Sunday, April 30, 2017

It's a Floor Wax and a Dessert Topping!

3:58:00 PM

It's a Floor Wax and a Dessert Topping!

Dust spots can create serious problems for photographers. What method you use to solve those problems though depends on where that dust is at. And choosing the wrong solution can cause serious damage.

The most obvious place for dust to alight is on the front of your lens. That surface has to be exposed in order for light to get through the lens in order to form an image. Some people will tell you that you can protect the front surface of your lens by using a clear or UV filter to protect it. But this is only partially true. For one thing, what protects the front surface of that filter? Even if you stack multiple filters atop each other, each one to protect the one underneath, the one on the very top will still be exposed. Plain and simple, dust, fingerprints and other contaminants can find their way to the topmost surface unless you are careful. Adding "protective" filters doesn't solve the problem, it only moves it to a new surface. Sooner or later, you are going to have to clean that surface.

It's a Floor Wax and a Dessert Topping!There are all sorts of fluids available on the market that purport to be lens cleaners. Some are better than others, and some cost more than others. Don't make the mistake though of thinking that you can use Windex or a similar glass cleaner. Your lens surface may be glass, but it also has several coatings that can easily be damaged by the ammonia in general purpose glass cleaners. Unless I have stubborn spots, my preferred solution is to simply breathe hard on the surface of the lens to dampen it. Unless I've been eating a strange diet, the moisture in my breath is clean, safe, and certainly convenient.

Don't ignore the cloth you wipe your lens surface with either. A dirty T-shirt could scratch the lens surface. Cheap lens cleaning tissues are also a poor choice. This is not a place to save money. My personal preference is either a PEC-Pad from Photographic Solutions, or a good, clean microfiber cloth. It's best to put a few drops on the cloth and then wipe then lens. Applying the solution directly to the lens could result in it running down to an edge and getting inside the lens.

Often, salesmen in camera stores will try to sell you lens cleaner with every purchase, much the same way that McDonalds wants to sell you French fries with every order so they can make more money from you. Given that it will only take a couple drops to clean a lens, a small bottle of the good stuff will last a long time. Resist the temptation to buy more on impulse or by sales pressure.

This brings me to the other major area subject to dust spots: your camera sensor.

As archaic as film photography seems by today's standards, film did have one advantage over digital. Every image you shot was on a fresh frame of film, and every 36 exposures, you put in a completely new roll. Little, if anything, carried forward from one image to the next. The film started in a sealed canister and ended up back inside that canister after the roll was finished. Dust had little chance of getting directly on a frame, and even if it did, it was even less likely to be on the next. With a digital camera though, every image you ever take will be exposed on the same media. If dust gets on the CMOS sensor inside your camera, it will be there on every image you take from then on.

One of the advantages of an SLR camera is that it uses interchangeable lenses. But every time you change lenses, you risk getting dust on your sensor. No, with a bit of care, it's not a big risk, but it can't be ignored completely. Sooner or later, dust will get inside your camera. Even then, it may not land on your sensor, but it could.

Most camera manufacturers recommend that you send your camera back to them to clean the sensor. But that's inconvenient, and probably expensive. To avoid this hassle, many photographers eventually try to clean their sensor themselves. Doing so isn't hard either, but as with many things, you need to know what you are doing first, and you need to have the proper tools. There are several different approaches to cleaning a sensor, but the most commonly used one is called the "wet method," and has a lot of similarities to using a cleaning solution to clean a lens surface. But while both involve wetting and wiping the surface, it's here that the similarities end.

Just as you wouldn't want to use Windex to clean your camera lens so as not to damage its surface, you shouldn't use lens cleaner fluid to clean your sensor since it's even more delicate than your lens is. The standard liquid to clean your sensor is Eclipse by Photographic Solutions, the same people who make PEC-Pads mentioned previously. There may be other options out there, but I wouldn't want to risk trying them. My advice is to stick with Eclipse. This is what most camera makers use if you do send them your camera to have the sensor cleaned. The standard tool to use with Eclipse is called a Sensor Swab.

