Posts Published in June 2009

Look, Up in the Sky! It’s a Hand Held Tripod!

Update: This giveaway is now over. The winner was randomly selected and announced here. A big thank you to everyone who participated!


A while ago I received a camera extender/hand held tripod to review on Photoblog. Here’s a photograph of my brother that I took while fooling around with it:

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Yeah… that’s right. It was taken from above a regulation basketball hoop. Sadly, my brother wasn’t able to keep his eyes open due to the fact that he was staring straight into the sun.

Today, I’m giving away either a QuikPod Pro Kit ($29.95) for you point-and-shoot users, or a QuikPod DSLR ($49.95) for those of you who lug around a bigger camera.

The QuikPod Pro includes adapter legs that can transform it into a table top tripod, while the QuikPod DSLR is large and sturdy enough to be used as an ultra-portable monopod. Here’s what the thing looks like when used as a monopod:

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You can also use them as a flash stand or extender. Click here to see what I mean.

To enter this contest, all you have to do is

  1. Bookmark PetaPixel Bookmark PetaPixel on Delicious
  2. Leave a comment stating your Delicious username and which QuikPod you would like

One entry per person, please. Winners will be announced on the evening of July 4th, 2009.

Good luck!

Interview with Otto Kitchens of ottok photography

Otto Kitchens is the photoblogger behind ottok photography.


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PetaPixel: Could you tell me about yourself?

Otto Kitchens: I live right off downtown Atlanta, GA in an old Victorian house with my Ocicat cat, Sam. I’ve been in Atlanta for most of my adult life. I work in the IT industry as my current day job, a necessary evil to help fund my photography. I would love to do photography full-time, but right now that’s not possible.

PP: How did you first get into photography?

OK: I got a Canon AE-1 film camera in high school and used it through college, but never really passionately. Then I started doing big vacations with a friend every year. My introduction back into photography as a passion began then, wanting to better record my travels.

I started with a basic point-and-shoot film camera and then decided to jump on the digital bandwagon. My first was a pretty basic 2MP HP digital camera. Then I progressed to a Canon G2, I think. I kept hitting limitations with what it was able to do, so I finally got a digital SLR, a Canon 20D. It was also around this time that my passion for photography progressed beyond my travels. Then I started to capture the more local world around me.

I eventually got back into film, starting with the ever popular Holga. Then it was like a light bulb went off and so more about the potential creative side of photography became clearer. Then I started obtaining other film cameras and started using my digital SLR less and less. Until finally, my digital SLR became forgotten in my camera cabinet. I now have almost 30 film cameras, mostly medium format but also some 35mm cameras as well.

I also got into working in the darkroom and signed up for a course at a community art center to learn how to develop my own B&W film and make my own B&W prints in the darkroom. Now I develop my own B&W film at home and still go into the darkroom to do printing as often as I can. I love shooting color and B&W film. My cameras range from the high end, my beloved Hasselblad 501CM and Pentax 67, to the downright “crappy” plastic cameras with little to no settings, and I use that lovingly. I also have several pinhole cameras as well. In fact, I just got a new old camera from eBay, an Ilford Sporti, made in the late 50s to early 60s.

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PP: What do you like about film photography that caused you to put your digital gear aside? Most people seem to go the opposite direction.

OK: Yeah, I know. Heh. I’m not sure… it’s hard to put into words exactly. There is something tactile about film; it can be gritty and dirty, magical even. I don’t have that same feeling with digital. This is just a personal response. I have nothing against digital at all as I credit it for getting me back into photography and finding my real passion in life. Who knows one day I might shoot digital again; I still follow the new advancements, etc. If I had to get a digital camera now, I’d get the new Canon 5D Mark II – well, I’d save up for it. :-)

PP: How much time does your hobby take you?

OK: Oh wow, a lot. Usually at least and hour or two a day during the work week, and potentially a whole day each weekend, if not more. It’s the weekends where I get out to shoot when I can. It’s hard to do that during the week. If I am getting ready for a show, my involvement takes a lot more time.

PP: How about money? How expensive is this hobby for you?

OK: Well, it wouldn’t be so expensive if I’d quit buying cameras. :-) But yes, it has been expensive, but totally worth it. The personal fulfillment that photography gives me is incredible – I can’t imagine not doing it now.

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PP: What is your favorite type of photography?

OK: I like doing all of that really. No particular one is my favorite. It really depends on my mood and the subject when I go out to shoot. I usually take 2-4 cameras with me, each with its own characteristic. Once I get somewhere and get a feel for the place, I’ll use one or more of the cameras to capture either what I’m seeing or what I’m feeling about the location, be it on a country road or an abandoned building. If I’m at a single site, I’ll usually walk around the area without a camera in hand to get a sense of what it is like and what grabs my attention. And it’s then when I’ll start shooting.

I may be at a location for a couple of hours but only take about 36 or so pictures. I’m very deliberate about each shot and what I want to capture. The world just falls away when I put the viewfinder to my eye and it’s very calming for me.

PP: Where are some of the places you’ve traveled to?

OK: New Zealand (twice), Alaska, the Pacific Northwest (US and Canada), Fiji, the Caribbean, Europe several times including drives around Ireland and Scotland and a hike around Mont Blanc, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico…

PP: Where are some places you’re hoping to go in the future?

OK: Well, if I can manage it, this fall I want to go to the US Southwest. There is a hike in the Himalayas that we want to do. Patagonia is high on our list as is Africa.

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PP: If you had to choose just one body and one lens, which would you choose?

OK: That’s a toughie, I love so many of my cameras, but if I had to choose one I’d say my Hasselblad 501CM with an 80mm lens.

PP: What type of photography would you want to become a professional in?

OK: Fine art, whatever exactly that it. That’s what calls me. Most commercial photography doesn’t overly appeal to me. I’ve sold stuff commercially and as fine art prints, but I like to shoot what I want, when I want.

PP: Do you use your bathroom as a darkroom?

OK: No, my kitchen. I have a changing bag that I use to work on film and then I just use the kitchen sink. I eventually would like to convert my attic and add a real darkroom up there. But I have other things that are higher priority on this old house than that.

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PP: How many mistakes or disasters have you had with film photography?

