Thursday, March 30, 2006

SG - Graduated Neutral Density Filters - Sunrise and Sunset Pictures

Subject: SG - Graduated Neutral Density Filters - Sunrise and Sunset Pictures

For our last theme, I bet most of you noticed you could get good colors in the sunrise/sunset, but the rest of the picture was too dark. Or, the foreground was in good exposure, but the sky washed out. What to do?

Try a graduated neutral density filter. Many of the great BP sunrise/sunset pictures make use of the graduated density filter. Here are a couple:

In all three pictures, you can see how the foreground has detail, versus being washed out. That’s the advantage of the graduated neutral density filter. Please note this is different than a regular neutral density filter.

Derrald Farnsworth, from Omaha NE (never met him), took the first two pictures. I asked him about his graduated neutral density filters. Here’s what he said.

Ken, I use Singh-Ray filters for my neutral density filters. I currently have a 2-stop soft grad filter and a 3-stop hard grad filter, however, I am waiting on a 3-stop soft grad. They currently fit in a Cokin holder that I have. The benefit of using a square filter is that you can set your horizon to any location in your photograph. You are not confined to where it is in the screw-on filter. Also, there are many times that I turn the filter slightly to hold back more light if the sun is to the right or the left of the composition. I strongly recommend Singh-Ray filters as they have less of a color cast then the Cokin filters, however, they are more expensive. If you want to do more sunset or sunrise photos I strongly suggest paying the extra and I suggest starting with the two I mentioned. You can go from there. You will defiantly get hooked on using them. You can get them at

I highly recommend getting the 2-stop soft and 3-stop hard filters. With that being said, I know that we all have budgets and they are not the cheapest filters. I would probably start with the 2-stop grad soft step one. I have found that I used that one the most and it was the one that I really started with. It is also the most forgiving. What I mean by that is if you do not use the 3-stop hard stop grad filter carefully, the line where you placed the filter will be evident in your photographs. The soft-step line in the photographs is much harder to discern, if you can at all. For my last three uploads to Betterphoto, I used the 2-stop soft grad filter with. It worked perfectly in those situations.

In my opinion, the order in which you should purchase the grad filters:

  1. 2-stop soft
  2. 3-stop hard
  3. 3-stop soft
  4. 2-stop ND filter (full ND, no grad)
  5. 3-stop ND filter (full ND, no grad)
  6. 1-stop soft
  7. 4 or 5 stop hard
  8. 1-stop hard

Of course, if you were to buy all 8, you are looking at $800. I only have the first three and it has taken me 3 years to accumulate those. I try to buy one a year."

Ken’s words…I just purchased the 2-stop soft filter. Previously, I had the screw-on filter. It cost $99. I will experiment later. Have a good evening.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Article on Cleaning your sensor by Brenda Tharp!

Keeping your Digital Sensor Clean

Dust is the Digital Photographer's enemy, I'm convinced. Simply changing lenses isn't as safe as it used to be with film cameras. But here's a few tips to help you minimize the dust-bunny buildup in your camera.

1. Always turn off the camera before changing lenses. When your camera is on, the charge across the sensor will draw dust like a magnet. If possible, wait a few seconds for the charge to dissipate. This is tough, when you are shooting fast action or moments, but when possible, it's a great habit to get into.

2. Turn your camera downward when changing lenses to minimize things falling into the camera's cavity.

3. Keep the back element and the mount of your lenses as clean as possible to keep from transferring more dust to the camera body.

When does it become necessary to clean the sensor? Do this test. Point your camera up at a blue sky, set it for infinity focus, and shoot at f16. Download that image into the computer, open it in Photoshop or Elements, enlarge it to 100 percent, and you will see the amount of dust and stuff you have on your sensor.

Everyone has their limits. For me, I'd rather not spend time spotting out the dust in the solid areas of my pictures on the computer. To keep that to a minimum, I've used a hurricane bulb blower on a regular basis - every day and sometimes more frequently when I was in dusty conditions. The blower really did an OK job for the light dust, but it wouldn't get it all and I was always worried I'd hit the sensor with the tip of the blower.

That's when Visible Dust's Sensor Brush came to the rescue. The original Sensor Brush is designed to be used with canned air. You spray the brush with the canned air and it charges the ions so when you carefully brush it across the sensor, it picks up the dust, rather than just moving it around. It's fantastic!

However, since many photographers travel, canned air is not easy to get at the destination. So Visible Dust developed the Sensor Brush SD, a brush that gets its charge from spinning. It runs off AAA batteries and is a full size brush. If you want to travel even lighter, their newest product, the Arctic Butterfly, also runs off batteries and is a smaller version of the Sensor Brush SD. The Arctic Butterfly is designed for light dust. But for me, heading to Egypt in January, I'm sticking with the SD version to be sure I'll get all the dust out.

Out, Out, Darn Spots!