Eclipse fluid, E2, and AeroclipseThe history of Eclipse can be somewhat confusing and is worth spending a bit of time here to clarify. Once upon a time (circa late 2004), Photographic Solutions introduced Eclipse cleaning fluid. The product was basically just ultra-purified methanol, an alcohol that evaporates quickly, and leaves no residue. The formulation was developed in collaboration with "major camera manufacturers" as a way for their technicians to clean sensors. By 2006 though, Sony and then Nikon the year after began using a coating known as Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) on their sensors. Sensors always have had a glass surface over top of the electronics, but they originally were basically just plain glass. This new ITO coating was completely transparent and started to be used as it made dust less likely to stick. When this came about, Sony tested Eclipse fluid on their new sensor design and decided that, while it seemed to still be safe, they would feel more comfortable with a somewhat less "aggressive" cleaner. Thus was born "Eclipse 2" (or E2) fluid, for use on cameras with ITO coating on their sensor. E2 consisted of ethanol together with some methanol as well as a bit of isopropanol alcohol. Both original Eclipse and E2 contained very little water. Over time, virtually all sensor designs started featuring ITO or similar coatings, and thus E2 became the dominant standard. It was always safe to use the gentler E2, but the use of original Eclipse on an ITO sensor could be risky.

When Cannon released the EOS 5D though, things got more complicated. Oddly, even though the 5D had ITO coatings, sporadic reports of E2 damage to 5D sensors caused Photographic Solutions to reformulate things once again. In 2009, Photographic Solutions introduced a new version of Eclipse (original name) and discontinued Eclipse 2. This new version is even more pure than the original and has been deemed safe on all sensors. That makes things simpler for everybody. Even though this change happened some years ago now, I have periodically heard from users who were confused when they went to buy more E2 fluid only to find it no longer existed.

Next, we move up the timeline to 2015 when Sony introduced the Sony a7ii DSLR. Apparently, the coatings used on its sensor are indeed safe for cleaning with Eclipse when used correctly, but excess pressure could result in damage. Instead, PhotoSol has been recommending the use of their latest sensor cleaning product, Aeroclipse for these new Sony mirrorless sensors (presumably including the new a9). Aeroclipse was originally designed for travel and is non-flammable. Having less methanol though, it is also gentler on sensors than even the reformulated Eclipse. So basically, we're back to having two versions of Eclipse (or Aeroclipse), for use depending on the sensor you have.

By the way, sometimes users wonder whether they can use Eclipse to clean their lenses so they only need one fluid. The short answer is, yes, they can, but Eclipse evaporates so quickly that it's hard to clean an entire lens element before its gone. So practically speaking, you are probably better off with separate solutions rather than trying to use one for cleaning everything.

(With thanks and appreciation to Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd and the original Saturday Night Live for the title of this week's article.)

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Don’t Make a Hash of Instagram Hashtags – Master Instagram Hashtags as a Photographer

6:02:00 AM

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Instagram Hashtags for Photographers

How are you using your hashtags on Instagram?

Instagram is still very much the current and next big thing. More and more brands are turning to Instagram to get their message across. They are turning their backs on more generic forms of social media and embracing the power of imagery.

It's not only the big brands doing this, photographers, photographic agents and image buyers are all using Instagram to connect with each other.

The problem is the usual one with social media platforms, getting seen. Remember, you're competing against tens or hundreds of thousands of other very competent photographers.

You need to do the digital equivalent of knocking on doors and telling people that you are good. And that is where hashtags come in.

FREE PDF FOR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHERS: Get more from your landscape photography by downloading our free Landscape Photography Cheat Sheet. Tons of useful and usable tips to bring out the best landscape photographer in you! Download it here.

Instagram is arguably the premier marketing tool for photographers

Hashtags vs Followers

It's accepted wisdom, that to market yourself successfully on Instagram you need a good following.  However, you might have 100K followers but if they are not the people you are targeting, you end-marketing results will be negligible.