OK: Oh several. On a Polaroid back for my Holga, I’ve had it unattach exposing the Polaroid film, more than once. On a pinhole I’ve had the “lens” cover fall off, exposing the film again. And a few times I’ve had developing problems, the worst being once using the fixer before the stop bath, actually switching the two mixtures accidentally. That roll was ruined. One of the potential drawbacks of using film that I wouldn’t have with digitial, barring losing or destroying the memory card.

PP: What do you wish you had known when you first started out in photography?

OK: I don’t know. I like where I am right now with my art, and I see the mistakes that I’ve made as the path that got me where I am, warts and all. And hopefully where I’m going.

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PP: What advice would you give someone starting out in film photography?

OK: Well, for film or digital, I’d say learn what I call the art of slowing down. Give thought to each shot; take your time understanding the composition, focal length, etc. That’s why I like to walk through or around a location before I ever start photographing. Also, learn to shoot in manual mode as that teaches you a lot and gives you way more control over the results. Even if you don’t shoot in manual mode all the time, learning how to do it is a wonderful teacher.

OK: Also, don’t be afraid to take chances, be adventurous. Learn the rules of composition, etc., but also try breaking them. I think that’s partly why I like having so many cameras. Each interprets a scene in its own way and allows me to try new things.

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PP: What’s on your wishlist right now?

OK: Camera-wise I don’t have much of a wishlist… that is until I see some new (usually old) camera that I didn’t know of or think about until I saw some pictures by it and I’ll usually get it, unless it’s really expensive. Otherwise, I really would like to get a better scanner to scan in my negatives. I have a decent one, but I’d like to have a better one. I’m always on the lookout for a new, good camera bag. I have plenty, but I keep an eye out for the one.

PP: Where do you usually purchase your camera equipment from?

OK: I have two main locations, eBay or KEH. I’ve certainly bought from other places, but these are the two that I have used the most. KEH is local and I know someone who works there, so that’s convenient.

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PP: Do you follow any photographers online?

OK: Yes, I follow a lot and have been inspired by and become friends with quite a few of them. I enjoy seeing what others are doing. Just a few of them are: 16+ photography, BOXMAN fotologue, eddiemallin, Film is not dead it just smells funny (not a single photographer, but it showcases a wonderful collection of images from different photographers around the world), and Lost in Pixels.

PP: If you could see one person interviewed on PetaPixel, who would you choose?

OK: Tread from gotreadgo. He’s a real hoot. :-)

PP: Is there anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?

OK: Hmm… shoot for yourself, not for others. You have to please yourself first. If others like it, then that’s wonderful; if they don’t, so what. It’s your art; don’t lose sight of that. I’m pretty sure why I’ve mainly stuck with fine art photography. It had to have some meaning for me.

Shadow of a Tennis Ball

Here’s a photograph I randomly snapped on a tennis court a few days ago:

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It was taken with my Sony DSC-P200, a 7.2 megapixel point-and-shoot camera released back in 2005. Compared to my Canon 40D, the image quality is much less contrasty, and much duller. One of the things I like to do to quickly and easily improve photos from the P200 is to process the JPEGs in Adobe Camera Raw as though they were RAW files (though it’s less flexible compared to if you shot a RAW file).

In Adobe Bridge, you can right click the photograph and click “Open in Camera Raw…”, or press Ctrl+R.

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This allows you to use the sliders and tools provided by ACR rather than processing the JPEG in Photoshop.

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For this particular photograph, I made the following edits:

White Balance and Exposure : Unchanged. I liked the warm look of the photo, and the exposure looked fine.
Recovery: +50. Certain areas of the photograph were clipped due to the harsh sunlight. By sliding recovery upwards I can get some of the detail back in those areas (like the glow on the side of the tennis ball).
Fill Light: +20. I wanted to boost some of the shadow areas to make the difference between shadow and highlight less pronounced. Moving recovery and fill light up helps to even out this difference. Careful though… too much of either will make your photograph look either murky or strange.
Blacks: +10. Look at the photograph. There doesn’t seem to be any black, and everything’s gray. Increase the black point to where the darkest of those gray pixels become black.
Contrast: +70. We lost a lot of contrast when evening out the shadows and highlights via the recovery and fill light sliders. Get this contrast back with the contrast slider (or the tone curve section for more control).
Clarity: +30. For photographs with a murkiness due to near-direct sunlight, I’ve found that increasing clarity helps to improve the look of certain areas, like the hairs of the tennis ball.
Vibrance and Saturation: Unchanged. I could have dropped one of them to make the colors more natural, but I liked how it looks a little over-saturated.

Here’s the final condition of these main sliders:

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I also did sharpening amount +80 and lens vignetting -50.

Here’s the final result of fiddling with 7 sliders total in ACR (hover over it to compare it to the untouched image):

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Using Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom/Aperture) to post-process your JPGs is a really quick and easy way to give them an extra boost.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please leave a comment!

See you all next Monday, when we post an interview with Otto Kitchens.

Happy shooting!

Interview with Jonathan Greenwald of Shrued

Jonathan Greenwald is the photoblogger behind Shrued.

Portrait by Kathleen Connally.


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PetaPixel: Can you tell me a little about yourself, your interests, and your background?

Jonathan Greenwald: Sure, I was born in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up, my interests ranged from playing sports, getting into trouble with my friends, and having as much fun as possible. Today, the same holds true with one exception; I no longer live in Brooklyn. I now reside just North of Toronto in Vaughan, Ontario.

PP: What do you do for a living?

JG: I’m a service account manager for Sun Microsystems.

PP: Why is your photoblog called Shrued?

JG: Unfortunately the story is not very interesting. I first discovered photoblogging by visiting photoblogs.org and the first site I visited was Chromasia. I really wanted a cool name for my own photoblog so I started mashing words together to come up with something clever. Somehow I got Shrued and my photoblog was born. In the beginning, everyone felt the need to inform me I incorrectly spelled shrewd. I thought about changing it to avoid these comments, but decided not to in the end.

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PP: How did you first become interested in photography, and what was your first camera?

JG: When I was a teenager, my dad gave me a pentax to play with. I really enjoyed taking photos, changing film, and taking the exposed film to the lab for developing. That’s when I was first really interested in photography. Oddly enough, the interest was lost when I started driving and no longer cared to walk around with a camera around my neck.

PP: What’s in your gear bag nowadays?

