Fun Facts about Iceland – Tips from the Ring Road

Iceland Tips – We’re motor-homing around Iceland via Rt1 or The Ring Road in a rented RV from the good folks at Motorhome Iceland, who entrusted their brand new Fiat motor home to us newbie RV travels.

So far we’ve seen a few things and learned a few things.  Here goes:

  • If you want to fit in with the locals, wear an Icelandic sweater.  It is like a second skin.
  • Skip the $75 a head tourist trap that is “The Blue Lagoon” and take a swim in any little town along the way for $10 or less with beautiful clean pools, showers and hot tubs all heated by geothermal energy or actual hot water that bubbles out of the earth.
  • The beer is terrible.  Think cheap Pilsner type beer like at a frat party or something cheaper than Bud.  So far outside of the capital I’ve only seen a few choices and none of them were good.
  • Diet soda?  Probably won’t have it.  Diet soda seems to be rare.  I think Icelanders have a sweet tooth.  Every candy you can imagine, lots of it with licorice flavor, but not much of diet soda.  There are some interesting drinks with malt and orange that is outstanding.
  • Lupines are weeds.  Although pretty, the fields of lupines you see and take selfies with were planted in some areas to control erosion but they spread like weeks and choke out the local mosses and other plants.
  • The highways are darn right scary!   The main highway, the Ring Roads is only two lanes and it has one way bridges!  You also have to watch out for speed tables, bikes on the road with no bike lane, shoulder or emergency lane.   Plus wandering sheep can be in the road around any bend!  Plus the tourist buses, motorcycles and vehicles right out of Mad Max that zoom past you.
  • Hold on to your door.  Car doors getting ripped off the hinges is one of the most common insurance claims in Iceland.  Hold on tight.  And you have to check the weather for wind warnings.  Anything above 15 and you are not going anyway for the day.
Dumb tourists in Iceland
  • Dumb tourists exist everywhere and Iceland is no exception. People jump barriers, walk up to cliff edges, jump on an iceberg, or walk up to the waves only to fall off, slid off, fall in or get swept out to sea!  Be safe, don’t be dumb!
  • If you are camping with a motor-home, make sure they give you an LONG extension cord for hooking up at the campground.  Several times we had to maneuver around to get close enough to a hook up.
  • Try the gas station hot dogs.  Most prepared meals in Iceland are expensive but the hot dogs are cheap at around $4.  The best ones have a panni pressed bun and come with crunchy onions.  No ketchup please.  Nice brown mustard or mayo with relish.
  • While eating out can be expensive, we didn’t think the grocery stores were too bad.  Not much selection in the fresh veggies but plenty of candy, dried fish, cereal, canned stuff etc.
  • Get all the insurance you can on your rental vehicle.  Wind, hail, gravel, sand, sheep, other drivers – they are all out to get you!
  • Get the portable WiFi devices for your camper.  Amazing connection speeds are available in some spots.  You can even watch a movie in the camper.  No need for an expensive simm card for your cell phone, just stay in touch with WiFi.

Iceland Trip Log – 11 Days on the Ring Road

Pack the bags, drop off the dog, hop on the Dartmouth Coach to Boston.  “BFG” is movie.  Not bad.  Through security, camera bag loaded with so many batteries and extra stuff gets the extra, extra look over by security.

Grab an airport dinner and a beer.  Board Icelandicair and settle into a coach seat for a five hour trip with beverage service.  Nice entertainment unit in the back of the seat but try to catch some sleep.  Maybe twenty minutes of sold sleep on the entire trip.  Ugh.  So hard to get comfortable.

Arrive.  Take the shuttle over to the car rental office – Geysir.  Wait a 10 minutes for another shuttle to their motorhome rental processing center.  5 minute ride to the industrial area.  Get a quick overview of the workings.  Ever driven a motorhome before?  No. Be sure to get the insurance.

Fiat Ducato 4
Fiat Ducato 4 – motorhome rented for Iceland trip

Check the weather every day at http://safetravel.is/  If the wind is above 15, you can’t drive.  The RV will be blown over!

