Car Show Photography Tips-Episode 15

Spring is here! That means it's time for car show photography. I really enjoy photographing cars and always look forward to getting out with my cameras to see what images I can make. I thought I'd share some tips that have helped me get the most from my car show photography.

Have A Plan

Before you head out to the car show see if you can spend a little time planning out your attack. Get a feel for how the show will be laid out so you can find the cars you want to photograph first. Plan a "route" through the show to make sure you see as much as possible. Knowing details about the show will also help you decide on the cameras and lenses you will want to bring

Arrive Early

For me, the hardest part of car show photography is the people. I like people, just not in my car photography. So, in order to reduce the stress of having to jockey for position with a bunch of people I try and arrive at the show as early as possible. Fewer people means you will have more options in photographing the cars.

Pick Your Favorites

1973 Ferrari Dino 246GTSMake sure you get to photograph the cars you want to photograph. If there are certain cars I want to photograph I try to get to those first, just to make sure. This also ties in with arriving early because if you get there before the crowds arrive you will have a better chance of getting the image you want without having to make compromises because of outside factors.

Triple Reflective EngineFind The Uniqueness

Every car has something that makes it unique. It could be the emblem, the hubcaps, the engine or the tail-fins. Instead of just (or in addition to)photographing the entire car, spend some time discovering the unique points of the car and try to capture that in your photography.

Crawl Around On The Ground

WMD?One thing I've discovered is that getting low to the ground really improves the quality of my car photography. Whenever I'm at a car show I spend a lot of time crouched down or kneeling. Getting low to the ground allows you to get interesting angles on the highlights of the cars like the fenders, emblems, bumpers, grills and wheels.

Think In Black & WhiteShiny Cycle

Many cars, especially old/vintage cars make great subjects for black & white photography. That's why I almost always take one of my film cameras with me because in my opinion B&W in film beats B&W digital any day. There's just something about the way black and white film handles the transitions between light and dark that gives it an almost "liquid" appearance. I haven't been quite able to duplicate that using software to convert digital images to B&W.

Get Creative

Big Orange MercuryLots of cars cars invite you to take chances with them. Ultra-close shots, extreme angles and macro photography all work well with car photography. I sometimes take my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens with me because I can get some creative images by using the lens. Think a little out of the box whenver you are doing car show photography and you will most likely be pleasantly surprised.

Happy Shooting!


Develop Your Own Film Part Three-Scanning Negatives-Episode 14

Welcome to Part 3 of the series on developing your own film! If you haven't seen/listened to Part 1 (equipment and chemicals) or Part 2 (the film developing process) go ahead and review those if you want. This part (part 3) is about scanning negatives into the computer so you can share the images or send them to be printed.

Which Scanner To Buy

Once you've developed your film you will probably want to digitize it so you can share it with the world. In order to get your film negative into the computer you will need to scan in the negative.  The question is, "Which Scanner Should I Get"? Well, there are a lot of scanners out there but I would suggest that you narrow in on a few key ones depending on your needs and budget. A site I recommend, and the one I used to help me narrow the field is:

Film Scanner Info

This is a very good site that comprehensively test scanners. Instead of just listing the (often inflated) specs, they dig into the scanners from the perspective of a photographer. They test the scanners using a specific resolution test chart that helps reveal the true effective resolution. As you read through the site you'll discover something-the resolution numbers you see on most scanners are often a severe stretch of the truth.

Scanner Resolution-The Truth

That new scanner you've been eyeing claims a resolution of 9600 dpi. Is that true, or a huge exaggeration? Well, it closer to the exaggeration side of things. The film scanner info site has some good information on resolution as it relates to scanners, especially how dpi is measured and what it means. This is a must read if you will be scanning film.

Scanner Resolution

Most scanners that claim a super-high resolution often can only produce a small percentage of that number in actual use. Here are a few scanners that get decent reviews along with their true resolution, based on the tests that the film scanner info site did.

Scanner Rankings

The site has a page that ranks film scanners from top to bottom. It's a great resource, except that it's in German. But you can translate the page in your browser well enough to get the idea. You will see that there is a wide range of quality from the top rated (and super-expensive) Hasselblad X5 and X1 to the Epson and Canon scanners at the bottom. Here are 3 scanners I would suggest you consider.

Epson V700-2300 dpi-This is one of the scanners that keeps coming up as a great choice in a flatbed scanner. It runs somewhere between $500-$700 (see links below)

Canon CanoScan 9000F-1700 dpi-This is the scanner I currently have. It's a decent flatbed scanner but by far not the best. Still, it was relatively inexpensive and it does the job fairly well, especially when you consider that it can be had for less than $200.

Reflecta MF5000-(Pacific Image PrimeFilm 120 in the USA) 3050 dpi Their review of this scanner is very good. It is a true film scanner, not a flatbed that can scan film. The scanner is fairly expensive (about $1200) but I'm considering it for myself as an upgrade for my CanoScan.

Scanner Links on Amazon

If you are looking for a scanner, check out these links to Amazon. If you buy one from these links you will be supporting the site without paying any additional money. Any support is greatly appreciated!

