Inspiration.  We all need it.  Photography is an art form that demands it.  After years of making photos I sometimes struggle with do I want to do this anymore.  I got this idea from someone trying to motivate others to create, which applies to life in general.  Where does your motivation come from. What makes you get our of bed in the morning?  Thinking photography it took only a second to answer that question.  I find in photography I get energized by the beginner asking a million questions or a youngster trying something for the first time and trying to master it right away.  It makes me think about the craft. 

I take a lot of high school sports photos.  In today times everyone wants a Facebook or cell phone photo to show everyone. I'll display something on the local pizza shop wall and watch the parents snap away with their phones.  It's the new wallet photo.   After spending years taking photos very few people want a print so why do I continue.   A friend once told me that that someday a grandfather uncle or the person next door will tell the story about the photo you took many years ago.  They may not remember who took it.  Sometimes I'll do a portrait session with someone I know and the deal is they have to print something and hang it on the wall.  Recently a friend gave me a list to print.  It was such a long time that I was ordering some metal prints (my favorite), I went ahead and picked out one for her wall.  It happened she didn't pick the one I already printed.  The look on her face was worth it.  I then asked her if I should print the one she asked for and she shook her head no. 

We all leave a piece or impart things to someone else.  I often catch myself using a phrase my family said when I was younger.  I then here a younger family member saying it too.  If you are lucky enough you'll actually get to experience that moment overhearing a conversation somewhere about that Photograph without them knowing you took it.  I have and it is a great feeling.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small photography sports Tue, 03 Mar 2020 21:37:56 GMT
HAVE YOU HEARD THE PHRASE GO INTO THE LIGHT _4194779_4194779 Photography is all about the light.  Watch an old movie and pay attention to the lighting they use.  Soft, directional, harsh or no light.  It all creates a mood or can change the mood of the scene.  Photography whether still or motion is basically the same.  You can direct where someone looks or feels about a subject.  In abandoned places I think the photography should be dark and maybe creepy.  Finding the right light or creating that light can take that documentary photo and create something special or unique.  Of course making light can also mean light subtraction.  Light subtraction can be done by using a high shutter speed to darken the area and then add light using a speed flash.  Light painting with a flash light won't work.  Light painting with a flashlight needs a slow shutter speed maybe 5 seconds or better to paint light where you want it.   I carry a camera flash, flashlight and LED because I never know what I will see.  Chairs make some nice photos because if a room is bright and airy look around and move it somewhere that has better light. Beams of light can often be found from a broken window, unhinged doorway or a hole in the roof.  Look around.  A cloudy day will throw soft light so you may have to go back to using your own light source.   Shadows are as important as light.  Shadows shape things and can add a moody look.  Harsh light will create shadows because it is directional.  The sun is a great example of harsh  lighting as it  puts a strong shadow on the opposite side of what it is lighting. 



_4152668_4152668Abandoned manufacturing plant being reclaimed by nature a little at a time. We have all seen movies of after a life altering event and This is a close as I have come to see it in person. Closed over 43 years ago due to a natural disaster nature is returning the site slowly. Algae, moss and plant life finding its way where light touches the grounds.

Stairways are also a great subject to illustrate the going into the light.  Movies use this method by having the soul walk upstairs with light cascading down the steps. An open door when you can't see what is on the other side.  No matter what you are photographing light is everything and will enhance anything.  Bad light is just bad.  Learn to light paint or use a flash. A so so subject in good light will always beat  a great subject in bad light every time.  Watch the Seinfeld episode with the two face girl because that is one of the best illustration of how someone with the right light looks good and bad light someone else.


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned abandoned photography abandoned places better photography blog dennis small photography tips Thu, 06 Feb 2020 16:04:54 GMT

We traveled to Acadia NP last year and again in the spring of 2019 for a total of 6 weeks photographing the park and surrounding areas.  One thing I noticed how courteous the drivers were.  There is so much to look at that you drive under the speed limit and never had someone ride my bumper unless it was someone not from Maine.  Lots to photograph but the fall made better photos than the spring or maybe I should have not gone back so quick.  I wanted to go up to Mt Washington and the fall weather prevented me going up the mountain hence the return.  The fall trip had more stormy seas and after all big crashing waves on the rocky coast line makes better photography in my opinion. 

Schoodic Peninsula AcadiaSchoodic Peninsula Acadia

I do a lot of research on a place before I go however, one of the places I wanted to go to was described in another photographer's site and he described how to locate the area.  I couldn't find it by parking where he said it was almost time to leave.  I finally ask a ranger where boulder beach was and he said there wasn't one.  The ranger said I might be talking about Monument Cove which is another name I read somewhere else.  I was parking two parking lots farther than necessary.  I did a recon and found the location and wanted to do a sunrise shot.  To get there low tide  was my choice and you can't always pick that for a sunrise.  I finally made it not at the ideal time. I climbed down over the cliffs hence the low tide.  I second guessed the tide time or so I thought based on the waves and decided I had better leave before I got trapped there.  With the slippy rocks I decided to go the dry ones so I wouldn't fall and noticed what I thought was a cave.  I was already there and when I got there it was a pathway complete with a rope to hold on to making the trip out a lot better than the rocks.  Again I mention the research and leaving bad information or leaving out the path I wonder if they really don 't want you to go there. 

Your photography skills come in handy when you are not in the best light.  Shoot with filters to enable a slow shutter speed will smooth out water even when there are waves. The boulders are treacherous polished by thousands of years and they were wet from the sea.  I ended up breaking some filters and fell a few times moving around to get better angles. I may have to go back just to get at sunrise.  I was there in the beginning of October and it was not colored  with the trees not turned.  Leaving Acadia heading to New Hampshire I found the color I expected.  It rained the entire time at Mt Washington which prevented the drive up the mountain.  I did have a mission to photograph a water fall half way between Mt Washington and Bar Harbor.  We were camping in a fifth wheel trailor and I didn't know if I could get there with the camper so I went to Mt Washington and drove back to the falls.  The water fall was named Small's fall and I have it printed on metal.


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) acadia better photography blog dennis small National Parks photography tips Fri, 01 Nov 2019 01:01:18 GMT
PRINT, PRINT, PRINT rockville setting moonrockville setting moonALL RIGHTS RESERVED


i have been gone from the blog for too long and would like to thank another blogger Mark Maio  who really takes what I am writing about to the next level.  Getting out of the rut you are stuck in can be hard however, staying there isn't an option.  

I am a newbe to the photography world but the passion moved me into hyper speed.   Last check I had over 150,000 photo files and I have recently got in the groove revisiting long ago and letting folders of the first photos I shot go.  Why I even entertained keeping them in the first place.  Today i take few photos. Instead I do more looking and thinking about projects to do.  I only keep photos that will be printed (someday), a possible presentation or I think someone would enjoy it.   That being said   my first prints were for a show at Wildwood Park in Harrisburg.  Did the whole process of printing, framing and displaying.  I had a lot of money in the project and didn't sell anything.  That cooled my heals a little and thought I wouldn't like to do it again.  The good thing is some of those photos are hanging in my house and I am still enjoying them.  What did that experience teach me?  I did get some exposure, ended up starting to do local talks about what I do and I got interviewed on a radio show about the display.  After the radio show i got invited to do the artwork in some local establishments.  Photography is personal for me.  I don't want to give that up to make it business.  Not saying I wouldn't sell something however, not going to market and so on.  I do push myself to print things.  I do a lot of photography that normal people wouldn't hang in their space.  I love the abandoned places and trying to make it art.  I have a brother that is in the Psychology field and the most interesting display was to hang a bunch of abandoned stuff in his office.  It set of a reaction I never expected.  Half of the people coming thru his office demanded they be taken down and the others loved the idea.  The result was the display stayed up and those who didn't like it was asked to sit on the opposite side of the room. I found a new meaning of creating controversy good or bad.  Since then I have been doing a display of some kind for a long time now.  It is fun to go through the photos and come up with a display and of course it makes me print on paper or metal (metal being a favorite).  I think you have to ask this question, Why take the photos to never see them again?  I always like to read where someone finds a cache of old photos no one has seen before and they go viral.  It would be a shame to have to die and never know the joy you may bring to others.  If you feel you aren't good enough just surf all the Facebook or other social media sites and you will problably ask what were they thinking by posting.  You can always improve your photography by going to a workshop (check out Mark Maio) or take a class from one of the available online places like one of my favorite creativelive.  Not all classes or workshops are created equal but I will tell you the two mentioned here are some of the best. 

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography blog dennis small photography print Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:11:32 GMT

Another version of Abandoned photography.

Took a trip to the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyards that closed in the 1990's.  The place has been taken over by contractors with a small navy presence.  I rode along with some friends who wanted to do some shooting there.  I really went for the ride not so much to take photos because in my mind I had already thought there really wasn't anything to get the kind of photos I like to take. I was surprised at all the different vessels stock piled there.  Different types battle ships cruisers and the above an aircraft carrier.  The carrier USS John F Kennedy the only ship in its class was the last fossil fueled to be made and put into service Sept 1968.  Impressive in size but small compared to the new ones.  I was drawn to the lines of the ship, the rust and worn paint.  This ended up my favorite photo of the day.  This was the  only time I came home from a shoot and printed the nest day   I printed several from the day and now hung on an office wall.  I'll be interested in the conversation since you can look at this many ways. 


I was amazed on how the ships aligned almost perfectly square and plumb.  I always wonder how they don't tip over.  I also wondered what fate these ships are destined for.  I'm glad I went and there was enough to shoot looking for an artistic look and not something from a vacation.  Shooting tight was the key.  Shooting tight I started with a 70 to 200 and quickly realized 70 mm is too much.  These ships were huge. You need to look for details like lines and shapes or textures. 

The bottom line.....When you think a photo shoot isn't for you go anyway and make it you.



(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned abandoned photography better photography blog dennis small photography Wed, 07 Jun 2017 14:10:35 GMT
ABANDONED PLACES OF YOUR PAST _4179446 bw_4179446 bw

As we journey through life we all go places that sooner or later fall in disrepair or ultimately close and slowly fall apart.  I went there the other day.  An old amusement park that I spent a lot of time at when I was little through teenage years.  There are a few buildings left empty mostly however, the iconic roller coaster still stands overgrown as nature reclaims the land.  On a drizzly day most appropriate for the subject matter this abandoned place was the explore for the day.  Something unusual about this day was there was enough light to shoot off the tripod.  I don't always get to do that in the dark abandoned places I normally explore.   I climbed around some blocked areas to gain better advantage shots of the coaster tracks. You could hear the creaking wood telling me to go no farther.  Everything that would have made great photography like the carousal were gone except the few cars sitting on the track at the start of the ride.  Protected by the roof they still looked as if a little maintenance and off they go. At least till they run into the first tree on the incline chain.  This place still had a lot of photos to be taken but I didn't take many as I did more thinking about all the good times we had as kids.  I feel lucky to have what photos I took because soon it will all be on the ground food for the insects that eat wood.  So those of you who take abandoned photos like I do maybe you should look for places you've been as well as new places you haven't.


_4179461 bw_4179461 bw

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned abandoned photography better photography blog dennis small photography Sat, 22 Apr 2017 19:54:40 GMT

What do you do when the room your in (in this case auditorium) is literally a black out and you need a flashlight to see your feet.  One option is to move on to another location or make some light.  Most people think about adding light using a flash mounted on your camera or other means.  That will work but the control without any modifiers can spill light where you don't want it.  If that's all you have so be it.  Another alternative is a simple hand held flashlight and use the beam to add light where you want it.  You can create drama or just light it up and show everything.  Another advantage of light painting is to light up very dark areas where there is a light source say the moon and a rock or tree in the foreground is too dark. You could take two photos and blend but that is not light painting.  