First stop is the Bonus supermarket and a “breakfast” at Subway.  “American Cheese” says the polish server.  “We call that Icelandic Cheese, we say”.  She smiles, and says she calls it “Polish Cheese”.  Same bland cheese the world over.

Wife knows shift so she drive the manual rig.  Bigger than we expected but the cab is basically a Fiat van front with good viability so its good.  Grind a few gears of the brand new vehicle but finally get it and proceed through the highways of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and biggest city.   Roundabouts, traffic, big rigs oh my!

Iceland Day One: Pingvellir National Park

Whew finally out of the city and heading along the Golden Circle.  First stop Pingvellir National Park and the amazing tectonic plate smashing riff valley.  Upheaving plates, sheep and waterfalls.  The teenager navigator passes out for the night at about 2.  The heartier adults take in the sites and hike around.

Camp for the night at a the rustic Pingvellir campground.  Just pull in anywhere.

Iceland Day Two:  Geysir and Gullifoss

Bed by 6, wake up at 9:30!  Coffee and Kellogg’s crunchy mus-lix.  Off to the grand iconic and bus tour must see spots of Geysir (unreliable since 2000 earthquake), every five minutes Stokur and epic Gullfoss.  Parking was tough.

Made our way around the Golden Circle checking out some other pull outs and the Kerio crater on our way to a nice campground right in the town of Selfoss.  Electric hook ups and nice showers.  Tried to walk to town to use the pool but they were closing in 10 minutes.  Darn!  Walked back and used the free showers.  Bonus tortellini and tomatoes for dinner.  Amazing Wifi.

 

Gullifoss
Gullifoss!

Iceland Day Three: Skogafoss, Cape Dyrholaey, Vik

Skogafoss was one of my favorite stops on this trip.  You get a fantastic waterfall right in the parking lot but then if you keep following the trails back past Skogafoss you can see even more waterfalls.  You can walk by 25 magnificient waterfalls if you keep going, all the way back to the glacier.  The head of Skogafoss is a volcano that last erupted in 2010.  We only made it to three or four waterfalls, but if you like, you can keep walking until you run out of energy.

One of the sights I really wanted to see on this trip that wasn’t 100% natural in nature was the sight of the crashed US Navy plane from the 1970s.  I’ve seen so many cool, moody pictures of the plane on the black sand.  Very surreal.

From reading some blog posts on the wreck site I wasn’t sure if there would be good motor-home parking and I had heard reports about having to pay for parking complete with an angry farmer holding people hostage for the parking fee.

Something must have changed because the parking lot turned out to be spacious with plenty of room for parking cars, buses and campers.  In the olden times, people could drive to the plane site but now there is about a 40 minute walk each way.   It’s a long and boring walk so don’t bother unless you have to see the plane.

Once there the plane is covered with people taking selfies so its hard to get a good shot unless you can quick or clever with your composition.  Or wait for the crowds to thin out.  But don’t wait too long or before you know it a tour of people on ATVs will show up and climb all over the plane.

Iceland Day Four: Skaftafell

Day four we left Vik and headed for our camping destination of Skaftafell, stopping at various sites (waterfalls, basalt columns, lupine fields) and pull outs along the way.

Skaftafell has a great camping ground and lots of great trails to explore including the impressive Svartifoss with its basalt columns and a cool old turf farm that you can visit and look inside the buildings.

Iceland Day Five: Jokulsarlon, Hofn, Huffelpots

Icebergs flowing in a lagoon and hot spring fed hot tubs at the edge of a farmers field.  We spent hours watching and photographing the icebergs in the lagoon and on the black sand beach.  Finding the Huffelpots, five fiberglass shallow pools of varying temperature water with a hose of cold water if you needed to cool down the hot spring fed pools down.  A primitive changing shed and outdoor shower are also there all for a 5 Kr donation.

Camping in Hofn was a fantastic facility on the water and a sort walk to town including a great discount grocery store and a neat little harbor with fishing boats and even a cool old fishing boat that you can climb up on and about.  Plus walking trails around the beach.  Wish we had more time to explore the town.

