The Flower Project is focused on capturing the intrinsic beauty of flowers in both a natural and creative manner. The project grew out of another much larger photo project, and is really the result of two different influences, my mother love of roses and my wife's love of flowers.
In the fall/winter of 2014, I decided I would embark on a weekly/monthly photo project/challenge which would help me to grow as a photographer both in the creative and technical skills. During the project two of the themes, Nature and Macro, saw me seeking to use flowers for the daily challenge.
My wife would often get a bouquet of flowers every week at the grocery store to put in the kitchen, and often it was those flowers that became the subject for my photography. This along with my mother's love of roses, which I would try to photograph a unique way to give her prints of those photographs as a Christmas present, sort of morphed into The Flower Project you see on my portfolio page.
The Flower Project photos range the gamut from bright and airy, to cool and relaxing, to dramatic and melancholy; you'll also find that way the photos are taken are widely varied. The goal behind the project really is capture and present the flowers I find throughout my normal daily life in a way I find appealing. Sometimes the look of the flower sparks a creative idea for me to run with; other times, I have an idea of what I want or how I want to photograph the flower before; and yet other times, I'll see a flower just on the tree or in the garden and want to snap a quick photo of it. It's kind of a bit of everything.
The photos in the flower project are lit in few different ways. The two predominate are natural light and off camera flash. When using natural light, I tried to position the myself and the camera in a way that made the best use of the natural light as it lit the flower. The times I opted for off camera flash, I typically had the flowers set up against a white background and the flash positioned in a way to best make use of the white background, and to add some texture and contrast to the photo. Often the flash ends up over the flowers with the camera in front of them.
For the more creative shots you see, I utilized a few different techniques including adding textural overlays during post processing and using a broken mirror to photograph the reflection of the flowers. On a few occasions, you'll see that I staged the flowers as if they were on some sort of table, either a dining or end table, in a house; these shots remind me almost more of a still life painting or some other sort of fine art piece hanging in a business or museum.
With the very broad sense of the project, I find that I'm constantly adding photos to the project. Not all of the photos have or will be added to the portfolio page, and there are some that totally forgotten to add the the project.
I think that as personal projects go, the broad and openness of this project allows me to do a lot with it, and to keep it pretty fresh.
So, what do you think? Would you like to be able to purchase some prints of The Flower Project photos? Would you be interested in a book or calendar of the photos? I'd love to hear your opinions and thoughts, and would be greatly appreciative if you took a moment or two to leave a comment here.
You can see more photos of The Flower Project:
- In my portfolio, The Flower Project
- In my Gallery: The Flower Project. Here you can also purchase prints if you'd like.
Thanks! And I hope you enjoy The Flower Project series as much as I do.
7/10/2017 0 Comments
I absolutely love to shoot on the beach, often wading out into the water with my camera in hand or getting close to the water as it rolls up the beach. Up until recently, I did it all using no sort of protection for my expensive camera equipment; I relied solely on my reflexes and familiarity with the beach and ocean to keep my camera equipment dry - tempting fate each time.
Over the years I've looked different cases, bags, and housings which would allow me to take the camera into the water without the fear of getting it wet. And each time, I looked I considered the pros and cons, reviews, and the biggest consideration: was the price worth the amount I would use it, and what I really wanted to do with it. Too often, the answer to that last question was a resounding "no".
A few weeks ago, I came across the DiCAPac WPS-10 case, and I immediately thought that just maybe I'd found a case that fit the bill with what I wanted, and at a price that was almost perfect.
The DiCAPac WPS-10 Pro-DSLR Camera Series Case is a waterproof case, or more accurately a bag, that when properly sealed, allows the user to use their DSLR camera in water depths up to 16-ft. After doing a little research, including looking at the reviews from Amazon and B&H, I decided that with decent reviews and for under $100 I'd give it a try.
I ordered mine from Amazon for the simple fact that it would arrive sooner; the fact that it was a tad bit cheaper was an added bonus.
Once the DiCAPac WPS-10 case arrived and I had unpacked the box, I was happy to find it was exactly how it looked in the product photos, and was described in the reviews I had read.