JG: Well, to backtrack, it wasn’t until 2005 when I got bored and needed a hobby. Someone told me about the Gates in Central Park, so I borrowed my Dad’s point and shoot and headed over. I showed my family and friends the photos and they convinced me to get back into photography, some 20+ years later. A week later I convinced my dad to take a ride with me to a photography shop and picked up a canon digital rebel 300d. I shot with it for a year and a half and gave it to my dad. I picked up a 20d which is the body I’ve shot with ever since. I also carry a 17-40 and 24-70 lens with me.

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PP: Do you still shoot film?

JG: About 2 years ago I bought a holga and shot a few rolls. I really enjoyed the results; however, not knowing what the results would be until I brought the film into a lab bothered me. I prefer the instant gratification of a digital camera. My dad also gave me a polaroid 103 which was fun to play with and he gave me his pride and joy, the canon ae-1 which growing up I was never allowed to touch. I see others shooting primarily with the ae-1 and sometimes consider it as a backup camera or something to play around with from time to time, but again, I don’t think I have the patience for it.

PP: What is your goal in photography? Why do you shoot?

JG: In the beginning it was all about architecture. My undergrad is in architecture so I was essentially pulled into that area of photography from the onset. It wasn’t until I did a photo walk with one of my photography friends that I discovered street photography, my real passion. I shot a lot of homeless people in nyc and toronto and from that, found myself being asked a lot of questions about the photos. I was interviewed by someone at ABC world news tonight online edition, and several magazines around the world posted my photos with short blurbs about me. I thought about using that experience as a jumping off point into photojournalism until I found myself living in toronto and then moving up north to suburbia.

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PP: Can you tell me about your workflow?

JG: I’m probably one of the most unorganized photographers in the world. I have changed my workflow several times over the course of the past 4 years. At one point, I was pulling images directly from the camera via the digital link to my desktop pc. It wasn’t until I picked-up a macbook pro that I shifted gears and began importing images via iView Media Pro. I didn’t follow any sorting method which was always a big mistake because locating images was always a tedious, labor intensive exercise. I have two backups of my raw (out of camera) images as well as the processed tif (large format) and jpg (web). I think this is where I mention please don’t apply these same techniques on your own. As for the digital workflow or processing, I sort through the photos I have taken. Once again, I shoot a lot. For every 2-3 photos the average photographer snaps, I probably snap 10. I am a big fan of burst shooting as I am always concerned about missing a shot. when I find the photos I want to process, I import the raw files into Photoshop CS4 and typically upsample. I make very limited adjustments in Camera Raw. Most of my processing, as subtle as the modification may be, are done within photoshop. I have been playing around with Lightroom more and more, especially since there are countless plugins which provide instant processing adjustments which would take me hours to recreate.

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PP: Why do you do the bulk of your editing in Photoshop rather than in Camera Raw?

JG: Layers in photoshop allow for better management of the changes. If I make several changes to an image (selective color) unsharpen mask, curves, layers, etc, I can hide each layer to review the various effects. I may adjust white balance and exposure in Camera Raw; however the only real purpose for me is the upsampling.

PP: Can you briefly explain what upsampling is?

JG: I still shoot with an 8mp canon 20d. I am often limited in the size of my prints. Upsampling is an arguably safe way of enlarging the effective megapixels of an image. An 8mp raw image is often 25mp within photoshop after upsampling.

PP: How do you back up your images?

JG: I have two external hard drives: a 1TB and a 350GB drive. I keep a copy of the Raw and processed image on both drives.

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PP: What is your favorite type of photography and why?

JG: I love photos of people. Interactions between individuals can result in the most interesting images. Not all images of people need to be candid; however, it is often the subject who does not realize they are being photographed who provides the most interesting results. NYC and Toronto have their fair share of interesting subjects.

PP: How do you go about taking portraits of strangers on the street?

JG: When I first started photographing strangers, it was via shooting from the hip. Essentially I would hold my camera on my hip and walk past someone I wanted to photograph. 8 times out of 10 I missed the shot; however, when I was lucky enough to capture their image, it was often very rewarding. Today, I’m more aggressive without actually giving the impression I’m photographing someone. First, I never look anyone in the eyes before, during, or after photographing them. I never want them to know I’m taking their photos. Sometimes I pretend to be shooting past the individual. Just another way of avoiding contact. There are exceptions to my shooting style and there have been times when I ask someone if I can take their photo; albeit, these situations are few and far between. I found myself the subject of a heated discussion when an interview I gave about photographing homeless people was released. Most people didn’t favor my style; they seemed to prefer I approach individuals and ask permission. I believe they thought I was exploiting the individual. I tend not to listen to anyone about photographing people on the streets. It really depends what you are after as a photographer and more importantly, your comfort level with your subjects.

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PP: Do you have any awkward or memorable stories from your street photography experiences?

JG: There were a few times when I was approached by people who were not pleased with my camera in their face. I was once chased down 42nd street by a homeless person, and while photographing a dumpster diver in chicago during a photo roam with other photobloggers, the individual, who did not appear to be someone to be taken lightly, began yelling at me. I regretted putting my fellow photobloggers in that position and was glad it didn’t result in a confrontation. I’ve been asked countless times by people if I took their photo and on every occasion, I simply say nope and walk away.

PP: Are there any photographers that you follow online?

JG: Yeah quite a few. durhamtownship, thinsite, ddoi, JVL’s specs, MUTE, wastedphotos, chromasia, and many others. I’ve befriended many of these photobloggers over the past 4 years as a photoblogger.

PP: Who is one person you would like to see interviewed?

JG: Great question. One of my favorite photobloggers and a really great guy is Attila Schmidt of Thinsite. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and the commentary which accompanies his photos are often very funny.

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PP: Do you have anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?

JG: Have fun and be your own person. Everyone will critique you and offer their “professional” opinion, but at the end of the day, you need to shoot for yourself and determine what your own style of photography will be. There are countless photographers out there who you can learn from and who won’t mind offering their advice; at the end of the day, you want to be recognized for your own creativity. Most of all, never leave your camera at home. I may not always feel inspired or know what you will photograph next; however, there have been plenty of times where the perfect moment was right in front of me and I was unable to capture it. Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if anyone wants to know about a specific photo I have taken or has additional questions about street photography. I still love answering these types of questions and am always humbled when asked about my photography. Thank you for this opportunity.