Shooting in the dark will cause you to shoot manual and not just camera settings.  Manual settings can be the camera or the lens.  Without light the auto focus will keep searching for something to focus on, the camera won't even fire or a very blurry photo.  On this trip with a group I ask someone the question on how they focused.  Got the look....what?   I ask how many photos were in focus because they were auto focusing.  Even with light painting the light is moving all the time to get an even look.  I told them to light up an area of subject and then auto focus on that spot.  Turn off your auto focus.  Another way is just manual focus.  In this case the subject a piano could be light painted with a single flashlight or what we did was set all the cameras and ready set go, trip the trigger and one person paints.  It takes practice on how long the shutter or how much light the flashlight is needed.  You will normally get a different look each time.  What about a larger area.  Get bigger lights.  I took along two 2 million candle power lights.  The kind people use at night to spotlight deer.  The bigger the area you light the more light you will need.  Or you can jack up your ISO to compensate the lack of light.  Also you need to keep the lights moving or you can over expose an area quickly.  Photoshop can add the red but what fun would that be.  I want it to have the look of flickering flames.



Who says you need a white light.  Red filters were used with the large lights and then just paint as you would normally.  I like to do something like this for a series "THE GATES OF HELL".  A quicker way to get this would be to use Photoshop and use layers but fun would that be?  And light painting is not restricted to indoor projects.  It will work anywhere you need to add light to your subject.  My series started in a grave yard at night in Philly.  I had thought about this for awhile and why not start there or I may have got the idea after I did the red light paint.   PRACTICE, PRATICE AND PRACTICE will always lead to better photography.  A little secret, go along with someone who does this so you can see first hand instead of reading this blog.





(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned abandoned places better photography blog dennis small Tue, 04 Apr 2017 20:54:50 GMT

I consider myself a seasoned photographer.  I know my cameras, use the best gear, shoot many different types of photography and learn as much as I can from many sources.  Of course one of my favorite things is trying to capture the essence of abandonment.  Lighting is the subject, dancing along an object sometimes so little of it that you have to really know how to set you camera to make a great image.  You just can't buy a camera and shoot auto everything.  Why not?  Each function of the camera shutter speed, F stop and ISO plays an important role.  They all control light but in a different fashion.   The longer the shutter the more time the film or sensor has time to gather light.  A long enough shutter maybe seconds, minutes or even hours will make a dark room look like daylight.  A tripod is a must.  Keeping your camera still for a 30 seconds is almost impossible without it.  Shutter speed is usually the easiest to understand.  Not really when shooting in the dark.  Slowing down the shutter causes things to happen that an inexperienced person will wonder why the photo is blurry or out of focus.  The above photo taken in an abandoned silo caused me a lot of problems till I figured out why.  Parts of it was out of focus and parts where fine.  I was close to the subject and was using a slow shutter speed, F stop at F8 and ISO of 100.  The exposure was fine. At first I started looking at the depth of field which is the Aperture.  I went all the way to F22 taking several photos checking to see if the problem was solved.  No luck.  Large numbers on Aperture reduces the amount of light so a even longer shutter speed is required.  The longer the shutter speed after 30 seconds requires a bulb mode and you need a timer you can buy or time by a clock.  A good way to see this problem is on a bridge.  Bridges move and if that camera moves, BLUR.  My camera wasn't moving so that wasn't the problem.  I kept looking at this problem till I took a step back and moved a little and then I saw it.  A very small air movement made the pulley swing just enough that the rope became blurred while  the pulley itself was sharp.  Too slow of a shutter speed.  To get a faster shutter speed you have to decide aperture or ISO.   ISO should always be the last resort.  Cameras are better the lower the number and even though the manufacture gives high ISO on the camera it may not look good in the end.  So if not ISO, aperture is the first thing.  I said ISO last, well maybe not.  If you are shooting a scene as I mentioned above going to a lower number on aperture F2.8 will cause the background to be out of focus.  That is good when shooting portraits but if you want to tell a story F2.8  may blur the background to an unacceptable level.  ISO is like a window shade and when you open the shade you get more light allowing the aperture to remain at the higher number.  The higher ISO may cause the photo to be unacceptable in the end. 

There is another option. LIGHT PAINTING.  This is adding light much like a photographer using a flash.  Light painting is a more controlled method lighting only what you want.  A flash is not going to give you that rim of light on the arm of a chair because it will be much broader spilling on everything.  I'll take on the light painting for another day. 

Working in cold damp conditions in a dark building takes practice using your camera.  Go in the garage or basement and practice on something. 

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned photography better photography blog dennis small manual camera settings shutter speed: tips Wed, 22 Mar 2017 17:04:55 GMT

Abandoned photography comes in many forms.  There are Photographers that go into empty houses key word is empty and take a snap shot of the rooms.  I prefer places that remain full of things that were left behind decaying or layers of dust.  Because of this these  places are hard to come by because of the owners worrying about liability.  You can gain access by booking a workshop with a group. I have done the workshop thing just to gain access to places I couldn't go any other way.  Somewhere in-between this is places like Eastern State which is really a museum of sorts with restoration going on.  These places are usually well kept and lack a lot of the things I look for when exploring.  There are many things to photograph but you will have a lot more people to contend with.  You are limited to your access to objects with do not enter or locked doors for employees only.  You won't have to worry about getting caught trespassing because you pay a small fee and they let you take your photos.  I went twice.  The first time it was billed as a photographers tour and it was, too many.  There was little to shoot with all the equipment and models.  I then went back on a photography work shop that offered some access not open to the public.  It also was too crowded because prisons weren't built for comfort.  I got some photos but I don't think I would have done it knowing what I know now.  I did get an advantage being in the building first because the mirror shot would be very difficult with the general public milling around. However, if you are just starting out a workshop, the right workshop is extremely helpful.  Another thing about abandoned places is darkness.  No one is paying the light bill anymore or people trash the places by doing scrapping.  Before you go if you are fairly new to abandoned photography brush up on long exposure or what you need to know about it and a tripod is your best friend.  You will need to trigger the camera in a way that you don't bump it.  I have done a few blogs on what a work shop should be and It pays to do a little research because they are not all created equal.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) , "abandoned places", "eastern state" better photography blog dennis small Sat, 11 Mar 2017 20:53:01 GMT
GIVING LECTURES USING GREAT PHOTOGRAPHY CAN GET YOU NOTICED PLIGHT OF THE EGRETPLIGHT OF THE EGRETWade Island, a small island in the Susquehanna near Harrisburg that supports a rookery of Egrets and Night Crown Herons. The dynamics of the rookery, and possibly why they have chosen this location. Six years of Photography of the breeding activities of the island and surrounding area. The PA Game Commission has been doing studies for years trying to find out why the birds like this spot.

So you take a few thousand photos of something spending many days going back to maybe get a new view or a sharper image.  All the time you are getting an education you probably didn't realize was happening. Forget about learning your equipment.  You learn a lot about that subject you've been spending time with.  Habits, mannerisms and day to day life.  Did you ever think about sharing the experience with others who are not as fortunate to have the time or gear to do the same?  Sharing a presentation or giving a talk about something you have documented can do many things for a photographer.  It will show your photography to many people who would not have other wise known you or what you do.  Your expertise and knowledge of any given subject will bring attention to something you are passionate about and maybe get a few followers who will buy your photography.  Selling photography is why we do it, right?  Sometimes you can actually get paid by groups wanting you to come and tell your story.  You may even meet that person who can open that door to another career you never envisioned.  What ever you make images for there is someone who wants to see them.  SO SHOW THEM!  And have fun doing it.


Side benefits include the practice of making better images, seeing new places, learning things not taught in the classroom and meeting new people.  I have discovered I think more about my approach to photography and what I keep or let go on the hard drive.  The Plight of the egret was more than five years of going back and taking photos of an egret rookery.  I didn't start out thinking about putting a presentation together until I got a few photos of things like the way they feed their young.  It made me watch closer of what they were really doing instead of just shooting flight shots or doing pretty portraits of their breeding plumage.   I just wanted a great mating shot and went back over and over till my last trip when it finally happened.

Another blog I did on photography for a good cause

_DS34899_DS34899DK SMALL (C)



(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) birds blog dennis small egrets photography presentation susquehanna Mon, 06 Feb 2017 21:08:28 GMT

I am a firm believer in making an image and if you stage a shot then OK.  Make it your own something unique.  I remember making a comment on someone's photo about nice photo but I would have thought about removing a chair that just didn't fit.  They replied they never move anything and just shoot what they find.  I replied so did the person who staged that shot and everyone else that came upon it.  Then they told me how they looked at it and it made sense for them.  That's why I try not to comment on anyone's work other than when I like it and all I say is LIKE.  I found the above table and paperwork and a sign outside that said engineer room.  I thought how it speaks just that.  I know they didn't close this place and just lock the doors so someone was involved in this photo.  I have been places that closed suddenly and shot what I found.  I would call this documentary photography.  I like the challenge to make something that is more art in the abandoned photography.  I believe that doing the abandoned photography has made me a better photographer.  Below is a photo that I found the broom and dustpan somewhere else and took that photo.  I found the pile of dirt and went back and moved the pan.  The light was really nice and soft in that spot.  Natural light from a window made the shot.  I usually put things back or somewhere else to make an image that hopefully is the only one.  I can tell you that doesn't always work either.  Sometimes the staged item is just meant to be there.  I found an old wheelchair in a hallway.  I moved it to several locations and left it where the final shot was taken.  I told my friend where the chair was and when I returned it was sitting right where I had moved it from.  I had already took that photo when I first found it.  Why was that chair there and why did he place it back?   The light was perfect just where it was. 

The next time you are out photographing think about making an image instead of taking a snapshot and I think you will become a better photographer even if you are already good.  The whole thought process will make you see things differently.




(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned photography better photography blog dennis small silo city Fri, 16 Sep 2016 15:00:12 GMT


Taking people photos is definitely not my thing but sometimes you just have to.  When I do it will be family or friends because I can say what I want and not worry about what they are thinking.  I am not comfortable when asking people to pose especially larger groups.  Doing group shots for me is all about location. You can do studio photography but a great location just adds something you can't make in the shop.  If you have a great location inspiration will follow.  This shoot happened to be family and I got a request to take some location shots.  I'm in Pa and they are in Buffalo and as many times as I have visited I am not familiar there as I would be near home.  The first thought was to go to the falls.  I know Niagara Falls can't miss and I've been there many times.  Draw backs are the number of people there taking photos too.  There is a passport issue and I didn't want to get caught up in something that may or may not have happened so I didn't want to use the falls for this shoot.  Then I thought about Letchworth Park and there are some waterfalls.  I have been there so I had an idea what to expect.  Unfortunately someone in the family wasn't feeling as well as could be and Letchworth is a fairly long drive.  Nix that idea.  My family has lived in Buffalo area for ever, raised some sons and now grandchildren.  You would think one of them could think of a place.  I have done some family photos before at a local park with a waterfall.  I had a lot of photoshopping afterwards  due to fencing.  Since then someone planted trees right where the sweet spot was and being a weekend I thought packed with people.  On the table there was a local magazine with the cover of what to do in Buffalo.  My sister looked through it and layed it back on the table not finding anything useable.  I picked it up a little later and seen this bridge and read the article. I  looked at the location of the park and asked where the location was to her house.  A couple of miles.  Perfect for many reasons.  I love bridges of this type.  They give you leading lines, things to do with hands, and the structure helps with those who feel they could loose a few pounds. Water makes for interesting things like reflections, flowers or other plants with color.  The photo showed pink Lilies on the water.  All we needed to add was some great sky.  We got there and there was no water because of low rainfall.  The flowers were there pretty much on a mud bed.  I could hear some grumbling behind me the pictures might not be as good.  I ran into a walker and asked about the bridge and he told me which path to take.  It was a short distance from where we parked.  Again perfect as we had some young children and they may not want to go along with the plan if we had to walk a long way. 

