Aug 20, 2013

Old Car City Photo Shoot

One of my fellow photographers (Tiffany Powell Photography) and I packed the kids up in the car and headed north for an impromptu photo shoot at the largest known collection of junk cars in the world at Old Car City.  Yes, there is such a place. We heard it was an interesting backdrop for photographers to capture unique shots so we decided to check it out.

Imagine a place with more than 4,500 cars manufactured before 1973 covering 34 acres.  When you first arrive the store front is unassuming, but appropriately decorated with antique automobile memorabilia.  From the moment you step out back, you are transported into what must be the most creatively organized junk yard I have seen.  Believe me, since I grew up in Alabama, I have seen my share of junk yards.  The trails were great as it made it safe and fun for the kids to explore. Thought I would share some of my favorite pics.

Aug 12, 2013

Superhero Party Photo Booth Tutorial

I recently styled and planned the graduation party for my son's preschool class.  The theme of the party was "Super Graduates Unite".  As the photoghapher as well for the event, I set up a photobooth to capture all the superheros in their personalized costumes, complete with wristbands, cape, and eye mask.  I thought it would be fun to have a barbell weight to use as a photo prop.  I made a trip to our neighborhood Home Depot to find supplies to craft one.   I walked the aisles looking for items with the shape I needed and found a low cost option. With the supplies in hand, it took me less than an hour to make the photo prop.

2 plastic 2 1/2 quart paint buckets with lids
black duck tape
silver duck tape
wrapping paper core
box cutter

Step 1: Using the box cutter, cut a circle out of the bottom of the buckets and the tops.  Use the end of the wrapping core to measure the size of the hole.  You want a tight fit, so start small and work outward. The circle does not need to be perfect.

Step 2: Test the size of your circle to ensure a tight fit.

Step 3: Cover the entire surface of the wrapping core with the silver duct tape. 

Step 4:  Snap the tops onto the buckets and then wrap the outer surface of the paint buckets with the black duct tape. 

Step 5: Slide a bucket on each end of the wrapping core and use a silver paint marker to add a weight amount. I think the wrinkles add texture and provide an authentic look.

By the end of the party, the little superheros decided to show just how strong they can be.  They enjoyed bending the weight to show off their superpowers. Needless to say, the prop did not make it home.

Aug 7, 2013


Why the picture of the beach?  Reading your camera's manual may not be the first choice for beach or pool side reading, but I actually read my camera's manual while on vacation at the beach.

Yes, you should READ THE MANUAL.

With pen and paper in hand, my photography instructor told us to write down a very important tip to improve our photography skills immediately. With passion and great wisdom, he urged us to READ THE MANUAL.

I have a confession. I owned my Canon DSLR for 2 years before making a commitment to actually read the manual.  When I first used my camera, I only read the quick start guide and starting taking pictures using a small portion of my camera’s capabilities.  There were a number of things I learned through trial and error, but could have learned and used a lot sooner. Using the camera without reading the manual is like paying tuition for a course, paying for the supplies including the book and purposely planning to not obtain a grade higher than a C because you did not open and read the course book.  If you want that A, you can drastically improve your photography by reading the manual (and practicing). 

5 Interesting key learnings that I started using immediately after reading my camera’s manual:
  • How to Prevent Lens Condensation - since I read the manual while on a beach trip, this was extremely helpful.  This issue happened to me at least three times and I could not take a single photo, which was frustrating. Condensation occurs when the camera is brought from a cold to a warm environment. Condensation can build up on the lens and internal parts. One tip is to place the camera in a sealed plastic bag and allow it to adjust to the warmer temperature before removing it from the bag.
  • Why Use Low Level Formatting - if your card’s recording or reading speed seems slow, using low level formatting to return your card to like “new” condition. When the card is formatted at the normal setting, only the file management info is changed, but low level formatting will delete all contents.  
  • Difference Between Program and Auto Mode - Program Mode keeps a balance between the shutter speed and aperture which frees you to think about other settings such as ISO speed or using the flash to obtain the desired exposure (matching the subject and ambient lighting). If you choose to use this mode, pay attention to what you see in the viewfinder.  If the light is blinking on the shutter speed/aperture display, then your camera is telling you to check the exposure. Your manual should have an ISO guide, to give you a range to target based on whether the lighting is sunny, cloudy, indoors, or dark. Auto Mode is full automation, where you relinquish all control and allow the camera to decide the end result of your picture. I rarely use this setting since I like to be in control (as usual).  Once I made the commitment to be a better photographer, I realized I had to be willing to make mistakes, practice and learn the right settings based on the lighting conditions and type of image I want to capture.
  • Using Depth of Field Preview Button - did not even notice this button on the front of my camera for a long time. This button can be used to check the depth of field (amount in focus) through the viewfinder based on the current settings. As you make adjustments to the aperture, press this button to see depth of field in real time.
  • Setting Copyright Information - you do not need to be a professional to add copyright information to your photos. The set up instructions will vary from camera to camera, but I learned how simple it was to enter in my information directly into the camera so that it will be automatically saved with each shot I take.

So, what are you waiting for?  Don’t delay another day, read your camera’s manual. Make a commitment to learn how to maximize the equipment you already own. Download your manual to your phone and/or tablet, so you will have it with you in case you need to make a quick reference or continue reading it while waiting at the doctor’s office.