Iceland Day Six: The long driving day from Hofn to Myvatn

Wet and raining.  Very windy over night although no travel warnings for East Fjord area we traveled through on this day of the trip.  Must be beautiful if you could see through the fog and clouds.  At least today was a long driving day and the weather is suppose to improve.

Stops in include lighthouses, overlooks and rocky formations along the way including “Batman Mountain” (covered in clouds and fog) and Eystrahorn.

Four hours of actual drive time but it stretches to more than double with all of the stops for lunch, waterfalls and “short cuts” which net an amazing waterfall but too scary of a road for the RV.

So they say the Ring Road is completely drive-able and paved all the way around the island.  They lie!  The main highway after Breiodalsvik or when it takes a sharp turn away from the coast, becomes a gravel road and then proceeds to climb over a mountain complete with hairpin turns!

Wet gravel roads, fog, rain and driving a motor-home into a cloud on a top of a mountain is one nerve racking experience.  I thought we were going to die.

I have to wonder if we had continued farther along the coast perhaps to Reyoarfjordur and then turned on to 92 and joined the Ring Road it would have been better.

There was a short cut earlier that we mistakenly took and could not find a spot to turn around until we climbed a scary hill but at least our efforts were rewarded with an amazing waterfall.

The area between Egilsstadir and Myvatn shows up on my map and in guides as being non-photogenic and dull, but there were actually at least three good sized waterfalls in the beginning of this leg worth pulling the rig over.  Then the last hour or so was a bit tedious with mostly tundra like landscape an steady climb over the mountains.  Nothing like the gravel road over the top of the other mountain.

Iceland Day Seven: Myvatn Natural Baths, Dettifoss and Selfoss

On day seven we wake up in Myvatn and the Vatnajokull Nationa Park area.  Land of the most powerful waterfall in Europe – Dettifoss and the smaller but beautiful Selfoss and also the smaller version of the Blue Lagoon, Myvatn Natural Baths, a man-made but natural looking and heated mineral pools.

The water supplies for the lagoon run straight from the National Power Company´s bore hole in Bjarnarflag. The water has a temperature of about 130°C when it arrives to the huge basin beside the lagoon itself forming an impressive, man-made hot spring. Altogether, the lagoon and the basin contain around 3.5 million litres of water with a temperature of 36 – 40°C.
Nature Baths – The Green Lagoon

The lagoon itself is a man-made construction, its bottom is covered by sand and gravel. The characteristics of the water are unique in many ways. It contains a large amount of minerals, is alkaline and well suited for bathing. Due to its chemical composition, undesired bacteria and vegetation do not thrive in the lagoon making chloride or any other disinfectant redundant.

We also walked around the strangest landscape you’ll ever see at the world at Krafla.

Iceland Day Eight: Godafoss, Herring Museum, Hofsos Swimming Pool

The day started with the beautiful Godafoss waterfall.  We didn’t stay long enough to explore every trail as we needed to make mileage.  Went through a scary one way tunnel and then a series of very long two lane tunnels to get to the excellent Herring Museum in the fishing town of Siglufjorour.

Back in the car, though another short one way tunnel, over some mountain passes with a few stop for a swim in the naturally warmed pool at Hofsos which has an award winning “infinity pool” like pool and hot tubs.  9kr per for a great shower and swim and then another shower.

On and up over the mountain passes with stops for views and Icelandic horses on the way to our final stop for the night at Blonduos.

Iceland Day Nine: Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Headed out of our campsite in Blonduos to our destination of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula which was a bit of a drive but we made good time staying on the Ring Road or Rt 1 and not being tricked into taking any “short cuts” that turn out to be gravel roads that take forever.  Always consult the best maps for road descriptions.

With only a quick stop at an N1 for pit stops, drink and washing the bugs off the windshield (the front of the camper is splattered with blood spots by now) we drove all morning and arrived at the adorable town of Stykkisholmur with its interesting modern church and adorable harbor with an adorable lighthouse.

