How To Focus Your Lens on Infinity for Night Photography

Photography workshop out at night. Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Photography workshop at night. Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.

The most important and difficult step in night photography is to focus on infinity. If you have tried to focus on the stars at night you have already learned that it is an impossible task for the autofocus system and just about impossible for you. You just can’t see clearly enough through the viewfinder in the dark of night to manually focus on the stars. Fortunately, there are some ways to get the job done.

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How To Work With A Model When The Windchill is 4°

Selina

Selina, Downtown Columbus Ohio

You would think a windchill of 4° Fahrenheit (-16°C) would be too cold for a photo shoot, but not with some models. We booked this January shoot weeks in advance so we knew it would be cold, but we had no idea how cold until the day arrived. Here’s the story behind this image and how to work with a model when it is so cold.

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Metering Nighttime Winter Scenes

Twilight, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Twilight, Rocky Mountain National Park. Sirius, Canis Major, Orion, Taurus, the Hyades star cluster, and the Pleiades star cluster are all visible in the fading light. Click for a larger version.

You can photograph the night sky year around, but winter brings an added bonus: SNOW! When you don’t have the benefit of moonlight, most of the year land forms a dark to black  silhouetted skyline against the night sky. In winter you have the possibility of including the highly reflective snow. You can see both in this photo. Any place not covered with snow is very dark to black. Having reflective snow is why winter is the favorite time of year for a lot of photographers to go out and photograph the night sky.

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Metering Wildlife in the Snow, Part Two

Cougar

Cougar

Most wildlife are medium to dark in tone, making them a challenge to meter properly in the bright, white tones of winter. If you trust one of your camera’s automatic exposure modes, the odds are good you won’t get the best exposure. If you switch over to manual exposure and make the right decisions, you can get great exposures and better quality photos (more about that later).

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Metering Wildlife in the Snow, Part One

Elk in the Snow, Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in the Snow, Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Metering dark toned wildlife in the snow is a major exposure challenge. It is usually best to avoid large “burned out” areas (washed out, featureless white) in a nature or landscape photograph, but with properly exposed snow, the wildlife can be so dark as to lose all texture. On other hand, metering for the wildlife can burn out the snow. So what do you do?

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Metering Daytime Winter Scenes

Mount Hunter from a Bush Plane. Denali National Park. Alaska.

Mount Hunter from a Bush Plane. Denali National Park. Alaska.

Metering for scenes with a lot of snow can be tricky since the bright snow fools the camera meter. I see a lot of winter photos with gray snow, which means the camera meter did exactly what it was designed to do and the camera owner didn’t know how to use exposure compensation. The solution is quite simple provided you know what to do.

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National Geographic’s Best Photos of 2016

A pet saddleback tamarin hangs on to Yoina Mameria Nontsotega as the Matsigenka girl takes a dip in the Yomibato River, deep inside Peru’s Manú National Park. Photo by Charlie Hamilton James.

A pet saddleback tamarin hangs on to Yoina Mameria Nontsotega as the Matsigenka girl takes a dip in the Yomibato River, deep inside Peru’s Manú National Park. Photo by Charlie Hamilton James.

Out of 2,290,225 photographs by 91 photographers, National Geographic picked the 52 best images of the year.

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How to Photograph Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights, iPhone Photo

Christmas Lights, iPhone Photo

The photo abilities of smart phones have improved dramatically in the last few years, especially in low light situations. Just point your camera phone at the lights and click the shutter. Exposure can be a bit iffy. If the photo looks too light or too dark and your phone will allow you to alter the exposure, take advantage of that feature.

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Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More

I get lots of photo questions this time of year, and many of them begin with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from photographers or someone shopping for a photographer.

Here is my list of “best of the best” of articles recommending the best photo gear, software, books, DVDs, calendars, online photo labs, and a whole lot more.

Posted Nov. 19, 2016. Re-posted Dec. 17, 2016 and updated Dec. 28, 2016.

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Playing with Exif Viewer for Firefox

Tennessee-Titans-Minnesota-Vikings-game. Photo by Sports Illustrated photographer David E. Klutho.

Tennessee-Titans-Minnesota-Vikings-game. Photo by Sports Illustrated photographer David E. Klutho.

Sometimes when I see an interesting photo online I am curious what information is included in the photo’s metadata. Some photos get posted and re-posted by people other than the photographer so you don’t know who took the photo, or where, or with what equipment.  If that information isn’t posted with the photo, I check the metadata to look for it.

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My Hard Drive Crashed (Burned, Drowned)! Where Do I Send It To Get My Data Back?

This laptop burned in a house fire. DriveSavers recovered the data.

This laptop burned in a house fire. DriveSavers recovered the data.

So your hard drive crashes or is damaged in some other way. Where should you send it? The choice is important. If you don’t send it to one of the first rate data-recovery services (expensive as they are), a cut rate company could mess up your drive and make it impossible for a first rate company to retrieve your data.

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“How To” Series: Using GPS

Temple Image with GPS coordinates. Click for a larger version.

Temple Image with GPS coordinates. Click for a larger version.

The GPS system is increasingly important to photography. It will help you figure out where you took some of your more obscure photos, and more and more photo editors want GPS information for the photos they publish. The GPS system inside your smart phone can put your family at risk. A GPS communicator could save your life. This series will help you learn the ins and outs of GPS, plus keep you and your family safe.

Updated and reposted Dec. 29, 2016.

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Using the Histogram to Check Studio Flash Exposures

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

When using studio flash units, usually the best way to check your exposures is to use an incident light meter which is capable of metering flash exposures. But what if you don’t have an incident flash meter? Or what if you have a subject that absorbs a lot of light? Or a subject that reflects a lot more light than your typical photographic subject? You can double check your exposure settings by using the histogram on your camera. FYI: Do not trust the LCD image on the back of your camera to judge your exposures.

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Great Set of DVDs: Joel Sartore’s Fundamentals of Photography

Fundamentals of Photography

I finally found an excellent series of photography lessons on video to complement my book, Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies, and it is by Joel Sartore, a first class photographer who does a lot of work for National Geographic. He does stunning photography in amazing situations all over the world. You can see some of his work in the galleries at his web site.

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The Best Photography Magazines

Some of my favorite photography magazines.

My Favorite Photography Magazines

There are a ton of photography magazines out there and it seems like there are new ones every time I go to my favorite newsstand. But some are clearly better, more accurate, more useful, and with better images. The magazines that follow are, from my point of view, the best of the best photo magazines.

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