Category Archives: Uncategorized

White Sands

One of my favorite locations to photograph is White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, with the largest gypsum dune field in the world.  This is a place where graphic designs of form and texture jump out at you in early and late light.  Budget concerns have unfortunately restricted normal visitation hours, but early entry is possible through an additional fee, which is well worth paying.  Earlier this year I was there with my friends Jack Dykinga and Justin Black, conducting a landscape workshop.


Yucca at sunset, White Sands National Monument.


Dunes and shadows, White Sands National Monument.

Dunes and shadows, White Sands National Monument.


Here at my house we had great hoarfrost overnight.   I went out to photograph — I found these along a rural fenceline — but after about one hour it started to rain.  So much for the frost…but I made good use of that one hour.  Nikon D800E and 200mm Micro – a killer closeup combo.






When it comes to image file names, there seems to be two opposing schools.  There is one group of photographers who are happy with the file names created by the camera, and, at the opposite extreme, another group that wants to include all information possible in the file name.  The first group has files with names such as DSC8531.nef, while the second group might have an image named Eddie_in_his_pirate_costume_2013Halloween5375.jpg (and yes, that is a actual file name I saw last week, and which prompted this blog post).

I would suggest a middle ground, a simple file naming convention that precludes ever having two files with the same name (a potential problem for the first group), while eliminating the incredibly lengthy and unwieldy file names of the second group.

I rename my files by the date the image was taken (metadata automatically recorded by your camera, so long as you set the clock in your camera to the correct local time).  My convention is YYMMDD + the filename and number created by the camera.  Nikon allows setting a three digit filename in Shooting Menu > File Naming, so I set my Nikon D4 camera as D4N.  Then I made and saved a file renaming template in Lightroom (and a similar template in Downloader Pro, which I use when I have hundreds of files to download).

By using the template, a file from my D4 downloads along the lines of 131206_D4N_2764.nef.  By using YYMMDD all my files will automatically be in chronological order, and unless I shoot more than 10,000 images in one day with that particular camera, I’ll never have the problem of duplicate file names.

For more about file organization see my October 1, 2012, blog piece on File Storage.

The Edge of Light

We photographers like to work early and late in the day.  For many people, getting up early – really early – is difficult (to say the least!).  Luckily, I’m pretty much a morning type person.  As far as I’m concerned, 9:00 PM is almost the middle of the night.

Here are three frames, taken a week ago, at about 5:00 AM.  These are from a small lake I’ve been working.  All three frames were shot from the same location, with my Nikon D4 handheld at ISO 1600, and the new Nikon 80-400mm lens.  Just in passing, I’m very impressed with this lens, to the point that I’m thinking about selling my Nikon 200-400mm f/4 if anyone’s interested.





Adobe Creative Cloud

If you’re a Photoshop user, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the Adobe announcement that from now on all new versions of Photoshop will be by subscription only.  You download the software, and it resides on your computer, but if you don’t pay the subscription fee the software deactivates.  Potentially this means that you might not be able to access your images.   Subscribe for a while, save a master layered image, and only by paying the subscription fee can you get back in to work with that layered file.  Yes, it’s on your computer, but of no use.  In short, it seems to me you have two choices:  (1) pay the subscription fee, and keep paying it forever, even with price increases; or (2) stick with PS CS6, the current version which you can purchase outright.  The problem with (2) is what happens if you buy a new camera, not supported by CS6, or get a new computer with a new operating system on which CS6 will not run?  You could keep your current gear, but I for one am certainly not at the point of saying that the cameras and computers I presently own are my final cameras and computers.

Adobe has different pricing schemes, and for those who use multiple Adobe products the cost per month makes some sense.  But I don’t.  I use Photoshop, and occasionally InDesign, and the latter is an older version which I have no plans to upgrade.

Like many, I’m not happy about Adobe’s decision.

But…there is a small glimmer of hope, especially if you’re a Lightroom user.  Lightroom was designed specifically for photographers, while Photoshop was not.  Here’s a long forum piece which in my opinion is well worth a read:

In case you don’t know the players, Thomas Knoll is the original creator of Photoshop, Eric Chan is the chief engineer on Adobe Camera Raw, and Jeff Schewe is a photographer/developer closely connected to Adobe.



1.  Images for the web should be sized at 72 dpi.  First of all, “dpi” refers to dots per inch, and computer screens have pixels, not “dots.”  But “72 ppi” is also false.  Pixels dimensions are the only criteria for computer images.  1200 pixels are 1200 pixels, whether they be 1/inch or 1200/inch.  You still have 1200 pixels.  Say you have an image that’s 1000 x 500 pixels at 72 ppi.  How many total pixels is that?  1000 x 500 = 500,000.   Resize to 1000 x 500 pixels at 300 ppi.  How many total pixels is that?  1000 x 500 = 500,000.  Exactly the same.  If you’re resizing web images to 72 ppi, you’re simple adding a useless step to your workflow.

