Tuesday, December 4, 2012

So Long, Farewell

Where does the time go?

Throughout these last few months I learned much that is needed to know about photography and photo editing. Now that I own my own personal camera, I feel more equipped to apply these new concepts into physical demonstrations. I can continue to improve my photography skills and one day move past my beginner level.

OK, let me be brutally honest. I admit it, I am rather disappointed in myself in my photography journey. I had so many plans to experiment different photo editors and photo-taking techniques. I say this because I will be discontinuing this blog... Sigh.

Unfortunately, I did not get to complete my Photoshop experience and show you all a full, transformed journey. I did in fact get better in my work, but I am not at all where I want and thought I would be. But I am hopeful that I will continue to learn how to capture extraordinary scenes, produce phenomenal images and teach photo editing to others.

I did learn some very useful and helpful information. For example, the rule of thirds really helps me understand the importance of balance and appeal in even the most simplest images. In addition, learning how to change the way I see the world makes a significant difference, not only for capturing images but also finding a purpose for everything around me. I've read a book called Cameras in the Quest for Meaning by author and photographer Jack Yeaman. This book inadvertently taught me that photos and the art of  photography is everlasting because messages are remain with us forever. A thousand words can never fully describe the meaning behind a single photo or the emotion behind the photographer's intentions to capture a particular scene. This, I believe, is the overarching theme for the purpose of learning composition of great photographic works.

I took most of my inspiration from different photography websites, such as DIY Photography, DPS, Cambridge in Colour, Photoshop Tutorials and Photoshop.com. These sites are awesome! Check them out.


Remember when it's all said and done, there's more than what meets the eye...

Your Shopping Results

2012 seems to be the year that shoppers really indulge in the holiday deals since these past few weeks. According to CNNMoney, Cyber Monday hit a record high. To be exact, online sales rose 30% higher than last year's results from IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

You all had to be so fancy huh?

The projections from data predictions for Cyber Monday for this year were also exceeded, in addition to the 21% rise in Black Friday online sales and 17% increase from Thanksgiving day. 

I think one of the reasons for the significant increase is because when I personally browsed around for sales, most retailers seemed to extend this Cyber Monday event for more than one day. Some stores began sales since Sunday and others continued their sales well throughout the week. While I do believe this shopping frenzy helps stimulate the economy, I'm honestly uncomfortable with the idea that people make insane materialistic purchases during the holidays. And many retailers are banking heavily on that idea. Especially these large corporations that seem to be everywhere, in every town, selling everything, while squishing small businesses and diminishing employee value.. but I digress...

Anyhow, the top retailers that were searched were Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, Sears, and Target. Additionally, the top online product searches were for Amazon's Kindle and Kindle Fire, iPads, and iPod Touch just to name a few. So while digital cameras and equipment weren't part of this years top searches, I still believe technological devices and electronics, generally, still rock the holiday socks.

Remember when it's all said and done, there's more than what meets the eye... 

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Freaks Come Out At Night

Already called it a day? Great, then you could consider night photography.

Just to warn you, this is one of the most challenging projects to take on. Why? Because taking photos at night require more technical adjustments. At times, night photography may mean you need to improv to "cheat" with constraints such as lighting and focusing.

Of course, if done properly, night photographs can produce some amazing images. But, it can be painfully difficult is you don't understand and apply the technicalities that go behind it.

First, let me show you a photo I took a while back:

Remember this one?

OK, you can probably see the obvious errors in this photo, so let's talk.

First of all, I did not use a tripod to take this photo. I know, I know, it's one of the most essential equipment to use especially for night photos, which would have helped so that the image has sharper results... um yeah..This is very important for night photos because even the slightest movement can offset the quality of your photos, e.g. the above photo. If you plan on taking photos at night, your best bet to get great photos is to use a tripod or if that's unavailable, set your camera on a flat solid surface and use the self-timer to activate the shutter. You want to reduce all possibilities of blurring your images because unfortunately that is a point of no return. You can reduce noise later in photo editors but blurs are a different case.

Now, look at the light posts. They don't help the photo look very appealing and kind of just look like brights blurs. A reason for this is because when taking photos at night, a narrow aperture is beneficial for making these lights look more like a sparkle than a flash of light. Setting the camera aperture, something I did not know at the time, is a great method to gain that look (if your camera allows). This also helps extend your depth of field, referring to the gradual transition of sharpness within your photo.

On a sheet of paper, write your name in the middle. Now take the paper and slowly bring it in closer to your eyes. Getting blurry right? And as you pull the paper away from your eyes, the letters begin to look clearer, or sharper, then begins to blur again the further the paper is extended. This is an example of depth of field. Keep in mind that a camera lens mimics a similar technique but varies depending on your camera type and other settings.

When you first decide to take a night photo, it would be useful to study the setting carefully. Notice the dark spots and lit areas. If you take notice of where the most appealing areas are, be sure to include it in your photo, move closer to that area, and maybe make it your focus.  

I've read about some concepts like ISO and shutter speed that really determine how well a photo turns out, but it would help to get these concepts explained in layman's term please.

