Top Ten Blogs for 2012

F Stoppers

As interests change and adapt from one year to another, so too do recommendations for the readership.  So, this year, rather than restricting the list of “must read” blogs to photo-themed ones, figured I would let the expanding areas of interest influence the “honor roll”.  To that end, it’s notable to point out the addition of a travel blog (since I am doing a lot more travel for both work and pleasure now…).  Some previous mentions here for “top blogs” are also noticeably absent, so a bit of a side note is warranted there as well:

When I go to a blog – I am going there for information and/or an education.  I am not going there to be “sold”.  I get enough email, snail mail, phone calls, and such promoting various products, outfits, and services that the last thing I want to do is go and seek it out. So, if blogs become promotional arms to other ends, there is nothing inherently wrong with that – but it’s not what I want to read in either my inbox or my free time.  Having given that side note, it’s time to reveal (in no particular order), my choices for The Top Ten Blogs for 2012:

1.  Flying With Fish – This blog came to my attention a few years ago when some travel tips for photographers was highlighted.  Since then, I’ve continued to follow it as I’ve been interested in travel generically.  The notes, news, and other pearls that are shared here really add value, understanding, and insight to an aspect of my business travel that would otherwise be severely lacking without this resource!

2.  Digital Photography School – What started as a blog has morphed into an amazing website and community of talented photographers and writers.  The inspiration comes from Darren Rowse, author of the also popular Problogger.com where I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that have been implemented here as well.  It’s an amazing repository of information and a fantastic community.  If you had to pick one resource on the web to go to with questions and get answers, this would be it.

3.  DIY Photography – Having done a few DIY things in my own day, including a gridded snoot, a 10-stop filter, and most famously a star tracker (which was even featured on their site!), DIY resource sites are like flames for this moth.  If you have a hankering for DIY stuff, and love to learn about anything and everything, then this is the perfect site to segue with your photography interests!  Absolutely love it!

4.  Photopreneur – Anyone who’s ever picked up a camera has wondered – “Can I sell my images?”  It doesn’t matter if you’ve sold images or not, the thought of whether you have what it takes is always something you wonder.  For those who are ever interested in blending a career with photography, this is one site to keep in your favorites.

Photopreneur

5.  The Lightroom Queen – Victoria Bampton came to my attention after Adobe released Lightroom 2, and I realized that Lightroom was the future of photography post production.  Victoria saw this much sooner and became an expert pretty much before anyone else did, and has kept herself at the forefront of the developments in the product line.  I keep wondering when I can get her on the podcast, and perhaps this will nudge things along a little more! 🙂

6.  1001 Noisy Cameras – If you want to know the latest developments and releases in the industry, this has become pretty much the go-to resource for pretty much everyone in the industry.  Whether you have a penchant for Canon (me), Nikons, or any other vendor, and irrespective of DSLR, P&S, or these new 3rd gen cameras, 1001 Noisy cameras has the latest and greatest on all the camera news one could ever hope to soak in.  An endless resource for the gear hound in all of us!  (In the interests of full disclosure, they’ve also been generous when I’ve done gear reviews in giving some link love to me, so thanks to them for that! )

7.  Strobist – Now the only resource around for those interested in the details of off-camera lighting, it almost goes without saying that Strobist by David Hobby should be in your bookmark list.  Some days are more interesting than others, but there is always something worth learning (or re-learning if you want a refresh on anything).  Make sure you check out the Lighting 101 series – a beginner’s guide to off-camera lighting.  I can’t believe I had the opportunity to work with this guy a while back and had to decline because of a work conflict – was so bummed about that!

8.  Light Stalking – An impressive repository of writers and articles that covers everything from technique, to gear maintenance, and everything in between.  Some of the articles are a bit shorter than I would like to see, but there’s almost always good content, and it’s in my emailed list of sites that I permit into my mailbox.  Not only do I learn things from here myself, but it’s also a source of inspiration for article ideas and expanded content!

