How to shoot the full moon

There is a full moon tonight and I encourage you to go out and shoot at sunset and beyond. It’s going to be a beautiful, rain free evening! At full moon the moonrise and sunset happen together so you’ll get the huge glowing orb of the moon just above the horizon while the foreground will still be lit by the dusk of the fading sun. This would be the perfect evening to shoot the Dallas skyline reflected in the swollen Trinity river – with a full moon!

Use a tripod and a remote release if you have one. If you don’t have a remote, use the self timer to help the camera settle down before the exposure. Experiment with different White Balance settings on your cameras. If you’re shooting raw you can play with white balance later in software. On some cameras there will be a dedicated WB button. On many Nikons you get to the WB setting by pressing the “i” button twice on the back. That gets you into the “Info” display which lets you set a lot of the most important functions on your camera without having to dive into the menus, where you could be lost for hours. On many Canons the equivalent button is “Q” which stands for “Quickset”.

Look on the left side of your lens. Most of you will have a button that either says VR (Vibration Reduction on Nikon) or IS (Image Stabilization on Canon). Turn that to the OFF position when you’re on a tripod. It sounds weird, but leaving it on will actually cause your images to be blurred. The VR/IS system is trying to neutralize vibration in the camera and when it’s on a tripod and nice and stable, the vibration of the shutter itself will “wake up” the VR/IS system and cause image blur. **Remember to turn it back ON when you’re through shooting tonight.

For exposure mode, if you’re still new to DSLR cameras I would try the P or Program mode. It will work well when the moon is low on the horizon and there is still color in the sky. Don’t use the full Auto mode or the flash will keep popping up. When the moon gets a little higher and the foreground is darker then the auto modes won’t work very well any more. The metering system will be confused by all of the dark sky and you’ll get a blank white circle for the moon with no features. If you’re a little more advanced then try the M (Manual) exposure mode, adjusting aperture and shutter speed until the metering marker is in the middle. Try a shot, then adjust to get the look you want. This would be a good time to play with Spot Metering as well. Put the metering spot right on the moon and use that exposure.

Here’s a good discussion on the topic from one of my favorite photo websites: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/forums/thread24905.htm

Have fun. If you get something good we’d love to see it.

Here is a nice shot from Michelle Thoma who tried this out during the March full moon.

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Patrizia Montanari, new teacher at DCP

Dallas Center for Photography, Patrizia Montanari

The big news for DCP is that Patrizia Montanari will be teaching our very popular Natural Light Portraits workshop starting in May. We first met Patrizia two years ago when she came in for a few one-on-one tutoring sessions with Peter to work on Lightroom and workflow issues. Originally born in Italy, Patrizia left at 24 and since then has lived in a variety of places including NYC, Amsterdam, Florence, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. She has called McKinney her home for the past three years and has started a blog called [On The Square] where she combines her passion for photography with her love for Historic Downtown McKinney.

A few months ago Money Magazine named McKinney, Texas as the number one best place to live in America. Patrizia and her husband were interviewed for the article:

The historic downtown houses a mix of art galleries, boutiques, and farm-to-table restaurants, as well as basics like a butcher, shoe repair, and farm-supplies stores. Mark Strange says that living downtown was a no-brainer for him, his wife, Patrizia Montanari, and their two young children. “It’s a mix of European, East Coast, and West Coast here,” adds Montanari, 36, a photographer. “You get culture and more country charm for less money than what you’d find in Dallas.”

We recently put Patrizia on the spot and asked her a few questions about her work and life.

Q: What is your favorite part about photography?
A: To be able to preserve memories and in some way stop time. Life is just too fast and it’s not always so simple to slow down and enjoy moments. The art of photography allows us to save memories, and to look back at the past and see things from different perspectives, I love that.

Q: What makes McKinney such an interesting subject for you?
A: McKinney screams Texas to me. It is a city with the feeling of a small town and it has a wonderful Historic Neighborhood. Finding inspiration in McKinney was effortless. I can see beauty even in the oldest and most forgotten building and I meet fascinating people every day.

Through my photography and my blog I am able to share their stories and it just makes me feel complete. I love to talk about anything interesting that I discover about the Historic Downtown and its amazing community and I love to showcase local businesses, artists or just cool people. I’ve created a McKinney greeting card collection that sells in selected retailers in the McKinney Downtown Square, and I also have an incredible amount of followers on my blog called “On The Square” Blog.

Q: How does your background in art influence your photography?
A: I consider myself an artist and a story teller and photography is one of my favorite mediums. My love for painting and drawing at one point of my life developed into photography. It’s an immediate and convenient way to communicate what I would have in the past with my paintings and drawings.

I really love to photograph people – they are my favorite subject. I am passionate about body details and I love to sketch those details, stare at them, and talk about them too. I look at people’s eyes and hands. I remember those details sometimes more than I remember what people say (it’s quite easy to get distracted since English is not my first language). When I paint or draw everything else switches off – it’s just me, my subject and my canvas. When I photograph, I feel the same. Nothing else exists and I am completely into the subject.