Clearly, I know there much more than a few corrections that could have been made to create a clear and crisp photo, but I would like to hear from you. So comment away!

Remember when it's all said and done, there's more than what meets the eye... 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Need a New Camera?

So there are all these holiday sales going on, and maybe you're wanting to purchase a new camera. Well, let me help you in your decision making process.

When I purchased my camera, to be honest, I didn't do much soul-searching before I had it shipped to me. Looking back I really should've invested a little more time researching, then I would probably be more satisfied with my camera. Buying a camera, in my opinion, is much like buying a car. There are many options to choose from and many more opinions on what to get, but it is mainly based on personal preference. There are many deciding factors to consider before you head to the checkout lane. Allow me to explain. Many websites have multiple factors to take into account, but I condensed my version.

Here is what you should ask yourself:

Do I really need a camera?
I believe this is the very first question to ask yourself above all else. Honestly, if you can give yourself a definite yes or no answer, this will determine how long you may spend in your "just looking" phase. Consider if you have any upcoming special events or occasions in your life that you would like to keepsake in a photograph. Or maybe you just live a crazy amazing, adventurous lifestyle and would like a new camera to pack along on your travels.

What can I afford?
I think this question, depending on your circumstances, can help you narrow down your search. If your budget is the most important factor in your decision, it may help you to determine the type of camera you end up purchasing. Or, if your budget is fairly flexible, then you may determine what price range fits your camera preferences.

How do I know which camera is best for me?
Read the reviews. I could not emphasize this idea enough. It really does help to learn about the experiences and suggestions from others. One experience may be different from another, but if you start to see a trend for the same issue, it might save you from a lot of heartache in the future.

Check the features. Whatever your reason for purchasing a camera, it is imperative to choose a camera with the features you will be using the most... because that's the whole purpose, duh... Also, make sure to check the compatibilities of your chosen camera for your computer. For some odd reason my videos never transfer, let alone display, onto my Mac laptop when I connect my camera to it (any help please?). It also helps to test out the features of your new buy, such as a dSLRs or semi-pros, before an occasion so that you're not trying to figure how to work your magic during the best moments.

Brand. This may or may not be a deciding factor for you but it should be something to keep note of when deciding on a camera. Much like buying a car, it may be beneficial to shop for products from makers who have a longer history in the photography industry, such as Sony or Cannon. In my personal opinion, these makes usually have a larger assortment and more availability for any level photographer.

How do I know if I'm getting a good deal?
Well, there are actually seasons for cameras, as most other products. According to Darren Rowse, "Digital camera manufacturers have an annual cycle of announcing and releasing new cameras and there are two main times of the year when they all come out." The first release announcements are made in either January or February and hit the shelves in February or March. The second round is made around September, just in time to be put out by November and into the holiday season... Hmm, I see what you did there...

Check out Mr. Rowse for more helpful tips!

Remember when it's all said and done, there's more than what meets the eye...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let The Shopping Continue

Well if Black Friday and Small Business Saturday weren't enough, I guess you're in luck with Cyber Monday.

What a wonderful time for so many people! Thanksgiving on Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Sunday...?, then Cyber Monday. Gee, you really have no excuse not to have went holiday shopping.

Looking for electronics?
Websites like Amazon.com are offering "Cyber Week" specials, discounting specially marked items and providing around-the-clock sales.
  • For a limited time, select Sony Cyber Shot digital cameras will be on sale starting as low as $79.
  • Save up to 49% off select Dolica tripods.
  • Save up to $100 or more on select Nikon COOLPIX digital cameras.
Remember, some of these deals are for a limited time only, so don't wait too long to purchase your holiday treats. Also, some items are eligible for free and/or fast shipping with their Guaranteed Accelerated Delivery or FREE Super Saver Shipping (some restrictions apply).

Best Buy is having a two-day Cyber Sale with exclusive deals on electronics ending midnight on 11/26/12. In addition, save $25 on your purchase of $250 or more with store pickup (of course, some items are not eligible for in-store pickup). Redeem this savings code in store or online!
  • Splurge on a HP Photosmart 6520 Wireless e-All-in-one Printer retailed at $149 but on sale for $89 plus free shipping.
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 11/ Adobe Premier Elements 11 is on sale for $74.99, so you save $75 off the regular price.
Apparently, everyone jumped on this "Cyber Week" bandwagon, and Target is one of them. Enjoy deals on electronics all week long and free shipping on Cyber Monday.

Although I am providing sales from major companies, please don't forget about your local mom-and-pop stores that are probably more than appreciative of your purchases during the holiday seasons.
Stay Warm!

Remember when it's all said and done, there's more than what meets the eye...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving and Then Some...

Happy Thanksgiving readers!!

I hope you all spent your time wisely, specifically giving thanks for the things we take for granted the other 364 days out of the year. And hopefully you all enjoyed being around and catching up with those irreplaceable family members and friends in your lives.