The DiCAPac WPS-10 case itself is made of a soft but very sturdy material with a hard PVC cap for the lens which has a UV polycarbonate lens cover. The lens cover screws into the cap for a nice seal, but beware there is no o-ring or gasket. The securing mechanism for the case is a super heavy duty ziplock bag closure, which after it is closed is rolled down and subsequently secured with velcro closure to keep it from unrolling; finally the large flap is secured down over top the rolled piece with its own heavy duty velcro closure. All-in-all, when the closures are secured correctly they provide awesome waterproof protection for your DSLR camera.
The bag has a clear back which allows you to see the back of the camera and your settings, as well as a finger hole for your shutter, and a two finger holes underneath the lens tube to allow access for focusing. The bag also comes with some foam inserts to be used if necessary to help raise the camera and align the lens with the lens tube.
TESTING OUT THE BAG
So, after looking and checking over the bag, I made sure it was correctly secured and tested without a camera in it. The test is not only great for your peace of mind, but also required for warranty purposes.
Operational test complete, I got the camera and bag ready to hit the beach. For the first time out, I decided to use my older Canon 7D with the 17-55mm f2.8 lens. In order to get everything setup, I noticed the camera body had to be placed in the bag first, and the lens inserted through the lens cap area separately. Slightly awkward, but nothing difficult about it. I secured the lens cap and bag closures and double checked they were sealed, and then played with the camera operations. Of note, I did end up using the foam inserts to help align the camera and lens with the lens tube. The 7D I used did not have a battery grip installed; had I used the battery grip I believe the camera would fit well and wouldn't need the foam inserts to raise it up.
In playing with the camera while it was in the bag I noticed a few things.
1. Using the access holes under the lens did not allow much use of zooming and or focusing (glad I wasn't planning to manual focus).
2. Access to the back of the camera for settings was possible, just not easy. Specifically the dial on the back.
3. There was some minor visual distortion looking through the clear bag into the viewfinder, but nothing which couldn't be adapted for.
4. The finger hold for access the shutter was easy to find and use (yay!)
5. Since the bag is made for a variety of lens dimensions, the lens portion is like a bellows or slinky which allows a variety of lenses to fit. The flexibility is great, BUT since the lens doesn't attach to the cap at all if the lens is shorter you have to hold the bags lens cap onto the lens to keep it from floating in/out of view in the frame.
Despite the things I noticed while playing with the camera and bag out of the water, I felt pretty confident it would do what I needed in the water.
SHOOTING AT THE BEACH - Day 1
When I got the beach the next day, I double checked everything including triple checking the watertight closures. I attached the strap and off I went to play in the water with it.
Shooting in manual mode with automatic focus worked well. I opted to keep my 17-55mm lens at 17mm to avoid having to try and zoom in/out with the tiny finger holes. Holding the bags lens cap to the lens wasn't much of a bother either, not that I really expected it to be. The camera and bag was slammed by shore break more than a few times with NO water intrusion into the bag. (AWESOME!) And the few times I did take my hand off the camera the bag floated as advertised.
The auto focus worked well through the polycarbonate lens on the bag. There was some minor focus issues when a drop of water happened to be over the focal point, but this was quickly remedied with a dunk in the water or wipe of the finger.
The biggest annoyance with the bag that I noticed was finger hole for the shutter. When my finger was in it, no issues. Getting my finger in quickly however was the issue. The fix, keeping my finger as much as possible to allow me to quickly take a shot.
SHOOTING AT THE BEACH - Day 2
I was a more confident in the bag heading out the second time to the beach with it. I choose the same setup as before, Canon 7D and 17-55mm lens, mainly to see how the two days compared. I took the time before leaving the house to set everything up in the DiCAPac WPS-10 bag, again making sure the water tight closure was fully sealed and closed.
At the beach, I took the camera out in heavier surf, where it was submerged numerous times by the waves. Again, the bag floated as advertised, and even better there was no water intrusion visible at all.
Here are a few shots I took using the bag at the beach over the two days I tested it.
POST BEACH - Day 1
When we left the beach, I left the camera in the waterproof case - The bag still had some water and sand on it which I didn't want getting into the camera. Once I got home I wiped down the bag with a towel and removed as much of the sand as possible. The zip/roll-down waterproof closure at the top retained some water on it which I diligently dried up before opening the bag.
When I did open the bag, the inside was perfectly dry which was I expected. When I removed the bag's lens cap, I noticed there was some sand in the threads, but NO WATER!