Q: What is your goal in photography?
A: My goal is to always improve myself as a photographer. I love to photograph people. I especially love to see their reactions when they are admiring a photo of themselves. They are exposed to a different perspective and they can see beauty in the photo.

Meeting with Peter at DCP a few months ago made me realize how connected my art is to my photography so I worked on merging these two passions and I now offer a unique product to my clients. I host monthly events in collaboration with Pavitra Organic Day Spa in Downtown McKinney called Pampering & Portraits. We promote them as relaxing and glamorous sessions born from the idea of combining a wellness experience with the art of photography, all in a unique, creative and sophisticated session for women of all ages. The portrait package includes a photography session with the option of commissioning a portrait painting.

Q: Why did you leave Italy?
A: Italy is a beautiful country. The history and the art are just amazing and the food is probably what I miss the most. But it wasn’t enough anymore, I needed to discover and travel and the United States gave me great opportunity to express myself and value myself more. Now my home is where my family is and my husband and children are here in McKinney. This is where my children will probably grow up and where we are going to create new memories.

Find out more about Patrizia’s work at www.patriziamontanari.com
The full article in Money Magazine

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere”

A client of ours is with her husband in Longyearbyen, Norway. She’s there to shoot the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). We asked her to send back a photo of their trip so far and this is what we got yesterday. The “rig” mentioned at the end is the Noorderlicht, a ship frozen in the ice that has been converted to lodging.

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere and stopped at a frozen water fall and there was a man there taking video. Turns out he’s a German photographer making some movie/book. Anyway we pulled in and he had also just gotten there to shoot the frozen fall, but he left his battery back in the town. He had a brand new D 4 S, but he borrowed my body to get the shots as I had battery. Then he rode off in his snow mobile and told me that I’d get a free copy of his book! It was pretty cool, so that’s what the one photo is. The other is of our “rig”, the ship frozen in the ice”.

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A Nikon Royal Flush

Over the years, we have had almost every kind of DSLR walk through the DCP doors. We’ve seen combinations of Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony and Olympus during our classes and workshops. However, in our DSLR-1 class this past week, something happened that has never happened before. Out of 20 people we had 19 different models represented, including this almost perfect royal flush of Nikons.

D40, D60, D80, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5200, D5300, D7000 & D7100

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Humans of New York smashes fundraising goal

At the time that I have started writing this blog post, it is 3:36pm on January 28th and the Humans of New York Campaign has raised $953,000. Their goal was $100,000.

Humans of New York is a blog started by Brandon Stanton. The concept is simple. He meets people as he walks around New York City, takes their portrait and then asks them a few questions about their life. He then posts the portrait on his Facebook page with a short story about the individual.

Brandon posted the photo below on January 19th of Vidal:

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As any good photojournalist does, Brandon asked to meet Vidal’s principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn. They decided to run a campaign to raise money to send each sixth grader in their school to visit Harvard. “I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere and that they will belong,” said Ms. Lopez. Their goal was $100,000 and with 8 days still left of the campaign, they have almost received 10 times the amount.

What started as a simple portrait has now collected almost $1 million in donations proving once again that images are powerful. They have the ability to expose and bring light to people and situations that would have never been seen otherwise. With the click of a shutter, the world met a young man living in a neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. This isn’t your typical image of one of the roughest areas of New York City but that is where the power lies. Vidal is like any other middle schooler in the United States but he lives in an extreme environment. Through Vidal and Brandon’s brief connection through the camera, a school and a community has a chance to be forever changed.

Of course, Humans of New York has quite a following but it all started because Brandon picked up his camera and started taking pictures. This is a beautiful example of the importance of photography and how it can make a difference.

In the 30 minutes it took me to write and edit this post HONY has now raised $958,226. That’s over $5000 in 24 minutes.

To read more about the campaign and to donate, click here.

Review of the documentary “War Photographer”

(Note from Jillian: I am pretty sure we created DCP Movie Nights specifically to show War Photographer. Peter has been talking about this movie since the idea developed and we cannot wait to show this documentary about James Nachtwey.)

Without good photojournalists we would have few honest images of what goes on in the world. Think about that. These photographers are the ones who willingly go into zones of war, famine and human suffering. They bear witness and send back images so the rest of us, from a safe distance, can ask questions and come to conclusions of our own. Many of them die for their efforts. What Nachtwey brings to this tradition is compassion. His images, while often hard to look at, are about the humanity of his subjects.

I saw this movie for the first time five years ago in my living room. I remember sitting on my couch and not moving for an hour and a half. I had known James Nachtwey’s work for years. His were the images that often stopped me in my tracks and demanded more time, more involvement from me as the viewer. To watch him at work was a revelation. The director of the film attached two small cameras to Nachtwey’s own Canon camera, one pointed over his lens toward the action, the other pointed back at the photographer. It’s an immersive and dramatic technique that takes you into the field to directly experience this amazing photographer at work. As one reviewer said, “This is as close to being inside a photojournalist’s mind as it gets”.