A Long Exposure Desk Portrait

On the same day I was experimenting with the light painting I described in a post yesterday, I also fiddled around with long exposure portraiture. I had my buddy Aaron pose for me at his desk in near darkness. The only sources of light in the room were his laptop screen, a few LED flashlights that I placed on his desk in various directions, and a lighter that Aaron held in his hand.

Here’s the original, unedited photograph that resulted:

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It was taken with a 10 second exposure at ISO 100. It was probably a mistake to use such a low ISO, since I could have gotten the same exposure with less time if I had used a higher number. Every time the ISO number doubles, the shutter speed is cut in half for the same exposure (assuming aperture is kept constant). This is pretty intuitive, since if you double the sensitivity of your film, you’ll only need half as much time to expose it with the same amount of light.

Keeping the aperture at a constant f/8, here’s what the difference would have been.

ISO 100 – 10 second exposure
ISO 200 – 5 second exposure
ISO 400 – 2.5 second exposure
ISO 800 – ~1.25 second exposure
ISO 1600 – ~.75 second exposure

Luckily, Aaron was able to hold still enough to not appear too blurry in the photograph, making it acceptable when viewed at a normal web resolution. If it were to be blown up or printed, the faster shutter speed would have helped a lot.

Here’s a crop showing the different small sources of light that I used to illuminate the scene:

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What I found interesting about lighting up the scene this way was that each of the sources of light were a slightly different color temperature, giving the scene an interesting look in terms of colors and lighting.

During post processing, I increased exposure a little, did a little recovery, added a splash of fill light, and pushed contrast up a little. Here’s the final image (hover over it to compare it to the original):

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If you’re looking for something new to learn and photograph, try your hand at taking longer exposure portraits with unconventional sources of light. Just find a friend that can hold still!

Painting With Light and Long Exposures

I love experimenting with photography, and trying out interesting new techniques, angles, and styles. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed playing around with over the years is drawing pictures with light using long exposures.

These photographs definitely aren’t hard to do. All you need is a stationary camera (i.e. tripod?), and some mobile source of light, like an LED light or a flashlight. Simply set your camera to an extremely slow shutter speed (enough time for your to paint in), make sure the focus is set to where you will be standing, and paint away!

Here are some basic examples of simple shapes I painted:

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These four photographs were all taken at ISO 1600 at shutter speeds between 13 and 15 seconds. In retrospect, I probably should have used a wider aperture setting to blur the background. These were between f/6.3 and f/11.

Another thing I did was use the timer to give myself 10 seconds to get into position in front of the camera. For long exposures, you could actually omit this and still get pretty much identical results, since the second or two you’ll take to get into position won’t amount to much of the exposure.

Writing is interesting, but a little tricky:

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Since you can’t see what you’re doing, you’ll have to remember where in the air you drew each letter. It might take a little practice to get right. Also, keep in mind that whatever you draw will appear backwards in the photograph. In these photos, I decided to write backwards, but you can also write normally and then flip the photograph horizontally to correct it.

Once you get bored with simple shapes and writing messages, try experimenting further and coming up with stranger ways to use the combination of light and longer exposures.

Here are a couple shots I took where I made myself appear multiple times in the photo by turning the light on and off while moving to different areas of the frame.

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I had to keep in mind where I was at each point to keep from overlapping with prior faces.

A couple more examples of weird experimentation:

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Hmmm… Not sure what to say about that one. How about an angel?

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Get a little boy or girl to pose for that one and it might look pretty neat. With me it just looks creepy.

Now, onto some more complicated drawings. First, some scribbles and an example of drawing gone wrong:

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These are a little better, but strange nonetheless:

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Notice how you can make certain lines or areas glow brighter by allowing your light to stay at that point for a little longer. Finally, a very generic drawing:

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Hopefully this brief walkthrough of light painting was interesting, informative, and inspiring. Though it’s not really useful for improving your general photography, I’ve found that experimenting and doing random things with my camera has helped me grow a lot more familiar with it and the technical side of photography in general.

If you have any interesting results or examples of light painting, feel free to link to them in a comment! If there’s good ones I might update this post with links.

Interview with Jessyel Gonzales of dailysnap

Jessyel Gonzales is the photographer behind dailysnap.


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PetaPixel: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Jessyel Gonzales: I’m 25. A guy, in case you were wondering (yes, I have an odd name). Live in Denver, Colorado with my wonderful wife and crazy wiener dog. I’m Mexican-American, and am an editorial and portrait photographer. I also love filmmaking (was a film major in college) and that’s actually where I got my start in still photography (had never held a camera of any type until college).

PP: Does your name have any special meaning?

JG: It’s a mixture of my grandparent’s names – Jesus and Estelle. The ‘y’ in the middle is the Spanish word for ‘AND’.

PP: How did you come to live in Denver?

JG: I was born here. Lived here my whole life. My parents came here from Mexico many years ago.

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PP: What was your first camera?

JG: The first camera I ever used was a Bolex Super 8 (don’t remember the exact model number, though), an 8mm film camera (motion picture). I still remember the first thing I EVER captured through a lens – my girlfriend (who’s now my wife) sitting in a chair. I could only shoot three minutes of footage, and between the cost of the film itself and its processing (and lab fees to edit the footage), it was going to be VERY COSTLY to learn the rules of photography and composition. That’s how still photography began.

PP: Could you list the equipment you currently use?

JG: The equipment doesn’t make the photographer, and the best camera is the one you’re using, but that said – I use a lot of cameras (every one has its purpose). I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a wide assortment of lenses, a Canon EOS Elan 7, Hasselblad 500C, Yashica Mat-124, Nikon FM, Leica M3, a Flip MinoHD, and a lot of other trinkets to mull me over.

PP: If you had to stick with one body and one lens, what would you choose and why?

JG: That’s such a difficult question. I’m a film guy – just love the look and the analog/chemical nature of it – but require digital for most of the work that makes me my living. There are many problems with digital (not to mention that any camera I mention now will be ‘obsolete’ in a few years), but I suppose I would have to choose my 5D Mark II. Great camera, has video, and is good for my work. As far as a lens… well, that’s another tough question. I love all types of photography and they all require different focal lengths. In the end, I guess a very fast 50mm prime lens will do just fine.