After lunch in the parking lot, we took a swim at the town pool facilities which are known for their mineral rich water that compares to the Blue Lagoon and Baden Baden in Germany.  They also have one of the tallest water slides in Iceland.  It was long but not the fastest.  You froze walking up the steps to the top but it was fun.

Refreshed, we drove on to Kirkjurfell which is the icon ionic pyramid shaped mountain that is almost synonymous with Iceland.  It was windy, crowded and touch to park the motorhome.  The parking lot was tiny for the crowd.

But I set up for the iconic shot of the waterfall in the foreground and the mountain in the distance.  We’ll see if I got it.

Then on to the campground for an early grab of a great spot with electricity and a view of the ocean.  The campground is in Hellissandur at the tip of the Snaefellsjokull National Park on the Snaefellsnes  Peninsula. Small but new and very scenic.  You can walk the lava field that is all around the campground, walk to the Maritime Museum next door, the N! station or the little town and the bird cliffs.  Just bring your umbrella for the dive bombing birds.

See “Attack of the Angry Birds”

Iceland Day Ten: Snaefellsnes Peninsula Part II

There is  so much to see on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  We took some hikes to Dritvik beach which is in a lava field.   The beach itself is littered with rusty metal bits from a ship wreck from 1948.  Other than this ship wreckage, the beaches are very clean.  Unlike say Maine where even the most remote islands are covered with plastic rope, floats and metal lobster traps.

We also visited Helliar which has some sea arches, more volcanic cliffs, birds and the cutest little cafe right down by the rugged coast.

Next stop was the Black Church.

Landscape Photography in Iceland

Great series on landscape photography in Iceland. We’ll be driving an RV around The Ring Road in a few days. I appreciate how this video series shows the roads and parking areas around the attractions.

This series of uses a lot of drone footage which give you an idea of the path and observation areas around various sights in Iceland.

The Story of Ronnie behind the scenes at a Sato puppy photo shoot

The Wilson family got more than they bargained for when their Hanover High School senior Daniel signed up for the “Surf and Sato” March Intensive program. Each spring the high school in Hanover, NH (home of Dartmouth College) offers a week of out of the ordinary educational experiences, everything from analyzing classic horror films to hut to hut cross-country ski treks to intensive Shakespeare, drama trips to NYC, college tours in Boston and a trip to Puerto Rico to help with the street dog problem and maybe try a bit of surfing.

Rumor has it that Daniel was under strict instructions to resist all attempts of adorableness and not to return with a puppy but then Ronnie’s cuteness prevailed and after a week of being surrounded by lovable puppies, one managed to come back to New Hampshire. Luckily I was able to persuade the family to bring Ronnie over for a modeling session.

What is a Sato?

Sato is the name for mutt i Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico has a large population of stray street and beach dogs.  Some estimates put the population of stray dogs at 500,000.

Dead Dog Beach is located on the South-East coast of the island. A dumping ground, it is known for its stray dog population, and the abuse that has occurred on the isolated beach including gang rituals, target practice, and cars running over helpless dogs and puppies.

Dogs are dumped here everyday. The Sato Project, a rescue group founded by New Yorker Chrissy Beckles, is their only source of fresh water and food, and rescues them as their resources allow it. Dead Dog Beach is one of the many beaches of the island overran by stray dogs. (source: http://www.sophiegamand.com/deaddogbeach/)

From The Sato Project Org – Satos are usually small dogs under 30lbs.  The majority have terrier in them so they tend to be incredibly smart and quick to learn.  The street or beach is a very hard life for a dog and the majority do not make it past their second birthday.  Nature seems to have sensed this and females are giving birth to increasingly large litters of puppies.

You can see Puerto Rico dogs who need a second chance on PetFinder – https://www.petfinder.com/pet-search?shelter_id=PR04

About the Photo Shoot

Being a puppy, Ronnie was quite the handful as a modeling subject. I’ve grown accustomed to Tiki the Westie ability to sit for a very long time, knowing that a treat is coming at some point. At this point Tiki anticipates treats when ever I make a move towards my studio strobe lights. During the photo sessions for the book “The Quotable Westie” Tiki was so good I could set him up on a chair and then remember that I forgot the SD card or prop or something, leave the room for a few minutes and he would still be stilling there patiently.

