Water as a Photographer’s Subject.

Arrow lake crossing

Ocean ready

Gig Harbor waterfront

Valley stream

Under the falls

Framed in Green

Water sculpture

What it is about water that has such a magnetic effect on photographers who wander ocean shores, the watersides of lakes and ponds, and river and stream edges in spite of slippery footing, and the occasional splash of water as they search of the perfect mood?

Whether crashing waves or clear reflections, water always adds interest to one’s images, and including a view of a flowing stream in a mountain landscape adds a great feeling of movement and mood.

The other night was one of those times that sleep would not come. I was tired, but thoughts just kept poking into my head and no matter what I tried, sleep evaded me.

I got up, turned on the computer, and manipulated a few images beyond recognition. That’s my usual recipe for putting myself back to sleep. However, this time that wasn’t working and after the fourth of fifth image I was bored, but not sleepy. So I decided I would start going through the list of photographer-bloggers I am connected to on WordPress. There are very few things I enjoy more than looking at other photographers’ work and the diverse circle of bloggers I regularly interact with are, if anything, entertaining and inspiring.

Street scenes, landscapes, cityscapes, wildlife, archaeology, and so many other genres, I read and viewed so many excellent photographs.

As happens to many of us when wandering the seemingly endless galaxy of the internet, I started searching “photographing water”, not so much for information, but to find the Google page that I knew would be filled with creative images of water.

There were photographs of water dropping into water, droplets on plants, or glass, and all sorts of surfaces, and wonderful images of waterfalls, streams, seashores, lakes and much, much more. I viewed page after page of excellent images, read lots of how-to advice and pondered many experienced photographers’ personal thoughts on pretty much everything related to photographing water.

Fall is coming fast here in British Columbia and with that the colours of the landscape will change. This is probably my favorite time to mount my camera on a tripod and wander to the waterside and start creating pictures.

I am really looking forward to doing lots of scenic/landscape photography in the upcoming months, and water will be playing a major part in what we will be photographing, I will be visiting nearby waterfalls and streams. There is the South Thompson River that flows along the valley I live in, and my wife and I are hopeful of a driving trip on the Washington/Oregon coast in October.

Regarding water, I found this quote by American novelist , “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”


As always I look forward to reader’s opinions. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com



Is it Time to Upgrade my Camera?

1. Cameras

getting the shot

Tripod & Hat


In the era of film cameras serious photographers would come to a point when they would consider upgrading from a 35mm SLR cameras to a medium format 120mm, or make the climb to a 4×5 view camera.

It was all about the size of the film and bigger really was better. I recall feeling bad for couples that had friends photograph their wedding with tiny 35mm cameras. Only those photographers wielding medium format cameras would be assured of quality final prints. If one wanted a colourful, sharp, grain free enlargement then 120mm or a larger format was a must.

What do I now say to photographers like the one I talked with recently who are considering a more serious approach to photography?

I always begin with the question, “what are your interests and what subjects do you like to photograph?”   My short answer for that digicam user was, if you want to shoot sports, wildlife, or even scenics and want enlargements bigger than 8×10, then, yes, get a DSLR.

I think printing quality 11×14, or bigger, enlargements are best produced with sensors that are considerably larger than what digicams provide.

I like digicams. They are perfect for intimate, candid shots. The compact size lets one put them in a pocket and go, and if used within their limits they can produce excellent images.   However, if one feels, like that fellow I talked with, they have reached their camera’s limits then it is time to move on.

I must add at this point, that with the entry of mid- and full-size sensor mirrorless cameras there are new and exciting choices. I would like to discuss those at another time, and hope for plenty of advice from readers on their preferences.

To simplify my discussion with him I put DSLRs into two categories, amateur and professional. However, the difference between amateur and pro cameras isn’t as easy as it was with film.

The most significant difference, in my opinion, is durability. Pro cameras feel sturdy, are heavy, and are sealed against the elements. When dropped, they bounce and usually don’t break, and even with hard use, the shutters will last a long time.

When the first DSLRs came onto the scene there was definitely a difference in the quality of the images between entry level and professional level cameras, but that is not as distinct now. The technology for sensors and in-camera processing has rocketed. The latest entry-level model may well have the same sensor as the previous summer’s expensive pro model as the technology is transferred over. The obvious difference may only be the weight and controls and debating megapixels has become just plain silly.

I know many are willing to argue about cropped frame vs. full frame, but I wonder if that’s more a personal preference than an upgrade.

For those, like the photographer I talked with, interested in purchasing used equipment; there will always be opportunities to purchase at reduced prices.