PP: I guess that leads into my next question. If you had to stick with one medium, would you pick film or digital, and why?

JG: I suppose in the long run, digital wins (can’t believe I just said that). On a personal level, I will always love film and think it will offer things that digital may never in my lifetime, but the immediacy and tech of digital wins me over, especially for the hustle and bustle of the photography (can’t believe I just said hustle and bustle, too). The cost of film is high, finding a competent (and affordable) lab is getting more and more difficult, and you still have to scan everything; too time-consuming. As far as the photographic side of it, digital has an advantage in the way it handles ISO. I can’t even begin to imagine what we’ll see next. 3200 ISO isn’t a problem anymore. I’m getting shots that were near-impossible a few years back. As a professional, digital is the way to go.

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PP: What are the pros and cons of being a professional photographer?

JG: The pro is easy – I get to photograph amazing things and make a living off of it. Dream come true (even though I have MUCH to accomplish). The cons may make me sound like an old geezer, but I’d say the competition and the current state of the industry. Digital means everyone can be a photographer – a great thing. However, there are many people with a camera who call themselves a professional when there’s much to learn and experience. Bidding for jobs has become difficult – between cheap stock photography and some photographers even doing work for free, it’s hard to compete at times. A lot of people don’t take into account the years spent building your portfolio and look, the thousands of dollars of equipment and software (not to mention time learning), the amount of marketing dollars you use, etc. A lot of people don’t take photography as a professional craft per se. You’d never ask a chef as a fancy restaurant to make you a steak for free to ‘test the waters’, but it happens like that with photography. Okay, now I’m babbling and the blood is boiling. Babbobling.

PP: How much time and money does your photography hobby cost you?

JG: Hobby photography? Not too much now (basically just the cost of film when I use it), but it took a lot of money, time and effort to get to where I am today. My photoblog was basically an exercise in photography – showing everyone my progress. Yet, that’s now five years in the making, and I’m still learning a lot. I saved up my pennies to afford my gear, making crazy deals and trades on Craigslist and other sites. It was only until recently when I was able to afford gear without it being an absolute struggle. Gear isn’t the answer (the photographer is), but it sure does make some shoots a lot easier.

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PP: Is there a reason you choose not to have comments on your photoblog?

JG: Out of all the questions I get via email about the site, this is the one that I get the most. I used to have comments on my site (using the standard photoblog template). It was actually useful for a while in getting feedback and constructive criticism on my work. However, after the site started getting popular, it became a struggle. I started thinking there was a correlation between number of comments versus how ‘good’ a photo was (a mistake). Photoblogs were exploding at the time, and it all became a popularity contest. People commenting only to advertise their sites. It was basically SPAM, only with a real human and site behind them. The great feedback was gone. I would receive forty comments that all said ‘nice!’ or ‘good photo’ with nothing else. The site was about a way to improve my photography through community, and I ended up taking the community feature down to become a better photographer. Ironic. I found that by taking away the comments, people who care to say something will via email. No more spamming, no more popularity contests, and I feel this works better for me. Additionally, there is also a great feedback system that works via other sites, like Flickr and Twitter (still some problems as before, but still works much better).

PP: How have you developed as a photographer over the years? What tools, websites, or resources have you used?

JG: Knowing that the Internet is your friend. So many great resources, a lot of inspiration, a lot of feedback and opinions, and many other great photographers that can help/mentor you. Social media has become huge as of late in getting work, and a big thing I’ve learned is that marketing is key in today’s market. It’s no longer about how good a photographer you are (you’d be amazed at how many photoblogs and Flickr streams with quality work are overlooked), but about how you get your work noticed. But again, the power of the internet has provided photography with such an amazing period right now.

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PP: What are some of the best ways to get your work noticed?

JG: Talk to people. Send emails. Introduce yourself. Make comments (only if they’re genuine!) and talk shop. Let people know you exist. Meeting people at workshops/classes is also a great way to get introduced to local photographers. And obviously, don’t forget to shoot during this time. A strong portfolio will still be required. But again, once word of mouth starts spreading, your hard work will pay off. I’ve also been able to get noticed just by having a business card (I use moo.com mini cards that feature your photography). Anytime I’m taking street portraits, I hand them out and tell people I’ll give them a free print of the shot I just took of them. That had lead to many opportunities through unlikely channels. You have to be creative and introduce yourself nowadays – you’re very rarely going to have people knocking at your door otherwise.

PP: What is one thing you’ve learned that caused the biggest improvement in your photography?

JG: Running my photoblog. Without it, I’m not sure what I’d be doing in life right now. It remains an exercise in photography for me – a timeline of photos and seeing what I need to improve upon. Having people contact me and talking about photography has helped. Knowing about film and the many genres of photography has helped me grow and improve. As far as the photographic skill that has made me improve the most? Looking at your scene carefully. I guess that goes without saying, but I used to look at one feature of a scene (say, the subject or a foreground element) and kind of ignored the rest. Heck, I was shooting digital – twenty quick snaps has to produce something, right? Or I also had a mentality of, ‘I’ll fix it in post’. Wrong. Now I try to survey the whole scene; everything in the frame, and make sure the composition works. Doesn’t always end up that way, but seeing everything in the viewfinder (and trying to make a shot work QUICKLY) has made me a better photographer.

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PP: Can you briefly describe your workflow?

JG: My film workflow consists of buying a load of all types of films, then choosing the appropriate one (and camera) for what I want to shoot that day. After I’m done shooting, I either process it myself (B&W, C41) or get a lab to do it (E6). THEN, I scan everything using a Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED. Getting a handful of shots into a digital format will take four hours to many weeks from the shooting stage to now. So we’re now up to the step where I would be with digital. I import everything into Aperture, and make my edits. Once I’ve chosen the shots I want for whatever purpose they’re needed, I do some light post-processing in Photoshop (and use it to get the shots web-ready). Finally, I upload the shots via my CMS online and that’s that. Since I do a lot of film work, you can see why it’s difficult to get stuff up on a timely manner.

PP: Who are your favorite photobloggers?