The quotable Westie book
The quotable Westie book https://www.createspace.com/4070210

I’ve dealt with puppies before but its been a while. When I photographed Max, Pete, and Jeanie, my main camera was a micro-four thirds camera, a Panasonic Lumix G3 which had a handy feature for photographing moving objects – an LCD screen in which you could touch a spot on the screen and it would focus and fire the shutter.

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With my Canon 6D and its minimal focal points (only nine) I found myself having trouble getting little Ronnie in focus. I also made the mistake of starting out on the tripod. Not good for a guy in constant motion. But I did manage to get some good shots.

The other challenge I had was too narrow depth of field.  The Canon 6D is a full frame camera which has a narrower depth of field than a micro four thirds camera like the Panasonic G series.

In order to nail the focus on the eyes with a constantly moving subject like this little puppy Ronnie, I had to shot a lot of shots.   I first tried pre-focusing on a certain spot on this antique high chair I was using as a prop.  But the entire first set of photos were ruined by the focus being off ever so slightly.

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I end up re-shooting the entire scene later with with the studio lights cranked up to maximum and the aperture increase to f16 in order to make sure I got his cute little face in sharp focus.

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I also started to abandoned my carefully composed set ups and took the camera off the tripod so I could move the camera main focal point to the dogs eye, fire and worry about composition later with cropping.

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Some Tips

A few things I learned that worked in this latest dog photo session.

  • With puppies, be prepared for puppies.  They don’t know how to stay put, they need potty breaks, they are likely to climb out of what ever you put them in, and they are going to tire out and fall asleep on you at some point.
  • Safety – work with an assistant and try to create an environment like a basket with soft towels in the bottom to help contain the puppy.
  • Use chew toys, bones or a bit of peanut butter on a the edge of a basket to keep them interested and occupied.
  • Use squeaker toys or a weird noises to get their attention.  Don’t be afraid to sound like a wild animal or a complete wacko to get some great expressions.
  • Have plenty of paper towels handy.
  • Limit the number of assistants in the studio so the dog doesn’t get too distracted.
  • Shoot with a fast shutter speed and be prepared for motion.  I don’t recommend a tripod unless the dog can sit still.
  • Get on their level.  I used a small coffee table to raise the puppy up but watch that they don’t try to jump off.

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What to know when shooting in snow

Tired of dull, gray snow scenes? Having trouble taking bright, white snow photographs? Here is what to know when shooting snow!

Early cameras did not have built in light meters. You either had to guess at the exposure based on previous tests or later using a handheld light meter. It was easier when using a flash bulb such as on a press camera you see used in the movies because the exposure with a flash bulb is based on distance – basically the time it takes for the light to bounce off the subject and come back to the camera.

Eventually light meters were included in the camera design. But the most important thing to remember about light meters is that are measuring the object they are pointed at and are trying to calculate the exposure to represent the subject at what is known as 18% gray.

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As the majority of snapshot with cameras are people and assumed Caucasian or Asian skin tones, the camera manufactures assumed that most of the time photographers would want to expose for this 18% gray tone.

This means that every time you take a picture of something that is not 18% gray or in that range, the exposure is most likely to be over or under exposed.

Take a picture of a 18% gray wall and it will correctly expose as 18% gray. Take a picture of a white painted wall, white wedding dress or snow and it will come out underexposed or gray.

Take a photo of a black wall or a black frying pan and it will come out overexposed or gray instead of black.

This is why its important to understand how to use your exposure compensation controls on your camera to purposely under expose or over expose your scene to get the right exposure.

Over expose to get white snow, under expose to get true black scenes. You have to “fool” or “trick” your build in exposure meter to get the right settings.

Another method would be to shot a 18% gray card and then enter those setting into the camera in manual mode. Or use a light meter to take the ambient light measurements. Rather than metering reflected light, this setting on a hand held light meter measures the light falling on the scene.

Why 18% Gray?  Is it really 18% or more like 12%?  Does it really matter?