2.  Mac monitors use 72 ppi while Windows ones are 96 ppi.  Sorry, this is a myth.  If it were true, a monitor would have to change resolution depending on whether it was connected to a Mac or a PC.  Want to know roughly what the resolution of your monitor is in ppi?  Measure the horizontal width of the screen and divide this into the horizontal pixel dimension at the monitor’s native resolution.  My laptop’s screen is 1920 pixels wide, and measures about 13.5 inches horizontally.  1920/13.5 = about 142 ppi.

3.  You should set Adobe RGB in your camera if you’re shooting RAW files.  While this might affect the image displayed on the camera’s LCD, it does not directly affect a RAW file.  After all, if Adobe RGB were actually applied, the file would no longer be RAW data.

4.  For the best RAW file results, set a specific white balance in the camera.  Don’t use Auto White Balance.  RAW files have no white balance.  Just as I said above, if a white balance were applied the file would no longer be RAW.  A specific white balance is only set when the file is processed into a standard graphic file format such as .psd or .tiff or .jpeg; that is, when it is no longer a RAW file.

5.  This RAW image is how it appears right out of the camera.  Not true.  A RAW image has to be rendered in some way before you can even see it.   Exactly how it is rendered depends on the default settings of the RAW conversion software you use.

6.  You can evaluate exposure by looking at the image on the camera’s LCD.  You can adjust the LCD’s brightness on almost all DSLRs, so exactly which level of brightness would be “correct?”  Sorry, not true at all.  For that matter, the camera LCD most certainly is not a color corrected and calibrated monitor.  You can evaluate composition; you cannot evaluate color or exposure.  You definitely should use the histograms for exposure information.

7.  Always use a UV filter to protect your lens.  From what?  Dirt and fingerprints?  Then you must take the filter off for every shot, otherwise you’re shooting through a dirty, fingerprinted filter.  Use one for “protection” only if you can state from what it is you’re protecting the lens.  Salt spray?  Yes, this might be an answer, but I live about 100 miles from the ocean and on the other side of a mountain range, and if there is salt spray here, protecting my lens will be the least of my worries.

8.  12 frames/second is better than 10/frames per second.  In what way?  Neither one guarantees you’ve caught the peak moment.  Consider this:  let’s assume a shutter speed of 1/1000 second.  12 frames/second captures 12/1000 of the action, and misses 988/1000 of it.  Holding down the shutter button at the highest frame rate yields lots of images, but not necessarily the one you wanted.

9.  Always underexpose a half-stop to richen the colors.  Intentional underexposure with digital cameras is one of the worst things you can do.  It simply adds noise.

10.  Professional photographers get all their equipment free from the camera manufacturers.  Boy, do I ever wish this were true, but it isn’t.   For that matter, I wish it were true for cars and houses also.

11.  All information on photography forums is true.  You might remember back when there was an actual discussion about using Scotch® tape to clean camera sensors.  I’m fairly sure someone fell for this, and actually tried it.  We all know that it’s not Scotch® tape you should use, but duct tape, right?  (Well, I read about using duct tape on the Internet, so it must be true.)

Reader survey questions

I’m in the earliest stage of thinking about doing a couple more eBooks.  I’m open for ideas and concepts.  My thoughts at this time:

1.  A “coffee table” photo eBook — large photos, not much text — on one of these topics:

(a) Antarctica.

(b) 50 of my all time favorite digital images.

(c) five of my favorite photo destinations.

(d) some other subject?

2.  A “teaching” eBook on:

(a)  digital topics:  exposure, reading a histogram, RAW capture, tilt/shift lens use, digital ISO advantages, etc.

(b) 25 digital images: how and why they were shot, and how processed.

(c)  the elements of composition:  line, color, texture, etc.

(d) some other topic?

I’m open for suggestions.  Let me know your thoughts (but no guarantee that I’ll actually write anything at all!).  Thanks in advance for your responses.


And here’s a stitched panoramic image from the trip I mentioned in my last blog post.  Three horizontal frames, Nikon D800E, 70-200mm lens.

Lake Powell, Utah

Good news concerning NIK

As you might know, five days ago Google announced that it had acquired Nik Software, the maker of fantastic plug-ins for Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture.  Many of us were concerned about what the future would hold for support and development of Nik products.

Yesterday Vic Gundotra posted this on Google +:

Photography first: for everyone, and for professionals

Earlier this week I proudly welcomed +Nik Software to Google. They’ve been making pictures more awesome for 17 years, and we’re excited to bring Nik’s expertise to the entire Google+ community!

I also want to make something clear: we’re going to continue offering and improving Nik’s high-end tools and plug-ins. Professionals across the globe use Nik to create the perfect moment in their photographs (e.g.,, and we care deeply about their artistry.

Together with Nik, we’ll continue to put “photography first.”

Some Changes

Hello, and welcome to the new version of my website.

I’ll be posting some images, and offering some tips and techniques as to taking photos and processing them with Lightroom and Photoshop. Given my travel schedule, I won’t be posting every day but I’ll certainly try to make this blog a bit more interesting than reading a tax form.