If you've been getting your hashtags wrong there is a good chance that your followers are watching you because they like pretty pictures or because they are just trying to leverage your own followers.

The key to building up not only a decent following but also a targeted following is hashtags.

If you have ever submitted your images to stock agencies, then you will understand the commonality between hashtags and keywords. They are both used to target people looking for specific requirements.

Hashtags, however, can also be used to target other Instagram accounts with much larger and very specific following. In effect, there are two main types of hashtag, searchable and submittable. Let’s take a look at both.

Searchable Hashtags

These hashtags allow you to target people looking for specific things. For example, if I had taken a picture of the Odessa Opera House and used #odessaoperahouse people searching for that hashtag or those words would find my image.

Now, because its a fairly specific location it is likely that the target audience at the time I post will be fairly small. If however, I use #London, the chances are I will be competing with millions of other people all using the same hashtag.

My image will stand little to no chance of being seen.

Using the hashtag #London means this shot would be competing against millions of others. By Jason Row Photography

The problem with both of those hashtags, however, is that they are targeting people looking for a specific location.

We are trying to attract people that have an interest in our photography. So to do that we use more targeted hashtags such as #travelphotographer or in the case of the opera house #architecturalphotography.

But there are also some very specific hashtags that picture researchers and other people use to find images.

These can be quite specific to the genre of photography you are shooting. For example, #cityview will attract people looking for aerial or elevated shots of cityscapes whilst #blackandwhiteart attracts people looking for fine art black and white images.

There are literally hundreds of these photography-related searchable hashtags. Your best bet is Google search to find searchable hashtags for your own genre of photography.

Using the hashtags #odessaoperahouse and #architecturalphotography would narrow the target audience in this case. By Jason Row Photography

FREE LANDSCAPE PDF FOR READERS: Get more from your landscape photography by downloading our free Landscape Photography Cheat Sheet. Tons of useful and usable tips to bring out the best landscape photographer in you! Download it here.

Submittable Hashtags

‘Submittable' are hashtags designed to get your images seen by specific Instagram accounts be it individuals, companies or groups.

The advantage of this is that if seen, the editor of such accounts might use your image on their account (with credit). This, in turn, leads to potentially much greater exposure to your account by targeted individuals!

The problem with submittals is that your images not only need to be top notch to be seen, but also they need to fit the genre exactly. For this, you need to research the specific requirements of the submittable accounts and only submit shots that stand a chance of getting picked.

Some examples of submittable hashtags are #moodygrams. This is an account looking for soft, moody looking travel images. Another example might be #dronedaily. You might submit extraordinary and interesting drone images to this account.

Using #dronedaily would give it a chance of being seen on the Dronedaily Instagram page. By Jason Row Photography

How Many and How Often?

These are pertinent questions to getting seen on Instagram. How many refers to hashtags. Although there is a limit of 30 hashtags, the consensus is that Instagram does not penalize too many hashtags.

For example, research suggests using more than two hashtags on Twitter lowers the chances of your tweet being seen. However using many hashtags on Instagram does not incur a penalty. Indeed it is said that you should be aiming for 11or more as a minimum.

Instagram does not penalise you for using many hashtags

How often refers to how often you post images. That should be at least once a day at a regular time but preferably two to three times per day. Do not post more than one image at a time as some people may unfollow you for spamming.

However, target your posting times towards your audience. If you are targeting for example people in the UK, they will be more active on Instagram at different times to people in the US – makes sense really.

Summary

Instagram shows no signs of slowing down as the place to market your photography. However to get seen in a sea of images you need to target your audience with searchable and submittable hashtags and make frequent and regular posts.



FREE LANDSCAPE DOWNLOAD: Get more from your landscape photography by downloading our free Landscape Photography Cheat Sheet. Tons of useful and usable tips to bring out the best landscape photographer in you! Download it here.