There was the bridge and as we approached I could hear the same comments about maybe there would be a better place.  What I saw was a great bridge,  color, good sky and happy there was little water to help me stand where I wanted to stand.   Lack of water was really working for me.  If it had been deeper It would have been softer to walk, get wet or have to shoot from a different angle.  Cameras have this funny thing called depth of field and if you have to shoot people at an angle you need to shoot at a high F stop and risk distortion of some of the group. So far I saw nothing but good but then that is what experience teaches us, why you need to practice.  The shoot went fairly smooth and back to the homestead we went.  After I got home and processed the photos I had the one at the top of the page printed on metal and sent it to my sister.  Posted some on line for them and waited for comment.  I heard nothing about the terrible location and would the photos be good.   It was a big hit.

Practicing for better photography, learning your gear, doing research will make you stand out if that is what you want. This is natural light but it can be done by adding light when needed.  Lighting will take some time to learn but well worth it

On a side note the little ones loved the place and you never know what may come out of this, a love of the outdoors?


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog buffalo dennis small family photography groups photography tips Thu, 01 Sep 2016 18:05:45 GMT



Went Silo City for the third time.  Found myself doing some guiding to the other photographers so they could find places.  The chief photographer and founder of the Silo City workshop Mark Maio ratcheted up the game.    I have to say I miss some of the after hours things since I don't stay at the hotel with the main group but they do offer getting together to discuss the day and helping with processing or other questions that arise during the shop. With all the benefits of going to this place not to mention opportunity to photograph, Mark had a web meeting for those who can attend to showcase and discuss the photos taken during the workshop. He holds the web meeting several weeks later.  It gives people time to digest the trip and sort through their treasures.  Then you get to hear their thoughts on the images and make comments or ask questions.    He shares the web meeting with the attendees of the workshop whether or not you participated or not.  I took time to review the recording.  Well done by all.  I will have to look at some of my photos based on comments made by Mark.   I still can't believe I didn't see some of the things showed in the video.   I had to chuckle to myself from some of the comments about finding things different when they returned another time.  GUILTY.  After staging a photo I usually don't let it that way.  This time I left several to see how many noticed and took that photograph.  Some did.   I still found a lot of new things I missed thanks to some of the attendees and a fellow named Mike Broomfield.  He took light painted to a level I may not have even considered had I not seen him work.  He takes many photos painting parts of the scene and put it together. Sometimes he is painting just the tip of a fan blade.  When you consider you need a flashlight to get around some of the areas you would never know in Mike's photos how dark it was. MIKES PHOTOS  I could never get that photo the way I do it now.  The method he used has me thinking hard about my current equipment and changing to wifi method.  The people who run this workshop seem to make each trip better.   Weather didn't cooperate as always in Buffalo but it is Buffalo and that is where the Silos are.  

I will have to watch the video again.


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned abandoned places buffalo dennis small photography silo city Thu, 23 Jun 2016 12:41:39 GMT


Deep in the silos there are these long belts that travel from bottom to top on different floors in the buildings.  These belts have at intervals a step and hand hold for the workers to use as a one man elevator traveling through the floor to the level they want to be.  I can't imagine doing this and there is no way to make this type of elevator today with OSHA and labor laws.  So how would you ever see this?  In  Abandoned Places standing still just as they were when the work stopped.  These places once provided jobs in the local areas where the workers raised families.   Abandoned Photography is about exploring as much as photographing things.  Finding this and trying to imagine how this worked gives an appreciation to how much better things are today or maybe not.  How many people traveled along this belt hanging on as they are moving through the air above the machinery they worked with.  The holes a little larger than a manhole would not allow for large people.  It sure would have been faster to get around these buildings as I found there were no clear ways to get around the floor layout.  Huge wheels, tubing, belts, sprockets, lifts and other machinery needed to be where it was to make the Silos work.  I like to set my camera down and walk around looking things over however, I suggest you don't go far enough you loose site of you gear.  A place as large and complex as Silo City you can get turned around and have to look for your gear.  Silo City is near the area where the workers lived.  This area 1st Ward is an interesting place. Small houses in nice neighborhoods have color and style.  As I drove to the silos early in the morning I noticed some interesting buildings that need to be photographed and since I travel to Buffalo on a regular basis I intend to check this out and see what I find.  And I'll stop in McCarthy's for a little lunch.  


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned places buffalo elevator silo city Thu, 02 Jun 2016 14:55:31 GMT


I know now that I am going to visit abandoned places at least twice if I can.  Silo City, I have been there three times and planning for a future trip.  I noticed some time ago that when I look at the photos from the last trip I think of all the things I could have done differently. Photos are not in focus is the main reason.  Low light is hard for auto focus if not impossible and manual you still need to see the subject.  Silo City is so large that after 3 trips I still find things that I missed.  Just too much stuff to overwhelm you especially once.  The first visit I ran though the  place trying to get everything and ending up with nothing.  This time  I found myself spending most of the day on one floor and going back the next day.  Abandoned places can be dark.  Dark enough to cause you to dismiss a room altogether missing opportunities like the one above. Tucked in a wall, room dark enough to need a flashlight to see where to walk nothing else there to get your attention was this fan.  I spend about an hour trying different lighting techniques to try and capture something I liked.  This final image kind of happened.  I lighted it with flashlight, spotlight and a hand held Roto LED trying to make an even cast.  The one I liked I held a small flashlight a little to long in one place casting the shadow of the grate.  For this trip I bought a tilt shift 24 mm Nikon lens.  There were shots I would not have gotten without it.  However,  HUGE learning curve.  The lens moves and needs locked down or I forgot to reset before the next photo.  I went back and redid a lot of the photos with the trusty 14 to 24.  More practice needed. 

I think the lesson learned is plan to go back in the first place and take more time instead of rushing.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned dennis small places silo city Wed, 18 May 2016 00:59:41 GMT

I have watched light many times as it moves in nature.  The world rotates moving the natural light across the surface of the earth and when you mix in clouds and other natural light blockers light plays many different games.  I sat the other morning as the sun came up.  Most things were snow covered.  The first thing was the kiss of light on a pole creating a shadow on the other side.  The clouds reflected the colors of the sky into the tops of the roofs with hues of red.  The snow drifted and the high spots were kissed first casting shadows on the other side of the drift.  Those moments come and go quickly.  Watch long enough the shadows will reverse as the light continues to move.  As I sipped my morning drink I couldn't see the true sunrise because of structures in the way but I noticed I could see it reflecting in the house window.  My favorite time of the day.  In the world of better photography chasing the light becomes a necessity.  Understanding how it reacts will help improve any photography.

Since I like doing Abandoned Places light doesn't play the same games, or does it.  Light moves even in the darkest places if there is the smallest hole to let it in. It may be the smallest beam or a window.  Light determines where the eye goes thus creating a focal point.  Light moves a lot faster sometimes giving only seconds to provide a kiss on something that becomes the subject for that moment.  Miss that light and I may walk right by.  You have to know your camera.  If you shoot in manual like I do understanding the settings and how to adjust them without thinking will provide the time you need on fleeting light.  I shoot with others that still shoot auto.  It works,  sometimes.  I think most overexpose because the camera wants to make things look brighter.  That is my opinion and it is their photo they can make it the way they want.  For me Darkness is a necessity to show that tickle of light, drawing the eye to the subject of the image. Color or lack of depends on the light.  If I get the chance I will always try to pass on why I shoot the way I do.  In the end your image should be your image made the way you think it should be.

Take some time and study light without the camera in hand.  Morning, day and evening the light keeps changing.  In Abandoned Photography you have to look at light or lack of by first finding it and a bright sunny day may provide a more defined subject than a cloudy day where light may spill everywhere.  Keep watching the light wherever you find it and you will make better images.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography blog dennis small light photography Fri, 19 Feb 2016 19:11:57 GMT

I guess I have made the commitment to the Abandoned Photography.  Most of the photographers I know and explore with are Abandoned explorers. I drive around with my eyes peeled for opportunities for exploring something that appears to be abandoned or maybe someone cleaning out a place that set idled for some time.  I prefer a place with things in it.  Tools, old furniture, a cool staircase and sometimes an empty place will provide the nicest light patterns on the walls and floors.  Some places are not worth the look but you have to just incase.  I like color and when something is decaying it provides some of the nicest tones of colors you can't find normally.  There are some side benefits to doing this type of photography, QUIET.  When shooting sports there are lots of things going on and Wildlife is a waiting game. When the action starts you don't have time to really think about it, let alone enjoy what's going on.  You just click and click and review when its over.   Abandoned things are just there waiting for someone like me to let others know about them.  I can spend all day on a piano or move a chair into the light. Sometimes you can see the light moving across the room knowing it is going to give that touch on something that you would pass by.  Patience is your friend.  Without it you will miss a lot.  I can really think about just how I want to expose the image to make better photography.  I see so many people expose dark abandoned things as if they are standing in a field at high noon.  How does that tell a story of things in a dark area with little or no light.  Light or lack of is at its best in these environments.  Just a kiss and no more.  Light and dark gives shape to things.  It can draw attention or show someone what you want them to see. Add a little light and you are light painting, or close a door to direct it where it needs to be.  Shoot on manual exposure.  Auto will only over expose.  Color is best underexposed. 

 But the real proof I am doing something right was on a trip I took with some fiends nothing to do with photo taking.  I had saw this building that I planned on going back someday and I couldn't find it although it was a major road and I saw it easily the first time.  I mentioned it to my friend and he smiled and said he knew where it was.  He said he saw it one day and thought creepy and creepy makes him think about me. 

Thanks, I'll take it.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography dennis small photography Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:54:40 GMT


Just about everyone makes the comment taking digital photos doesn't cost anything.  They reference the film days when you bought film and paid someone to process the negatives.  I can tell you taking digital photos isn't free.  How much it costs depends on the level of photographer and quality of photos taken.  Some cameras are cheap and many take the photo as a JPG with no editing.  You still bought the camera and have a computer to store the photos and maybe print once in awhile. Cheap cameras won't last as long, the user will upgrade as they get better, replace the camera due to loss or damage.  All free.  Now step up a notch trying to take better photography and you go from a 500 dollar camera to a 3000 dollar one.  The files are bigger so you need larger hard drives, bigger memory cards and a faster processor.  Maybe you are still shooting JPG as is out of camera.  Maybe at this level you want to edit a photo.  Buy a program to do this or get a subscription to Photoshop and have a monthly bill the rest of your camera days.  You take classes on how to use the camera, process the photos or go on workshops to get more knowledge or better photos.  You can pay to have things printed or maybe you buy a printer.  Just maybe you'll stop here.  You will replace that camera even with a similar one, buy a few more lens, upgrade the lens you have or switch systems and start a new brand.  Still free.  Now you really want better photography and think getting the best camera to do it.  The ranges from $50,000 down to $6000 comes to mind.  The files just got bigger, you shoot in raw and your hard drive library keeps growing.  Shoot raw and you will process those photos.  Still Free.  I for one have taken the plunge with 3 professional cameras as well as lens, large printer, processing programs, photo papers, CF cards and all the carrying cases too.  I will need to let the first camera go and am thinking about one of those medium format cameras that run about $30,00.  I won't be able to use any of the lens I currently own and will have to upgrade the photo processing programs for the new raw format.  OK so it's your hobby.  All hobbies cost money and photography in the digital world is no different.  

However, the ability to shoot, process and print in a matter of seconds has to be worth something right?  Or you could just buy a used film camera and a lot of film for what I have invested in cameras and related equipment and learn more about photography than buying a cheap camera and shooting as many photos as you can because digital doesn't cost anything.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography blog dennis small photography Fri, 11 Sep 2015 15:20:36 GMT
BLOGS AND COMPETITION DO NOT ALWAYS LEAD TO BETTER PHOTOGRAPHY _4152623_4152623Abandoned manufacturing plant being reclaimed by nature a little at a time. We have all seen movies of after a life altering event and This is a close as I have come to see it in person. Closed over 43 years ago due to a natural disaster nature is returning the site slowly. Algae, moss and plant life finding its way where light touches the grounds.