JG: I really respect Sam Javanrouh at Daily Dose of Imagery. He’s been delivering a quality shot DAILY for over six years now. It’s hard enough to post anything daily, nonetheless GOOD work everyday. I don’t know how he does it. Someone else would be Miles Storey (Mute). Tristan Campbell (Absolutely Nothing) and Kathleen Connally (Durham Township) are my favorite landscape photobloggers. Justin Ouellette (Chromogenic) was my favorite photoblog back in the day – he shot exclusively with film, and it was all just mind-blowing work. He’s what got me started with film and experimenting with photography as a whole. He’s obviously a lot more busy nowadays, so he rarely updates.

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PP: If you could see one person interviewed by PetaPixel, who would it be?

JG: Let’s get Sam Javanrouh at Daily Dose of Imagery interviewed. That would be splendid, no?

PP: Do you have any final thoughts for PetaPixel readers?

JG: Just keep shooting. Don’t be afraid to try out something new or approach new people. I know a lot of editors and photographers will disagree when I say this, but don’t get stuck doing just one genre of photography. Perhaps there can be one you’re really good at, but try them all. Don’t be afraid of street photography. Get that macro and telephoto lens out and see the world in a new way. Try exploring all possibilities. You’ll see how it will improve you all-around. Oh, and don’t do HDR. Seriously… just don’t. :-)

HDR License Giveaway Winners

The first PetaPixel giveaway has come to an end, and I’m definitely surprised by how many entries we received. We received 101 comment entries, and 76 entries through Twitter. To choose the winners, I used random.org to generate a random number between 1 and 177. Numbers 1-101 were comment entries, and 102-177 were Twitter entries.

Here are the winners:

#102: Frank DelValle (@frankdelvalle)

Canon EOS 1D Mark III

#84: Diana Pink (iamdianthus.com)

While I love my D80 with the 18-50mm 2.8 lens, it will never replace the 1970′s Minolta with 35mm lens I learned with.

#141: Chris Scott (@nzcjs):

Just starting HDR, see http://tinyurl.com/nhl4yg Favourite camera would have to be my Nikon D300. Do I win now ;-)

#140: Jon Krombein (@Krombein)

my favorite camera is the Canon 1Ds Mk3.

#79: Dustin Dodge (dustindodgephotography.com)

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: 24-70mm 2.8L

#123: Donnita Mae (@DonnitaMae)

My favorite lens in the Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS.

#34: Robin (aroundtheisland.blogspot.com)

My only SLR is my Nikon D40 so I’ll go with that. It’s either that or the older than ancient Yashica I had as a teen many (far too many) years ago.

Congratulations to all the winners! Please send an email to [email protected] to claim your HDR PhotoStudio license.

If you didn’t win, don’t fret. I have some more giveaways planned for the near future, including more HDR software licenses!


Now, some interesting things I discovered through laboriously tabulating the entries by hand:

The most popular cameras were the Canon 5D Mark II with 12 entries, and the Nikon D90 with 10 entries.

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The most popular lenses were the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS with 8 entries, and the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D with 4 entries.

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You can download the final tally here, though I’m not sure why you’d want to.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in this first giveaway. I definitely had a lot of fun reading through everyone’s favorite cameras and lenses, and am definitely looking forward to the next giveaway.

P.S. PetaPixel just broke the 1,000th follower mark on Twitter (@petapixel). Thanks everyone!

Dust, Bird, and Scooter

Here’s a photograph I took of my brother skateboarding (or attempting to) back in 2005:

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This post is a very basic tutorial on using the clone stamp tool in Photoshop to remove distracting elements from a photograph. It’s not really about the taking or the general post-processing of this photo. I’ll just touch on these two things very briefly:

This was taken with a Canon 20D at ISO 400 with a pretty fast shutter speed, 1/800th of a second. I was trying to copy some of the faded action shots you sometimes see in magazines or surreal portraits, so I asked my brother to fall off his skateboard onto the grass in dramatic ways, and took as many photographs as possible. Aside from what I’ll cover regarding the clone tool, the other things I did during post-processing were desaturate and increase contrast.

Now, here’s the original photograph that was shot in JPEG:

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There were 3 things that I found distracting in the photo:

  1. There was a scooter lying in the background
  2. Dust on the lens or sensor caused spots in the sky
  3. A random bird decided to add a dark shape to my photo

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To get rid of these things, we can use the clone stamp tool. The keyboard shortcut for this tool is the S key.

First, you need to select where you want to clone pixels from. You can do this by holding the Alt key (or the Option key if you’re on a Mac) and clicking somewhere on the photo. You can then draw over the elements of the photo you want to remove, drawing over it with the pixels from the area you selected.

Here’s a video walkthrough of what I did:

After removing the unwanted elements, I then touched up the photo as described above, and ended up with this (hover over the image to compare it to the out-of-camera image):

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You can use this same clone stamp tool to do some pretty awesome stuff, but this was just a basic introduction to it.

Interview with Nick Campbell of greyscalegorilla

Nick Campbell is the photoblogger behind greyscalegorilla.


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PetaPixel: Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background in photography?

Nick Campbell: I’m Nick Campbell, and am currently a designer/animator at Digital Kitchen, which is a motion graphics house in Chicago. We do a lot of TV commercials, animation for TV commercials, TV show openers, and fun stuff like that. I graduated from the Institute of Art in Chicago in ’05 as a designer. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, moved to Chicago to go to school for motion design, and kind of fell upon photography during that time.

PP: When did you first become interested in visual arts?

NC: I wasn’t a big drawer or anything. I couldn’t draw. In fact, hated photos as a kid. It was always family photos. It was always very posed, and I had just no interest in it. I remember my dad had an SLR on one of those Mikey Mouse straps he always had, and was always taking photos, but I just never caught the bug. I had a Fischer Price camera for about two months, and played around with it, but just never liked it. I think it was the film aspect… I was hyperactive, and the film didn’t really play into that. You had to get it developed and get stuff back.

But, as far as being interested in visual arts, I was always interested in stop motion, playing with the video camera, and making music videos in the basement. That type of stuff was always really interesting to me. There were also computer programs that allowed me to animate and make stuff move around. I was always interested in the movement of things, and playing around with that. I think as a designer or a photographer, I was really late in being interested in that stuff. It was only through wanting to know more about motion, special effects, and that kind of stuff, that I kind of fell into the photography side of it and the design side of it.

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PP: Why did you pick the name greyscalegorilla?