Whatever the camera availability, my advice to that fellow and others asking the “upgrading” question is to consider what kind of photography they want to do. Talk to other photographers about cameras that are interesting, go online and check out the many photography forums to find out what others with their same interest are using, and absolutely attend some classes.

Using a different camera is always fun and I believe learning how to control the technology a new camera offers is like a shot in the arm that gets the excitement going and helps ultimately to make better photographers.

Any comments on this subject, or mirrorless cameras are very welcome.

Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com


Thoughts about Neutral Density Filters for Photography

Chase falls in August

Cool waters

White water

A neutral density filter is a clear, colourless, filter that reduces the intensity of all wavelengths, or colours of light, equally. It is usually a colorless (gray) filter that reduces the amount of light entering the lens. A photographer can select exposure combinations that would otherwise produce overexposed pictures. Using a ND filter allows a photographer to achieve a very shallow depth of field, or motion blur.

I’ll begin by saying quality ND filters have always been expensive. During the days of film, the exposure you made was the exposure you got. And when one used colour film one didn’t get a second chance if there was a colour shift, usually a purple cast, with less expensive filters. Some cheap filters weren’t all that sharp either.

I thought about that when during a workshop the leader loaned me a couple Lee filters (over a hundred dollars each) to try on long exposures of the waterfall we were photographing. He indicated if I were to order through him I could get a discount.

I’d already spent a bundle on costs including travel and lodging, and owned ND filters that worked well so I passed on the deal and came home thinking about maybe a future purchase.

My memory of ND filter problems were from the time of film. Film has a permanence that data files created in our modern digital camera don’t have.

Colour balance in film means colour correction filters. Where as, with digital I mostly leave my camera on auto white balance, and fix any shift when I open my RAW files in Photoshop.

A photographer could somewhat help a soft image when shooting black and white film by increasing the contrast, but with colour it was permanent. Nowadays, we have a number of software possibilities that can almost (well, almost) fix a not-quite-in-focus image.

With all that in mind I thought that unless I was making very large prints that those cheap ND filters might be usable. So I ordered several very inexpensive, no-name ND filters thinking the $60.00 or so I spent might be foolish, but I’d have some fun and discard them if they didn’t work.

I bought them, put them away and forgot about them. Then this past week as I sat looking at the overcast sky after a much-needed shower in the parched hills around my home, I decided to give those filters a try. I grabbed my camera, tripod, and the bag of filters, talked my wife into coming, and drove to a local waterfall.

The Chase Creek falls weren’t the raging torrent of spring or early summer. This year’s long, hot, dry spell has had an effect and capturing an exciting waterfall wasn’t possible. I tried a couple different angles, scrambling around the rocks and down to a now sandy shore, and then a group of young people came to splash in the cold water so I moved downstream in the creek. I was getting bored anyway and didn’t mind giving up my spot to those kids and their blanket.

Returning home, I loaded my RAW files in the computer, easily corrected the white balance, added contrast and sharpened the image in Photoshop.

My conclusion is those inexpensive ND filters are great if one is willing to shoot in RAW and make post-production corrections. I think an out-of-the-camera JPG would be disappointing.

I expect there will be opinions by experienced photographers who read this. However, the images look pretty good on my calibrated 30-inch Mac display screen. I haven’t made any prints, but I expect 8×10’s might be just fine, and if just sharing images on-line I think inexpensive ND filters will be fine.

I look forward to any comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Thoughts on Street Photography

Thrift shop

Great shopping


Rope guy

Waiting at the Festival

Of all the recent trends that has increased in popularity since digital cameras, it is street photography that intrigues me the most. Street photography is not a new phenomenon and has been around since the beginnings of photography. Just check out the work of French photographer Eugene Atget in the late early 1800’s, or Fred Herzog’s photos in 1950’s and 1960’s Vancouver, Canada. In spite of the long history the pastime is still a niche in the broad spectrum of interests that photographers have. However, I am spending more and more time viewing intriguing images of life on streets around the world captured by talented modern day photographers.

Wikipedia says, “Street photography is an art photography that features the human condition within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment…The origin of the term ‘Street’ refers to a time rather than a place, …when workers were rewarded with leisure time…and people engaged with each other …more publicly and therein the opportunity for the photographer.”

I’ve never been good at street photography. I have made a few pictures worth viewing, but I become more occupied with man-made things and get side tracked with some building’s shadow and miss those interesting people shots captured by photographers adept at seeing what I pass by.

On my recent visit to Anacortes, Washington, I did try a bit, but I quickly realized that with my big DSLR camera I was attracting too much attention. Whenever I stopped people slowed, turned to face me, and watched.

Since I started discussing photography on-line I have come in contact with some very skilled street photographers and regularly visit their blogs and websites to view their creative work. Those photographers don’t usually add comments, letting their work speak for itself, however, I found a discussion by Los Angeles street photographer, Eric Kim, and the following are some of his thoughts on being a street photographer.