Pacific Image PrimeFilm 120 Multi-Format CCD Film Scanner

Epson Perfection V700 Photo Scanner-

Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII

The Scanning Process

Once you have your scanner it's time to scan some negatives! Scanning is a mix of art and science and there are a lot of different ways to scan film. Everyone seems to have a process/workflow that works for them. For me, I have settled in on a scanning process that seems to work well for me, for both B&W and Color negatives. One piece of key software I highly recommend is:


VueScan is a hardware-level scanner control software that works with just about every scanner. It offers the ability to dial-in scanner settings very precisely. The video below as well as the post I link to below the video gives you an idea of how I configure VueScan and process my scans in Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop Elements 12.

Here is a video I recorded back in December on the scanning process I use:

Scanning negatives is a time-consuming process but you can streamline it a bit by making sure you aren't "wasting pixels" by scanning at too high a resolution. Refer to the scanning resolution for your particular scanner and make sure you get the most out of the scanner without creating unnecessarily large files. You will probably also want to check out a post I did that went along with the video. I details the step-by-step process and gives links to some of the tools I use:

The Art of Scanning Film

One thing you will want to make sure to eliminate as much as possible while scanning is dust. If you're not careful, you can spend way too much time cloning out the dust spots on your scans. So, to help reduce that I recommend that you get an anti-static brush. I got one a few months ago and it really has made a difference. Here's a link to some options on Amazon:

Anti-Static Brushes

Once you have scanned in your negatives you can use your imaging editing software to adjust & edit the images and then share them with the world or send them to a photo lab for printing.

Hopefully you have found this episode/post helpful and motivating. Developing and scanning your own film is very rewarding. I have found the whole process to be fun and relaxing. It has also made me a better photographer. I'd love to hear about your experiences so leave a comment or send me an email.

Until next week.....

Happy Shooting!


Thoughts On What It Means To Be A Photographer-Episode 13

What is a photographer? I've asked myself this very question more than a few times over the last three years as I've explored the world of photography with an eye towards making better photographs. In addition to that question a whole host of other questions have popped into my head about what defines a photographer. Things like:

  1. Just what defines a photographer over someone who uses a camera?
  2. How will I know that I've "made it" and can now officially call myself a photographer?
  3. Should I compare my efforts to those of other people or not?
  4. Will getting new/better equipment make me a photographer?

and on and on......

Ladder Falls-Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Well, a few weeks ago a fellow photographer emailed me a link to what I think is a a very accurate description of what it means to be a Photographer. The following Manifesto can be found on Craft & Vision, a photography education and publishing site founded by David duChemin. Here's the text:


I am a photographer. I make photographs. I do not take them, shoot them, capture them or snap them. I do what I do to see the world differently and to show others what I see and feel. And yes, it really did look like that when seen through my eyes, mind and heart. Professional or not, I would rather make a photograph like an amateur does: for the sheer love of it. The tools of my craft are a camera and lens but the tools of my art are my passion and vision. Film or digital, it’s not how we make our photographs that matters, but that we make them. The gear I have is good enough. My camera doesn't need to be made recently for me to photograph the present moment. The brand of my camera is irrelevant to the pursuit of beauty and authenticity in my work. Megapixels are no way to measure a photograph. I want deeper photographs, honest photographs that are alive, not merely really big or really sharp. I hope the legacy I create with my work will be judged not by how many photographs I made in this lifetime, but what those few magic frames do in the hearts and minds of others. Comparing myself to others, or them to me, is a waste of my creative efforts and makes it harder to see the light, chase the wonder, and do my work. There is too much to see and create to waste these too-few moments. Art is not a competition, but a gift. I believe photographs can change the world because they have done so for me. I believe photography opens my eyes to a deeper life, one that recognizes moments and lives them deeper for being present in them.

After reading this a few times and thinking about it for a while longer I can say that this is exactly how I feel about my photography. I could not have said it better. We make photographs and present the final image though our artistic talents!

Being a photographer isn't about having the best equipment or the sharpest images, it's about making photographs that have an impact.

If you have wondered about what it takes to "be" a photographer I don't think you really need to wonder any more. Just do what you do, enjoy the process and strive to share something in each photograph you make. That's it.

A New Way To Support This Site

I really enjoy putting together, recording and producing this podcast and updating the website. I will always keep the podcast and website free as a resource to help fellow photographers but it is not without cost. To keep the podcast and website going I must pay for hosting for the website and podcast as well as purchase the appropriate equipment (microphone, software, etc.) to allow me to get the podcast out each week and update the website.

To help support the site I have some affiliate relationships with companies like Amazon. Whenever you click on a link and purchase something from Amazon I get a small commission. Your price is not impacted by this and it helps me out a little. To all of you that have utilized the link(s) I sincerely appreciate it. THANK YOU!!!

What if you are interested in supporting this site but don't necessarily want to purchase something? Well, now there is a new way to do that.

Last week I became aware of a site that helps people who are producing content (musicians, podcasters, artists, photographers, etc.) collect on-going support for their work. The site is called Patreon. I have setup a profile for the podcast on Patreon which you can find here:  My Patreon Page.

If you want, you can support the podcast by becoming a patron and contributing whatever amount you feel comfortable with for each episode I produce. The Patreon site makes it easy and I have even come up with a few incentives for you if you decide to support the podcast. Any amount is greatly appreciated and will be a big help to me as I continue to try and build the best podcast I can.