Everyone reads some form of a blog from time to time.  It can be a product review, opinion about something or just someone's though about anything.  I read them from time to time if something catches my eye.  I found one the other day based on a comment about what photography clubs should or shouldn't do.  Their premise was clubs should not do competition in the traditional manner.  Of course where the link was posted was a Facebook page of a camera club.  The bashing that went on about this post made me go and read it for myself.  I do not compete except with myself.  There is no such thing as a good judge only an opinion from someone who may have a reputation until they do some judging.  Then they become a jerk to all those who didn't win.  The person who blogged about the competition made sense if you actually read it.  It gave options and methods to better photography all positive.  For those who compete good luck.  Some people enjoy it and say they get something from it.  A judge telling me I should crop something different or the composition should be what they think it should be is their opinion.  I've sold a lot of that photo the way I made it.  I wouldn't change it.  So you love a photo you took, printed it and hung it on the wall, enjoy it everyday you look at it and someone who has no idea why you took it the way you did bashes it.  Give me a break.  If you want to gel a flash and make it blue, make it blue.  IF your goal is to compete then you'll have to restrict your creative process trying to please the judges. Not for me.  A friend asked me what my fascination is with the abandoned photography he preferred my wildlife photos.  His opinion.  Better photography to me is the challenge of making an image out of something that would be normally overlooked by every body else.  Is it better photography, to me yes because I am challenging myself to improve.  Opinions can be good but they should never be the final say.  I enjoy listening to others and have learned a lot doing so.  Don't let someone's negativity be the rule on how you do Better Photography.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography blog dennis small photography Thu, 13 Aug 2015 15:01:35 GMT

Polar Plungers City Island Harrisburg Pa.

_13A8703 12x24_13A8703 12x24ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Better Photography can mean many things.  A great photograph that tells a story,  artfully done or contributes something for a greater good may not get printed big and hung on a wall.  It may be a web sized 4x6 or printed, a greeting card or printed on a news letter.  That photograph can be a group of people in February running into icy body of water to raise money for a cause.  For me my first experience with a group of people was an idea I had from seeing photographs in the news of wet chilled to the bones people running from the water to find a way to warm up.  As much as those photos told a story I wanted to try a different take and show the faces of these dedicated folks as they run in the water.  The first attempt I went to the river and tried to shoot across the river to the City Island in Harrisburg.  800 MM at a half mile gave me some photos but not what I wanted so I waited till the following year and I put a boat in the water cut the distance down and shot the above  photo.  I called it super heroes for two reasons.  First it takes someone special to do this no matter what the cause and second there are several Super Hero costumes in the photo.  I printed this and gave it to the area coordinator at Special Olympics and then printed it and hung it on my own wall.  I planned the photography but got lucky to have the content with it.  It started something for me that I didn't expect.  I had to go to the special Olympics meet and photograph the athletes during some of their games. These athletes are as serious as any other competition out there.

_4133863_4133863 _4133790_4133790

The photography impact can't be measured in Facebook likes or the other media you share with but if you want to know ask the people in the photos and listen to the stories.   Special Olympics isn't the only worthy cause so if you want some feel good find one and volunteer some time even if you keep dry and warm while taking photographs of the others running into 36 degree water with 20 MPH winds to raise money for these athletes.

As with all photography I want to do better photography so in 2015 I gave the Polar Plunge another try mostly because they relocated to Gifford Pinchot park and the lake was completely froze over.  Volunteers use chainsaws to cut a hole in the ice and that presented me with another opportunity setting on the ice close and personal.  It was so cold first thing in the morning there was ice starting to skim the opening in the ice.  I got there before the sun came up and took a few background photos and just waited.  This year I was looking to get some shots of someone I knew (the joker) who said he was retiring from the plunge.  Barry Stetler was the king of raising money for this event and I wanted him to have something printed.  As I planned this photo the look on the faces of the plungers tell more than the story I went for.  Is it surprise of the cold as they step in the water?   To me a painful look as you body gets the shock and hypothermia can set in in minutes at those temps.  What ever it is PRICELESS for better photography!






(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small photography. special olympics", "polar plunge" Sat, 18 Jul 2015 15:04:56 GMT


_4151837_4151837OPERATION MANUAL

Silo City, Buffalo NY an abandoned grain silo area along the Buffalo River.


Since this is normally about doing better photography leave no tracks has nothing to do with things in the wild or your foot steps across the sand.  Next time you go shooting with a group take the time to observe some of the photographers especially the new or inexperienced.  The better photographers look the subject matter over and decide what to shoot or shoot many photos to capture the views they feel are important.  When working they hardly notice others and conversation will be more small talk until they are finished with the subject matter.  New photographers will ask a lot of questions.  What's your camera settings especially ISO. They will  watch others waiting for their turn trying to capture the same shot.   I have had some look for the tripod marks and line up on them.  I never did that but I did take similar photos others were taking.  That's what I knew.  I shot what was there when I arrived as I happened on it and then walked away.   Better photography is not shooting what everyone else does.  It is not viewing others work and making that same image.  If the light isn't right I move or move an item to the light or wait till the light moves.  I make light when needed.  If I set up a shot I try to never leave it that way.  I move something I move it back.  It is your creativity here. That will not guarantee you the best photo or the only photo taken it will help you be creative instead of just having whatever everyone else did.  I shoot things a little darker than I used to.  It creates mood.  Portraits may be better a little over exposed.  There is no right or wrong if you like it.  There are many things photographed over and over and that's ok too.  Sometimes it is just what it is and you do the best you can to make it your own.  These are called Iconic.

Iconic photography is just that.  Yosemite half dome for example.  You aren't moving it and so many people have taken photos because of people like Ansel Adams as well as others.  It just is and if you want that photo take it, print it and hang it to enjoy. You still should try to take it in different light, time of day or hope for a sky no one has seen before.  Taking better photography is a quest that should be never ending and even you can take the same photo again and again with different results. Return at different times of the year, change your camera settings, shoot hot or dark and maybe try some HDR. 

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography blog creativity dennis small photography silo city Fri, 10 Jul 2015 04:30:00 GMT

Everyone is taking pictures by some device or another.  Everyone is posting those photos on a media site.  Facebook is a big one and I do use it mostly to share with family and friends.  Also to let others know what I am up to. I do post some things from time to time.  However, posting a quality photo to the sharing sites may not be the best place if you are trying to show case something.  They resize and do some other things and if you spent time processing it the photo will not be as good as when you post it. Another reason I like media sites is  reading the groups I belong to.  Sometimes I learn what not to do.  I often post a link to the photo from my web site in lieu of posting the actual photo because the photo looks so much better at the website than on the media sites. It also allows me to link many photos at once instead of having them posted multiple times.  If you post it on Facebook anyone can download it. They can screen print it from any site but the quality of a screen print is not as good as getting a free download.  There are many reasons to post the link.  It also helps with driving traffic to your website and increase rankings.  The higher the rankings the closer to the top of the search engine when someone searches your subject matter.  More Traffic more opportunity to sell photography or any other service you want to offer.  I don't take photos to sell but I do want to show them at their best. If I do sell something it's a bonus. I used to build and maintain my own site and have since bought into one of the sell your photo sites. You can customize them enough to not look like a stock site. No programing and a shopping cart is available based on the plan you buy into. They can take care of everything from taking payment, printing and shipping wherever you want.  I tried Smugmug first but found it difficult to use. It's been awhile and all the sites have made improvements over time and no one site will be perfect.   Do your research if you go that way. Most people can't build a website and paying for it can be costly.  Also you can't be out doing better photography if you are managing a website.  If you want to sell it gets more complicated.  I prefer to shoot more. 

If you are taking better photography why not take a little more effort and show it at its best.  Show only your best. After all isn't that what its all about.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small social media Sat, 27 Jun 2015 00:33:21 GMT

Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts GlenMurray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen


ISO seems to be something confusing to most photographers. It did me at first. There is no real meaning to the letters except you are supposed to equate it to film speed.  Film speed how many today knows what that is either?    I find that when I understand what something means or does I can remember what it is when I need to use it.  ISO. if you think about it as a window blind.  Want more light open up the shade until you do.  As simple as it sounds a camera still has limitations on the use of ISO.  It does let more light on the sensor but it also adds some noise. Noise is a grainy effect on the photo.  Even some grain can be good or learn some Photoshop to help manage it.  ISO does not factor in the creativity of taking better photography but it allows you to push shutter speeds or F stops to stop movement blur or deep depth of field when you need it.  Pushing your ISO lets you hand hold a camera longer in low light. Street photographers, moms chasing kids, entertainment venues you might need to push that number to get enough light.  The school of thought is to have your shutter speed to match the focal length of your lens. Hand held cameras you still need a minimum shutter.  If you are shooting with a 14 MM lens 1/15 of a second off the tripod can result in blurry photos. I shoot a lot of low light sport events and start off with an ISO of 6400 to 12800 on Friday night football games. I shoot at F2 or F2.8.   I  need no less than 400 shutter speed to prevent the blur of running or throwing during the game. I can't go any lower F stop so now I have to look at the last option ISO.  The perfect world you want the lowest number mine is 100.  I can tell you I rarely use the lowest number unless I am doing creativity with long shutter speeds.  I need shutter to shoot sports, wildlife and even people that are continually moving in the frame.  Creativity with smooth creamy backgrounds, catching a raindrop on its way down or a milky waterfall makes great photography but you still have to get the shot.  Shooting in extreme low light I push the ISO  because I read the longer the shutter is open the noisier the photo can get from over heating of the sensor.  Film never had that problem. People who need to get the shot wedding, news and other documentary photographers tend to buy the more expensive cameras to enable the high ISO capabilities.  The newer cameras are providing that opportunity with better or high ISO.  One time you had to spend $5000.00 to even think about it.  So there a  few choices in regards to ISO.  If you want to always shoot low ISO pick subjects that don't move in low light, always use a tripod or quit shooting when the light fades. 

I prefer to open the window shade and let some light in when I need to.


_4151837_4151837OPERATION MANUAL

Silo City, Buffalo NY an abandoned grain silo area along the Buffalo River.



(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) ISO abandoned better photography blog dennis small photography waterfalls Sat, 06 Jun 2015 17:27:14 GMT



I found out a long time ago you can't rush and then be totally happy with the results in any endeavor especially if you want better photography.  SILO CITY is a large area with many opportunities for any type of photographer.  My last trip to the Silos in October 2014 was the same amount of time, the same amount of buildings but the weather was totally different.  I made a plan to shoot the spiral staircase that I didn't know existed until the end of the time.  I went looking but didn't find it.  I can't pass up a great staircase in great light so that was my mission.  That is where this type of work shop excels.  I needed help finding it.  So besides the help with photography you can get help finding things to shoot.  Jim the caretaker knows the place better than anyone and if you can describe it he can get you there.  Being a big place there may be more than one way and he can tell you the best one.  Not that it will be easy anyway you go.  The first day I found the stair case and spend a lot of time working my way from the bottom up.  The light ever changing because of the window or opening in the missing wall structure.  I did not go all the way up but thought I was close.  I wasn't.   I really wanted to get to the top for a photo op on the rope at the top of the elevator so after a long day I decided to back in the morning and try again. 

The next morning I was talking to Jim about it.  He told me another way without going up from the bottom.  It turns out the last visit I was about 20 feet from the stair case and never saw it.  Just a simple right instead of left opened up a new area I had completely missed last trip.  This day was different light and a different view and I would like to think it was a better photography day.  I made the attempt to go to the top but the cat walks got smaller and smaller and the building opened up with missing side walls.  One more flight and I couldn't do it.  Not a fan of heights anyway.  Going down the stairs was much easier that going up.  The perspective of a stair case changes when looking up or looking down so I took a few more photos hoping I get the photo I want. 