9.  F-Stoppers – What a talented set of photographers, videographers, writers, and project artists!  These guys will totally blow you away with the projects they put out over at F-Stoppers.  I am inspired and impressed with their footage, results, and behind-the-scenes perspectives that they all share every time they press the “Post” button!  If you haven’t stopped over to them yet, do so and add them to your inbox now!

F Stoppers

10.  A Photo Editor – Coming from the perspective of a magazine editor, this is the place to go for photographer profiles, industry news, and great insights on the industry as a whole.  With so many resources out there, this has become a pretty authoritative outlet, and information resource so make sure you add it to your own list of sites to visit regularly.  I do and am sure you will come to rely on Rob’s content too!

*****

So, there you have it – 10 blogs and websites to make sure you take some time to visit for 2012.  Now, as I alluded to at the beginning of this post, some noticeable blogs are absent that used to be perennially listed.  Specifically, Scott Kelby’s “Photoshop Insider” and Joe McNally’s blog.  This is not to say that these are not worth visiting.  It’s just that the content there I am finding less interesting and useful.

The former is not what it used to be – a good resource for Photoshop and photography tips.  Instead, it has become a pulpit for delivering promotional content to the Kelby landscape of products and services.  I am not criticizing this at all – after all, the services and products that come from Kelby Training and NAPP have served me well for years, but Scott Kelby’s blog is no longer something I learn from – it’s where I go to get news about NAPP.

As for McNally’s blog – that too has become more of a promotional venue.  I enjoy his writings and images that he shares, but don’t really feel that I am learning much from that outlet.  My visits there are now completely for entertainment.  I do watch the Kelby Training schedule to see if and when he will be hitting Denver so that I might be able to attend a workshop, but the blog is just not a good learning resource.

6 Tips for Shooting Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights at Chatfield 1

It’s that time of year again, and many have already covered the tips and tricks that surround shooting Christmas Lights.  Here’s just a few tips and sample photos to help you along the way, and give you some ideas for your own creative vision and inspiriation:

  1. Keep your shutter speed around 3-7 seconds.  Much longer than 7 seconds and the lights will start getting blown out, losing detail.  Much shorter than 3 seconds and your lights won’t have enough detail.
  2. Shoot at twilight (or early morning if the lights are still on).  This avoids the problem of needing longer exposures in darker night shots, which can cause #1.  Also, the dark blues in twilight can add some real nice depth and appeal that would otherwise be lacking in darker sky photos.  If you time it right and get clear enough skies, you can also get stars in your images!
  3. It should go without saying, but use a tripod – these long exposures are impossible without it.  To this end though, if you don’t have your tripod wrapped in foam, now is the time to do it.  Colder temps can make it downright painful to touch.
  4. Don’t try to capture too much – you have a limited window of twilight, so once that’s gone, just enjoy the rest of the evening – most of your shots after twilight won’t be “keepers”
  5. Try shooting low to get a different angle, or from above looking down – to get a better “aerial” approach.
  6. For the starburst effect without the star filter, drop your aperture down to f16 or smaller – lights will start to exhibit the starburst effect at these smaller apertures.

There’s my 5 tips – but there’s always more where that came from.  What about the rest of the audience?  What tips, tricks, and advice do you have for shooting the holiday lights?  Share ’em in the comments!  Here’s my sample (there’s more also up on my Flickr photo stream).  Happy shooting and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

Christmas Lights at Chatfield 1
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 1
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 2
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 2
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 3
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 3
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 4
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 4
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 5
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 5
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 6
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 6

Editor Note:  These were taken at Chatfield, part of the Denver Botanical Gardens, which are decorated every year.  A nice change of pace from shooting the downtown Denver area, and tickets go for $9.50 (adults) and $6.50 (kids).  With lots of lights and diversions for kids including hot chocolate, hay rides and more, it’s definitely worth the price of admission.  Maps, schedules, and additional information are available here.