How To Get Critical Focus in “Live View” Mode with a Magnified Image

Tripod mpounted camera in live view mode.

Tripod mounted camera in live view mode. The image is visible on the LCD along with the RGB histogram.

“Live View” mode is a huge boon to digital photographers and magnified focus is one of the reasons why. Focusing this way is more accurate than the camera’s autofocus modes, at least with non-moving subjects, and you will have sharper images. Landscape photography is the usual time to use this technique but sometimes it works for wildlife.

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How To Focus Your Lens at 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 your lens at 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 to do manually. 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.

Originally posted Jan. 8, 2017. Revised and re-posted Sep. 5, 2019.

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How to Photograph the Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Lake Michigan

Northern Lights over Lake Michigan. Click to see a larger image.

As we head into fall the Northern Lights activity will pick up. The best time to view Northern Lights is from September to late March (although things may start up in August and extend into April). This article will tell you how to capture the Northern Lights with your camera. The Northern Lights come and go in an erratic fashion so this article will also show you how to know which nights are likely to be the best to go out and look.

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How to See and Photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid Meteor photographed from Rose Hill Cemetery west of Lamoni, Iowa. 4:55 am CDT, August 13, 2018. Cropped from the original image.

The night of August 12-13 is the predicted peak night of the Peresid Meteor Shower. But you can look for the next few nights after the peak night. This article will tell you what you need to know to see and photograph the most popular meteor shower of the year.

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Favorite Photo, June 29

Sunny in the moonlight, Columbus Ohio. June 29, 2012.

There was a power outage in our part of town, so it was a perfect night to do moonlit photos without the intrusion of city lights. The three lights in the yard run on batteries that are charged by small solar panels during the day. The remarkable thing about this photo is how little our dog Sunny moved during the 30 second exposure. He was patiently waiting for me to finish what I was doing so we could get on with our night walk. This is my favorite photo for this date.

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Creating A Headstone Image: When Things Don’t Go as Planned

David H. Smith, Headstone, Lamoni Iowa. June 17, 2019.
David H. Smith, Headstone, Lamoni Iowa. June 17, 2019.

It sounded like a simple request yesterday morning. At least at first. Could I go to Rose Hill Cemetery and photograph the headstone of David Hyrum Smith? Of course! The request came from a very good friend who lives half way across the country, and Rose Hill is only a few miles from where I live.

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Total Immersion Nature Photography Weekend in Beautiful Northern Michigan

Michigan Photography Workshop

Are you ready to take your nature and wildlife photography to the next level? Are you ready to learn the professional secrets that make the difference between good images and great images? Are you ready for a high intensity, action packed, total immersion photography weekend? Come to Park of the Pines on beautiful Lake Charlevoix June 7-10, 2019.

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Why and When To Set A Custom White Balance

piano reflection portrait
Piano Reflection Portrait

Why set a custom white balance? The answer is simple. To get the best, most accurate colors your camera is capable of producing. It is especially important when photographing people if you want beautiful, accurate skin tones. In this article I give you some shooting tips, answer common questions, and I cover the situations when it is preferable not do a custom white balance.

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How To Set A Custom White Balance on Your Digital Camera

 

Before and after setting a custom white balance.

Before and after setting a custom white balance.

To get the most accurate colors your camera is capable of creating you need to set a custom white balance. Every camera does this a little differently, but it involves taking a picture of an 18% gray card (or something pure white) and using that photo as a standard to create a custom white balance setting. I will show you the process with a Canon camera, but other brands should be somewhat similar. Check your camera’s manual for specific instructions.

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Favorite Photo, February 23

Sami Lynn with rose petals, Columbus Ohio. February 23, 2007.
Sami Lynn with Rose Petals, Columbus Ohio. February 23, 2007.

Sami Lynn and I were creating portraits for her model portfolio. With her on the floor, I arranged her hair to get as many curls as possible at the ends of the strands of hair. The rose petals were my idea. I knew the Valentine’s Day roses in a vase were about done so I plucked all the petals and dropped them on the floor and on Sami Lynn.

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A Snowy Owl Photo Expedition

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

What is a Snowy Owl expedition really like? This article is your chance to find out. Join me for a two day photo safari! I give you tips and photo suggestions along the way, and you get to see how I prepare, plan, and adapt on a photo trip. I tell you what went right and what went wrong so this is also about what to do when things don’t go according to plan.

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How to Find and Photograph Snowy Owls

Snowy Owl Sightings, January 2016

Snowy Owl Sightings, January 2016

Winter is your opportunity to photograph Snowy Owls. When it is cold enough and there is enough snow cover, snowy owls move down into the northern U.S. The colder it is the farther south they move. If conditions are right, don’t delay. If the winter turns warmer the snowy owls will head back north.

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“How To” Series: Snowy Owl Photography

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl looking for prey.

If there are cold enough temperatures and plenty of snow cover on the ground, the northern United States has a winter invasion of Snowy Owls. These are magnificent creatures and well worth your photographic time and attention. This series is filled with tips on how to find and photograph snowy owls.

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How to See and Photograph The Quadrantid Meteor Shower Tonight

Perseid Meteor photographed from Rose Hill Cemetery west of Lamoni, Iowa. 4:55 am CDT, August 13, 2018.

Tonight (January 3-4) is the night of the Quandrantid Meteor Shower. This article will tell you what you need to know to see and photograph the first meteor shower of 2019. Predictions are always just estimates, but this shower is predicted to produce about 25 meteors per hour. Best of all, this will be a dark sky night without interference from the moon.

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Mixing Flash and Ambient Light for a Christmas Portrait

Kristina at Christmas

Kristina at Christmas

On Christmas eve I found myself doing Christmas portraits for Kristina’s portfolio. She is a friend of mine who is a model and actress in L.A.. There isn’t a lot of space in my studio when the Christmas tree is up so I had to improvise a bit with the lighting and I needed to get the right mix of flash and ambient light for the look I wanted.

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How to Photograph Christmas Lights with Your DSLR, ILC, or Smartphone

Christmas Lights, Easton, Columbus, OH

Christmas Lights, Easton Shopping Center, Columbus, OH

‘Tis the season and there are a lot of Christmas lights out there to photograph. It is fun and easy, and with a few tricks up your sleeve there are creative things you can do. Many of these techniques can be used on other lights throughout the year, so this is a good time to practice your skills for photographing lights.

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Handheld Panos: Sometimes You Get Lucky

Kroger Panorama. Graceland Shopping Center, Columbus Ohio. November 12, 2013. Click for a larger version.

I’ve done a lot of commercial panoramas for clients as diverse as KOA Campgrounds and Crown Plaza Hotels. When I am on a commercial assignment I follow all the right steps and use all the right equipment. For the Kroger pano above I did everything right.

But there are times when you are doing your own thing and decide at the last minute you want to try a pano. You might get lucky trying to do a handheld panorama. I will tell you how to increase your odds of getting a good handheld pano.

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Favorite Photo, December 4

Graham Parsons and the Go Rounds. The Strutt. Kalamazoo Michigan. Dec 4, 2009.

I was in Kalamazoo for a fashion show followed by a series of local bands in concert. This photo of Graham Parson and the Go Rounds ended up being my favorite photo of the evening, and one of only two favorite photos for this date in my “favorite photos” folder.

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Buying a Headlamp for Night Photography: The Essential Feature

Photographers with red headlamps. Field Trip, Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

A red headlamp is an essential tool for night photography. Before you rush out and buy one, make sure it has the most essential feature (other than the red LED). Some inexpensive headlamps have this feature and some very expensive ones don’t, so cost is not the issue.

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