When a little dust is not the issue, but you have spots to remove, Visible Dust again comes to the rescue. Using their Sensor Clean liquid with swabs, you can get rid of those stubborn spots. This has been a scary thing for many people, but it's really not difficult and worth the timesaving and moneysaving aspects of shipping the camera in for service.

So if you are dealing with dust on the sensor that is visible and annoying, use the tips above to help minimize it, and consider Visible Dust's products to eliminate the rest of it. There are other products on the market, but most of my professional colleagues and I are happy with Visible Dust's product line. For more information visit

Posted by Brenda Tharp at November 29, 2005 12:47 AM


Great information Brenda....thanks

Posted by: Donna Cuic at November 29, 2005 07:52 AM

You're welcome, Donna - thanks for taking the time to read the blog!

Posted by: Brenda Tharp at November 30, 2005 09:35 AM

I too had problems with digital dust bunnies. I read MANY on-line articles on the problem and here was my solution.
I bought 91% pure isopropyl alcohol, sterile bandages, and a thin narrow kitchen spatula. After cutting the spatula to the correct width I wrapped a bandage around it and secured it with tape. I then applied a few drops of alcohol and swiped the sensor. It took me three tries to get all of that grime off.

Posted by: Danette at February 23, 2006 02:10 PM

Moo Trying to Fly, but not getting off the ground

Sorry, I couldn't resist posting this image! LOL!

Kate, since you're an administrator, you can delete it, but it's too fun!!! LOL!

Click on image to see larger.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Shooting Gallery - Ken's Take on Today's E-mails

Here's my tid bits based on today's topics.
1. Blog. I like the idea. Thanks Mary for running with this. There was confusion early on, but that's behind us. And Mary, thanks for understanding. I still want to post our monthly pictures to BP site, just like before. I'm not sold on asking folks to also post to Blog. Sorry Sheesh.
2. Linda Lester and 2nd Place. Outstanding!
3. Publically calling ourselves Shooting Gallery. I don't mind if you refer to us as Shooting Gallery or SG, or "Monthly Theme." I realize other BPers will pick up on our comments/posts and realize some of us are in a club. If they ask about the SG, just tell them that Ken Smith is running it. You don't have to tell them it's closed. When they contact me, I'll tell them. We've gone from 10 to 14 people in the last two months, and I"m sure the original folks understand how the dynamics change, along with volume of e-mail. And many of you have told me that you want to keep numbers "as is." And I feel the same way. 14 is a good number.
4. Smack Talk. Although it adds to e-mail counts, I'm all for it. That was one of fun things we did when the group kicked off in Feb. Something to consider--and Carla hinted at might want to get a separate e-mail account for SG stuff. If you do, just let me know and I'll update my master address book and then I"ll put out the official notification e-mail.
5. Sheesh's Call to Arms for Women against Men in "Motion" Theme Contest. It's funny. In Feb, the girls were cackling up a storm about whipping us guys in Valentine show-down. And us guys did a pretty dang good job, I might say. Then in March when we did sunrise/sunset, not a whisper from the girls cause they knew the ultimate outcome. Now, the cackling has begun again and once again, the guys will step up to the challenge. There's 11 girls and 3 guys in SG, which is about a fair fight.
6. Let's Have Fun. Please continue to support each other's posting and if you have constructive criticisms, please send via personal e-mail.
Ken Smith
SG Captain

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Handy New Blog!!!

One great thing about this blog is if you come back from a trip or something and there are 5000 email that is just goofing off (which is fine) but overwhleming when you come back to is not like when you are there and involved with it. So having the pertinent information here is really great. So that if you have to delete 5000 emails you know you are not losing key informaton. So good deal. Who is going to be putting the info on here though? This can be deleted after folks read it.... I just had to add something to the new blog!!! :D

Thanks for setting this up Mary! :) The website that Ken put together is still very handy and helpful though and I am glad it is there.


Shooting Gallery--Important Info!!!! Next Theme etc

1. First of all, let's welcome Carla Metzler and Mary Stebbins. This brings our number to 14, and we are now officially closed as a group, because we want to keep it small and personal. Please add Carla and Mary to your address books:


2. Monthly Theme. The following comes from Sheesh (She-She). If you have any questions, please contact her. And Sheesh, please do a "reply all" if you give any advice that can benefit all of us.

April's theme is MOTION....blurred motion. Not freezing motion. There is a million ways to do this if one gets creative. Some of our group have done this many times before, like for example waterfalls (long exposure) and I would say if they have done that they might want to think out of the box and do something different.(expand their portfolio). But if someone has never done that, it's a great thing to learn how to do. But it can be sports, birds, still life, there is a myriad of things that could be done. I wanted to choose something that gives the freedom to not have to go outside if they so chose to, since our last one was outside. Btw Panning is of course included in case anyone wants to do that for motion.

Sheesh adds:

Sorry I forgot to mention that it has to be in camera other words no PS motion added. :)
(that is for you guys!)
I know your tricks!

