a low viewpoint without having to kneel or from a high viewpoint without having a ladder.

The A6000 at WPPI was equipped with a 18-50mm lens. Sony calls it a PZ “power zoom” in that it has a small button which automatically zooms in and out when depressed. When retracted this camera/lens combo is quite compact, yet it fits comfortably in my hands. The specs say that the camera body weighs less than 13 ounces – how’s that for a weight saver?

The A6000 has most of the same features of the NEX7 such as in-camera HDR, sweep panorama and multi-frame noise reduction. For me a bonus is the built-in wifi for transferring images to a mobile or computer device and the downloadable apps (for an additional charge) such as time lapse, automatic backup, photo sharing.

The Sony rep told me that the A6000 will be available about April 23rd. Price for the A6000 body is $649; for the A6000 with 18mm-50mm PZ lens is $799.

I have an A6000 on order and am looking forward to this as an upgrade to my NEX7.

Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

“Easy” Scenery

Sometimes it seems like you have to really work hard to capture the photograph that’s been bouncing around your head for a long, long time.

Then, there are other times when you hardly have to work at all.

For my two selected scenes below, I think that anyone with a camera couldn’t miss capturing great photographs of these two gorgeous places.

Both were taken in the Grand Teton National Park area this past October. The first was taken at the Jackson Lake Overlook and the second at Oxbow Bend.

 


This panorama shows you an overview of the area at the Jackson Lake Overlook. You’re looking at a pretty dry Jackson Lake in the foreground. Ordinarily, it’s covered with water but at this time of the year it’s quite depleted in this part of the lake as water has been released during the Spring and Summer months into the Snake River for irrigation of farms in adjoining Idaho.

Most of the scenic areas in the Tetons are well known to all of the visitors. So when I arrived at the overlook there were already a group of photographers in various stages of picturetaking.

This day was quite overcast which added a dramatic feel to the Tetons.

I didn’t have to do any hiking, climbing or setting up here. I walked ahead about 100 feet towards the edge of the lake (dried at this point) and calmly admired the majestic view, waited a few minutes for the clouds to position themselves in front of the distant peaks and clicked.

No muss, no fuss to get this photo. I’m sure that these other visitors had as easy a time as I did capturing this scene.

The Teton Range Looking South

 


 

This panorama shows you the view at Oxbow Bend. Here the Snake River makes an abrupt turn creating a pretty water foreground view with the Tetons in the distant background.

Yes, this too is a popular place. It’s one of the busiest places in the park and on this day there were dozens of visitors with loads of photographic equipment just itching to get their keepers.

These photographers are standing along the shoulder of the highway that runs though the park.

For this photograph, I walked about 25 yards down from the highway to a place closer to the level of the river. But that was about all the work that I had to do here.

On this Fall day, the sun was shining over the river and brilliant trees making everything sparkle. The thick, billowy clouds were perfectly positioned behind the Tetons. All I had to do was click-click. The scene was “picture perfect” – perfect for anyone to record the beauty.

Mt Moran from Oxbow Bend, Fall 2013

 


 
It’s not always necessary to hike five miles uphill in 100-degree heat to capture that iconic gallery wrap. There are plenty of places that lend themselves to “easy” scenery. And easy doesn’t have to mean a “me too” photograph, a little patience and variation can help you set your photos apart.

 

 

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

 

 

The Rest of The Story

I’ve been wanting to visit the iconic Horseshoe Bend for many years and I finally had my chance a few weeks ago.

As its name suggests, the Colorado River makes an abrupt 270 turn in the shape of a horseshoe. It’s located downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell near the city of Page, AZ. Drive 5 miles south on US89 from Page and you’ll see a gravel parking lot. From there a half mile hike on a moderately sloped dirt trail brings you to the overlook.

I arrived late in the day and found quite a few onlookers and photographers awaiting the sunset.

 

The overlook is about 50 yards across and provides a wonderfully wide view of the river – both upstream and downstream. The Colorado sits below the jagged cliffs about 1000 feet down.

These spectators are standing pretty close to the edge of the cliff. And while I love the scenic surroundings, I am not a big fan of steep cliffs so I made it a point to stay behind this couple.

There’s plenty of room to accommodate dozens of visitors without feeling crowded.

As you can see these photographers had lots of space in which to set up their equipment while waiting for the sun to go down.

From this vantage point, the cliff on which they are standing looks safe…….

However, in this next photograph I’ve stepped away from the edge so that you can see the rock platform on which they were positioned.

These people are a lot more brave than me. I couldn’t bring myself to stand next to them. I wasn’t about to stand just inches from the cliff’s edge that drops down by a thousand feet. No, not this photographer.


So how did I get this unobstructed view of Horseshoe Bend?

As Paul Harvey would say here’s “the Rest of the Story”.

My shooting position was immediately to the left of the four photographers with tripods. To take this photograph, I laid on my stomach and carefully crawled to the edge of the cliff. My camera was safely hanging from my neck by its strap.

Since I had a very wide angle lens (15mm), I first took a deep breath to get some courage, leaned over the edge, calmly composed the scene in the viewfinder and finally snapped about three shots.


 
So there you have it. By itself, this Horseshoe Bend photograph certainly doesn’t tell the story behind it. To inject a slight bit of humor here, let me say that I’m not afraid of heights, only of falling from them. I wasn’t going to leave the overlook until I had my shot. A little dirt on my clothes is the price that I had to pay to get it.

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

 

 

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