Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Tuna

Kids, you tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson . . . never try. -- Homer Simpson

Twas the night before the night before Christmas. Except for vacations, most of my photography for the past too many years has been devoted to the photos I've taken of my Wilmington NC real estate listings.

Even though I should know better, I have often missed the photo opportunity because I lacked one essential tool -- fresh batteries. Digital cameras can burn through batteries pretty quickly, especially when the LCD is in constant use. Many cameras use AA batteries, but some have a battery that is proprietary to a particular camera. With AA's, it's cheap and easy to buy re-chargeable batteries. And, what's nice about AA's is that, if the re-chargeables conk out, you can buy AA's just about anywhere. You won't be so lucky with a camera specific battery, so make sure that you keep the battery charged. With my real estate shots, dead batteries are just an incovenience, but if you're trying to capture a special one-of-a-kind event and the batteries die, you're SOL.

While we're talking about the camera itself, make sure that you keep the lens clean. Fingerprints on the lens will ruin your images. Photo stores sell special cloths for cleaning the lens, but I find that the soft cloth I use to clean my glasses works well on the lens and the LCD screen. Your shirt tail is not the ideal lens cleaning instrument. Try to blow off as much dust first so that you are not grinding grit into and scratching the lens.

Remember, the absolute best thing about digital photography is that you can keep on taking photos. No film to buy or change. No film processing. Don't be stingy. Take lots of photos, save what you like and discard the rest. Homer Simpson notwithstanding, try to take some great photos this Christmas season. You'll make great memories in the process.

Merry Christmas. Scoot Tuna.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Tuna

Success comes in cans, failure in can'ts - Unknown

This afternoon, I went to photograph a new river front lot listing for my website, but got started too late to take decent photos of the lot itself. The .94 acre lot is on the Cape Fear River and includes a boatslip and dock -- a long dock. I walked to the end of the dock as the sun was setting and spent my time taking photos of the water, clouds and sunset. I'm realizing that one of the beauties of a blog is writing as though someone cares, when actually I'm a cult of one. Anyhow, here is one of today's shots.
The tide was low and the water flat. The reflections were wonderful. I took a lot of shots and encourage you to do the same, no matter what the subject. With sunset shots, depending on where you point the camera to take the light reading, you will wind up with different results. Those differing results are not necessarily right or wrong; it just depends on what you are looking for and what you like. You'll find that the quality of the light changes rapidly at sunset and each minute has a particular beauty all its own. I aimed at the darker clouds just above the horizon, pressed the shutter down halfway, then made the exposure. I like this shot; as good a reason as any to put it here. Taking the light meter reading at a different area of the same scene produced slightly different results, but this is my favorite.
I forgot to follow my own advice on keeping the camera level and made several shots with the horizon at an angle. Of course, I can make corrections in the post production software, but if you/I do it right in the camera, you/I won't have the work to do later. For this shot, I added a little contrast after the fact, but this is essentially the scene I saw.
Remember, press the shutter down halfway to set the focus and light meter reading. With your finger still on the shutter, compose your shot, and press the shutter the rest of the way in a smooth, not jerky, motion. Try variations. Take plenty of shots.
As always, e-mail with any questions. I'll do my best to answer. And don't forget, keep an eye out for Bebe, the Art Smart Car. If you see her around town, take a photo and send it to me. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but I'll think of something.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Tuna

You can observe a lot just by watching -- Yogi Berra

With digital cameras, it's so easy to point and shoot without giving too much thought to exactly what is in the picture frame. After all, you can always crop the photo to exclude any unwanted objects (or relatives). A better way is to try to pay attention to the scene composition as you're taking the picture. That way, you don't have to spend time "fixing" the photo in a photo editing software and you don't have to make excuses for an almost great picture. As you are composing your shot, take a moment to look around in the viewfinder (or LCD screen) to make sure that you can see to the edges. If there are unwanted objects, and time permits, move closer, zoom in or change your position to get a better shot.

Also, pay attention to where the light is coming from. For the most part, try not to shoot facing the sun or a bright window. When you do, you will typically find that your subject looks very dark. If you are trying for a special effect or if you are using a "fill" flash, it's a different story, but in general, you want the sun or bright light source behind you.

If you do want to edit your photos, I found a free online editor at DrPic.com. I have not played with it yet, but it looks like you can resize photos, improve contrast and color, and add some nice effects. If you try it, let me know what you think and I'll pass along your comments.

Have you seen the Art Smart Car? My wife, Nancy Noel May, purchased a new Smart Car, which she named Bebe. Nancy's a painter and manager of Spectrum Art and Jewelry. Bebe is wrapped with an image of one of Nancy's paintings. You can follow the adventures of Bebe on her blog.