Thanks again to all of you for your support of this site/podcast. I really appreciate it and am looking forward to the future!

Happy Shooting!


Develop Your Own Film Part One-Equipment And Chemicals-Episode 11

Have you wanted to develop your own film but were scared away by the thought that it was too difficult. Well, I'm here to say that developing your own film, especially black & white film, is easy and fun! I started using/developing film in the Fall of 2012 and really enjoy the process. I was a little intimidated with the process but after spending some time researching the process and a little practice I have been getting consistently good results. Believe me, if I can do it you can do it, it's not nearly as hard as it seems. This is part one of a three part series in helping you go from having never developed a roll of film "noob" to semi-experienced "home darkroom pro" who can share your film images with the world. Here's a breakdown of the parts:

1.This first part will cover the equipment (camera, film,developing tanks, etc.) and chemicals you'll need to get ready to develop your own film.

2. Part two will be a detailed walk-through of the film developing process with tips and suggestions that I've learned along the way.

3. Part three will be a quick review of how to scan your developed negatives into your computer so you can share them with the world.

OK, on to the fun!

Day 319-A Developing Interest

Get A Film Camera

Before you can develop your own film you first need a film camera. See Episode 3 for tips on purchasing your 1st film camera. I would recommend getting a 35mm slr. There are a lot of film cameras available so finding one isn't hard but you will want to do your research before purchasing.

Once you have your film camera...

Get Some Black & White Film

There is still a decent selection of black and white film, both in 35mm and 120 size. In the 18 months I've been shooting film I've come across a few that have become favorites of mine. Film is a very personal thing and every film has different qualities so what I like may not be what you end up liking. Here are some worthwhile films to consider when starting out. They are all good film and seem to develop well with a variety of developers:

100 Speed

1. Fuji Neopan Acros 100-($6.25/36 exposure roll) at Adorama

2.Kodak T-Max-($4.79/24 exposures, $4.95/36 exposures) at Amazon

3. Ilford FP4-($4.39/36 exposures) at Adorama

3. Ilford Delta 100-($4.50/24 exposures, $6.25/36 exposures) at Adorama

4. Kentmere 100-($2.95/24 exposures) at Adorama- a decent cheap film that I often use in my little Olympus point-n-shoot film camera. Get a roll or two of this to practice with before trying to develop a "real" roll of film with once-in-a-lifetime shots on it.

400 Speed

1.Ilford HP-5 Plus 400-($4.25/24 exposures, $6.25/36 exposures) at Amazon

2. Ilford Delta 400-($4.50/24 exposures, $6.29/36 exposures) at Adorama

3.Kodak T-Max 400-($5 for both 24 & 36 exposures) at Adorama

Time To Develop The Film-Equipment You Need

Once you have your camera and have shot a roll or two of B&W film you need to have some basic equipment/supplies in order to develop the film. I have listed the equipment I use, in the order I use it, in order to develop the film. I use a combination of Amazon and Adorama for nearly all of my photography supplies/equipment so the links listed below are from each site, depending on which one had the better price/shipping terms, etc. as best as I could. There are plenty of other photography supply options, just do a search and you'll come up with a lot of options.

Film Changing Bag (27x30)-($23.95) from Amazon-You will need a very dark place to transfer the film from the roll that you took out of the camera to the developing tank. A tabletop changing bag is a great way to accomplish this task.

Film Canister Opener-($14.95) from Adorama-If you're developing 35mm you'll need something to open the canister so you can load it on the reel. I hear this works great but I make do with a traditional bottle opener which is also very important for opening a bottle of tasty Craft Beer to enjoy while developing your film! :-)

Scissors-(FREE-hopefully you have some of these around the house!)-You'll need something to trim the film (and cut the end off of the 35mm roll) before loading it on the spool. I use a pair of regular kitchen scissors that have a blunt tip (better safe than sorry while working blind in a changing bag).

Paterson Universal tank and 2 reels-#115-($30.59) from Amazon-This is where you will put the film and chemicals. It has a plastic reel that you load the film on (inside the dark changing bag) and once the film is on the reel you put it in the tank and screw the top on. You can then do the rest of the development process in daylight because the tank is lightproof but allows chemical/water to be added.

Plastic Beaker Set - 5 Sizes - 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1000ml-($6.99) from Amazon-Developing film requires accurate measurements. To do this you will need some graduated containers. At this price you might even consider getting two sets of these so you can have some extra containers.

Chemical Stirring Paddle-($3.49) from Adorama

Norpro 243 3-Piece Plastic Funnel Set-($5.00) from Amazon

Plastic Transfer Pipettes 3ml, Gradulated, Pack of 100-($5.99) from Amazon-these will help you measure small quantities of liquid, like the Kodak Photo Flo listed below.

Chemical Storage Containers-($3.49 to $5.95 each) from Adorama


Developer-The developer is key to the whole process. There are many different developers, each with their own unique qualities, that people use. Once you get more experienced (and adventurous) you can experiment but for now you probably want one that is flexible and easy to use. I started out with Ilford Ilfosol-3-($8.50) from Adorama-it's a liquid developer that makes 1-2 gallons depending on dilution. After I ran out of that I bought some Kodak HC-110 but sadly it is not being made anymore so my next developer will probably be some  Kodak D-76-($5.79) from Adorama-D-76 is a powdered developer that makes up to 1 gallon and gets lots of rave reviews for its simplicity and effectiveness.

