The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Saturday, November 29, 2008

100th Post!

OK -- so after I post this morning I noticed that I was at #99. I have to post again to hit 100 -- plus there are a couple things I left out of the post.

First -- when I returned home from the cat show, I noticed how ordinary my cat seemed. But then I realized she has pretty blue eyes and a great little pink nose and I saw no other cat at the show like that.

Second -- this Monday at 5pm is the Chairity event at The Hollingsworth House in Fayetteville. There is a charge for admission and the chairs will be up for auction. This event benefits the Children's Village at Christian City. Remember that stool I posted a photo of a few weeks back? (see Sept. 30 post) This is the event.

The Cat Show

Last weekend the Cat Fanciers' Association was in Atlanta for a show. Lucky for me it was not too far of a drive and did not require me to get on any freeway. I have a phobia about driving on freeways -- and yes I drive across a few states occasionally to visit relatives, and I did drive on freeways in Los Angeles/Orange County on a regular basis -- but that does not mean I liked it. (well, the driving across states is not bad -- it is the city traffic that really freaks me out)

Anyway -- the cat show was in town. I have a cat -- and I was curious about seeing others up close and personal. The biggest selling point to get me to pay $7 admission was that cameras were welcome. YAY! The website for the show said you could photograph the cats as long as you asked permission first. OK -- so once I took a photo of a cat without asking -- well no one was around.

There was just about any color, size, hair-length, ear 'design', tail length, etc. that you could think of at the show. When I say ear 'design' I mean that there were cats with tall, big ears -- there were cats with regular ears -- and there were cats with ears folded back at the tips.

I did not want to use a flash because I did not want to startle any of the cats. Although I wonder if they would have been startled -- they seemed very used to all of the hustle and bustle of the show. I took just the 50mm 1.4 lens since it is so fast. I learned that the cats could be much faster.

Many of the cats, when not up for judging, were zippered into their carriers lounging about on hammocks and such. Occasionally I would find an owner prepping their cat or just holding one out. The best time, I found, to get decent photos of the cats was when the owner was on the way back to their space after judging. While walking around I would spot them and ask if I could take a photo. They always agreed and were happy to talk about their cats.

The photo on the blog was one of the better ones of the day. I was interested in seeing the Sphinx Cat in person. They are much cuter and have quite a personality that does not come across by looking at photos of them. Now I need to find a dog show! One thing I learned -- if I had taken a cat toy with me it probably would have helped with the photos. If I do find a dog show -- I will stick a squeeky in my pocket before I leave the house.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tips For Better Photography

While researching yet another accessory online I stumbled across this wonderful article by Guy Tal on the Outdoor Photographer website. If you like this article -- check out more at

Pro Tips For Better Photography

There are no commandments in photography, but these simple tips will make an immediate difference in your shots
By Guy Tal

Who among us isn’t hoping for a secret formula or a magic spell we can use to conjure up great images anywhere, anytime, at our beck and call? A switch we can flip to reveal unique compositions, beautiful light, rare moments and deep insight—a “silver bullet.” Obviously, there’s no such thing and, when you think about it, it’s good that there isn’t. If making powerful images was as easy as snapping our fingers, would we truly appreciate them? And yet, there are some easy answers. There are tips you can use today that won’t cost you a penny, but may make a significant difference in the quality of your work. They have for me.

Bullet One: Get Out More
Magic happens. Somewhere out there something wonderful is unfolding. This is as true for this very moment as it is for any other. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not there to see it; but rest assured there will be more perfect moments to be found than you can fit in a lifetime. The more time you spend outdoors, where your favorite subjects are, the more likely you are to be at the right place at the right time to experience and photograph them. Too many people are under the impression that a quick trip to a pretty place comes with a guarantee of superior images. Not so. As landscape photographers, we’re very much at the mercy of numerous random factors. Some phenomena can be predicted with some accuracy and some can’t. There’s always an element of luck in getting a special image, no matter how well planned. There’s no public schedule for serendipity, superb light doesn’t take reservations, and dramatic skies don’t appear on command. Your best chance of finding something unique is to give something unique a better chance of finding you.

Bullet Two: Be Serious
Take your subjects seriously, take your camera seriously and—more than anything—take yourself seriously. Believe that you can make great images, believe that whatever camera you’re holding right now is capable of capturing great images and believe that there are great images to be found wherever you are. A common mistake is to dismiss a special moment for lack of faith in your own abilities or the abilities of the camera you happen to have with you. When you come upon an interesting subject, take your time—study it and ask yourself: “What can I do with this?” and “Is this really the best possible composition?” These questions have nothing to do with whether you’re toting a hefty 8x10 view camera or a little point-and-shoot. They have nothing to do with whether you’ve hiked 20 miles to a remote wilderness or just stepped out in your flip-flops on a family vacation. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If the scene evokes emotion, if the light is good and if you compose it properly, you’ll have a great image. Anything short of that, and all you’ll end up with will be excuses. Put your best effort into it, and you just might turn what would otherwise be a missed opportunity into a masterpiece. Don’t let yourself off the hook, cut corners and underestimate your viewers. Photographs don’t play poker—they can’t hide a weak hand. To put it bluntly: Nobody cares why an image doesn’t work or why an image almost works.