If you see Bebe out and about, take her photo and send it to me. I'll post it the next time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

On The Road To Christmas

You don't take a photograph. You make it. - Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams, for those who don't know, made visionary photos of western landcapes that were inspired by a boyhood trip to Yosemite. His black and white photos are some of the most spectacular you will ever see.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now we're on the slippery slope to Christmas and opportunities to take photos of friends, family, pets, etc. So here is a simple but important tip. Hold the camera steady. Many pictures are ruined because the image is blurry. Outside, in bright light, the shutter snaps open and shut very quickly, so you don't normally notice camera movement. But, when you're shooting inside or on a cloudy day, the shutter speed is slower and movement is noticeable. Try bracing yourself against a wall or tree or see if you can rest the camera on a table or fence post -- anything to make it more steady. You can also purchase a small tripod or gorillapod that will allow you to strap the camera to a variety of surfaces. With a device like this, you can set your camera's time delay, push the shutter button and get in the picture with your friends. Providing a steady camera is very important to creating sharp photos.

My real estate tip today is this: if you have been considering a real estate purchase, now is the time to check with your mortgage lender regarding interest rates. One of my clients locked in today at 5.125%. If it's been a while since you last checked rates, you'll be surprised. And take a look at this very cool house that I just put on the market. It's located in the historic Carolina Heights area, but was built in 2007 as the builder's personal residence, so you know it has all the bells and whistles.

OK, so concentrate on holding your camera steady and remember the trick about pushing the shutter button down halfway to set the exposure and focus. Press the shutter smoothly the rest of the way and you'll wind up with sharp photos.

Ready. Aim. Shoot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Tuna

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film. -- Stephen Wright

It's Thanksgiving. I look forward to seeing family that I have not seen in a year and catching up. I hope you too will be with family and friends. Live your life with an attitude of gratitude. Sorry it rhymes, but that's my mantra.

I promised some photography tips, so here's the first one. Find your camera's instruction manual and read it. Ha ha. Just kidding.

Did you ever notice that what you thought was going to be in your picture turned out to be gone or blurred -- your subject had moved? Well here's the issue. When you mash the button to take the photo, the camera has to perform a couple of different functions before it actually takes the picture. It has to take a light meter reading to make sure it makes the proper exposure and it has to focus. This takes a fraction of a second, but long enough that an active subject can move around within or move outside the picture frame. So, here's what to do. Most digital cameras focus and set the exposure when you press the button down half way. So, say you're going to take a picture of some friends. As you look through the viewfinder or on the little screen, press the button halfway. The camera will focus on the subject and take the meter reading. Keep your finger pressed on the button in this position. Tell your friends to say "real estate professional". When they smile, you press the shutter the rest of the way and you wind up with the photo you hoped for.

This technique works very well when you have a moving subject. Say you're watching a group of runners. Aim the camera at a spot where you know the runners will pass. Press the shutter down half way. The camera focuses on the correct distance and sets the proper exposure. Keep your finger pressed on the button. When the runners enter the frame, push the button down the rest of way and your subjects are in focus and properly exposed.

Sometimes, the difference between a good photo and a missed opportunity is as simple as performing this little trick. If you have a photography question, let me know. I'll do my best to answer or send you in the right direction.

My best wishes to you and your family for a Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Scoot Tuna

Enough about you, let's talk about me!

I'm a real estate broker in Wilmington, NC and have enjoyed my work for over 23 years, but I am also very interested in photography. Years ago, I studied photography at Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore, then life got in the way and my photography became a random activity and vacation recording kind of thing. Recently, however, I decided that I would make the time and effort to pursue my interest. Over the years, I have moved from film to digital and now am working with a Canon 40D. I now look like a photographer.

My plan here is to talk a little bit about how, even with point and shoot cameras, you can improve your photos. Not major stuff, but little tips that are easy to learn and incorporate. As I progress, I might add some information about the local real estate market -- worthwhile stuff, not eyes glazing over stuff.

If what you know about the Wilmington area real estate market is what you read/hear in the media, you're not well informed. If you have real estate questions, of course I'll be happy to help. Send me an e-mail and ask away.

I want to thank my wife, Nancy Noel May, for re-igniting my interest in blogging. She just purchased a Smart Car, had it wrapped with one of her paintings (she's an artist) created a cool website, ArtSmartCar.com and started her own blog chronicling the adventures of her Smart Car, named Bebe. Not wanting to be outdone, here I am.

I've got some good ideas to improve your photos. Stay tuned.