This workshop had a lot more people which I was concerned about having to wait around for my turn.  Not so in fact in 3 days I may have seen 5 others in the same place at the same time.  This trip I did not go into two of the buildings at all and a third only to use the stair case to get over to the spiral stair case.  I still found two areas I had not seen before and since the weather and light was so much different I reshot a few things from before at different angles and distance. I also had a goal to get some backgrounds for composites.  Last trip is was shooting with Cliff Lenderman who was there for that purpose.  I just never thought I would want them.  How things change.  That meant I wanted to get back to Concrete Central for some graffiti.  I am not a people person but Mark Maio who runs the workshop ask me if I did portraits  and we ended up doing a mini shot with Mark and Liliana Heckler.  I kind of like what I shot and maybe I need to think about doing the model workshop offered by Bill Woody and the Silo City workshop.








Some of the things I took notice that were workshop related;  someone went from point and shoot to using an SLR on full manual, several people trying out medium format cameras supplied by Chris Snipes of Capture Integration , there were some with camera and lens rentals and a lot of information sharing.  Everyone got along and helped each other.  Information flowed.  Mark was talking to someone and mentioned he would rather under promise and over deliver.  Although I didn't need much help in taking a photo the opportunity to go there I did learn a lot by seeing what others did and listening to how people approached photography in general.  Thanks to Jim and hope to stop in and visit next time I'm in Buffalo.

I said it last time and feel even stronger that if you never went to a work shop this one will put the others to the test for how a work shop should be done.



(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography blog buffalo dennis small silo city Fri, 22 May 2015 16:49:35 GMT

Many or most photographers take photos in their daily movements of things around them.  Some photographers make time to look for things to take photos.  And then there are the photographers that see the photo before they take it. Taking that photo may not occur naturally. Sometimes you have to create that shot.  This is another level of better photography.   People are not my thing.  I know I am not good at it and no matter what happens I leave the shoot with way too many things I could have done.  For now  I have to know the person to give me an incentive.   I have been playing with light painting in my abandoned photography and have been fairly happy using a flashlight or speed light trying to get the effect of light on an object.  All light is painting the subject whether a natural window or some form of mechanical light.  Photography is all about the light and good light or lack of makes better photography.  I wanted to make the image above.  I had a subject and wanted a theme shoot but I needed lighting.  I decided I didn't like anything I found commercially at the time and did not know if I would do it again so I made my own strip lights.  The project started on a request from a friend to get a senior photo of her son.  You know the classic pose that mom's want on the wall.  John is an exceptional athlete and will play Lacrosse in college.  I thought I would morph him from a senior into a LAX player.  I wanted to control the light so I set up my garage and spent hours shooting myself testing the effects of the light settings and position of each light.  My thought was to be ready the second he showed up and get it done as quick as possible to help keep the event as nice for him as possible.   For this shoot  I used 3 lights.  The two strips I made and an octagon light box for fill.  I wanted the strips to be the main light to give the edgy look. It also makes it better for composite later.  It took forever to get John to show up.  About  2 months of setting up the garage and just waiting.  I have two windows that I covered to choke off as much ambient light as I could.  I ask him to bring all his gear and told him what I wanted to do.  He played High School at two different schools so he brought shirts from football, LAX and A Seton Hill shirt.  When he showed up he didn't come prepared for the mom shot so we did some sports theme using what we had.  He saw a photo similar to the above and started asking about doing something.  He didn't know I had that on the list.  I also had in mind to do a composite dropping a stadium in the background.  The stadium I took earlier in the year at dusk and turned it into a pro look lights and all. 

I had issues with the lighting.    I used radio triggers a common practice.  I bought the PW AC3 controller thinking I could change the light on the fly but I couldn't get it to work the way I wanted. It is much easier and faster if you can work from the camera.  Later I found the problem.  ME. Read the directions first!  Each light was on its own zone so I could turn off a light from the camera.  To take this photo I just turned off the box and used just the strips.  I kept the shutter speed up to kill the ambient and wanted to keep the gear in focus.  I used the 70 to 200 and had just enough room to put my back against the door and get 100 mm focal length.  I really like that lens.  I like the 200 F2 better but you need some room to shoot at 200mm.  So the shoot wasn't perfect and the family liked the photos.  I need to try this again and he has a younger brother.  He finally came back to finish up but I had to play the mom card. I really wanted to do this as a surprise but I needed the help to get him there.


Off to Silo City.


Settings were, 1/250, F/5, ISO 640 70 to 200 at 102mm.  Strips were at 1/8 power speed lights.  The fill from the box was 1/8 also.


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small dyi lighting photography sports Wed, 13 May 2015 14:33:06 GMT
SILO CITY AGAIN _4149430_4149430
Silo City Workshop

Once is never enough (Last Blog).  I have a Silo City earlier blog on the first trip. OLDER BLOG   The first trip was a great opportunity to photograph a place I had driven past for many years.  I didn't have to think very long or that hard about a return trip. The real decision was about when.  I am sure I missed a lot of things and some things I had passed over because I didn't see the photo hidden there. I watched some others in the belt room shooting away.  I didn't take a photo.  I didn't get it and I never want to take their photo. If you want to copy find the tripod marks in the dust and go for it.  However, after I saw one of the others photos I put it on my list. I should spend some more time there.  Maybe the light wasn't right or I was standing in the wrong place. 

The first trip was a rainy trip so you can hope for a little better weather and maybe some outside photos I didn't take.  If you just pick a spot and wait all day you will see something different as the light shifts.  Especially when the sun rises or sets.  10 minutes can make or break the photo.  I learned that from a trip to Glacier Park.  I was at St Mary Falls done for the day.  I was giving up because the light just wasn't right.  After 6 hours it still wasn't right.  I started across the bridge and here came a fellow with a large backpack. Looked just like Willie Nelson.  He stopped a foot or two away from where I was standing and asked if he was in my way.  He pulled out an old view camera and set it up.  He was using glass plates.  Now that peaked my interest. Some day I am going to try that.  I said the light is a little harsh and he said give it 10 minutes.  So I stayed.  The light moved and the view was spectacular.  I almost missed it. It was clear he was there before.  I wish I could have seen his finished work. 

I think about that when I'm in a place like the silos.  I may see something but I know it would be better if there was some light streaming on it. I like to light paint but there is nothing like the right light kissing the object in the right way. That is one thing abandoned places do.  A hole in the roof, broken window, missing wall panel, dust in the air or a glow from bouncing light.  I move on and put it in the back of my mind to go back and check it later.  Sometimes later doesn't work so you have to make a mental note you should have been there earlier.  So you always have to go back and try it again.  

It was a great adventure, great people, plenty of help and opportunity to advance your skills.  Don't let the price make your decision.  3 days of shooting at several locations.  It is well planned to maximize your time however, you can choose to not participate and spend all your time in one place.  I did a little rushing  thinking I wouldn't have enough time.  By the end of the 3 days you will be looking forward to a break and maybe another trip back to the silos.

Me, just thinking about it, trip number 3.




(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) :silo abandoned better photography blog buffalo city" dennis small photography Thu, 30 Apr 2015 19:59:34 GMT

Everyone starts out the same way.  Take many photos and delete few.  A sure sign of a beginner.  So you've been shooting a while more than a year and you are still keeping 90 percent of the photos you take.  I am pretty sure your keeper rate is a little high especially when 75 out of a hundred look the same.  I am talking to those gunners who shoot as much as their camera can take in a second.  I see it even when they shoot something stationary.  If you want to get better at photography set some goals for taking and keeping what you shoot.  In the past year I have gone back and deleted a terabyte of old photos I had no idea why I took them in the first place.  It is a process to see how you started and where you stand.  Some were so out of focus I couldn't remember what it was.  I keep photos for few reasons and started taking less.  My first requirement at this period of my life is trying to do a concept.  This follows having an idea, setting the shot up and making the image you wanted to make.  This could be simple as a full moon.  You need to there when the moon is there so time of day and for a great moon shot maybe that iconic foreground like a building or something else you or someone else would like.  Shooting it rising or setting or should it be full or not.  Concepts may be making a composite because there is no way to get the exact shot with camera limitations or background location.  Doing a simple portrait can be considered a concept especially when you are looking for a special person and add a background to make it very special.  Backgrounds with that person can be a nice vacation.  To me setting all this up  takes thought, planning and sometimes construction.  It slows down the process and the photography is more deliberate as was the film days.  So you taken the photo and have to decide what to keep and what to trash.  This also needs some guidelines.  The first I use would I print it.  That's a no brainer.  You might not print it right now but you intend to print it.  The next one I use is can I use the photo.  I like to do slide show lectures and a lot of the photos that I keep are used for that purpose.  An important guide that changes from time to time is the photo for someone else.  I as many do the family photo, maybe not my immediate family but good friends.  I'll keep them for a while sometimes too long but I let them go.  I can let them go because I have a rule.  If I take the time to do the photography something has to be printed.  Then I let them have the files and they are on their own.  I keep few of these unless they meet one of the above guides. 

Once you get past the above the next thing to consider in better photography is taking better photography.  I went from a long day out taking wildlife photos with a couple hundred photos to going all day and taking 20  I may keep 20 or so out of the hundreds I used to take to keeping 15 out of 20.  What changed?  I spend more time looking through the camera and exercising the would I print it, can I use it or is it for someone else in my head before I take the shot.  I take more time to look at the light, the angle, the background and the subject matter.  When the cameras had film no one except sports were motor driving hundreds of photos.  When the view camera was the only game it was even less. 

Better photography doesn't mean more photos. 

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small photography tips Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:27:29 GMT

Some will talk about scouting where or what you want to photograph.  That is only the beginning.  Spending time looking at others ideas of what you want to shoot should not be what you shoot.  If you are going to a park it helps to check out the areas before you go.  Google maps will be a big help.  More important is what you want to shoot.  I went to Glacier in Montana.  I knew I wanted waterfalls and any wildlife I would encounter.  Wildlife is not something you can scout but hope for.  There are places to go and times of the year to improve your chances of getting a bear shot or the big migrations that narrow that time frame to encounter the types of wildlife you want to capture.  Waterfalls are always in the same place all day long.  You just have to decide when is the best time to be in front of that waterfall to make the best image you can.  Not much scouting?  I went back to the Silver Staircase multiple times trying to get a photo I liked.  I shot it from afar, up close and very tight.  I liked the tight shots the best and it took 5 times of going back.  The first time I got back after a day of shooting I thought about all the things I should have done and I went back and repeat.  This applies to any photographic opportunity.  You should be looking at direction of light, background of subject and time of day.  Maybe a trip back to those wildflowers will resolve any issues in your first encounter.  Sometimes it is not easy to do return trips.  The opportunity may not exist for some subjects come and go,  great distance or cost of the excursion makes it difficult.  When you can always take another opportunity.

I always do better the second time around.


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small photography scouting waterfalls Tue, 07 Apr 2015 03:55:07 GMT
WINTER PHOTOS _15A4719 as Smart Object-1_15A4719 as Smart Object-1ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Winter is almost over here in Pa but it's not letting loose very easily.  The question is if you are an outdoors shooter did you get any photos?  I have to say I didn't get many.  Not that I didn't go out I just didn't get what I wanted accomplished.  I try to have a list in my head of weather events where to go and what to shoot.  Whether rain, sun or snow things will have a different look or challenge.  I saw a photo done local in the Harrisburg area of the fake statue of liberty placed on a bridge pier in the middle of the Susquehanna River.  Sounds easy.  There isn't many vantage points and the main one is along a very busy corridor with no parking except along the road with just enough of room to get off the main road.  First thing I found was you can't do it at rush hour especially when it's below 10 degrees.  Not safe.  Preoccupied drivers you know.  The cold was  a problem. The trucks make it chilled factor of less than 10 minutes.  The wind off the convoys was like being in a storm.  Lens vibration made me wait till there was no traffic which didn't last long. So wait till the weekend sounds like a plan.  When you wait for a specific day the weather will always have to change those plans.  You really need some sun to make it work and this shot you want morning sun.  A few years ago I would have just taken a photo and done.  Now I try to make images.   This Statue really presented me many trips back for another try.  I got there too soon or too late.  The sunrise has to clear a knob so sunrise isn't really sunrise on the subject.  I tried the evening but the sun sets on the arm side and the shadows wasn't what I wanted.  I still haven't got the shot I wanted but I am not done trying. 