Knowing my camera and lens were weather sealed, and having exposed them before to more than what was lingering on the bag, I had no concerns. Still I took a moment to wipe the threads down and remove as much of the sand as possible.
In hindsight, knowing how saltwater can degrade things, I should've cleaned the bag with fresh water before wiping it down, but I didn't. I'll have to remember to do this next time.
POST BEACH - Day 2
After the second outing to the beach with the DiCAPac WSP-10, I left the camera in the bag until later in that evening. Again, I wiped down the outside as I prepared to get the camera out. I was not at all surprised that there had been NO WATER INTRUSION into the bag itself. After the first beach foray, I was confident in the bag maintaining its water tight integrity.
Overall I am extremely happy withe DiCAPac WPS-10 Pro-DSLR Camera Series Case. It worked as advertised, and I only had minor issues with it. For under $100, the protection the bag provides combined with the value of being able to go into the surf and not be afraid the camera is going to get wet was perfect.
The minor issues I had with the bag, such as the finger holes and holding the bag lens cap tight to the front of the lens, were minor and easily worked around. In the future I'll be trying out different lenses (mostly prime lenses) to see which ones fit better.
One additional issue, I noted as I began to my post-processing on the photos from outings was the water drops that remained on the bags lens cap. While not evident as "drops" due to the depth of field I was using, they presented more as smudges. If you look at the photos above you'll see what I mean. While they are probably removable with a lot of post-processing, ensuring that the lens cap is cleaned prior to shooting would definitely help, but how to best do that while in the water is another question. I'm wondering if something like Rain-X would help the water drops to roll of the cap better and reduce the number of drops on the cap itself; however, the question also comes up of what the Rain-X or similar product would do to the clarity of the lens cap in the long run.
I am extremely happy and glad I purchased the DiCAPac WPS-10 Pro-DSLR Camera Series Case. I can't wait for the next opportunity to use it. And I think that if your goals and expectations are similar to mine, you'll be happy with the DiCAPac WPS-10 Pro-DSLR Camera Series Case as well.
You can find out more about the DiCAPac WPS-10 Pro-DSLR Camera Series Case at:
A little over a year ago, my cousin asked if I'd be willing to photograph her wedding. It'd been more than 15 years since I'd seen my cousin or her family, but thanks to the power of social media (i.e. Facebook) we'd been able to keep in touch and watch each other's family grow. So, I thought shooting her wedding would not only be a fun experience, but it would give me even more of reason to travel to the east coast to see them.
Before shooting her wedding, I'd never had the opportunity to photograph a wedding, so I turned to the internet to do some research. Finding not only a ton of tips from some spectacular wedding photographers, but some great inspiration as well, I began to digest as much of it as I could. From posing to shot lists to things to make sure were in my camera bag, the amount of information was honestly overwhelming. The one thing I was sure of, was that no matter how good the information or the its source, it all came down to me (the photographer) and the wedding I was shooting. Lighting, location, the shot list, the schedule, etc. - they were all specific to the wedding, which meant I had figure out what I thought was best for my situation. Still the research and preparation was important because it gave me tons of great info to use to make those decisions.
Since I was travelling by plane, I decided on the following gear:
- Cameras: Canon 7D and Canon 5D Mark III
- Lenses: 50mm f1.4, 100mm f2.8 Macro, 70-200mm f2.8, and my 17-55mm f2.8
- Flashes: 3 x Lumopro LP180 speedlights, and one Canon 430 EXII
- Flash Modifiers: 2 x white shoot through umbrellas, 1 x 36 inch octobox, and my large Rouge Flash Bender
- Wireless Flash Triggers
- Two light stands
Of course, of the gear I took I maybe used half of it. But it was definitely better to be prepared, and I'm glad I had options available to me. Although for the next wedding I'll definitely be adding some additional gear to my bag.
The church was small and quaint, but had beautiful light coming through the windows in the afternoon; which was both a blessing and a curse. The light in some spots was super strong while in others the light caused gross shadows to form, but dealing with the lighting was a challenge that I had prepared myself for.
From my perspective as the photographer, the wedding was relatively straight forward to shoot and a definite learning experience. My cousin and her now husband, were super laid back, and knowing the bride's family, made this a perfect first wedding to shoot.