Ilford Ilfostop-($6.50/500ml bottle)-Once you are done with the developer you need to stop the process so you don't over develop. That's where the "Stop Bath" comes in. Some people just rinse the film in water but I prefer to use an actual chemical. Just about any stop will work.

Ilford Rapid Fix-($6.95/500ml bottle)

Kodak Photo Flo-A drop or two of this in the final rinse will help water sheet off of the film as its drying.-($8.00) at Adorama

Hanger w/Binder Clips (take an extra hanger from your closet and a couple of large binder clips from your desk-FREE)

Scissors to carefully cut the negatives-(hopefully you have a pair of these-FREE)

Negative archive sheets-(various sizes & prices) on Amazon

What's The Total Cost

After you get everything, the total cost for a couple rolls of film, the equipment and assorted chemicals should be around $150-$175, depending on where you get the equipment. That will be enough to get you through about 10-15 rolls of 35mm black and white film. After that you will need to re-stock the chemicals. The tank, beakers, changing bag, etc. will last a very long time. Near as I can quickly calculate, my approximate cost per roll of film to develop (including the roll of film) is about $6-$7, depending on the film. That works out to about 20-30 cents/frame, which isn't too bad considering the fun you'll have :-)

Stay tuned for part two which will cover the actual step-by-step process I use along with some tips and suggestions I have discovered along the way.

Happy Shooting! [post_bottom]

What's Your Photo Backup Plan-Podcast Episode 8

A few weeks ago my photo backup plan was put to the test. For the first time in over 20 years of regular computer use I had a hard drive failure. The drive that bit the dust was my external hard drive that I stored a backup of most of my photographs along with my music files. Fortunately I had a backup of all the files that were on the doomed drive.

I Got Lucky

Even though I didn't lose any files, I was extremely fortunate in that the drive that failed was one that had every single file backed up to the "cloud" courtesy of CrashPlan, which I've used for the last couple of years for cloud backup. Where I got lucky was that CrashPlan was my only backup of those files. If CrashPlan had somehow not worked properly I would have been very upset at a minimum and completely depressed and suicidal at the extreme. Needless to say I don't want to tread that thin line of near-disaster in the future. That means that I needed to update my photo (and other valuable data) backup strategy.

What The Experts Say About Photo Backup Strategies

The experts at the American Society of Media Photographers suggest that professional photographers adopt a “3-2-1” backup strategy. They define the core goals of their robust, and redundant, strategy this way:

  1. Keeping at least three copies of any important file (a primary and two backups). That means that for every photograph that is stored on your primary [working] drive you should be keeping at least two additional copies on some other type of backup device.
  2. Storing these backup copies on at least two different media types to protect against different types of hazards.
  3. One copy of each file should be stored offsite and stored offline.

Well, I'm not a professional photographer but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night :-) Pro photographer or not, it was easy to see that my old "strategy" needed to be upgraded. I've done parts of their recommended strategy off and on but never on a consistent basis. And consistency is the key because you never know when something bad will happen to your data. It was time to make some changes.

 What My New And Improved Plan Is

Based on my brush with "data death" I am now doing things differently than before. I have followed the recommendations of the "3-2-1" strategy and have equipped myself to be able to follow through on that strategy. Here's what I have changed:

  1. I purchased an external hard drive docking station and two hard drives (2TB each) so that I can backup to one external drive each day and once each week (Sunday) to the other.
  2. I will make a backup to the second external drive once each week and then take it to work with me. I will then rotate the drives each week. This way I will always have have one onsite backup, one cloud-based backup, and one offsite backup that will be no older than 1 week.
  3. I have setup scheduled backups using SyncBack Free, which I have used off and on for the last couple of years. I'm also trying out Comodo Backup just to see what the differences are. Both are very good (and free) options.
  4. I use CrashPlan to backup my files to the cloud on a continuous basis.
  5. I have invested in a copy of SpinRite which helps keep hard drives running well and can recover data from misbehaving drives.

Here's what I purchased:

Total one time cost for equipment and software $298.00 The monthly cost of CrashPlan is $5.00 ($60.00/year).

The feeling of security and comfort I get from knowing that my valuable photos, music and other data is backed up......Priceless!

Why Not NAS

Some of you may be wondering why I didn't get a Drobo or some other type of multi-disk box. Well, before buying my new 2TB drives I investigated setting up a NAS (network attached storage). While a NAS would be sweet, I don't really need one, at least at this point. The reasons for this are:

  • My total image/music/user files adds up to just under 1TB, which can be easily handled with the 2TB drives.
  • I don't do a lot of streaming to other computers. Music is the only thing I stream and the total size of my FLAC music files is 150gb so I just have it on a 1TB internal drive.
  • A quality NAS-box can get expensive by the time you add enough drives to adequately cover your data safety needs. At this point I can better spend my money on new camera equipment. I'm sure that I will get a NAS within the next couple of years once my image/music collection grows and at that point I'd probably get one of the Synology units (most likely a 4-drive setup).