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small liberty photography statue susquehanna Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:58:03 GMT


If you want to take better pictures stand in front of better stuff.  SO TRUE.  To stand in front of better stuff a photographer has to be willing to take chances, brave the weather, travel and see things missed by others.  This rock at the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canada side of Niagara Falls just sits there.  A chunk of the bedrock the millions of gallons of water eats away on a daily basis.  The falls are behind the rock not really hitting it directly however, the mist formed by the falls moves around and over putting a layer of texture and color from the ice that forms.  This rock wouldn't have been noticed in the summer.  But with the frozen falls it was better stuff to stand in front of.  I spent as much time shooting this rock as I did shooting everything else.  The swirling mist changed the light and color as the sun had to work a little to penetrate the thick fog.  I didn't shoot in burst but I did work the shutter finger a lot.  The railing that keeps you from accidently falling over curves a bit as you get farther away from the falls so the angle of view keeps changing if you want it to.  You will have to wait your turn as it is crowded with tourists aplenty.

Wide angle is what you shoot Niagara so you can see the size and power of the falls.  Well to some anyway.  I always tell others that ask what can I do to take better pictures.  I tell them to take the shot they would normally.  Then cut the distance in half and take it again.  Cut the distance again for another.  When the subject is out of the frame you're done.   Of course Niagara Falls frozen or not won't allow you to get closer so get a bigger lens.  Then go bigger.  I went there in February 2015 and the weather didn't give me much time at the falls.  I always travel with all my gear.  I have a 400 mm lens and as I left the vehicle I looked at that lens and talked myself out of it because of the crowds there.  Big mistake and I hope I get another chance.  I did shoot with a 200 mm and most of my favorites from the trip was shot at 200 mm.  There was one person there with the big lens.  Probably a news person and that doesn't mean great photos.  You still have to see the image to take it.

Stand in front of better stuff, get closer or go bigger with the lens and change the angle of view.   For more Frozen photos go to



(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small frozen ice niagara falls photography Sat, 07 Mar 2015 00:22:40 GMT
FROZEN NIAGARA FALLS pano 5455pano 5455Frozen Niagara Fall on the American falls panorama with the City of Niagara New York.


When you think about cold places Buffalo NY comes to mind for its snow and - temps during the winter.  Niagara Falls is just around the corner.  In 2015 the falls became a winter wonder land of ice and snow.  In 2014 I went to shoot the ice and missed it by two days.  The falls really never freeze solid.  The amount of splashing water and mist coats the area painting ice over just about everything.  The coldness turns the ice a blue hue around the falls and the trees are frosty white.  Niagara doesn't do this every year at least not like this.  Photography becomes a challenge if you aren't dressed for success.  At -1 or so with a breeze minus 30 can be the norm.  Ten minutes on bare skin is the limit.  It takes extreme cold to do this because the water temp is not freezing and will eat the ice rather quickly when the temp rises above 30.  You may think you'd have the place to yourself.  Quite the contrary.  You have to stand in line to get a clear view of the falls.  I like shooting water falls just about anytime of the year but this could be a once of a lifetime because you never know what the weather will do.  If you go to the falls there is an American and Canada side.  They both offer views however, I only had one day to shoot with the weather being snowy so I chose to go to the Canada side.  Good choice for me.  I wish I would have been able to shoot around the American side for a more intimate view of the frozen vegetation.  Next time.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) Niagara Niagara falls better photography dennis small falls frozen ice mist ny photography photos snow Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:59:53 GMT

ice riseice riseSunrise over the Harrisburg Capital with the frozen Susquehanna reflecting the colors of the sky.


When I first started to shoot I was out there everyday by myself with an occasional meeting with another photographer.  I liked the quiet and could let my mind wander.  The biggest thing was I got there when I wanted and left when I wanted.   The more I ventured out the more people I met.  More than not it was very helpful most of the time with picking someone else's mind on techniques.  Photographers are a friendly bunch and most will go out of their way to help another photographer.  If you are around a group the most heard comments or question is what F stop, Shutter and ISO are you shooting.  It became a pet peeve.  Most of my experience with others has been OK.  However, the trips that went wrong sticks in your mind the most.  One clueless person with no idea of group etiquettes can make you wish you would have drove yourself.  I have spend many hours not taking any photos just hoping the other person wanted to go.   It isn't all bad.  I have gained a lot by watching others and asking about their thought processes.  I am not a teacher nor do I want to be.  I prefer to be shooting and showing things to someone.  The biggest thing I see photographers do wrong is not reading the manual, shoot some and read again.  You have to learn the terminology.  Not all brands are the same.  When I meet a new photographer who starts asking questions I ask some questions to see what they may know.  Then I usually help them change some simple settings to help see if they are over or under exposing.   If they are shooting auto I try to show them how they can be artistic by using manual settings.  Not too much info at one time.  If I know I am going to be with a newbie I will tell them to bring their manual.  I am used to my camera and can do a lot more than the consumer ones. This type of mentoring is not good in the group setting.  Many won't ask questions in a group, all questions are not stupid. They may not have an option I have.   Sometimes you won't get a chance to not be in a group.  Workshops or gaining access to some locations may be required or too expensive.  Try some inclement weather, shooting in the night or gain access to restricted areas if you prefer to shoot alone.  A BAD DAY OF PHOTAGRAPHY IS BETTER THAN A GOOD DAY OF NO PHOTOGRAPHY!

No matter what happens saying nothing is always the best policy.  Burning bridges someone said is not a good thing.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog creativity dennis small groups photography Tue, 03 Feb 2015 14:44:18 GMT
THE WHEEL CHAIR AT PENNHURST _4147635 c_4147635 c

I just had to do another blog on the wheel chair at Pennhurst. I had never seen a wheel chair of this type.  There were no back wheels  so the patient could not roll them selves around unless you were doing wheelies.  It had a stand on the back side that set on the floor.  The more I think about being there the more I think I will be going back.  I can't imagine what I didn't see.  Even being there at another part of the day or a cloudy day would change everything.  Light direction,  quantity, intensity or lack of any will change the character of the chair.  Maybe a subject in the chair. 

The light coming in from the small crack in the window boarded up long ago tickles the outline of the chair with just the right amount to give it a mood of truly lost in time.  Sadness, loneliness or nothingness comes to mind.  The eye moves over the chair wanting to see more.  Adding additional light would make it just another discarded item in the corner. I am sure that when Pennhurst was in operation the light was dim anyway. You may ask when is it too much light?  That will be determined each time it is viewed. I believe the more diverse the opinions the more you have achieved what photography should do.  1000 words are just a beginning.    Just as long as you are happy with it or you can go back with me on another trip to get it the way you want.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned asylum better photography blog dennis small pennhurst photography Sat, 24 Jan 2015 18:39:23 GMT
DARKNESS FALLS........ another Pennhurst PENNHURST


While at Pennhurst this wheel chair was tucked in a room that you needed a flashlight to see your feet.  This chair drew a lot of attention from all the other photographers.  It reminded me of the gate at a concert waiting for the doors to open.  To give the chair its due I did some light painting  in the darkness.  Then I moved it into the hall for a different look with different light.  I could have moved this chair all day but the line was long so I stepped back and watched the others. I can always learn something by watching others approach.   The chair never moved again as each person shot it where it was.  Different angles, add some light or just a different exposure for effect.

All I could think about was how this chair was used and it was meant to travel these halls of gloom.  When it was sitting in the darkness I thought about someone all alone locked away.   If you go there read about the place first.  I believe it will help you see the place differently than being just another abandoned place.

In photography light is everything and sometimes less is better.  You can convey a different message by brightness or darkness.  There are times you should subtract light  especially with glassware.  Light subtraction for a future topic.  When you trip the shutter and you look at the picture, ask yourself a question.  What does this say to me.  Secondly what someone else may say.   It should say something if you want to take better pictures.

If you look in the background the ghost of Jim Crawley is seen. 


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned asylum better photography dennis small pennhurst photography tips Sun, 18 Jan 2015 17:08:45 GMT
I NEEDED A STRIP SOFTBOX SO I MADE ONE (updated) I just couldn't find one that I had confidence in using my speed lights and the ones available are expensive especially when you don't know when you might use them again. I want to do an experiment so we'll see how it turns out.  If you are interested I used some things laying around.



 I used some 6 inch drain pipe (update, I wish I would have used 4 inch) and cut an opening leaving some room at the top and bottom to place caps.  I lined the inside of the pipe with silver tape used to repair duct work found at the box stores.  One roll is enough for two lights.  Cover both insides of the caps to help bounce the light through the opening.  I chose a five inch opening. The length is 32 inches.  I did not glue the ends on so you can start with a larger size.




 Measure and cut a hole in an end cap to fit your speed light.  I oversized and added some weather stripping.  This end cap can be the top or bottom however, make sure you do something to hold the flash on.  to mount the light on a stand I used a Manfrotto 5/8th short stud and Impact swivel umbrella adapter.  I am going to dedicate the adapter to stay with the light so any stand will do.




To attach the fabric use double sided tape around the opening.  I split the tape in two.  Peel the back off the tape a little at a time.  It helps with positioning the fabric and makes it easier if you have to adjust.  The fabric sticks easily.  I used parachute material.  The heavier the material the more light lost.




Start at the top and work down.  Leave an inch or so on the sides loose so you can take it off.  It doesn't matter if there are some wrinkles.



The light was soft but a wider pattern that I hoped for.  I decided to add barn doors.



I used some black foil and taped it in front of the hole with gaffers tape.  I then split the foil with a knife and folded the foil back.  I inserted the flash and used a radio trigger for another test.






I can see I will be using these often. 

 It took me awhile no blueprints make up as I went.  Pipe free, cap $7.00 ea, some black foil, small amount of gaffers and two sided tape. 1/2 yard cloth, stud $8.00, swivel $16.00 and time served,  I will be making a smaller version with 4" pipe for portability.

On to concept shoot and see what happens.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small dyi photography softbox speed light strip light tips Mon, 12 Jan 2015 00:57:57 GMT


Making an image that brings smiles to someone's face can be hard. Making an image that can bring sadness can be harder but necessary at times.  I have been doing a series of abandoned places.  It's a challenge with low or no light, access restrictions and sometimes thought provoking subjects, not in a good way.  Pennhurst is one of those places that is a challenge of the latter.  You never know what you will get into when you go.  There is never enough of time and after you leave you think of all the things you should have done.  This trip there was too many people to take the time I would have liked to.  There were many pictures that while you were waiting for the 30 second exposure to finish your mind wondered to what actually happened here.  This photo was painted on the wall in a basement of one of the buildings where children came to play.  They called it candy lane because of red and white stripes on a pole with a basket to play ball.  I believe the paintings were therapy for the patients. 

I watched as I waited my turn to photograph the area.  I took the common photo of the kids on the wall.  During that 30 seconds I saw something, the door.  I don't know what everyone else sees but to me it is the GREAT ESCAPE.  Pennhurst was a miserable place and I won't say much about it, too depressing.  Take some time and look it up. 

Fortunately I am photographing an abandoned place.  To be continued>

I'd like to thank my brother Ken for allowing me to exhibit in his office some of the abandoned photos. 

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) Pennhurst abandoned asylum better photography dennis small photography tips Sat, 03 Jan 2015 13:42:34 GMT

No they didn't burn the house down but knowing them they would have had fun.  I had this concept in mind for a while and I borrowed some kids who I had taken photos of before.  I usually have this policy to never shoot kids in their house and I should have used this rule.  I have been shooting trying to improve in the people department.  On this day they just didn't want to cooperate in the least.  I also learned that the new style of lights weren't what I was looking for.  More cord than light.  I used one flash to light their faces.  Of course the fire was added later for safety reasons.  I am going to try this again but with a subject a little older, try some depth of field  and I got some lights more to the old style.  With every challenge there will be some problems and with problems a learning experience.  So it didn't work the first time.  Try try again.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog christmas dennis small fire photography tips Sun, 14 Dec 2014 22:14:37 GMT


Everyone wants to have an unique image that no one else has.  Looking at another of the posts here I remind myself that taking the right image makes others happy.  While chasing the eagles at Conowingo Dam we stopped at Strasburg which just happened to have one on the most famous trains in the world giving rides.  I don't remember this story when I was little but if you were standing there watching hundreds of kids waiting to take a ride a photo was necessary.   Deep in Amish country the train chugged along all day long spewing the smoke from the small steam engine each seat occupied by beaming kids and the parents who took them.  Strasburg is a Steam engine museum that provides opportunity all year long for rides and education.  Even if Thomas isn't there ride one of the other trains and take your camera along.  