Bullet Three: Do Your Research
As much as we’re dependent on any number of factors that are beyond our control, there still are a lot of things we can do to increase our chances of finding those special scenes in their prime. These can be as simple as timing our visits appropriately (right time of day, right season, etc.) or as involved as learning the natural history of the places we visit—geology, weather patterns, wildlife and plant life and their unique characteristics and behavior at given times in their natural cycles, the phase of the moon or the direction and timing of sunrise and sunset. Learn good outdoor skills. Just as important as knowing where to go and when is knowing how to work and move comfortably when you get there. Outdoor skills are invaluable in many ways and not just for those seeking images. The comfort, confidence and safety of knowing where you are, what to do, what to look out for, how to find your way, where to find water, how much food and clothing to carry all can work wonders toward improving your state of mind and allowing you to concentrate on more creative endeavors.

Bullet Four: Good Gear Takes You Only So Far
Your equipment plays a major role in photography. By having the right gear, you give yourself a natural advantage, but only up to a point. What’s important is to keep in mind the role gear plays in our craft and to consider its value in that limited context. Good gear will enable you to make technically good images. Gear won’t make your images more evocative. It won’t improve your composition. It won’t make the light better. It won’t make the subject any more interesting and, consequently, it won’t make your images more successful. The best kind of gear is the gear you don’t have to worry about—gear that lets you concentrate on making images rather than technical minutia. If you compare a fine image to a fine meal, remember that even the best and most expensive dinnerware won’t make your food taste any better. So buy the gear that can capture sufficient detail for the size prints you want to make (so you don’t have to worry about how to fix that later), can help you make good exposure decisions (so you don’t have to worry about how to fix that later), give you sufficient support and stability to make sharp images (who wants to worry about how to fix that later?), provides flexibility in framing your composition (so you don’t have to worry about how to fix that later), and is sufficiently light and comfortable to carry wherever you go. With all those worries out of the way, go about making images.

Bullet Five: Don’t Force It
If you’ve been to a beautiful place and didn’t capture great images, you’re still better off than if you hadn’t gone at all. If you let your lack of photographic success on a given trip make you bitter and frustrated, only then will you truly have wasted your time. Keep in mind the reason you wanted to photograph these places to begin with—you were likely inspired by their beauty, moved by their timeless majesty and touched by their raw spiritual powers. None of these should change just because on a given day conditions weren’t conducive to photography. Savor the experience for what it is. Otherwise, it can be a dangerous catch-22: The harder you try, the more likely you are to become frustrated and to miss the very things that inspired you to begin with. Let the place speak to you; let its beauty—both grand and subtle—touch your soul. Images will likely present themselves when you’re in the right state of mind, and even if they don’t, you’ll be doing a disservice to yourself and cheapen the very experience you set out to find by hanging your enjoyment on whether or not you manage to get a “keeper.” If you’re not enjoying yourself, your work will suffer as a result. While many aspects of good photography have to do with technical proficiency, those intangible little things that distinguish “good” from “great” are all about emotion. If you don’t feel it, you likely won’t be able to express it. Natural places can do wonders for your spirit—they can put your mind at ease, inspire inner peace, make you forget about the mundane drudgery that makes up so much of our lives and give you a chance to be transported into a simpler, more beautiful world where things just make sense. Make it your primary goal to immerse yourself in the experience. Don’t over-burden yourself with the thoughts that you must find something, anything, to photograph. Remember you’re there to make images of beautiful experiences. Make it a beautiful experience first, and you’ll have something to photograph.

Bullet Six: It Doesn’t End With The Click
You went to great expense to buy your gear, you spent your time traveling and finding the best light and composition, and you captured a timeless miracle of immense beauty—you put all this effort into building toward the moment of sharing something incredible with your viewers. Now what? It’s not over—not by a long shot. Much has been written (and will continue to be written, including by yours truly) about the importance of the photographer’s vision and creativity. What often surprises me, though, is that so many of us fail miserably when it comes to the ultimate test of the image: presenting it to our viewers. Some might even say this is the most important and critical point in the proverbial life-cycle of an image—its raison d’etre, its ultimate test, the point where all our efforts, our vision, our skill, our expensive gear and our desire to share something with the world culminate into one singular experience. Your work in the field is only the beginning. It’s where you gather the raw materials, the inspiration and the concept of your final image. All images require postprocessing to achieve their final look and to optimize them for a given presentation, whether in print, on the web, in a slideshow or in any other medium. Postprocessing techniques are just as important to the success of an image as composition, exposure and fieldwork. Take the time to master your tools, whether you prefer a wet darkroom or digital editing or both. If your postprocessing skills don’t measure up to your camera skills, your images always will be half done. Ask yourself honestly why you make images in the first place, and if anywhere in there is the desire to share something with others—be it beauty, ideas, inspiration or story—you owe it to your art to make sure it’s dressed up to the nines before you strut it in front of those you wish to impress. Don’t quit before the finish line.