Hopefully my experience with near data disaster and resulting re-commitment to data and photo backup has got you to re-evaluate your own data backup strategy. As photographers, we take so much time and effort in capturing and presenting our images, shouldn't we also take some time and care in doing what we can to preserve those precious images?

Happy Shooting (and backing up)!



Photo Sharing Site Tips And Cautions-Episode 7

These days, using a photo sharing site to get your images out to the world is something that just about every photographer does. There are many photo sharing site options but which ones are worth your time and effort? And, once you decide to use a photo sharing site, what issues do you need to be aware of? I hope to help you answer these questions and give you some resources you can use to get the most out of your photo sharing sites. First, let's discuss the "top 5" photo sharing sites that I use to get my photography out to the world. After that I want to introduce a new feature that will allow podcast listeners (and anyone else who reads this) to participate in a photo sharing opportunity.

Google Plus

 Google Plus has quickly become a favorite photo sharing site for photographers interested in connecting with other like-minded individuals. Since its start in 2011 it has quickly grown to become one of the major places where creative types gather to share their work. If you are interested in seeing other photographers work and connecting with like-minded individuals, Google + is a must!


 Flickr is one of the big dogs in the photo sharing site world. It has gone through some rough periods over the last year or so due to some less than well received interface updates. Despite that, I (and millions of other photographers) use Flickr as one of my top two photo sharing sites. You can use Flickr with a free account or get a paid account (for around $40) that gives you add-free browsing and some other benefits like statistics, etc. If you want, you can join the Mark's Photography Spot group and submit your images. I hold a "Photo Share & Discussion on Saturdays at 6PM Eastern where we review images posted to the group. You can get notified of upcoming shows by following Mark's Photography Spot page on Google +.


If you are really into photography 500px is a photo sharing site you need to visit. The site is really focused on displaying quality photographs. I have been posting images there for a couple of years and only post my better images. You can join/post for free but for a small membership you can become a "plus" member and get some additional benefits. Even if you don't join the site or post images you owe it to yourself to check out 500px because the quality of the images is very good.


Ipernity is a newer photo-sharing site and I became aware of it during one of the somewhat bungled Flickr interface updates. Here is my page on Ipernity. I really like the site but haven't posted as many images there as I would like. I plan on correcting that here in 2014. Ipernity has a nice feel to it and they have done some nice upgrades in the short time I have been posting images. They offer a free membership that gives you 200mb of uploads/month and access to 200 images at a time. Their "Club" membership is $30/year and gives you the ability to upload more images as well as allow you to acces all your content. I'm currently using the free mode but will probably upgrade later this year.

Your Own Site

Last, but certainly not least, you can host/share images on your own site. It's easy to setup your own blog/portolio site. All you need is a domain and a web host and you're good to go. Many people go this route (including me) and use Wordpress as the foundation for their site. Or, if you don't want to build and maintain your own site you can use one of the many portfolio hosting sites, of which Zenfolio and Smugmug are two of the biggest. You can even combine the two, which is what I have done, by hosting your site/blog and adding something like Zenfolio for the portfolio aspect. There are so many options.

Photo Sharing Site Cautions

Sharing your images is a great way to see some benefits from your photography. But, whenever you share your images you need to be aware of a key point:

There's always a way to "steal" your images:

No matter what any particular site says there is always the risk that your images can/will be "stolen", usually by unauthorized downloads. That's just a fact. So, if you are paranoid about someone improperly downloading or using your images, online photo sharing sites probably aren't for you. If, however, you want to make some of your photographs available online you can reduce the impact of someone stealing your images

1. Only upload at the size you feel comfortable with. For me, I have decided to upload images that aren't full-sized, high resolution images. Instead, I upload images that are usually no bigger than 1200 pixels on the longest side. This means that when someone downloads an image they may get something that looks ok as computer wallpaper but won't look so good as a print. I also attach an "All Rights Reserved" copyright to my images just so people know that I'm not a fan of unauthorized use of my images.

 New Photo Sharing Opportunity

Now that I've encouraged you to share some of your images o the web I want to introduce a new opportunity for you to share your images. Beginning with this podcast (Episode 7) I will give you a special tag that you can add to images that you post to the Mark's Photography Spot group. I can then use that tag to identify images you have uploaded and discuss them in an upcoming episode. For this 1st go-around I'm asking you to upload one of your better images to the group and attach the Flickr tag of "MPS007". I will accept images with this tag that are uploaded until February 23rd (two weeks from the date of this post). I will then discus the images in the March 2nd episode (episode 10). Please feel free to share any family-friendly images with all of us.

I'm looking forward to seeing your images. Happy Shooting! [post_bottom]

What's The Best Camera-The One You Have With You-Podcast Episode 6

The Best Camera-A Definition

Any time photographers get together there is almost always a discussion/debate on  "what's the best camera". People will go back and forth, for days on end, discussing all the technical details that supposedly make one camera or lens better than another.

While this is great fun, I'm going to suggest that picking the best camera is very easy and involves no debate. The best camera is always:


It that easy, no arguments. I say this for the simple reason that no matter the resolution or features of the latest and greatest camera, if you don't have a camera with you and a great image opportunity presents itself, the camera is useless to you unless you have it with you.