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small engine photography steam thomas tips train Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:23:42 GMT

It's great to catch the extra Z's in the morning but you are missing the best time of day.  SUNRISE!  Of course the best time to catch a sunrise is in cold weather because the air is crisp with little distortion in the shy from haze or heat waves that can affect your photo.  One half hour before the sun rises will produce some amazing colors in the sky.  You need some clouds to help reflect the morning glow as the sun is about to peak on the horizon.  Too late and the color will be gone. The sun is too hot to photograph unless you use some filters to compensate for the brightness.  No clouds can give a nice glow but not a dramatic sky.  Too many clouds and the sun can't peak through. You have a grey sky.  Getting up that early also gives you a chance to enjoy nature at its best and usually no one to bother you.  You still have the twinkling lights if a city scape to add some color.  There are better times of the year as the sun moves and the earth tilts between seasons.  But I do prefer the winter.  If you haven't tried it  you should.  Just don't over expose or you will get a photo that looks like daylight especially if you are still shooting in the auto mode on your camera.  

Stop by one of the coffee shops, bring a small flashlight and get there at least an hour early and enjoy the show.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small photography sunrise tips Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:45:31 GMT
LAST CALL LAST CALLBill Ragni coaches Trinity Football one more time                                                                                                   LAST CALL

                                                                    NIKON D4, 1/250 SS,  400 F2.8, 1.4 EXT,  AT 550 MM, ISO 8000

I often  think about photography in terms of the next shot.  Wildlife, sports, family and friends. I need purpose.  I have gotten to the point that I think about why take the photo.  At the beginning of the sports season I was thinking I had enough.  I don't really know any of the kids anymore.  I started because my nephew played.   I ran into a friend who shoots sports right before the football season started.  He ask me if I was shooting again this year.  I said I was leaning towards no.  He looked at me and said that would be a loss because I do it so well.   It reminded me of another friend telling me that these photos may not seem to mean that much but when one of the players is showing them to their grand children they may not remember your name but they will remember the time.  I usually do a poster of the seniors.  One photo of action and then one of all the seniors together merged into one. This year I decided not to.   I guess I left it become a job.  Those who do this for a living best wishes.  I just want to have fun.   The coach retired after the season.  The last game he came over and thanked me for all the photos I took and what  memories he will have. 

In that moment it all became clear.   Thanks coach.



                                                                                  2015 GRADUATING CLASS FRONT LINE





(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small photography tips why take photos Wed, 12 Nov 2014 11:15:03 GMT
CHILDREN CAN IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY _14A3161_14A3161ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Took some time off from the sports again and tried something I was thinking about for some time. I AM NOT A PEOPLE PERSON.  I had bought a 200mm F2 lens and saw many great photos of people taken wide open.  I got some friends to lend their little ones for a shoot over a couple of weekends.  The lens is everything  they say it is.  You are not going to get close when shooting but with Kids you don't want to stick a camera in their face.  At the time I was shooting I couldn't say it was fun.  Even though it was supposed to be for the fun of it. Worrying about getting some good photos of people  always bothers me a bit,  least till you review the pictures on a bigger screen. Was the focus right, eyes open, or something out of place you have to Photoshop.  Both moms were  chewing at the kids to smile or do something.  They couldn't see what I saw through the lens.  I did a little fall staging with some straw, pumpkins and other props before anyone showed up.  That really helped because when the kids saw it they were hooked on doing something with the props.  The youngest above worked best on his own.  You are not going to give much direction at that age.  Sometimes all you can ask for is something to trigger a smile.

Then there are times when you think they couldn't preform better.  You have to be ready all the time and being a distance away they kind of forget you are there and play a bit.  Sometimes the moms are worst than the kids.




Don't forget to get mom in the act.  Someone just wanted to go for a ride in the wagon.  Priceless.



(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog children dennis small photography tips Wed, 05 Nov 2014 10:47:35 GMT
SILO CITY BUFFALO NY _4149137_4149137The silo stands alone along the Buffalo River and is mostly abandoned. Photographers go to the Silo City Workshop to photograph what is left of tools, machinery and other artifacts. The building is large but if you use a long lens and capture the small details of the building there are many things that go unnoticed. I am not a work shop guy.  Really never been to a work shop that was a work shop.  I mostly went on Photo trips to access the place.  I have been traveling to Buffalo for a long time and took notice to the grain silos.  I thought it would be nice to take a crack at doing some photography.  I found a work shop advertised for Silo City with Mark Maio.  I could find no other opportunity so I looked into it and decided to pull the trigger.  My first thought was it was more money than I would ever spend to take photos in a work shop.  My photography is personal and not for commercial ventures.  What caught my attention was there would be some medium format cameras there.  I have been looking at them for a while.  I like to print big.  So I signed up and took the trip.  I didn't stay at the hotel with the others in the group because I have family near by so I can't speak for the extras after the shooting was done for the day.  There was a light painting  demo but constant rain downsized  the subject.  I already had been light painting but would have liked to seen the large scale version.  I had 3 days of unrestricted access and it took all that time to see most of the place.  People were available to assist if you needed help.  You don't have to be accomplished to take this shop.   Mark Maio was available as well as Chris Snipes from Capture Integration provided medium format cameras to try.  I never did try one.  The group was diverse and helpful to each other.  I met some new people and some I already knew.   Mark included a rare opportunity to photograph the Buffalo Pumping station near Niagara Falls and Concrete Central on side trips. That day was a little too windy.  The photo shown here is what would be the normal take but I pulled out my 400 F2.8 and did some close ups of the outside. I hope that I was helpful to some of the others.  If you ever watch Creative Live I got to meet one of the celebrity students Cliff Lenderman.  


If I was to throw a nit it was the place was a lot cleaner than I am used to.  The more rust, crust and dust the better for me.  It rained most of the time which wasn't a problem for me.  Wet floors, puddles and cloudy skies will provide interesting reflections or softer light.  I would have liked some ice.

If you like abandoned or not there are some great opportunities. 


_14B8605_14B8605The silo stands alone along the Buffalo River and is mostly abandoned. Photographers go to the Silo City Workshop to photograph what is left of tools, machinery and other artifacts. The building is large but if you use a long lens and capture the small details of the building there are many things that go unnoticed.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography blog buffalo dennis small grain elevators photography silo city tips Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:17:49 GMT


Abandoned places with the things they used still inside is quite a draw for photographers for many reasons.  Documenting the  past, the challenge of shooting in the dark, the layers of dust, crust and rust provide texture and color.  For me making it artwork. Color you can't get at one of the box stores.  Equipment and tools that provided needed supplies and jobs that made towns grown and prosper.  I have been visiting these types of places for awhile and have a bucket list to visit.  One of these places is the Grain Elevators in Buffalo.  You just can't get in unless you do a work shop.    Double that with a visit with family and you have something to look forward to. 


Saint Nicholas_coal_breaker was the first and since some of the building has been demolished to make way for another strip mine.  I have missed a few just because I hadn't thought about getting inside until it was too late. 

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog buffalo dennis small grain elevators photography silo city tips Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:08:40 GMT


Took a trip to the Eastern State Penn in Philly and have to admit it was a bad idea.  Anytime there is some sale or special event it's like black Friday.  This was no exception.  Way too many people, models and groups shooting models.  There was a wedding shot too.  I didn't have much chance to shoot the way I usually do and have few photos.  The plan was to hit some sites of Philly and the Ben Franklin bridge.  That didn't work either.  Took a few shots and heard a clunk only to find my lens fell on the concrete and became useless for the rest of the night.  Photography can be trying at times and Now I'll have to wait to see the outcome on the lens from the repair shot.  And since I didn't have the lens I missed a golden opportunity the next day to do a photo of a new born that should have been printed big.  That's how it is sometimes.

Football season has started since this blog  and  I don't use the short lens a lot anyway.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small eastern state penn philadelphia photography tips Mon, 06 Oct 2014 10:00:00 GMT

Photographers as well as those who are thinking about taking a leap usually have better equipment in mind.  If we had a better camera or better lens we would take better photos. Well it doesn't work like that.  A better lens and I'm not sure what that means will make better pictures? If you ever look at the line ups of the more popular makes there is a looong list of lens that tout all that you can be.  Unfortunately there is truth to the philosophy.  More light lower F stops.  More depth of field, closer focus, larger MM and so forth.  It like a mechanic with several rolling tool boxes loaded with specialty wrenches just in case you need on of them.    There is macro, telephoto, wide angle, close focus, tilt shift and the next greatest lens on the market.  I am one of those photographers who doesn't have a one track mind and likes to do all of the above.  It's tough at first because your credit card gets a good workout but with time you will find it's more fun to figure out to make great images with limited resources.   Macro usually means a macro lens.  I prefer to use a telephoto lens with extension tubes to shorten the minimal focus distance.  You can shoot at 800 MM and get closer than the minimum focus distance.  My favorite is the 200 F2.  One of the best lens in the world.   Before you get the fever think about a real challenge and how to use what you have to get to the next level.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small photography tips Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:00:00 GMT

PENNHURST  by flashlight.

I have read or heard about evoking emotion with photography.  I have seen parents get teary eyed when they saw a large print of their kid captured on the sports battle field.  Recently I have been moving to the darker side of photography. Another exit taken. Mostly for the low light challenge and trying to make art out of it.  After I shoot I like to create a slide show and add music to highlight the core of the place.  I was showing the Pennhurst one to family.  My little niece said it was creepy and no one should see this.  She said I had to delete it right a way.  I should expect that especially from a first grader.  I did some prints of the places I have been and hung them on my brothers wall.  What a mixed reaction from take them down to they were great.  Did I mention he is a Psycologist?  I plan on doing a lot more on the abandoned subject later. Stay tuned or take a look by clicking on the photo.


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) abandoned better photography blog dennis small pennhurst photography tips Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:00:00 GMT


I guess you may have thought this may be about standing on the sideline shooting the action. Sure you have to be somewhere on the sideline.   This photo is about the lady taking pictures of her son running the ball down the sidelines.  I was on the opposite side of the field watching the play take form.  I had just talked with his mom, camera stuff.  I really get excited about adding an element like the parent looking on.  Getting the camera shot  takes it to the next level.  Of course you have to know who the parent is.  I previously mentioned about looking for things other than the action shots.   Below is a shot of a rainy cold night.  The QB is looking to the sideline waiting for the play call.  Without the rain and chilled air the whole photo would not have the impact.  Some people would have stayed home.  Just about every Friday it rained that year and I didn't miss a one of them.  They make fitted lens rain coats  that work.  The biggest problem if the wind is blowing towards the lens you have to keep wiping off the glass or not.  Between plays I will often use a custom lens cover for the big lens or stuff a microfiber cloth inside the lens hood to keep the mist to a shoot level.  

Look across the field between plays, take advantage of foul weather and change sidelines for a different view of the action.

RAINY FRIDAY NIGHTRAINY FRIDAY NIGHTTrinity QB Patrick Dill waits for the call from the sideline.




(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small photography settings sports tips Mon, 15 Sep 2014 10:00:00 GMT

Moments right after what you think action over can be the best photos all night.  Showing the Ref you caught the ball or just showing off to the crowd , PRICELESS.  What I like about this photo goes past the player with the ball.  The defensive player was closely watching too as well as all the players on the sideline.  When I get around to talking about dept of field and background blur this is a good example of drawing the eye to the main subject but having enough focus to  see all the players interest on the sideline. 