Further Resources

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Jason Row is a British born travel photographer now living in Ukraine. His images have been licensed to companies such as Cunard, Ethiad and Virgin Atlantic as well as multiple newspapers and magazines. As well as shooting stills he is now creating travel stock video in 4K. He maintains a travel stock photography site at Jason Row Photography You can also catch up with him on Facebook at Facebook/TheOdessaFiles
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Using the Litchi App for Drone Photography and Filming

6:07:00 AM

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Most of us who have invested in drones will be using a DJI Phantom or perhaps the new Mavic. Whilst there are better photography platforms available they are significantly more expensive and really designed for higher end commercial operations.

DJI provide their drones with a free app to control it with. It is called DJI Go and it's a pretty comprehensive app. It allows you to control many complex aspects of your drone both in setting it up and flying it.

However, to differentiate its model range, DJI hamstrings some of its consumer models by not allowing access to certain functions. One of these is flight planning.

You can pre-plan flights with DJI Go but to do so you must actually fly the flight plan first. That, of course, means using up valuable battery time. With batteries costing upwards of $100 each, that can be a serious cost consideration. Step up the Litchi app.

Litchi is a third party app that allows you to control certain functions that cannot be done with the DJI Go app. At $22.99 it's available for both IOS and Android. Before we go further there is a caveat…

There is a body of opinion that suggests using the Litchi App instead of DJI Go can invalidate your warranty in case of a flyway. I have not heard any official information on this from DJI but be aware that there is this possibility. So let’s look at what Litchi can do.

FREE SUNSET PHOTOGRAPHY BONUS: Now that you're ready to hit the skies, download our free Sunset Photography Cheat Sheet. Learn what it takes to capture some epic skies at sunrise or sunset! Download it here.

Pre-Planning Flights

This is the big advantage of Litchi. It allows you to pre-plan flights without the need to actually fly them. You can pre-plan on the app using a smartphone or tablet or by using the Mission Hub on their website.

Both the app and website use high definition maps and satellite imagery from Google.

A mission pre-planned in the Litchi App

You can plot a route by dropping waypoints onto the map. For each waypoint, you can set an altitude, speed, curve size and heading. The curve size defines how sharply the drone will transition from one heading to the next.

As you plot the route on the map you are given the total flight distance and total flight time.

Adjusting waypoint variables

The huge advantage of preplanning for photographers is that you can set Points of Interest. With a point of interest set between two waypoints, the app will fly the drone and train the camera on the point of interest.

You can set your waypoints around a point of interest to get sweeping cinematic video. You can also set the gimbal pitch to aim the camera at the most suitable elevation.

The point of interest setting

For each waypoint you can also add certain actions. These include making the drone stay at that location for a set period of time, starting and stopping video recording and taking photos.

The great advantage of the pre-planned mission for photographers and video makers is that the app flies the drone and allows us to concentrate on getting the images and clips!

FREE SUNSET PHOTOGRAPHY BONUS: Now that you're ready to hit the skies, download our free Sunset Photography Cheat Sheet. Learn what it takes to capture some epic skies at sunrise or sunset! Download it here.

A mission as seen in the Litchi Mission Hub

Other Useful Features

In Focus Mode, Litchi will control the gimbal and yaw axis allowing you to fly the drone purely in the horizontal axis. The gimbal will lock to your subject allowing you to concentrate on getting the shot.

There is also a dedicated panoramic mode. This will send the drone to a preset height and take a series of images to create a full 360-degree panoramic image.

It will make two or three full rotations, first with the gimbal and camera parallel to the horizon then angling down to show the area under the drone.

There are also autonomous orbit and follow modes, similar to the DJI Go app. These allow you to circle a point of interest or to track a moving object or person.

Litchi's numerous modes as accessed in the app

Safety Considerations

Flying your drone autonomously requires extra safety considerations.

  • Because you are working off a two-dimensional map you need to pay very close attention to the height at which you will fly the mission,
  • If possible, scout the location and check that there are not obstructions in the way of your proposed flight path,
  • Another consideration is your flight speed and distance. Be aware of the limitations of your battery and keep the plan well inside your batteries duration. Allow for at least 30% battery on returning from the mission.