The story goes that Ansel Adams came up with the “18% gray” figure. Back in the hay day of film photography he was developing the zone system and needed to define a “middle gray”. It was a judgment call. Eventually, the idea caught on, but film and camera companies picked their own middle gray. It is a fun fact that your digital camera probably uses something more like 12% gray as middle gray.

Whatever the number, the idea behind middle gray is not that is “reflects 50% of the light”. Or even that “it is half way between absorbing all light (pure black) and reflecting all light (pure white)”. It has to do with your perception.

Your eyes are logarithmic detectors. That is, if a source gets brighter by a factor of 4, it will only seem brighter by a factor of 2 to you. If it increases by a factor of 32, it will only seem brighter by a factor of 5. If it increases in brightness by a factor of 128, it will only seem 7 times brighter to you.

The above are not the actual numbers. As you can imagine, measuring how bright things seem to people is very tricky, and varies from person to person. The important thing is that it is this weird logarithmic nature of your eyes that keeps middle gray from being 50%.

 

  1. How to use a gray card to determine exposure

Set your camera to manual shooting mode. Select the ISO and aperture you wish to use for your shot.

Set your camera’s metering mode to Spot Metering. This will allow the camera to read a very small area only, helpful if you only have a small gray card. You only want it to read the light off the reflector only, not the entire scene.

Set your focus point to single and choose the center one. Your camera will meter the same place it focuses.

Aim your camera at the gray card and press the shutter button part way down to take a reading. Looking in your viewfinder (eye piece) adjust the shutter speed until it gives you a reading of “0” (zero).

Take a test shot of the model (or subject) and the gray card similar to the one above. (You’ll be able to use this in part four below also.)

Review the histogram – you should have a perfect exposure with the gray card and all tones falling in the correct zones.

Bird Photography on the Cheap

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Seems like photography enthusiasts drift toward bird photography at some point in their lives. They are either a birder who wants to capture their life list in photos or a amateur photographer who is looking for a great subject that gets they out of the house. In either case, most of these would be bird photographers come to me with questions about how to improve their photographs. Namely they want to product photographs of the quality they see in their birding books and in National Geographic magazine.

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The problem lays in trying to compete with professionals who write off insanely expensive cameras and glass and will stalk their subjects for three weeks in some exotic location paid for by the magazine. This is why as a photographer trying to make a living on their work, I don’t want anything to do with bird photography. The quality long lenses can cost $5,000 to $25,000 and the top cameras can cost over $3,000. That’s a lot of equipment money to try to make a profit on and the market for bird photography is over-saturated and not even all that in demand in the first place. Low demand and high costs of equipment. Not a good formula for turning a profit.

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And then there is the travel costs. Unless you have a lot of exotic birds in your backyard, you will have to travel to find them. A birder friend of mine recently took a cruise to South America and the Galápagos Islands. She had a great time and added something like 900+ birds to her life list but also came back with a lot of blurry bird photos. But I disgress…

 

Bird Photography on the Cheap

Birds are tiny!  They represent a small fraction of your total view.  With your eyes you might focus in on the birds and disregard the surrounding but when you take a photograph of them, you realize how small they really are compared to the overall landscape.  So you are going to have to get close – either physically or optically.

So you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on long expensive lenses like the Canon EF 600mm that costs about $10K.

Tip One – Buy a lens aimed at the photo enthusiast market instead of the professional level lens such as this Sigma lens.  You can also rent lenses to test them out or while on vacation although renting a lens isn’t cheap,  It can cost hundreds of dollars to rent a huge lens.

Tip Two – Get a bridge camera with a built in long lens.  These are birders favorites as they provide plenty of zoom at a low cost.

Tip Three – Get closer to the birds.   This is the cheapest way to get close up photos of birds,  Set out some food and hunker down in a blind and wait for the birds to come to you.  You can photograph the birds with shorter range lenses if you are closer to them.

Tip Four – Crop in your photos.  Just because you see a photograph of a bird in a magazine and it looks like the photographer is right on top of the bird doesn’t mean they didn’t crop the photo.  Birds are tiny, crop in for maximum impact.