To see Guy Tal’s photography, visit

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gifts for the Photographer

It is that time of year again. The time when you try to think of the best gift for certain people on your list. Some people can be very difficult to shop for -- so let's take care of the photographer right now.

Photographer's like magazines (at least I do). A subscription to a photo magazine is a good idea. Lenswork is my all time favorite magazine. This is a must for those who love black and white photography. Another good one that I recently rediscovered is Popular Photography. I remember at one time thinking this was one of those magazines filled with ads -- but not anymore. Outdoor Photographer is a magazine that I have been getting for a few years and always look forward to the new issue. One magazine I did subscribe to last year that I will not be renewing is American Photo. I can't quite describe it -- but I was very disappointed in this magazine. I added it to my subscription for Popular Photography -- they had a deal going to get both for a reduced price.

If the photographer on your list already has stacks of magazines -- how about a book? Annie Leibovitz has a new book coming out this week. It looks interesting. It is called -- Annie Leibovitz at Work. I have this on preorder from Barnes & Noble. Speaking of Barnes & Noble, they have boxed together Scott Kelby's digital photography books (volumes 1 & 2) for an easy gift. Many like Scott's "wit and humor" throughout the book -- but frankly I get very tired of it and, well, I have heard from people in my classes that they find it annoying as well. So heads up to Scott -- lose the wise guy chit chat and stick to the photography -- these books are so good -- it is worth wading through the smart remarks. A book that I bought this past year that really stands out is Digital Photo Art -- this is for those who are into photography and art projects.

If you are looking for something that is new and interesting -- think about the Unibind Photobook Creator, ( Instead of spending all that time uploading photo online to order a book -- you create your own -- hardcover -- at home. Another new and interesting idea is the Eye-Fi Home 2gb SD Memory Card. ( These are available at many locations, including Best Buy. This memory card will wirelessly transmit your photos from the card to your computer when you get home. (Do you ever feel that things are just getting a little too Jetson's sometimes?) Something interesting -- but not very new -- is the photo vest. I have a Safari Vest from Cabela's and love it. It is much easier to pack the pockets of the vest and head out on a trail than to haul my backpack all of the time.

If you aren't sure if your photographer has any of these things I mentioned or if they would really like it -- there is always the gift card. A gift card to Barnes & Noble means they can choose just the photo book they have been wanting. B & H Photo ( and Adorama Camera ( offer gift cards/certificates -- anyone interested in photography could always use one of these! If you have local camera shops -- I am sure they will have a gift certificate available.

And last but not least -- one of the must fun photo accessories I have purchased this year -- the cool fabric camera strap from Just go to ( and search "camera strap." You will find many to choose from.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sprewell Bluff State Park

Last Sunday the Fayette Photo Club met up with our favorite state park ranger -- Phil -- for another fun and informative hike in a beautiful Georgia State Park.

A little over an hour south we met in the large gravel parking area of Sprewell Bluff State Park. When we arrived the sun was not yet on the parking area. It was chilly and thank goodness I found a pair of gloves in my car. As I stepped out of the car I saw the rock in the middle of the river -- it was so pretty. As I held the camera to take my shot I was shivering so I had to really work on it to keep things still and steady.

The photo above is one of those first shots I took. This photo (and all of the others I took that day) have been processed in Nik Color Efex 3.0 to have the appearance of a photo taken with Fuji Velvia film. This film was known to really bring out the vibrancy of the colors. The colors I saw on Sunday asked for this treatment. Another thing I did to this photo was apply the glow filter to give that bit of morning, misty glow look. I like the finished photo.

Since I had never driven to Sprewell Bluff before, I left home very early. Thank goodness for the time change the previous evening. I had to get up early to get down there -- but at least it was with the break of gaining an hour. I arrived before anyone else. After a few minutes, Ranger Phil pulled into the parking lot. It was nice to see him. He had been our ranger guide for a photo club hike at Panola Mountain last May (see my blog entry of April 12 for info on Panola Mountain State Park).

Another member from photo club rode to the park with me -- so the three of us waited in the parking lot for more members to arrive. They came and we waited a little bit more to make sure that all who were coming had made it.

When we walked toward the trail we could see the red and yellow leaves backlit by the bright sun. The prettiest color seemed to be the black gum trees in a brilliant, bright red. Phil pointed out the trees with the color and told us the names of them. He also pointed out the grasses heavy with seed pods along the path. The sparkleberry trees were a beautiful burgundy red with dark purple berries all over them.

One of the best things about going on a hike with a ranger is that when they hear a bird or other sound from the forest -- they tell you what you are hearing. Phil pointed out to us the sounds of an Eastern Phoebe (and we saw a couple E. Phoebe nests) and a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Once I heard a sound I was sure was a Cardinal -- so I asked Phil if that is what we were hearing -- he said no. We were actually hearing a chipmunk!

The large rock formations that we saw while on the hike were amazing. It was interesting to get the information from Phil on the geology of the region and to hear about the types of rock we were looking at.

This is a great time of year to get out to a park near (and maybe not so near you). Check out the Georgia State Park website ( to find out about scheduled events or just to check the leaf report -- this is a great website to keep handy.

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