Besides the exquisite visual elements of his photographs, this film is about Nachtwey’s struggle with the job itself. Mr. Nachtwey says of his own work “Every minute I was there, I wanted to flee. I did not want to see this. Would I cut and run, or would I deal with the responsibility of being there with a camera.” Fortunately for all of us, he stays and takes pictures.

To purchase a ticket visit Movie Night at DCP.

Boy in Frame

“Boy in Frame” from the documentary War Photographer.

 

DCP’s first movie night

Last night was our first DCP Movie Night and it was a lot of fun. We ate some pizza, watched the excellent documentary Annie Leibovitz : Life Through a Lens, and then had a lively discussion about the movie, her work and how it related to our experiences as photographers. The documentary did a great job showing Annie’s importance as a portrait photographer. Her ability to connect with the subject and create compelling images continues to have her stand out as one of the best portrait photographers of our time.

Our new projector and sound system made this a real cinematic experience and we’re planning to do these every month or so. Our next one is Monday, January 26th where we will be screening the documentary War Photographer which follows James Nachtwey who is best known for his work in war torn countries.

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Moldy Cameras

(This is an update and repost of an earlier article)

I have a collection of toy and cheap cameras that I started about 30 years ago. My rule for the first couple of years was that I wouldn’t spend more than a dollar. Sometimes I would find 5 or 6 at a thrift store. Then my family started looking for them. I still get a bag of garage sale cameras every Christmas from my brother.  I now have probably 500-600 cameras stashed in cardboard boxes on some industrial shelves at the studio.

For a while there has been a tiny leak in one of the concrete studio walls and I was dutifully collecting the water in a bucket. When I went to the studio yesterday during a downpour I discovered water dripping from a new place, right under the shelf that holds my collection. Turns out a trickle of water had been going into one of the boxes for the last few months. Unwrapping the cameras was gross and sad. I had to throw away about a half dozen, including a nice small wooden view camera that had fallen apart. The biggest shock was this Argus C3, which was in its original box. The box was a black, sodden, smelly mess. I’m guessing that the combination of water, darkness and the leather case made a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.

(Update)
When this originally happened, I set up a softbox and took some forensic photos as a document of this beautiful catastrophe. Those documentary images of moldy evidence have turned into some of my favorite photos. This is a lesson I’ve learned repeatedly, that I’m often really not qualified to judge or edit my photos at the time I take them. Time has a way of revealing the depth and meaning of a photo.

My Mom Learns About “The Photo Shop”

On my recent trip to Chicago, I posted a Facebook photo of my friend and me in front of the skyline. We have a dear, mutual friend by the name of Julie who is currently working on getting her masters in graphic design. As a joke, she reposted the photo on my wall with Kevin Bacon posing with us. A few minutes later I get a text from my mom asking me where I met Kevin Bacon. “Photoshop,” I replied.

Later that week I returned to Dallas and had dinner with my mom. “I didn’t realize Kevin Bacon was so short,” she said to me. Confused, I asked her why she would say that. “I was surprised that he is the same height as you and Brad. That picture of you guys at The Photo Shop is pretty great.”

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Our own Jillian makes it into the New Texas Talent show

Very rarely does a photograph of mine make it to print, let alone get displayed in a gallery. However, an image that I took of the singer, Lorde, made it into the New Texas Talent Show 2014 at the Craighead Green Gallery on Dragon Street.

I must confess. I absolutely love sneaking in my Canon AE-1 film camera into shows and snapping a few rolls of the performance. I live for the thrill of getting a camera with a detachable lens past security and then discreetly shooting the event. I headed over to Don’s Used Photo Equipment and debated between shooting in B&W or color. Todd looked at me and said, “Black and white is always classic.” Tri-X 400 it was!

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From the minute the show started I knew I was witnessing something special. At 17, Lorde knew how to command a stage, demand your attention and draw you into her world. I strained to see her through the packed venue but managed to find her around the heads and arms of the fans. The results of the night were a series of abstract images, slightly over exposed but strong and powerful with a point of view. My view.

 

The entire process of shooting, editing, submitting, framing and then displaying work was an incredibly rewarding experience. Peter helped me digitize my negative and print it for the show. This actually turned out to be harder than expected. I had my film processed at BWC and they had provided me with rough scans which I had turned in for the show. However, when Peter scanned the negative by shooting it with a Nikon D600 and a macro lens, there ended up being way more detail in the frame than what the initial scan had shown. Peter and I spent about 30 minutes recreating the rough scan from BWC. Those Lightroom sliders were all over the place!

The energy of gallery opening was tangible and my whole family showed up to support me. It felt satisfying seeing it hanging on the wall at the gallery, completely alive with the other pieces at the show. Peter stopped by as well and took a few shots of the event including this one of my uncle explaining to my grandfather what was happening in the photograph.

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