Over the last couple of years, starting in 2012 with my Project 365, I got in the habit of having a camera (usually the Canon Powershot S95 or Canon PowerShot S100) with me almost all of the time. In addition to helping me complete the project 365 the "always available" camera helped me think more photographically and allowed me to capture some images that I might not have if I was obsessing about always having "The Best Camera".

Here are 4 representative shots from my project 365. None of them will win any awards but they are unique slices of life that I wouldn't have captured if I left my camera at home.

A Little Off Course

This 1st image is from very early in my project 365, day 6 or so, and shows a bewildered driver (on the left) watching the Police as they come up with a plan to extricate his car from the woods. I captured this while walking to the store during lunch:

A Little Off Course- The best camera is the one you have with you


Street Sign Wisdom

Here's an image that says a lot about the Metric System in the US. Once again this was taken while I was out on a walk at work. I had my S95 in my pocket, ready to use at a moments notice, when I saw this interesting/ironic sign combination:

Street Sign Wisdom


Sunset Reflections

I got this image of the setting sun reflecting off of some office buildings in Atlanta as I was headed to a business dinner. Once again, nothing award winning but I like the colors and composition of it. Also, at the time I originally posted it, several people said it reminded them of a scene from The Walking Dead and asked if I saw any Zombies. I always love it when an image spurs a variety of different thoughts and recollections. That just shows how powerful an even basic image can be.

Sunset reflections

Mid Life Crisis

As many of you know, I love cars of all types and I try to get as many quality photos of them as I can. Well, one day as I was stopping by my local Costco to do some shopping I saw this beautiful, pristine Ferrari in the parking lot. Luckily I had my "best camera" with me at the time (the S95) and was able to get the car photographed before the owner showed up with multiple packs of toilet paper that they just purchased in Costco :-)

Midlife Crisis

Now that I've defined the term "best camera" and shown you some fun images I captured by having a camera with me I hope I've inspired you to start carrying a camera (any camera) with you on a daily basis. Remember, the best camera isn't the newest or most expensive one, it's the one you have with you when you want/need to capture an image.

Until next time....Happy Shooting!


Composition-The Top Five Things I've Learned So Far-Podcast Episode 5

One of the biggest things I have found to impact the quality of my photographs is to improve the composition in the images I capture. If you look for suggestions or tips on how to improve the composition of your photographs you will find an almost unlimited amount of information. I've spent some time over the past couple of years working on improving my photo composition skills and have had good success in improving the images I shoot. Here are five tips I have used to improve my photographic compositions. These are by no means the be all end all but I think that these basic suggestions can go a long way towards improving the quality of your images, as they have mine.

Give them a shot and see if these tips help improve the quality of your images

1. Search For The Shot

When you find something that catches your eye, take a while to explore the scene and find the main thing that is interesting to you. Try to condense the scene to one or two key elements and use those as the building blocks of the final image.

2. Balancing Elements

Once you have identified the particular elements in the shot that are worthy of your attention, spend some time balancing them out within the frame. You can use a couple of "rules" to help you in this

Rule of thirds-Think of this as a tic-tac-toe board placed over your image and try to align the main subject(s) within the points where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect.

The Golden Ratio is another method of aligning the elements of an image within the frame. It uses a mathematical formula to come up with the "ideal" positioning of image elements. This is along the same lines as the rule of thirds but slightly different in the placement of the key elements.

If you use Lightroom, you can place overlays of both of these on your images to see the effect that each would have.

3. Viewpoint

Instead of just shooting the image from the "typical" viewpoint of someone viewing a scene from eye-level, take your camera and explore different perspectives on the scene. Get low to the ground, high up above, or off the the left or right of the main subject. Often you will find that changing the viewpoint can make a dramatic difference in the impact your photograph has.

4. Framing

Before you press that shutter button take some time to check and double-check how the image is framed in your camera's viewfinder. Is there something blocking a key element of the shot? Or perhaps you can use some of the natural surroundings to frame the image for more impact. How about vertical as opposed to horizontal? Heck, why not shoot the scene with your camera oriented halfway between the two? Changing the orientation of the framing can make a big difference in the final image.

5. Experiment

I saved the best tip for last...Experiment with your photographic compositions. One of the best things about photography is the ability to try new things. So, as you start to incorporate some of the tips into your photography, mix them up a little, and see what happens. When you find an appealing scene approach it a few different ways and test some variations of your preferred composition to see what the impact is.

Some Books To Consider

I have found a couple of books on composition that have been helpful to me. Check them out:

The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos

Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots

Looking for something else? Here's a listing of "photo composition" books on Amazon:  Photo Composition Books on Amazon


Staying Safe While Shooting-Podcast Episode 4

Think about safety before heading out on your next photography outing Photography is a great hobby but if you don't pay attention or prepare for your next shoot you could find yourself in a difficult situation. Safety is one of those things we take for granted, but shouldn't. Here are some tips and ideas on how to stay safe while shooting. It all comes down to a basic set of words:

Prepare and Be Aware

Staying safe while enjoying photography comes down to this basic statement.  If you take some time to PREPARE you go out for your next shoot and pay attention (BE AWARE) to what's going on around you while you are wandering around with your camera, you will be much better off than the typical enthusiastic photographer.