I know I learned a lot from the experience, and I'm very appreciative of my cousin giving me the opportunity. I think the wedding photos turned out awesome, and I know her and her family love them as well.
Here are a few of my favorite shots from my cousin's wedding day.
About 8-years ago my friend Jordan over at Over Flow Media (overflowmedia.net) convinced me to go out and try some star trail photography with him, since then I've been captivated by the idea of photographing the night sky.
Up until about a year ago, I hadn't thought much of trying to capture the Milky Way; I only wanted to create photos of the starry sky and try to create some cool looking star trail photographs. I didn't put forth much effort other than to setup the camera and tripod, frame my scene, and get the time lapse started. I'd later merge the photos and think, "that's pretty cool."
That got a little old, and with Instagram I was seeing all of the cool Milky Way photos being posted, and decided it was time to actually learn a little bit and give it a try. So, I did some reading and video watching, and finally reached out to a few photographers on Instagram who gave me some good advice on getting started (@timkemple and @surfnsnowboard). Their advice was great and helped me feel confident about getting started, but nothing beats trying again, and again, and again until you find what works for you.
So, my first few photos were better than expected and served to keep me motivated to try and get a good Milky Way photo. So, I did some more searching through Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, and various photography websites, and finally gleaned a lot more knowledge and understanding of capturing the photo I wanted.
My knowledge is by no means complete; there is a ton left to learn, and I intend to keep at it. But I thought it would worth sharing what I've learned so far to help others out there like me. So, I've broken things down into a few different steps/areas and tried to organize things to make it a little easier.
Step 1: Learn and Evaluate Your Gear
This probably seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. Look at your gear and figure out what its strengths and weaknesses are. In order to get the photo you're looking for, you're going to have more success with a wide-angle lens and a camera that can handle some noise at high ISOs. I have two camera bodies I shoot all the time, a Canon 7D (APS-C) and a Canon 5D Mark III (full frame). The 5D Mark III is much better suited for working at high ISOs, but I was limited in my choice of lenses. My 17-55 f2.8 lens was bought specifically for my 7D, and the widest I have for the 5D is a 50mm f1.4. So, I opted for the wider angle lens and was resorted to using the 7D.
If you've just started into the DSLR world, you probably have a kit lens like a 17-55mm with an aperture of f3.5-5.5; this will work well for the start, but if you're looking to buy a new lens find one that is f2.8 or faster.
Once you know what you're working with, go out and test your gear. Put your gear through its paces by trying out high ISO levels, show shutter speeds, noise reductions settings on/off, etc. Get to know your camera, and as you do you'll find you might get some surprising shots.
Step 2: Practice Your Setup
Now that you know your camera and lens capabilities and limitations, it's time to try some setups.
Here are the settings I start with.
- Camera/Lens: Canon 7D, Canon 17-55mm f2.8, tripod mounted
- Focus: 17mm focused to Infinity (set lens to manual focus)
- Shutter Speed: 20sec
- ISO: 3200
- White Balance: 3600 Kelvin
- Image Processing: RAW
- Mirror Lockup: Active
- LCD Brightness: as low as it can go
- Remote shutter release
Now, here's why I use these settings:
- 17mm is as wide as a I can go, and at 20-25sec it keeps the stars from starting to "trail" during the exposure. The wider your lens the more room you'll have before you start to get that star trail. It's good to follow the 500-Rule and this little chart can be super helpful. https://petapixel.com/2015/01/06/avoid-star-trails-following-500-rule/
- 3600 K because I think it's a good start and typically provides a nice night sky color.
- ISO is set to 3200 initially, but I'll often bump it 4000 or 6400; I've even tried 12,800 which did fairly well in lower light pollution environments, but still adds a decent amount of noise to the image.
- Mirror Lockup is a function that allows you to reduce camera shake when the photo is actually taken. When utilized mirror lockup requires two shutter presses, one to lock the mirror up and one to take the photo. When combined with remote trigger and tripod, you virtually remove camera shake from the equation.
- Using RAW prevents any distortion from compression and loss of quality. It also allows you to easily use post-processing software to adjust color temp among other things.
- Setting your LCD brightness as low as it can go will help you keep some of the night vision as you look at the back of the screen to evaluate your histogram.
