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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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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Favorite Photo, March 10

Orion's Belt, Sword, and the Orion Nebula in the middle of the sword.
Orion’s Belt, Sword, and the Orion Nebula in the middle of the sword. 300mm lens and camera mounted on an iOptron SkyTracker

I had recently acquired an iOptron SkyTracker but cloudy night skies in Columbus Ohio had prevented me from trying it out. My first clear night came during a visit to Lamoni Iowa, a location that is also blessed with dark skies far from big city lights.

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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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Snowy Owl Photography: Solving A Photo Problem (And the Right Way to Exit Your Vehicle)

Snowy Owl, Photo Location 1

Snowy Owl, Photo Location P1

When I am traveling with my highly trained and high paid photographic assistant it is his job to remove trash barrels when they are in the way, cut down trees that spoil my view, run out into the meadow and scare off the cow elk that are in front of the bull elk I want to photograph, rip boards off of old barns that don’t look quite distressed enough, pull on the whiskers of a sleeping cougar to wake it up, and cut down utility lines that are obstructing a clear view of my subject. But he wasn’t with me on this trip due to sitting in jail over a minor incident in Yosemite. So I had a challenge on my hands that I had to solve myself.

I am kidding, of course. The prior paragraph was inspired by really crazy things a few photographers do but shouldn’t be doing.

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Snowy Owl Photography: Control the Background for Better Images

Snowy Owl, Photo Location 1

Snowy Owl, Photo Location P1

A simple change of background can turn a disappointing wildlife photo into a great one. Professional wildlife photographers think about backgrounds all the time and do everything they can to improve the background. Less experienced wildlife photographers are so excited to find an interesting creature that they give the background precious little thought.

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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 Work With A Model When The Windchill is 4°

Selina

Selina, Downtown Columbus Ohio. Windchill 4°.

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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“How To” Series: Winter Photography

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

In addition to all of the usual photographic challenges, winter provides some extra complications, especially in terms of metering. So I began this series of articles on winter photography. Check out the links below. The articles will help you meet the unique challenges of winter photography. So get out there, have fun, and create some great winter images!

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

Selina

Selina, Downtown Columbus Ohio. Windchill 4°.

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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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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