Have A Plan

  1. Think about where you want to go, and why. Don't just wander around, especially in unfamiliar areas. Take some time to plan out when and where you want to shoot.
  2. Research the location ahead of time. Get an idea of where you want to go.
  3. Google is your friend. Use the vast resources of Mother Google to see what other photographers have captured in the area you are looking at visiting.

Let People Know Your Plans

  1. Give a basic itinerary with dates, times, places, etc.
  2. Make sure your family/friends have your phone number
  3. Pre-arrange a "check-in" time
  4. Register with rangers/authorities if necessary

Channel Your Inner Boy Scout

  1. Know the weather
  2. Have the right clothing
  3. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order
  4. Have food/water if venturing into back-country
  5. Think about taking an emergency kit if you will be away from developed areas

Be Aware

Be Careful Of GPS

  1. GPS can be wrong-don't follow it blindly. GPS is far from perfect and if you follow it blindly you could find yourself in trouble.
  2. Maps are still valid, especially in remote areas. A well made map is much more useful than the GPS app on your iPhone, especially in remote areas. You should know how to read a map and use a compass to navigate if you get spun around or out and out lost.

Pay Attention To Your Surroundings

  1.  Know where you are shooting.
  2. Keep an eye out for potential trouble. Whether you're in the back country or center of the city, keep a watchful eye on what's going on around you.
  3. Shoot in pairs. Sometimes it's best to bring a friend with you. Even if your friend isn't as obsessed with photography as you are, they could potentially save your butt.  I know that if it wasn't for my wife Pam, I might have wandered off a cliff several times while fixated on what was in my viewfinder :-)

Be Able To Speak Even When You Can't Speak

  1. Use the ICE feature on your cellphone
  2. Have some type of medical/emergency contact info with you. I'd recommend getting something like a Road ID  to let emergency responders know about you and any medical conditions you may have. I have had one for the last 6 years that I wear whenever I'm out away from home (hiking, biking, running, etc.). Thankfully, I haven't needed to use it but it's nice to know that if something were to happen to me, my family and doctor could be contacted.

Safety is one of those things we rarely think about until something bad happens. I hope these tips and suggestions will help you plan your next successful, and safe, photography outing. Remember, it takes a few extra minutes of planning to stay safe while shooting but doing so can help you avoid a lifetime of regret.

Stay safe and Happy Shooting!


The Marks Photography Spot Podcast Episode One Intro And 2014 Photography Resolutions

Welcome To The Podcast

Welcome to episode 1 of the Mark’s Photography Spot Podcast, a brand new feature here at Mark's Photography Spot! I'm exited to offer this new way to interact with all of you and I have a lot of ideas on how to make the podcast unique and worthwhile. I hope you will find the podcast an interesting and enjoyable addition to Mark's Photography Spot. Since this is the 1st episode of the podcast, I think it’s a good idea at this point  to spend some time giving those of you that may not be familiar with me a little of the back-story on myself as well as how this podcast came to be. After that I’ll go a little more into detail on how I envision this podcast “evolving” and then I’ll finish up with a short discussion on “Photographic Resolutions for 2014” and what I plan on doing for myself as well as giving you some ideas to help you plan for a successful and enjoyable “Picture-Perfect”2014

Who The Heck Is This Guy?

Well, I’m an enthusiastic amateur photographer living in the Atlanta Georgia area. I spend Monday through Friday working in the financial services industry. My nights, weekends and other free time are divided up between spending time with my wife, Pam (also an aspiring photographer), and indulging my various hobbies, which in addition to photography currently include:

  1. keeping healthy and fit by running, cycling, rowing and walking

  2. cooking delicious BBQ on my prized Big Green Egg

  3. craft beer

  4. travel

  5. music

  6. reading-and drawing.

As you can see I like to keep myself busy. I've always been this way and I don’t expect anything will change in the future.

Where Did The Mark’s Photography Spot Podcast Come From?

I've been in and out of photography several times in my life:

  1. once as a teenager back in the late 1970’s

  2. another time as a young adult (the late 1980’s)

  3. and again as a 30-something (late 1990’s).

I re-discovered my interest in photography for the 4th time back in 2011 and haven’t looked back since. I think the difference between previous times and this is that I’m at a point in my life where I have some time to devote to the hobby as well as a small budget to help me pay for all of the photography related materials and accessories. There’s no doubt that photography can be an expensive hobby but I try to get the most out of my money whenever possible. I plan on sharing any and all tips I can come up with in this podcast to help you get the most out of your photography dollars. I have been interested in technology my entire life so taking up photography this time around meant I could tie it in with my interest in computers and all things internet. I really enjoy fiddling with and tweaking all of the various tools that we have available today like blogs, social media, post-processing software, etc. Just about as soon as I got back into photography I started my blog, Mark’s Photography Spot, as a way to share my experiences with photography. I try to post something a couple times a week and have mixed in some equipment reviews and basic tutorials in between sharing of my images. I enjoy keeping the blog updated but I feel like there is something missing from it. All of that led me to this point, where I wanted to add something “extra” to my sharing of my photography experiences. I knew that there was something else that I could offer to people that would get them excited about and feeling good about their photography. After some thought and research I came to the conclusion that adding a podcast to the mix was the logical next step. And that’s where we’re at right now.