NC: Well, it’s an interesting story. The name came about way before the website was around. I think it was maybe ’02 or ’03. There were three of us who lived in Las Vegas for a year. Chad was a roommate, and Chris was a roommate. Chris, a graphic designer, came to us with the name of his brand new website and asked us our opinion on it. The name was PixelPig.com. Might have been PixelPig.net or something… We all kind of didn’t like the name, and were making fun of each other anyway for a living, so we decided to sit and make up better website names than “PixelPig”. He basically based it on wanting an animal and wanting something to do with graphics. We tossed around a bunch of ideas. “RGBWhale”, etc… “grayscalegorilla” came out of it. It was my buddy Chad who said “grayscalegorilla”, and I was like, “I love that name!”. I did a search online, found it was open, and said “you can’t have it, I own it.” It was the second domain I bought, ever. The first was creamyorange, the second was grayscalegorilla. It came off of just a joke, just like that, and sat around for two years until I wanted to have my photoblog. I figured it’d be a good enough reason to use that name.

PP: In what ways has your photoblog changed your life?

NC: I think becoming interested in photos and photography, and having a photoblog, has kind of acted as a diary. It’s really nice to be able to look back on when I was doing a post a day, and really see what I was doing that day. I can really remember a lot of those days, what I was doing that day, and where I was walking. Being new to the city (I moved to Chicago in ’03, and started taking photos right after), it got me out into the city and exploring new parts of Chicago. Up to that point I was kind of going directly from my apartment, to school, to the bar, to my apartment, to school, to the coffee shop, to the bar, and back. I didn’t really get out and about. The photoblog (and forcing myself to post once a day) really got me out shooting different places, trying to capture things I didn’t shoot the day before. I’d say those two things. getting out, seeing the city, and learning where everything was was a huge and fun part for me. The other part that kind of changed my life was that now I have this diary I can go back on. It’s almost four or five years old now, and I can go back through and see stuff I was doing in ’05 or ’04 and remember that day through my photos. It’s been really great for that.

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PP: What was your first camera?

NC: Other than the Fischer Price when I was a kid, when I moved to Chicago I bought the Canon SD 100. It was their first little cigarette pack-sized ELPH camera. I think it was two megapixels, and had a CompactFlash card in it with 60 megs on it. Could barely take any photos with it, but I got a good deal on it on eBay. I wanted a pocket camera that I could take around to parties and my friends’ house to shoot stuff and put it up online. I think it was $150 or so, which was pretty good for how small it was in ’03 or ’04. I started shooting friends, out and about, and all kinds of other stuff.

My first camera was that little SD 100 ELPH, and my first SLR camera was the D70. To me it was the first affordable digital SLR. I think I paid $1,500 for it, which in college was a whole bunch of money. I was really passionate about getting a photoblog up, shooting every day, and was shooting a ton of stuff with the little SD camera, so I went and got the D70 with the kit lens. I had that thing until late last year. It was a great camera, and I’d still recommend it. If you find a D70, grab it. They’re pretty similar to the D60 and D50. Great camera. Really good.

PP: What equipment do you use?

NC: I currently have a D700 Nikon, which is Nikon’s first affordable full-frame camera. I got the D700 late last year, and ever since I started with Nikon, I’ve been slowly building up some lenses. I have the 24-70 2.8 (which is kind of the standard walk-around lens), and the 50 1.4 and the 50 1.8 (which are really good lenses for walking around and low-light, indoor stuff). One of my favorite portrait lenses is an 85 1.4. That’s really, really great for portraits. My friends got married last weekend, and I shot some photos with that. It’s amazing what it does. What the 1.4 aperture does is, not only allow a ton of light in under low-light, but also blows out the background and gives you a really shallow depth of field, isolating what you’re focusing on from the background and from the foreground.

Other stuff that I have is a Ray ring flash, which is a flash attachment that goes around your lens and gives you a ring-flash look. I have a couple hot-shoe strobes/speedlights, miscellaneous bags, other small lenses. I have a 20mm lens. I actually have a video where I went through all my gear. In it you can see most everything I use.

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PP: Why Nikon instead of Canon?

NC: It was a really close decision when I bought my first SLR. The two affordable cameras were the first Canon Digital Rebel that was getting close to a thousand bucks and the D70. I was looking at that one, but everyone recommended that I spend the extra money and get the D70. At the time it had some extra features: faster shutter release, etc… It was just that next step up. I played around with the Canon and played around with the Nikon. I ended up with the Nikon mainly because I like the way Nikon’s interface is, and the way they’re laid out. Canon just didn’t seem right to me, even though the ELPH I had was a Canon. I pretty much assumed I was going to get a Canon until I tried out the D70. It felt right, weighed a little more, felt a little better in my hands, and wasn’t as plasticy as the Rebel at the time. I think it was kind of by chance that I fell into Nikon. I think once you have a brand and start buying lenses, you kind of just continue down that road.

Canon has some pretty cool stuff out with the video modes. I would love to have HD video on my camera. That would be awesome, but I stick with Nikon because when I’m taking photos, I know where everything is, I have the lenses for it, I have the knowledge for it, and I like the way they work.

PP: If you had to pick only one body and one lens, what combination would you choose and why?

NC: It’s kind of a tossup. I might grab the 50mm 1.4 and my D700, just because it’s super lightweight and I can walk around and shoot almost anything with it. But I would be tempted to instead pick the 24-70 lens to walk around with. If I had to live with one more lens for the rest of my life, I would have to cheat and get a zoom lens, the 24-70, just so I could shoot portrait stuff, zoom out and shoot landscape, and get everything. But I really do like putting the 50 on and walking around.

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PP: Can you describe your workflow?

NC: If I’m shooting for fun, I’ll try to limit myself and just grab one, maybe two, lens(es), my charged up camera (card empty), walk outside and pick a new, fun place to go. I’ll slow down, walk around, and shoot stuff. I tend to shoot a lot of buildings, cars, junk on the street, trains, etc… I like shooting train tracks and the industrial area I live near. That’s kind of my photo process.

Once I see a subject, I’ll try different angles. I’ll get it back lit, front lit, close on it, details, and try to shoot some different styles. Sometimes it’s kind of nice to have an excuse to climb around, sneak over across the railroad tracks, up onto a bridge, and figure out how to get to a certain place to get a shot of a particular thing. That’s my walking around process.