Here are some of the photos I took from my backyard using these settings as a starting point to deviate from. You'll see a lot of light pollution from street lights, the neighbor's back porch lights, the moon in a couple cases, and a couple other random sources. You'll also see here that my post processing needs some definite tweaking (which I'll get to later).
Step 3: Planning
Once you've got a solid understanding of your gear, and you've practiced and understand your settings, it's time to plan how to get that Milky Way shot.
As you begin to plan you're going to want to know:
- Where's the Milk Way in relation to you, and when/where you can see it best from.
- How the light pollution in your area is, and where to get away from the light pollution.
- The moon's phase and rise/set times. The light of the moon can create/add its own lighting issue, so knowing when it rises and sets, and what the moon's phase is is helpful.
- What the weather is going to be like? Clouds, haze, fog, etc.
I've found the follow apps/websites very helpful:
Night Sky/Star Info
- Google's Sky View app
Once you've figured out the details as best as you can, it's time to go shoot.
Step 4: Shooting
Since you'v already practice and planned, it's time to go out and shoot.
I had practiced in my back yard with heavy light pollution, and not great views to the Milky Way; fortunately, I had been able to get some decent shots and it forced me to do the best I could with setup and post processing, and I wanted to get away. So, we choose a spot in the mountains away from a lot of the major light pollution (an added bonus to the family camping trip).
Once you get to your location, setup early while you still have some light available to you. Try to frame up your shot(s) in relation to the Milky Way, the moon, and other light sources, and take some test shots. As the sun sets, you'll be able to get some great photos before things get dark.
When things finally are starting to line up: shoot, evaluate (histogram, composition, etc), and shoot again. Be sure to zoom in on the LCD screen and check for star trails, noise, etc. and adjust as you can; and with that histogram make sure you're not blowing out the highlights - exposing to the right is okay, but you won't be able to recover the highlights if they are totally blow out. You've got time to adjust and try things out, but remember to have fun and enjoy the night sky in all its beauty.
Step 5: Post Processing
This is by far the hardest part in my opinion. I've watched a bunch of videos and read a ton of articles on post processing Milky Way and star photos, and it seems as with anything there are varying techniques and ideas. Here's what I did after importing my photos into Lightroom:
1. Set my camera lens.
2. Checked my color balance adjusting as necessary around the 3600K color temp and the purple tint. I was looking for a bluish/purple color to be predominate in my images, but use what you like.
3. I adjusted the exposure of my image for overall appeal. Usually this meant bringing down the exposure by as much as one a half stops.
4. I adjusted the highlights slider for the effect of the overall highlight areas that I wanted.
5. I adjust the linear curve to increase contrast, and then tweaked the white/black/shadow sliders to cleanup the look of the overall image. I also added a little dehaze in at this point in time.
6. I added luminosity and color noise reduction as I thought was needed.
7. Using the paint brush I added clarity, saturation, and increased contrast over the sky and Milky Way as I thought was needed, and often checking back to the original image to see the before/current.
8. I added a circular graduated filter in the middle of the photo that was large enough to help bring down the exposure of the top left and right corners of the sky.
9. I finally straightened and cropped the photos as I thought was needed, and added some minor post-processing vignette.
For the photos that had a high level of light pollution I used a combination of graduated line and circular filters to help cut some of the highlights, bring in contrast, and tweak the color. Remember this is what you like; there are a ton of ways to do it.
Step 6: Enjoy and Share.
Once you've got a few shots you like share them and ask for others to comment on them. Most likely, what you're going to hear are things like, "awesome", "great", "cool shot"; so, reach out and ask for constructive criticism from folks you trust to give it to you.
My Milky Way Photos
The photos below were taking during my recent camping trip up at Los Alamos Campground near Pyramid Lake (east of LA and northwest of Pasadena right off the I-15).
I hope that you're adventure in photographing the Milky Way is as successful as mine turned out to be. I also hope that some of what I learned and shared will help you out in your own endeavor. I look forward to hearing about your own adventure and seeing some of the photos you are able to capture.
You can follow me on Instagram: @markhamilton.photos
There are a ton of photography resources on the internet, some are great and some not so much. I've decided to list a few of my favorites for you. Now, why are these among my favorites? Well, the simple answer, they provide a little bit of everything: news, insight, learning resources, and ideas.
What are some of your favorite photography websites and why?