Ice Cold Photography

npsmall.jpg I spent this past weekend in Chicago and, as you may know, it was FREEZING in Chicago this past weekend. But since a mere 6 months ago I was living in Alaska I know that extreme cold doesn’t mean I can’t take my camera out and I now have some lovely photos of very cold Chicago dwellers. For those of you that have never yet ventured out with your camera at 25 below but think you might be brave enough this winter here are a few tips:

Use A UV Filter
They are a hell of a lot cheaper to replace than a lens. Extreme cold makes glass more brittle, last winter I was out shooting at -30F, put my camera down, gently, and the UV filter simply shattered. But it cost ten bucks to replace so I didn’t have to be too worried!

Get A Good Camera Bag and Heat It!
A decent camera bag is a worthwhile investment anyway but especially if you do a lot of outdoor photography. In the cold it’ll offer some protection by itself and you can make it even better by padding around the camera with hand or foot warmers (they cost about $2 at sports stores).

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DSLRs, sensor dust, and NASA

If you haven’t seen these photos from a recent Shuttle mission you should definitely check them out. Spectacular. But, me being who I am, I couldn’t help but notice the sensor dust defects in the fifth photo. You can tell it’s dust on the sensor because it shows up again in the same places on the seventh photo which is also shot at a high f-stop (where sensor spots are more likely to appear) (and you can tell it’s a high f-stop because everything in the frame is in sharp focus.).

NASA dust

I should probably get out more.

I can’t wait until it’s feasible for private citizens to go on Earth orbit “safaris.” I’ll definitely make sure my sensor is clean before hand. 😉

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8 Online Lens Rental Stores Compared

While big chain stores have a great selection of gear  including lenses, lighting, bodies, and accessories, they don’t deliver and their rates are high.

Rentglass package







If you just want to try a lens out before you buy a copy, if you are looking for a bargain rental and don’t mind waiting a little while to get it, or if you just can’t rent anywhere locally, then one of these online lens rental shops could be the perfect fit.

Read on to find out more.

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Tutorial: Create a lightweight, cheap photo backdrop from PVC

There’s a tutorial over at instructables for creating a large backdrop frame from PVC pipe. The tutorial says it’s for a stage backdrop or room divider but it would work just as well as a photo backdrop.

PVC backdrop

instructables : PVC stage backdrop or room divider (via Make)

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The Things I Carry: Tips for the Traveling Photographer

It’s that time of the year again. When nature and landscape photographers all over get the itch to hit the trail and gear-up for the spring shooting season. So much to photograph, so little time. Not to say that winter can’t be a good season for outdoor photography. It can be as long as you’ve got some good, clean white snow to work with. But late winter in the Midwest has a tendency to be a bit dreary and challenging for the creative eye that seeks color, contrast and lively subjects. It seems that the first signs of spring always brings a sense of excitement and renewal for those of us who pursue our passion for image-making.

As I’m writing this entry I’m preparing for my first field outing of the spring season – a weekend of nature, landscape and Civil War battlefield photography down in dear old Virginia, specifically the scenic Shenandoah National Park and at least four major battlefields with the historic town of Culpeper serving as my base of operations.

Perhaps it’s my background from serving in the military, or maybe it just comes from experience,

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Too Many Tripods to Choose From?

I was browsing through a few weeks back and found a great offering for folks like me, who want to upgrade from a rickety tripod to a more stable one. As soon as I began looking, I felt the strong urge to take a nap; I was overwhelmed by the number of choices.

Help arrived in the form of James Geib’s “Tripod Comparison Spreadsheet,” a compilation that lists more than 100 tripods and their specifications. The chart arrives as an Excel spreadsheet and lists makes and models, prices, maximum load, tripod weight, maximum and minimum heights, as well as folded heights. What makes this particularly useful is that the columns can be sorted. If price is your deciding factor, sort by price. However, if maximum load really matters, you can sort that way.

To get a copy, write to James_Geib (at) yahoo (dot) com. My copy arrived quickly and was automatically updated after the author found an error.

Original forum post at

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Is it Time for a New Camera? How to Decide

Rationally, I know my camera is excellent. It takes wonderful photographs, it still works great after 50,000 shots, and has all the resolution I can use right now. And yet… how nice it would be to upgrade.

New camera with lens

Buying a new camera can be exciting, but it’s important to be sure that you actually need one before taking the plunge. In this guide, we’ll help you decide if it’s time for an upgrade and provide tips on how to select the right camera for your needs.

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Do you need a drawing tablet?

I was cleaning out my office today when I ran across the most unlikely of items—an original Koala Pad drawing tablet! According to Wikipedia, the Koala Pad was the first graphics tablet available for home computers. (That makes me sound older than I’d like but I’m only 34!)

Koala Pad
Click to enlarge

Today, I own a Wacom tablet and I love it. It offers a level of intuitive ease of use far beyond what a mouse can provide for certain operations. As a digital photographer, a graphics tablet might be an important piece of equipment but it depends a lot on your digital workflow.

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Build your own 42″x78″ free-standing lighting panel for about $40

Light panelThe ability to control the lighting in a location can be the difference between a batch of duds and keepers. Nice light is worth a fortune in lenses. Unfortunately, equipment for controlling light can cost a fortune. With that in mind, a friend of mine recently constructed two free-standing lighting panels out of very inexpensive but sturdy PVC pipe (which you can find at any home improvement store).

He uses the panels for portraits indoors and out. Just set your lights up to shine through the panels and position as desired. In addition, outdoors he’s found they work great as portable shade for his subjects to soften direct sunlight.

The parts list and assembly instructions follow. Also, check out the photo set of the assembly process and finished product.

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Choosing the right white balance setting will change your life!

Well, not really. But it will make your photographs better. I know what you’re thinking. “White balance? Isn’t that technical? Eyes. Glazing. Over.” Don’t worry, it’s really simple to understand, just as easy to adjust, and it will make your photographs better.

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