3. February Finalists have been Announced. Kudos to the following SG members on their finalists. If I missed anyone, please please correct me. Linda (3), Tammy (3), Gail, Cathy, Mary, and Sheesh. Please visit their galleries and compliment them on their great photos.

4. Finally, don't forget our web page. Keep this site for future reference, as it's a quick way to jump to each person's gallery:



Saturday, March 25, 2006


The Shooting Gallery


1.  Members.




Robin Lynn

Jan 27th


Linda Lester

Mar 19th


Nina Powell Shields

Apr 7th


Kate Jackson

Apr 23rd


Ken Smith

May 10th


Mary Stebbins

May 31st


Cathy Barrows

July 9th


Darryl Wilkinson

July 26th


Candice Calhoun

Aug 4th


Gail Vitikacs

Aug 17th


Tammy Scott

Aug 21st


Sheesh Killough

Oct 28th


Carla Metzler

Oct 31st


Dennis Flanagan

Nov 8th



2.  Monthly Theme Dates


          20 March (Monday)        Sunrise / Sunset

          17 April (Monday)           Motion....blurred motion

          15 May (Monday)           Dennis

          19 June (Monday)           Robin

          17 July (Monday)            Darryl

          14 Aug (Monday)            Gail

          18 Sep (Monday)            Candice


For the theme, pick whatever you like.  Just give the ground rules.  And, try not to be too restrictive on the interpretation.  Also, please pick the category within one week of posting for the current month.  For example, Sheesh will let us all know theme by March 27th.


3.  Ground Rules (from previous e-mail)


a.  Each month we'll come up with a different theme to include the exact day for posting.  Just like we did for Valentine's Day.


b.  We can rotate the person who decides the theme.  The theme would have to be fairly specific.  For example, the Valentine's theme was specific—use the little candies, versus the generic BP theme of pink, purple, and white.


c.  For the theme, we don't have to post in the same category.  For example, I may post in Landscapes, Cathy may post in People, etc.  However, there may be a certain theme that we decide to post in the same category.  But that would be the exception.


          e.  I want us to have FUN and to "stretch" ourselves.  There will be some themes where you'll probably think "blahhhh, I don't want to do that."  I hope you still do.


f.  Each group member has unique talents.  Some are great with landscapes, others with portraits, others macros, animals, flowers, etc.  I hope everyone can feel free to contact anyone else and request help.  Or contact the group if he/she has questions. 

          g.  I personally enjoy the light-hearted banter we've had.  To me, that's the mark of a group that's enjoying themselves.  But I realize it adds to the quantity of e-mails you get.  I've seen suggestions for using Instant Messenger. 


          h.  Most importantly, it's not a competition between guys and girls.  Yeah, right.  There's 11 girls and only three guys.   

Ken, from Shooting Gallery Home Page

Shooting Gallery - BuZZ and Flood/Flexify Filters

To answer Mary's question.
1.  buZZ filter:
Link to PDF file
   There are many buZZ programs.  I use Simplifier and that's what the links are too.  I had to purchase mine outright.  I downloaded the free trial version, then used Credit Card and purchased it.  I love buZZ.  One of these days, Darryl Wilkinson may use it.
2.  Flood and Flexify.  These are Flaming Pear products
   ON this page, you'll see the flood and flexify filters.  Both are great and fun.  You install it and can use them for 30 free trial runs, then can purchase for $20 a piece, I believe.
3.  Mystical Lights.  This is from AutoFX
  I think it's very powerful, but haven't played with it too much.  I did use it to add in light-house beams and selectively lighten things.  I got a bootleg copy, but could not make a back-up copy and I sent my "original" to another person.  I think other SG members have background on Mystical Lights and can chime in.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Q: that subtle textured effect ?

Winter Storm Approaching

I love your "Winter Storm Approaching" photo. Do you mind if I ask what tools did you used to get that subtle textured effect that looks almost like a painting?

Hi Jackie, I appreciate your kind comments. I didn't use any filter on that picture, what I did was actually "paint" over the photo with colors picked from the original photo and saturated just slightly using an overlay brush and an overlay layer.

That is, I set the both the brush and the new layer to overlay and then painted onto the water and clouds etc with a very low opacity fuzzy brush. I used tourquoises, yellows, greens and greys to try to enhance the stormy look. The clouds were not original. There were stormy clouds in the original, but they were dull so I put new clouds in a layer behind the picture and then stretched, rotated and positioned them exactly as I wanted with the opacity of the foreground lowered, returned the opacity of the foreground to full and carefully erased the old clouds for the new before painting them with yellows and greens etc. The new clouds I used were taken about the same time.

The picture was taken in low light so I used I high ISO which also contributes a grainy texture which I ameliorated a little with the raw dialogue in PS. (Color noise reduction or something).

I appreciate your attention and interest. Mary :-)