Of course, I shoot some friends’ weddings, and some event photography as well. That’s kind of a different situation, a little more focused on people. I have more fun shooting whatever and just walking around.

As far as shooting, if I take a shot, look at the camera, and see that the photo on the back is a little dark or a little bright, I’ll use my exposure adjustment to open up or close the lens just a bit. I usually shoot in aperture mode, where I select the aperture I want to use, and the camera will take care of the shutter speed itself. Actually, the new D700 Nikon has a really great feature where it will lock the aperture (the size of the opening in the lens) and the shutter speed (how fast the photo is taken), and will just move the ISO (the sensitivity of the camera). I can shoot indoors and outdoors, and just walk around and shoot stuff without having to worry too much about adjusting a bunch. I usually shoot wide open for everything… I like the narrow depth of field.

I’ll shoot a hundred or so photos at a location, come home, and stick the card in. Lately I’ve been using Aperture. Sometimes I just go directly to Bridge. It goes into an organization area and I’ll go through the photos, picking which ones I like. I’ll usually go through first and mark them with a 3, saying “these are okay”, “these pass the test of being not blurry”, or “I like the layout of these”. Then I’ll go through the 3 starred ones, and mark the 4s. The 4s are the ones that really stand out. Usually I’ll have four of the same subject that I like that are all marked 3. I’ll say “this is my favorite one”, mark it 4, and move forward.

Usually I’ll go from there to Photoshop where I start to color correct, crop, fix things, brighten things, darken things, change the color around, try black and white versions, and just play around with it until it looks cool to my eye. Then I’ll save a full size version, shrink it down for the web version, sharpen it one last time for web, save it, and post it to my blog using PixelPost. I also have a video of my process.

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PP: What is one thing you’ve learned that has had the biggest positive impact on your photography?

NC: I’d probably say embracing limitations. It’s my new thing that has really helped me a lot. I got into a funk walking around and shooting because I’d just ended up with the same shots over and over again. I’d frame up a building the same way, stand in the corner and get a wide angle shot of it. I had new locations and went to new places, but I’d shoot them in the same way.

What I started doing was imposing self-limitations that would force me to think a different way when I shot. I remember one day I went out and shot nothing but shadows of things and not the actual thing itself. Another day I went out and said I would take ten frames. I was kind of liking how using film would limit yourself on how many photos you could take. With digital you can fill up a card and have 400, 500 photos. With film you have 36 or, with the medium format I was using, 10 or 12 shots. Limiting yourself in a certain aspect really pulls the creativity out. That helped me out a lot in my photography.

PP: What would you most like the opportunity to photograph?

NC: I used to live near Detroit, and would get jealous of everyone sneaking into the odd places of Detroit, shooting the abandoned warehouses, train tunnels, and all that stuff. That seems fun to me. A little scary, a little fun. I like the urban decay, industrial aspect, of it. I guess that’d be fun. I’d probably pick that.

I also just like shooting when I’m on vacation in new places. I can’t think of where I’d love to go right now, but yeah. I’ll just say Detroit, that’s a good answer.

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PP: What is the question you’re asked most regarding photography?

NC: It would be “what camera do you use?” and “what camera do you recommend?”, which is tough. I’m kind of sick of answering that question in a way. I think a lot of people think the camera makes the photo, and think, “whoah, your stuff looks really good. You must have a really good camera!”, or “what camera do you use? I want to buy the same camera.” I always point out that more than 80% of my website was shot with a D70, which is 5-6 year old technology. In fact, the only print I have for sale was taken in JPG mode, on my first camera, in the first couple months that I had it, and on the wrong white balance setting.

So it’s a question I’m sick of answering, just because I’d rather talk about the other parts of it. Even other technical parts of it are more important than what camera you use. Learning what aperture is, what shutter speed is, how to use flashes, how to model light, and all those things are more fun to talk about than what the latest camera technology is. However, that’s by far the most popular question.

PP: Who are your favorite photographers?

NC: Quarlo. I’m not sure if he’s still updating his site, but he really got me into shooting film, cross processing, shooting objects. He’s really good with shadow too, and has a lot of black shadowing and stuff like that.

There’s also another guy that shoots nothing but large format portraits. Greg Miller. He walks around with an 8×10 camera, and shoots portraits of people he sees. He poses them, puts them in really great positions, sets a scene up, gets this 8×10 camera (a huge chunk of film), sets it up, waits for the sun to be perfect, then takes these really beautiful shots.

Check out Greg Miller and Quarlo.

I’m not traditionally trained in photography or anything. I don’t know my names or my history of photography people. Like I said, it was never a passion of mine until I saw what these people online were doing, and I started thinking, “well, I can do that!”. I think it was chromasia, a really popular photoblog guy. I came across his site in ’03. His site was the one where I said “those look pretty cool. I think I could do that actually. I think I could pull that off”.

So, check those dudes out.

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PP: If you could choose one photographer to be interviewed by PetaPixel, who would it be and why?

NC: Man. I’d love to see an interview with Quarlo. He doesn’t even do interviews, but if you could get him on there, that’d awesome. I’m not sure if he’s still shooting or what he’s doing, but Quarlo man, he’s my guy. He was really helpful too. I had some questions when I got into film, and he took time to answer some questions, so I appreciate that. Seems like a good guy.

PP: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with PetaPixel readers?

NC: For me, photography and this whole thing came about by accident. I tend to obsess over things for three months at a time. Photography became that thing for me. I obsessed over it, and forced myself to post a photo a day. I did that for almost three years. That was the best way to learn everything. I didn’t study photography, and the only thing I knew about composition was what I learned in film school. I figured, “what better way to learn about composition than to grab a camera and force myself to shoot every day?”. As far as being a designer, being an animator, and being in the film industry, it’s the best thing I did for my sense of composition, color, and framing. It’s really a great way to learn a lot.

Now, with how cheap everything is, you can get a Nikon D50 with a kit lens for 600 bucks at Costco or something. It’s basically a D70, the same camera I shot a ton of photos with. It’s exciting. If you’re interested in photography, I would totally grab an SLR and start shooting. I just can’t imaging learning with film. It’s one of the reasons I never got into it. With digital you can learn and screw up a billion times, look at the back of the camera, and can at least look at it and say, “well, that doesn’t look good”. You can try different things and learn through making a million mistakes. I think that’s the best way to do it.