Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Speed, glorius speed. Yes, at Daytona speed rules. But I wasn't thinking about cars going fast when I shot this photo. Instead, I was thinking about ISO speed. Why think about ISO when you're visiting the birthplace of speed? Read on...

I make a pilgrimage twice per year to Daytona International Speedway, for the Turkey Rod Run Thanksgiving weekend and for the Spring Turkey Rod Run. These car shows typically attract about 4,000 cars (!) which translates to lots of photo opportunities for a car guy like me. Those opportunities also present some challenges.

Being a morning person, I like to get out to the car shows before the crowds. This makes taking photos easier, and sometimes provides opportunities that get lost as the day wears on (golden hour light, morning dew on cars, etc.). I also like to use a polarizing filter to minimize surface reflections. If you're not familiar with a polarizing filter, think of it as the equivalent of sunglasses. Here's where the ISO thoughts come to mind. Sometimes, if you have an overcast sky and your camera lens is wearing sunglasses, you need to compensate for the reduced light you have to work with. This can be accomplished in a few ways:

  1. Slower shutter speed

  2. Flash

  3. Higher ISO speed

Each solution has tradeoffs, and each may be be more/less desirable at times. Let's look at the pros and cons of each:

Slower shutter speed - This is a great solution for objects that are not in motion, particularly if you are using a tripod. However, if you are shooting moving objects slowing down your shutter speed too much will give you a blurry image. Likewise, if you are shooting without a tripod, handheld shooting can get blurry if you shoot too slow.
Flash - Using a flash is a good way to light up subjects close to you, and a flash can help to fill in some of the darker areas that a harsh midday sun can create. However, flashes don't help for landscape photography or distant subjects, and they can create artificial bright spots, harsh shadows, and red eye. Some of those can be fixed post-production, but not always.
Higher ISO speed - Higher ISO speed allows you to shoot with a faster shutter speed, which is particularly useful when you have so-so light and subjects in motion. The downside - noise. Higher ISO speeds translate into a noisier (or grainier) image. Most newer cameras can shoot at fairly high ISO speeds before noise becomes a problem though.

So, I was thinking about what ISO to use on the overcast morning that I was shooting photos of show cars at the speedway. Remember, the camera has all sorts of adjustments and settings available to you. Use them, and you can get superior results to the 'auto' mode, even when shooting autos :-) And remember, if you're not having fun when you're out shooting, you're probably doing something wrong.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Full of Hot Air...

It's time once again for the New Smyrna Beach Hot Air Balloon Fest. I have gone for the past two years and enjoyed it. In fact, I have sold four images that I have taken at this event, so it's also proven to be a cash positive event for me. There are some who would say this event is a good fit for me, as I am frequently full of hot air...

So, what's not to love about an event like this? From a photographers perspective this event has great potential. Large, colorful balloons (some in interesting shapes) start filling up just before dawn breaks and they launch into the sunrise. You get the cool effect of flames glowing in the pre-dawn and you get the "golden hour" light as they launch. Lots of visually interesting stuff going on, which means lots of opportunities for great photos. The subject matter seems to be universally well-liked (have you ever heard anyone mutter under their breath how much they hate hot air balloons? Nope, me neither).

Events like this are great opportunities to expand your photo portfolio as well as sharpen your skills. For me, this event is a chance to shoot "up" a lot more than I usually do. Up is a different perspective than I am used to, so I get to see things a little differently through the lens. When I am out shooting wildlife, "up" can be a messy perspective. I have seen a photographer or two wind up with a mess to clean off of their lens...

Hope to see you out at the NSB Ballon Fest. Remember, if you're not having fun while you're out shooting you're probably doing something wrong.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Get Your Motor Runnin'...

That's right, it's time again. Tomorrow is the first day of Bike Week 2012. For the next 10 days, Daytona Beach will be awash in chrome, leather, and the unmistakable rumble of thousands of V-Twins on Main Street.

I get excited every year when Bike Week rolls around. I stopped riding my bike to Daytona a few years ago, because I found that the photographer in me has more opportunities during Bike Week than the motorcyclist does. Living just 1/2 hour from Daytona, I can ride the coast anytime I like. How often, though, does one get the chance to shoot photos of hundred or thousands of bikes at one time. This beautiful 1940 Harley, complete with suicide shifter, is just one example of the eye candy that descends on Daytona for Bike Week.

Ever since the movie "Bucket List" came out a few years ago, people have talked about the agenda items on their personal bucket lists. If you have never been to Bike Week, it's one that I would recommend for any photographer. Chrome is a fascinating thing, and you'll never find more of it in one place than you will at Bike Week. Photo opportunities abound!

To my brother (and sister) bikers: If you are riding to Daytona, be safe. To my photog friends: If you've never been to Bike Week, make 2012 the year you go. You won't regret it. Plus, if the Mayans are right, you'll never get this chance again...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wabbit Season, Duck Season, Camaro Season...

For those of you who remember the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon, you will remember Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck arguing about what hunting season it is, hence the title of this post. This winter has been a particularly good one for my photography. In addition to the "usual" haunts (Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, for example) I have had a really good car show season.

What's that you say? Car show season? Well, sure. The summer months in Florida bring wonderfully predictable afternoon storms, which do a great job of keeping the classics parked safely in a nice garage. This time of year, car folks get the chance to bring their rolling automotive works of art out of the garage for folks like me to capture images of them.

I have to admit that I had gotten away from going to car shows on a regular basis. I'd hit the big ones, the Winter Park Concours d'Elegance and the Turkey Run in Daytona, but I had stopped going to smaller car shows. The timing of many of them competed with prime wildlife photography time (for me that's Saturday mornings). Well, time and circumstances have drawn me back to the car shows, and I couldn't be happier. I have had the opportunity to meet a bunch of nice people and shoot lots of pix of timeless classics.

This presents a bit of a dilemma; what to shoot? I think I can find a happy medium between wildlife and machines, I just haven't quite figured it out yet but I am going to try. In fact, sunrise at Lake Woodruff while on my way to Bike Week in Daytona sounds pretty good. That would actually be shooting wildlife all day, just different types...

Remember, if you're not having fun while you're out shooting you are probably doing something wrong.