Tip Five – Create a feeding station and put plenty of perches around for more natural photographs.

All About Food Styling

Food styling is the art of arranging food so that it looks tasty and fresh. This is important in a number of situations, particularly when the food is being photographed. For instance, the pictures of food that you see in cook books, magazines, advertisements, and menus have been styled.

Recommended book:  Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera

Behind every mouth-watering image of food is a dedicated food stylist whose job it is to consider, plan, and perfect every detail from the curve of an apple stem to the fan of a shrimp tail. In Food Styling, master stylist Delores Custer presents the definitive reference in the field—complete with detailed information on essential tools and useful equipment, step-by-step guidance on achieving the perfect shot, and a wealth of tried-and-true techniques for everything from voluminous frosting to mile-high sandwiches. Based on her thirty years of experience styling for advertising, magazines, books, television, and film, Custer shares her expert guidance on how to achieve stunning visual perfection for all media.

What is a food stylist? – A food stylist is a culinary professional whose job is to prepare food for photography, video or film. Making food photogenic is no easy task, and the best food stylists come to the job armed with an array of techniques to make meals look their best – even if it means replacing pancake syrup with 30-weight motor oil.

Food Styling for Stunning Food Photography

Take Better Photos With The New Camera

Learn to use that new camera

Did you get a new camera for Christmas?  Are you hoping that this new shiny piece of technological wonder will bring you better pictures in the future?

Chances are a new camera can be a step in the right direction for taking better pictures but only if you develop your craft.  Here are some tips for getting better photographs from that new camera.

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Read the manual

Yeah, I know.  You’re not the type who needs to read manuals.  You figured out the lawnmower no problem.  But the modern digital single lens reflect camera (DSLR) is one complicated piece of technology.  Within that thick, poorly translated tome of information is a whole lot of usesless features you will want to ignore and a whole lot of important settings information that you will want to read, reread and practice with and then refer back to every once in a while.

Pay particular attention to the section that describe quality settings – RAW vs. JPEG and size/quality of files.  Also how to set White Balence, ISO, Exposure compensation and how to find Aperture Priority mode.

Unfortunately today’s cameras are crammed with all sorts of gee whiz features that look great on the box or coming out of a sales persons mouth — things like special in camera filters and special setting for things like “beach, snow, vacation, pets” etc but if you know the basics of photography you don’t need all of that crap, you can just use Exposure compensation.

I look at my old film camera – the Olympus OM-G and it had everything a photographer needed and nothing else.  Aperture exposure mode, manual mode, bulb mode and that’s it.  Plus a ASA/ISO dial and an exposure compensation adjustment.  White balance was cooked into the film.

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Know your equipment

So get out the manual.  Learn what every dial, button and menu on your camera does and how to use it.  Get your settings the way you want them and shoot a lot of photos, evaluate the results, come back to the manual, make adjustments and keep on learning your equipment until you don’t have to even think about your equipment and you can concentrate totally on the subject you are trying to capture.

I’ve had my Canon 6D and I’m still discovering new things on this camera but when I come across a scene I want to capture, I know the camera well enough and have my settings set up in custom menus that nine times out of ten I manage to capture what I’m trying to capture.

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Know Everything About Exposure

Learn the three sides of the exposure triangle – ISO, Shutterspeed and Aperature and know how to change them on your new camera.

The Allure of Black and White Photography

The Allure of Black and White Photography

Black and white photography: Compared to the old days, color photography today is so easy.  It used to be that setting up a black and white lab at home was relatively easy.  I mean it still would take securing a dark place, maybe a large closet or blacked out bathroom, mixing up chemicals – developer, stop, fix and handling the enlarger, photo sensitive paper, negatives, trays of chemicals, rinsing setup and drying area.  Simple as pie right?

Art Prints

 

“Colour is everything, black and white is more.” – Dominic Rouse

But developing color negatives and prints took the process to a whole new level of complexity with more chemical processes that were really out of the realm of most darkrooms.  Even today in art schools and high schools that still have traditional darkroom set ups, a color set up is extremely rare.  The equipment needed, chemicals required and temperamental quality of color film and paper is just something usually left to a lab.