Mr. Kim writes, “…When you start off in street photography you will be inspired by all these other photographers you see. You will look at their work and be amazed by their photos…my advice is this: start off copying the photographers whose work you admire. All the great renaissance painters started off as apprentices. They copied their masters for years, and learned all the basics and fundamentals. And once they mastered the basics, then they were able to go off and find their own voice.”

He counsels us to, “Follow your curiosity.” and says, “As a photographer you are a scientist. You experiment to find new results.”

Kim continues, “When I started photography I always thought it was my gear which held me back. I felt my camera or lens wasn’t good enough…but what I realized is that I was simply lacking education…I didn’t dedicate myself to learn enough about photography. I simply thought that buying gear would help me become inspired, and therefore become a better photographer.” I couldn’t agree more with him when he writes, “…education is the best investment money can buy. Education is something that will always stay with you, in your mind, thoughts, and actions.”

While writing this I thought about all the advice I could have gotten just by asking the talented street photographers I have come in contact with in the last few years. Those interested will find that a quick search will show many photographers to look at and from whom to learn. There is also “The International Collective of Photographers” at http://www.street-photographers.com/

I’m not ready to start roaming city streets yet, but there is a local Fall Fair coming up in September. That environment, with its festive participants, might be the perfect place to search for that decisive moment.

I always appreciate any comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com


Problem Solving Approaches to Photography

The procession 1

The procession 2

The procession 3


There are times when all photographers end up with faulty photographs. Once in a while it can be blamed on the equipment, or processing, although certainly not as much now as when film was used. However, in my opinion, even today most of those faulty photographs are because of poor techniques.

A friend stopped by my shop last week to tell me about his trip to Mexico. He complained that his daughter’s cheap little point and shoot camera got better pictures than he had with his son’s expensive DSLR. I don’t think he was happy when I told him the problem was most likely with his technique. I was certain that little point and shoot’s tiny sensor or it’s lens didn’t match the quality of a DSLR.

I listened to a local photographer grumble about how local photo labs are failing to make her prints the way she thinks they should be. I expect she totally relies on her camera’s programs and is one of those of the belief that if the camera they have been using doesn’t give good pictures then they should buy a newer or different manufacturer’s offering to make it so. In her opinion, that latest camera is advertised as producing wonderful images and when she doesn’t get the correct colour balance or sharpness it can’t be the camera or her fault, it must be the labs.

Years ago I was asked by the Abbotsford Photo Arts Club to give a lecture about problem solving in photography during their annual session. That was long before any of us even thought of the amazing control computers in our cameras or on our desktops now give us. However, at that time I felt, and still do, that the responsibility for a good photograph belongs to the photographer and not the film companies, camera manufacturers, or some poor, overworked lab technician. The point of that lecture, so long ago, was that photographers should look at each photograph as a problem to be solved, and go through the process of correcting faults before releasing the shutter.

Photographers used to say that it was all in the negative; that a properly exposed and developed negative gave the best possibilities of a fine quality print. I still agree with that principle only now it isn’t an image about to be developed on film.

By the time I arrive on the scene to photograph my subject of choice I have already made several decisions and I try to do as the famous photographer, Ansel Adams would do and “previsualize” the image or in my words, “problem solve for the final photograph”.

Like Adams, photographers should be thinking about how the final photograph will be used and how to accomplish that. If one thinks of a final photograph as a series of problems to be solved there will be a smooth transition from initial idea to final print. For example one could begin by thinking about the subject and its environment. What is the background and how will that affect the subject? What is in the foreground that will interfere with that subject?   If one considers depth of field a decision must be made how much is wanted to be “in focus”. Continuing on, in a landscape photograph, photographers will probably want everything from the foreground to far off distance to be crystal clear; whereas, for a portrait the photographer may want the background to be “out of focus”. Another consideration is what is the lighting like and will its direction be flattering?

The sun and its direction is always very important when photographing people. I prefer to have it coming from behind my subject and as readers know, I like to use off-camera flash. Although, if for whatever reason that isn’t possible, I problem solve my way into a photograph that works.

Photographers don’t need to see problems as a deterrent or bad thing. When I suggest to photographers to take a problem solving approach to photography I am really just saying that every element in any creative photographic composition is important, and from start to finish if a photographer uses a system of photographic problem solving there will be less faulty and more successful images.

With digital technology one can easily determine what went wrong or is going wrong and take the time to problem solve before downloading to the computer or relying on technicians at the local photo lab and hoping they are equipped with PhotoShop wizardry.

I appreciate your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com