My Photography Equipment

When I started back into photography full bore in June 2011 I purchased a mid-level DSLR, the Canon T3i with the kit 18-55 & 55-250 lenses. A month later I purchased a point-n-shoot camera, the Canon Powershot S95. I shot with those two cameras until the Fall of 2012 at which time I added a vintage film camera to the mix, a Rolleicord. Here’s my existing equipment list:

Cameras (links to amazon or Camerapedia)


  1. Canon T3i DSLR
  2. Canon Rebel Xsi (Pam's main camera)
  3. Canon Powershot S95
  4. Canon PowerShot S100
  5. Rolleicord Va
  6. Yashica Electro GSN
  7. Olympus OM-1
  8. Nikkormat FTn
  9. Nikomat FTn


  1. Canon EF-s 18-55mm f3.5-5.6
  2. Canon EF-s 55-250 f4-5.6
  3. Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6
  4. Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6(Pam uses this one primarily)
  5. Rokinon 8mm Fisheye

Post-Processing Equipment

  1. Assorted B&W film home developing equipment
  2. Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII
  3. PC running Windows 7 with Lightroom, Photoshop elements,the Google Nik Collection & Corel Paintshop Pro

What I like To Photograph

  1. Landscapes/nature
  2. Urban/Architecture
  3. Cars
  4. Street
  5. Color images primarily but B&W film is a close second

How I See The Mark’s Photography Spot Podcast Growing And Evolving

Now that I've decided to start the podcast I had to think a little bit about what I wanted to accomplish with the podcast and how I saw things evolving over time

I’m 100% sure that the podcast will evolve over time but I want to try and set the course of the podcast so it’s at least headed in the right direction starting out. One thing I know is that I want the podcast to be driven by you, the listener/viewer. Feedback and input by all of you will be an important part of the process. I want to make it easy for you to get in touch with me to leave your feedback, ideas and suggestions. I've set up a couple of ways for you to voice your opinion and feedback. You can email me at with your ideas, etc. I also have added a voice-mail contact to the blog so you can leave me a message if you wish. I may also add a call-in voicemail as well and will let you know when/if I do.

Here’s how I see the Mark’s Photography Spot podcast moving forward (with your input and feedback):

  1. I want to start out with at least bi-weekly podcasts. Depending on time/feedback I may move to a weekly podcast. Please let me know your thoughts on this.

  2. The main material of the podcast will center around digital & film photography but I will do occasional non-photography subjects that are applicable to the general enjoyment of life and could be used to help you enjoy photography more.

  3. I’ll do a mix of digital and film-focused material, equipment reviews, tips and commentary and will try and keep a variety of subjects from show to show.

  4. One of the things I’d like to do is photographer interviews, perhaps 1-time/month. I think this will be a great way to learn from & be inspired by fellow photographers. The photographers can be a mix of amateur and pro, from all styles and disciplines. I have a few in mind right now but if any of you have suggestions I’m all ears. They could be someone you know locally or someone you've always wanted to hear. I’m not afraid to approach anyone and ask for an interview so please use the feedback tools I have to let me know who you would like to hear.

Photographic Resolutions For 2014

Ok, enough with the introductions and background,time to discuss the “content” of this episode and that is “What photography related resolutions are we making for 2014?”

Each year at this time many of us create a list of resolutions, things we want to improve or change in the coming year. In addition to the usual "Lose weight", "exercise more", "save more money", "get a new job", etc. we should be adding photography related resolutions as well. Coming up with resolutions is a good way to make positive changes. But, if you don't do some key things, your photography resolutions will whither away like many of the other resolutions we make. I want to give you some tips on how to make your resolutions "stick". These are things that I have used in the past to help me achieve many goals, from my full-time career to my part-time hobbies. Maybe these tips can help you as well.

  1. Take time to review what you want to improve/learn. Push your boundaries and stretch your comfort zone a bit.

    1. Write it down

    2. Set a time/money budget

    3. Plan out how you want to achieve the goal
  2. Take action-Be prepared to adjust course and keep moving forward

As for me, here are some things I plan on accomplishing in 2014:

  1. Expand my knowledge of film photography.
  2. Purchase additional, more modern, medium format film camera
  3. Improve my “photographic vision” through some type of mentoring. The Arcanum is something I came across by following Trey Ratcliff. It is a new initiative by Trey to employ a "master/apprentice" model to the creative pursuits. I signed up to participate in the program and hope to be accepted sometime in January. I'll update you on the status/progress of the Arcanum and how it works.
  4. Find more time to shoot. I've been very busy this year (2013) with work s finding extra time to shoot has been a challenge. I hope to change that in 2014.

That's about it for my 2014 resolutions. I will keep you updated on my progress and I'd love to hear from you on your 2014 resolutions. Thanks for listening/reading the first episode of the Mark's Photography Spot podcast. Please let me know of any suggestions you have.

Share Your Comments Or Ideas

I'd love to hear from you. Please let me know of any comments, suggestions or ideas that you have.

Please Connect With Me

In addition to contacting me from this blog using the links above. Or you can follow me on these other social media sites: Follow me on Google+ Follow the Mark's Photography Spot page on Google+ Check out the Mark's Photography Spot group on Flickr