Art Prints

“One very important difference between color and monochromatic photography is this: in black and white you suggest; in color you state. Much can be implied by suggestion, but statement demands certainty… absolute certainty.” – Paul Outerbridge

 

But now with digital camera, computers and color printers, color photography is relatively easy.  So why the continuing allure of black and white photography?  The photographer as artist uses all elements at their disposal from the subject to the composition, to the equipment and the final processing of the image.

The conceptual idea of Modernist photography is look at this, look at how photography interprets the world: through light, lens, glass, film, paper, brain and eye.

Black and white photography’s appeal is the removal of color information and the ability to drill down to the tonal range of the light and the essence of the subject.  Often my black and white still lifes or perhaps a photograph of an old barn is a study of shapes, texture and light rather than color.  Lines, age, weathering, shapes and subject rather than reds, yellows, greens, blues etc.

Art Prints

This still life image of fruit in bowl came about with the exploration of texture in black and white photography. It came about over a few years of collecting objects with deep texture, the old worn wooden planks are actually “raccoon” stretchers – a simple plank of wood used in the skinning of raccoon. I found a bunch of them in an old barn reclaiming business in Windsor, Vermont. The wooden bowl is a family heirloom past down through the generations. It was probably hand turned by a family member or family friend. Finishing off the composition is a trio of ripe pears with a beautiful textured skin and gorgeous lighting that has been dodged and burned to bring out the highlights.

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”
― Ted Grant
Photography Prints

When you process a color image its easy to get bogged down in non-essential elements that don’t really contribute to the communication of your concept.  White balance, tone, saturation, vibrancy etc can all attribute to the pleasing aspects of a color image but does the color processing contribute much to the message of the image?

In black and white processing the artist is free to work on the essence of the subject, bring out the texture and detail of the old car slowly rotting in the snow or the wrinkles on a time worn face.  The drama of the scene can be enhanced by working the highlights and dark areas.  Or as Ansel Adams put it:

Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” – Ansel Adams

 
Photography Prints

I think it’s because it was an emotional story, and emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Colour is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn’t necessarily reach the heart.” ― Kim Hunter

Art Prints

One sees differently with color photography than black-and-white… in short, visualization must be modified by the specific nature of the equipment and materials being used.” – Ansel Adams

Sell Art Online

 

Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.” – Elliott Erwitt

Photography Prints

To purchase prints or to see more examples of black and white photography by Edward M. Fielding – click here

Ideas for better dog photos

Dog Photography Ideas

A few ideas to spark some creativity in your dog photography. A few years back when I was looking for willing subjects to model for me, my cute little rescue westie was constantly looking for some attention, so I figured why not use him as a model? He liked the attention as well as the treats and we started on a journey that eventually lead to the book “the Quotable Westie” which as become popular among dog lovers and as a gift item.

Dog Photo Books

Its just a little book but its full of great concepts and ideas the two of us explored. This series lead to photographing some of his friends. Eventually a second book of pug photos was released as well as an ever expanding collection of fine art photographs and other artwork on my Fine Art America portfolio. The black and white “Portrait of a Westie” even landed on the home page of Fine Art America for about six months and has been purchase as prints as well as on products such as cell phone cases and throw pillows via Fine Art America’s sister site – Pixels.com.

This photograph of Tiki the Westie wrapped in a towel looking rather regal is one of my bestselling dog photographs in my portfolio.

dog Art Prints

Meanwhile this image of Tiki the Westie is probably the most widely seen since it ended up on a nationally distributed Halloween card.  You might spot it this season as it often makes a return to the card shelves this time of year.  Last time Halloween season I spotted it at Target.
dog Photography Prints

My dog Tiki loves to model. He sees the studio lights as a way to get treats. With other dogs its not so easy. Usually I try to clear the room of distractions so the dogs aren’t looking for their masters, use lots of treats and have a squeaky to handy for getting those priceless expressions.
dog Art Online

See more dog photographs at: http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/art/dog

Little gift book of cute pug photographs
Pugs by Edward M. Fielding

Pugs book