Anyhow, it's now post-Turkey, so for many Americans we know what that means: Black Friday! Yes, finally the "official" excused day for compulsive and aggressive shopping (but please don't trample over anyone or get arrested). Black Friday marks the long-established kickoff for Christmas shopping and of course satisfy some guilty pleasures through retail therapy. You know, I honestly never understood the mindless, insensitive behavior that occurs on this day... especially the day after being so thankful. C'mon people! Don't get me wrong, I love finding rock-bottom discounts and nearly-free deals, but the madness of dealing with large, hostile crowds, insane long lines, and congested parking lots doesn't seem too appealing.

But I digress..

Apparently for some retailers, Black Friday is more than a day long; some sales extend from Wednesday all the way through Sunday. Oh, and not to forget Cyber-Monday, basically the continuation of the shopping frenzy. Traditionally, massive sales on electronics reign as one of the top motivators for camping outside of stores days prior to Black Friday. People literally stand outside waiting in line to purchase that 55" HDTV discounted by about 50-60% or scour the worldwide-web to place their online order for other tools and appliances.

If you happen to be one of these people, maybe you might like to know where to find some sweet deals on electronics:

Best Buy is offering FREE SHIPPING on all online orders (now thru 11.24.12)
Check out Sears, Kmart, Walmart, Hhgregg, Target, and Office Depot for their awesome in-store and online deals. Hurry before these specials run out!

Of course if you plan on buying online, be sure to also include Amazon, Ebay, Overstock.com in your search.

Here are some deals I ran across:
**Walmart: Black Canon PowerShot A3400 IS 16-Megapixel Digital Camera on sale for $89
**Best Buy: Red Canon PowerShot SX160 IS 16.0MP Camera, Case, Tripod & 8GB Memory Card on sale for $189.96
**Target: Apple iPad with Retina Display 16GB WiFi Tablet (4th generation) with a bonus $60 gift card on sale for $500

Whatever your preferred method of shopping, buyer beware! Always make sure you are surfing secured and trusted sites, never carry wads of cash on your person and always check and double check the conditions of your electronics before purchasing. This would save you from diving back into those tough crowds you miraculously pushed through.

Remember when it's all said and done, there's more than what meets the eye...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Rule of Thirds

Have you ever noticed when you're cropping a photo, the crop box divides into 9 boxes? Or maybe when you're ready to take a picture, your camera sections 9 small frames across your LCD screen before the shutter clicks? This is the concept of the Rule of Thirds.

Yes people, there are "rules" in photography. But don't worry, they work in your favor and later as you become more comfortable taking pictures, you learn when you can bend or break these rules.

The Rule of Thirds is an essential technique for capturing eye-catching images. This is one of the methods used to create photos that make you say "Ooo... ahh..."

*awkward silence*

So what is this Rule of Thirds? 

Imagine a grid of lines divided into 3 rows and 3 columns. It should look like a game of tic-tac-toe. This acts as your outline for positioning the subject in the photo. Check your camera settings to see how you can set these gridlines on your screen. It should look something like this:

The Rule of Thirds reveals that the subject or focal point of your photo should be arranged along the lines, intersections or corner sections of the grid.

Why? Good question. Well, there are some psychological reasoning behind this rule, indicating that our eyes are naturally drawn to the imaginary intersections of the grid on an image. Remember when we were young and thought everything had to be in the center of the photo? Yeah, those weren't necessarily the most exciting pictures. The purpose of the Rule of Thirds is to appeal to the eyes and that is why centered subjects don't always make the most eye catching appearances.

How to use this rule

You are free to use this rule every time and all the time you choose. There are no specifics to which intersections you have to use and where you wish to put the object of your focus.

When taking pictures of human or animal faces, it serves best to place one of the eyes along one of the lines. This gives your object a bit of motion and creates a more dynamic look.

Just in case you were wondering if you are completely bound to these rules, no hun, you're not. You do not necessarily have to perfectly align every object in your photos. You're really simply framing objects off an outline not a contract. 

In some case you may be photographing an image that will absolutely not fit with these rules. Some examples may be images of abstract patterns or arrangements, such as tribal prints, tree bark, or the night sky. Your best options are to find some balance within the object or scene and your eyes follow the focus or direction presented. You don't want your photo to be literally all over the place. Remember, you can always crop parts from your photo if you feel the need to do so.

Bending this rule

Yes, once you get the hang of this rule you may unleash your inner rebel.

Bending this rule can mean instead of using your tic-tac-toe outline, your photo may just be a display of symmetry.

Stumped? Ok, here's an example:

Please excuse all the "noise" or fuzziness in this photo (which I will explain in a separate post). Basically, you have to use your imagination when shooting scenes stretching long distances. If you look at the center of this photo, you may also begin to imagine a centered horizon almost separating the top portion and bottom portion of the image.

I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but I actually imagine an invisible X across the image...but it could just be me. Now I haven't heard of using an X as a way to bend the Rule of Thirds, and maybe this honestly might be a bad example, but the idea I wanted to get across was having some balance in between the colors and objects in this photo. Now there isn't a way to divide this scene into nine squares and feel all excited about the picture, so I thought maybe I could divide it into four segments. Well, instead of thinking of a typical + sign, I rotated it to be an X to keep the photo somewhat balanced and proportional. See, I not only bended the rules, I made my own. Ha!

Remember when it's all said and done, there's more than what meets the eye...