Washington D.C.

Here are my photos taken in Washington D.C. in the spring of 2018.  Click any thumbnail to open into a full size slide show.

Photo Walk at Deerfield

I thought it might be fun to create a video of a photo walk. I was out at a local nature park on a winter morning (okay, it was spring, but Michigan doesn’t always behave like the season suggests). In the video, I offer some tips for photographing in the winter, and more specifically in an area like Central Michigan. I also talk a little bit about composition.

Check it out and let me know what you think…

Brookfield Zoo

I’m finally finding time to edit the photos I took over the summer (Michigan winters provide a good opportunity to catch up with things indoors). I was pleasantly surprised to look back at the photos I made during a family day at the Brookfield Zoo just outside of Chicago.

I don’t add zoo photos to my portfolio, because I don’t like that the animal is forced to be there. I feel like you don’t really earn a photo of an animal unless it is truly wild. Regardless, I still wanted to share the photos so I uploaded them to an album on the Radiant Photography Facebook page. Check them out at the link below, and be sure to “Like” the page while you’re there.

Brookfield Zoo Album

Mountain Goat

It’s not too often that I dabble in black and white photography, but when I saw this photo I thought it would be a perfect opportunity.

Mountain Goat

You have to have a different mindset when taking black and white photos.  You almost have to train your mind to see in black and white.  Black and white obviously can’t show vivid eye-popping colors, so you have to make use of what can be portrayed in a black and white image: textures, contrast, shapes, and composition.  In the photo above, the goat stands out because the texture of his fur is different from the background.  The goat also has some stronger shadows on his face, which helps with contrast.

I also cropped the photo so the goat was looking into the frame and isn’t the center of attention.  The goat looking to the left is an advantage too.  Your eyes kind of follow the goat’s gaze to the left side of the photo, and then “read” from left to right back to the goat.  It kind of makes viewers dwell on the photo longer than just a passing glance.

I had to crop this photo quite a bit to get this composition (and this was taken with a strong zoom lens), so it’s not a high enough resolution to print, but I wanted to share the story.

Lens Rundown

This video is helpful at showing the creative possibilities available while using different camera lenses.

http://wistia.com/learning/get-creative-with-lenses (Image credit: wistia.com)

My Advice
With a limited budget, I always advocate spending more money on lenses as opposed to cameras. Cameras are just like any other technology purchase, as they get older, new ones come out with more features and the old ones just lose value over time. Lenses are different though. They hold their value over time, and in some cases their value increases as manufacturers raise prices to match inflation. When you buy a lens, you can reasonably expect to be using it for the next 20 years, even with new cameras as they come out.

It doesn’t just make good financial sense to spend more money on lenses though. A good lens on an inexpensive camera will offer much better image quality than a cheap lens in an expensive camera. These days, DSLR cameras are so good, that even the lower-end models can take beautiful photographs if you have the right lens.

What’s in my bag?
I currently use three different lenses on my DSLR. Most of the time I use a 24-105mm f4L IS. This is a really nice walk-around lens because it covers images from wide-angle to short telephoto zoom. It also has image stabilization, so I can still get pretty sharp shots even if I don’t have a tripod with me. The primary drawback of this lens is weight, it’s definitely heavier than a lot of other lenses in this focal range. Also, while it’s not as costly as the highest quality lenses in this range, it’s not an inexpensive lens by any means.

For a regular telephoto zoom, I use the 70-200mm f4L. For a telephoto, it’s not too heavy, and it produces very sharp images. It doesn’t have image stabilization, which can be a drawback because a stronger zoom will amplify any camera shake from holding it. I use it mostly outdoors in brighter light, or on a monopod indoors when I need to. It’s also one of the least expensive lenses in Canon’s professional L series.

The last lens I have is a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. Prime lenses don’t zoom, which throws some people who aren’t familiar with primes. I’ve had people borrow my camera with this lens mounted, and turn the ring on the lens and be surprised to find that it will change focus but not zoom. Prime lenses are great in low-light situations. This 50mm lens gathers over 4 times more light than either of my other two lenses, which makes it perfect for indoor shots at night. It’s also very small, very light, and inexpensive. If you have a DSLR with just a kit lens, there is no better way to improve your photography than to spend $100 on a nifty 50.

Next steps…
My next lens will most likely be a stronger telephoto, somewhere in the 300mm or 400mm range. It would open up a lot more wildlife shots for me. While the 70-200mm will be great for wildlife you are close to (in a zoo, for example), 200mm is still a little short if you are further away from an animal as in the wild.

After watching this video, an ultra-wide angle 16-35mm f2.8L (or the less-insanely-priced 17-40mm f4L) would really provide a lot of creative possibilities. Someday maybe I’ll try one out.