Wind can have a big effect on missions too. If you have a high wind speed, cancel and return another day. A headwind when the drone is on the return leg can seriously sap the battery power and force the drone to auto-land.

The Litchi App – Summary

Litchi is a great app for realizing the full potential of your DJI Phantom, Mavic or Inspire. By allowing the app to control your drone you are free to concentrate on getting the unique images and video clips that can be created by flying one.



FREE SUNSET PHOTOGRAPHY BONUS: Now that you're ready to hit the skies, download our free Sunset Photography Cheat Sheet. Learn what it takes to capture some epic skies at sunrise or sunset! Download it here.

Further Resources

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Jason Row is a British born travel photographer now living in Ukraine. His images have been licensed to companies such as Cunard, Ethiad and Virgin Atlantic as well as multiple newspapers and magazines. As well as shooting stills he is now creating travel stock video in 4K. He maintains a travel stock photography site at Jason Row Photography You can also catch up with him on Facebook at Facebook/TheOdessaFiles
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Friday, April 28, 2017

Time Trap Portrait Instagram Photo - April 28, 2017 at 09:22PM

10:18:00 PM


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Time Trap Event Instagram Photo - April 28, 2017 at 09:22PM

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Time Trap Event Instagram Photo - April 28, 2017 at 05:20PM

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Time Trap Portrait Instagram Photo - April 28, 2017 at 03:06PM

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Time Trap Event Instagram Photo - April 28, 2017 at 03:06PM

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Lensbaby Velvet 56 Review – A Fun, Creative Adventure

6:02:00 AM

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Earlier this year, I wrote an article How do you know if you need a new lens?.

Seriously, I didn't need a new lens but I had been wanting to get my hands on the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm for some time. Well, I finally caved! I bit the bullet and purchased this ‘baby.'

One of my first subjects? A delicate, pink camellia in Savannah, Georgia.

FREE DOWNLOAD: If you want to take your photography of skies – whether landscapes, cityscapes or portraits to a new level, then download our free Beautify Skies Photography Cheat Sheet. Get your skies looking dreamy and just how you remember seeing them! Download it here.

The Velvet 56mm initially caught my attention after seeing various flower photographs using the Velvet 56. The unique images from other Lensbaby lenses also piqued my interest. I explored Lensbaby's website to see the galleries of images produced with their other lenses.

In the end, I opted to go with the Velvet 56.

What is the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm lens?

The 56mm ƒ/1.6 is a versatile portrait and art lens known for velvety, soft and dreamy images at large apertures. As you step down, images become crisp and sharp. The pink camellia above was taken at a larger, bright aperture. The red camellia below shows the sharpness that emerges when stepping down a couple of f/stops.

For portraits, the soft glow adds a beautiful touch to the lovely young lady working in an artists' gallery. Minimal post processing on this image!

FREE DOWNLOAD: If you want to take your photography of skies – whether landscapes, cityscapes or portraits to a new level, then download our free Beautify Skies Photography Cheat Sheet. Get your skies looking dreamy and just how you remember seeing them! Download it here.

I'll share my first images along with overall experiences using the Velvet 56. This also includes their customer service from the Portland, Oregon-based company. We'll highlight:
1) Lens build quality,
2) Versatility and image creation
3) Learning and ease of use.

1. Lens Quality & Overall Feel

The Velvet 56 build quality is solid. When I initially took it out of the box it felt sturdy in my hand. The Velvet 56 attaches to my Nikon 810 with a snug and tight, but not-too-tight connection.

The focus ring moves smoothly without feeling too loose or resistant. The aperture ring is also easy to use.

When the ring is rotated you can feel the gentle click when it's moved to a different f/stop. The aperture ring's placement is very close to where the lens attaches to the camera. I have slender fingers and do not have any issues maneuvering the ring.

The weight of the lens is 14.46 ounces (my Nikon 50mm 1.8G is 6.5 ounces) and features 9 blades. The Velvet 56 also has 1:2 macro capabilities. Every aspect of this lens is manual.

2. Lens Versatility and Image Creation

The Velvet 56mm produces smooth, ethereal and buttery imagery. When working with large apertures, there is vintage-like quality. Some images glow and have a dreamy flow. When stepped down, features are nice and sharp.

When working with larger scenes at big apertures, I've been able to create the spin blur effect that reminds me of images captured with a Petzval lens.

3. Learning & Ease of Use

The Velvet 56mm has been a departure from my normal photography. As a bird and wildlife photographer, I strive for sharp, crisp images of the bird and animals.

I've always had autofocus lenses and I shoot using Aperture Priority and in Manual depending on the situation. There is a learning curve beyond the manual aspects of the lens. That learning curve includes exploring another dimension of your own photography style.

Images – look and feel
I've had the lens for just a few shoots so far. Learning the look and feel of the images has been both enjoyable and a challenge. There are a few images that I feel look blurry (my husband who's my best critic will say “I don't get it”) versus artistic.

Then there are other images that are very interesting and artistic (my husband agrees with this too). This lens encourages me to get out of my comfort zone.

Getting Started
100% Manual Shooting
The Lensbaby Velvet 56 is a manual lens. To change your aperture setting, you rotate the aperture dial. To focus on a subject, you rotate the focus ring.

To adjust the shutter speed and ISO, you use your normal camera buttons and dials to make needed adjustments. When focusing on your subject, you use the center point of the lens and rotate the dial. The in-focus indicator in your viewfinder works as usual.

Setup & Use
When you first put your Lensbaby on your camera, it will not recognize your lens. The simple setup step requires you to go into the camera menu and select (Nikon menu). You will be asked to enter the focal length and maximum aperture.

When using the Lensbaby, you will need to shift to manual shooting mode and manual focusing on your camera. As there are subtle differences with Canon and others, the manual does provide straightforward instructions.

Lensbaby's Customer Service
I had a couple of user questions as it related to setup. The customer service of the company was outstanding. She was pleasant, responsive and I had my answers within a few minutes after the conversation. She took the initiative to confirm one of her responses with the technicians.

Post Processing
In post processing, you will not be able to review the settings used when photographing your subject. This is due to the all manual nature of the lens.

When processing your images, use this as an opportunity to continue exploring creative approaches. Turn your flower sideways or upside down.

Convert to black and white. Apply an artistic plug-in from Topaz, Google Nik Software or Photoshop's filter gallery.

Can't these effects be created in Photoshop?
The filter gallery and third party plugins are available to beautifully enhance images similar to that of Lensbaby. However, I have not been able to create Lensbaby's buttery brightness and glow that is produced in camera.

Would I recommend the Lensbaby Velvet 56?
I added this lens after I had the basic lenses. This included a wide angle lens, my zoom lenses, a telephoto lens and a macro lens. I still recommend investing in your basics first.


If you want to add that ‘little something extra' to your arsenal, I would definitely say yes! There are many creative uses including wedding, food, portrait, street and vintage architecture to name a few.

FREE DOWNLOAD: If you want to take your photography of skies – whether landscapes, cityscapes or portraits to a new level, then download our free Beautify Skies Photography Cheat Sheet. Get your skies looking dreamy and just how you remember seeing them! Download it here.

Further Resources

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Sheen Watkins is a bird, nature, wildlife photographer and photography writer. You can follow her photography on Facebook, Instagram and her website. A long term birder and nature enthusiast she is Vice President of Saving Birds Thru Habitat, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating others about the importance of protecting our natural habitat for migrating birds. She also has a travel and photography blog.
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About Us

Time Trap Photography is dedicated to freezing those special moments in life that can be revisited and admired for generations to come. - Shannon Bourque

The lens in focus

“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important and capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.” — Unknown

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