_13B6159_13B6159DK SMALL (C)

Same kid before the game coming into the stadium. It was easy picking him out since I know the family.  It shows the deep thought before the battle with the focus clearly on him as everything fades out.    You won't always get the player holding up the ball at the end of the play but you can get the before shots if you do a little planning to be at the right spot at the right time.  There is a lot of emotion going on even if you don't see it and be ready when you do.   Below is an in between.  The action isn't quite over but the player with his hand up knows the fumble recovery puts the game on ice for his team and starts to celebrate early. Dad wanted the photo for the recovery and the hand sign.  So include the before and after images into your portfolio and you might start to see a new path on your road to better photography.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small pa photography sports tips Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:00:00 GMT


All photographs are subjective.  I joke with people about my 3 photographs theory.  When you pick a favorite photo of a player there will be what I think is a great photo,  mom will always pick something else and the player another.  Photography is very personal and what you see as a great moment of peak action, sharp as a tack, tells the story of the moment and should be on the cover of a sports magazine.   The mom sees it totally different.  A touching moment of their child along the sideline maybe in deep thought will get the nod most of the time.  Unless the mom is a jock herself.  The player can not be predicted.  They see the moment as what was happening or what they may have been thinking at that precise time or maybe the opinion of their peers.  I have since changed the way I shoot at games.  I look at the sidelines more often, keep shooting after the play is over looking for the moment of victory or agony of loss.   The one thing I will never figure out is when you see some of these shots and no one wants to print one.    Then there is the parent who wants everything no matter what printed for a scrap book or cover the walls in their house.  Look at the newspaper for examples.  They do not always print action but what they print will tell a story about the game or the person. 

I want to go on record.  I didn't start out to do this with the thought that someone would even care about the photos.  I did it for my family to have something of my nephew.  I accomplished my first objective.  I like to do photography and it was a challenge to get that next great shot.  I have a few printed for myself,  random kids I don't even know that  I consider WOW shots.  Photography is personal in doing it or viewing it.  Have some fun and don't dwell on what others think.


_12B1168_12B1168DK SMALL (C)



(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small pa photography sports tips Mon, 01 Sep 2014 10:00:00 GMT


I have been babbling along about better photography and how I got started.  It's been a long road and the learning curve steep.  There are always something going wrong that can make you miss the shot of the day. One of the things that comes up a lot for me is the distraction of the game.  They are many.  If I had a dime for every time another person carrying a camera comes over and starts a conversation about my camera, what tips for better pictures or some other thought they have to let me know about.  Usually they are trying to shoot the game so they come over during breaks of the game.  I try to help them.  Most move away when the game continues, however sometimes I have to let them know  I am trying to shoot the game and I can't talk and shoot at the same time.  When someone I know, a parent stops by and tries to hold a conversation I may get sidetracked.  I have missed some great opportunities talking with a dad missing his kid's play.  I get the I guessed you missed that one.  The biggest distraction is watching the game and watching the game.  Keeping the camera on a lineman waiting for that perfect block and hearing the crowd roar takes discinpline to stay the course. Paying attention to the game as a spectator is not what you want to do.  If you know a player it is much easier especially when you are looking for a particular photo or any photo of that player.  If you are shooting for a soccer goalie you can spend more time watching the game waiting for action to get to their goal.  Tennis you have to stay on the player to get the ball against the racket shot.





(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small pa photography sports tips Mon, 25 Aug 2014 10:00:00 GMT


I had mentioned earlier that the youth sports especially when starting out in their sports foray they are in a learning mode and they have to think things out. Action can be slow most of the time with a lot of standing around waiting for the coach to tell them what to do.  As they grow up the plays become more habit and the kids get much bigger.  They run faster, hit harder and run plays that can be followed.  The game is much faster.  If you cut your teeth on little league and expand over time you get a lot of the basics down just like the kids.  If you pick up a camera and show up at the college level for your first try humble may come to mind.  Those 10,000 clicks you shot before will make it much easier not having to think about the camera and can follow the game. The ability of the athletes have a direct bearing on the quality of photo.  A great athlete will provide ample opportunity to capture great images.  I could pick the player of the game by the pictures I get.   Being on the team doesn't mean a player will play or if they are in the game you will get a shot.  I have struggled to get a photo of each of the seniors on the team to do posters.  Sometimes they don't ever get in the game.


Adam Gieger now at Penn State.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) dennis small pa photography sports tips Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:45:00 GMT

Do you want a photo with the action as the main focus or the the perfect position of the ball?  Maybe the person is the only thing that matters.  To get all three takes patience, practice and timing.  Tennis is one of those sports that you may think would be easy to shoot.  The weather is nice, plenty of sun and the movements can be somewhat timed because after all the ball bounces back and forth.   Well you can have too much sun causing shutter speeds to exceed the F stop you may want giving too much dept of field.   That can be fixed with neutral density filters to block light.  You may have to shoot through the fence.  You have to place your lens against the fence and line the hole perfectly trying to center the hole as best you can.  This is another reason to shoot a wide open F stop to blur the what fence creeps into the shot.  This will also limit the movement of the camera and shorten the view of the field.  Sometimes the layout of the field presents limited access so you stand around waiting for the people to shift to the other side.  It can also make camera settings difficult when shooting into the sun if that is your only angle.  Catching the ball is only part of a picture.  Showing the intensity of the player even if the ball is not on the racket may mean more to the person viewing the photo than the person taking the photo.  Try to have the ball somewhere in the frame.   For better photos scout the different locations the game is played.  One of the other fields may present better opportunity.  The below photo was shot at an away game which had multiple entrances on both sides of play.  I could open the gate and have more movement of the camera to follow the player.  This was the only time I had a ball ricochet in the lens.   


Fast frame shooting will be a big plus here.  Never below 1/400 shutter speed and the faster the better.




(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) blog dennis small pa photography sports tennis tips Mon, 11 Aug 2014 10:30:00 GMT

Not only is sports shooting great practice it hones your skills for target acquisition and focusing. If you understand the sport you can get ready by pre-focusing in the general area of the action about to happen. This is where the good glass comes in.  The best lens will focus a lot faster than a kit lens.  Kit lens tend to search for the subject causing a delay and a missed shot. Shooting the camera in auto mode can be a problem if the shutter speed is too slow.  If you are still shooting auto mode there is usually another choice to use called P for program mode.  Program will still be auto except you set something like the shutter speed and the other settings will adjust automatically.  (Read the manual.)    Baseball the batter is standing at the plate you just have to time the shot. Not easy either.   When they hit the ball you have to get the camera into position to either show the fielding of the ball or maybe the runner action at a base sliding or the tag.  Football has a signal that the ball is hiked into play and the play is run.  Then you get a break till the next play.  If they throw a pass you follow the ball and try to shoot the reception.  Trying to follow a pass play, HARD.   Soccer has a field larger than football and a ball getting kicked long distances till it is played.  Following the ball on a large area is tough.  Large lens small view.  Lift your head to see where to go and then get the camera pointed in the proper direction!!!   Anticipation of the action can put you right where you want to be or 1/4 second behind or ahead of the shot you really want.  You can set the camera to just shoot one thing such as watching the goalie.  The above photo isn't bad but the ball against the head would be a preferred shot.  Can you tell if the ball is inbound or outbound?  The ball shake is from leaving after she hit it.   I like to ad some weather when I can.  In fact I prefer it. 

Each sport provides a different challenge.





(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small pa photography skills sports tips Mon, 04 Aug 2014 10:30:00 GMT

You have to start somewhere and why not start at the beginning.  If you have kids or know kids they have to start somewhere too.  This also provides the opportunity to shoot during the daylight hours and lets you use the equipment you have.  Here the most important thing is where to be when you take the photo.  Baseball has several key shots that are nice to have.  This is one of them.  Right hand you head for first base and lefties down third base.  Timing this shot takes some practice, anticipation of the swing, high shutter speed and luck.  What mom wouldn't love this. Who cares, I like it.   Lens selection is also a factor.  You can't get real close so somewhere around 200 mm will do the job.  As you advance to older kids the distances grow and umpires are fussy about where you stand.  I have been chewed out on occasion.    Baseball provides a single moment for a portrait like photo at any age.  Other sports may not be that kind.  Kids are learning more than doing and in group sports they form groups during the action. I call them worm balls.  Getting a clean shot may not happen but when it does you have to be ready.  I watch the game through the lens.  As any sport I follow the action or at least attempt to.  The most important thing is something has to happen and if the person isn't doing anything there will be no photo.



(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small pa photography sports tips Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:00:00 GMT
GETTING STUCK IN A RUT WILL NEVER GET YOU TO THE 10,000 CLICKS. _D3S9260_D3S9260Matt Small Trinity team Center crumples the Milton Hershey opponent.

Everyone does at some point.  That's what I like about photography.  I started chasing wildlife and did nothing else forever.  My first big change came when my nephew started playing sports.  It's also when photography got really expensive for me.  At least here local high schools play Friday nights and the stadium lights at the school were less than adequate with good equipment.  My first outing  was not what I had hoped for with the low light and ISO capabilities my first outing humbled me.  On Monday morning I made my first large purchase, Nikon 400 MM F2.8 lens.  The photos were to say the least night and day in quality of focus and getting more keepers.  The D200 would soon fall to another.  Yes another call to the favorite camera store and a D3 showed up.  I have been doing this more than a few years so I can say that I show up, set the shutter to 1/400, F2.8, and ISO 6400, continuous focus and follow the ball.   I like shooting sports.  You never know what is going to happen.  It's not like shooting people who you have to pose.  It just kind of happens.  You will do better in the right position and understanding how the sport flows.  Another advantage of the sport venues is it starts at a certain time and pretty much runs for a certain time and then ends for the day.  Wildlife is unpredictable and you may not get anything on any given day.  When a person says it's not the camera it's the photographer they are partially correct.  HOWEVER, there are times when you need special tools of the trade.  For night sports a good camera with high ISO because shutter speed needs to be at stopping speed and a lens with a wide F stop to gather the light and help with fast focus. If possible lighting up the subject if allowed.  Anytime there is  low light you need to rethink. Do you want the photo to look like it is daylight or capture all the glowing lights.  Landscape low light photography will teach you a lot  about shutter speed, ISO, and F stops.  Some of the specialty things will be a tripod, shutter release, flash light and maybe a timer.  Now is when you may need what you have learned about manual settings.  Most camera and lens will work so you don't need to have something expensive but you will need patience.

I didn't give up wildlife I just added sports and pretty close to the 10,000 clicks.     


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography dennis small pa photography sports tips Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:00:00 GMT

I had a great run at Wildwood but something changed and it was harder to find things.  It may have been that I didn't need anymore bird photos or it was time to get off the road and do some exploring.  I had shot for two or so years, shot in the heat of summer and cold of winter.  The cold never bothered me.  Loved snow.  You dress for success and up till now gloves were worn but never for fondling the small dials and buttons on a camera.  I had to loose the gloves.   Numbness sets in fast.  A bigger problem  is all the white and getting exposure without losing details.  This is where manual settings excel, why you should learn to use your camera that way.  A lot of white or black will confuse the camera.  Snow isn't the only white.  Many of the birds are white and very dark in spots. When I was using auto ISO  I lost a lot of detail with Egrets and Eagles setting or in flight.  I recall being told set your camera for what you want to shoot and not worry about getting everything.  The example was shooting Eagles in flight when they are up in the air where it is bright and when they are going in catching fish on the darker water.  Shoot for the water or for the flight after.  Maybe a better example is shooting a Green Heron foraging along the bank and an Egret close by snatches up a frog and you turn quickly to shoot the white bird.   This is another 10,000 click issue.  I lost a lot of pictures that would have been great shots but I had a hot subject.  By now I am getting closer to the experience needed to make faster adjustments without thinking.  The fingers are a little more automatic.   They did it in the film days when they had to wait to see how the film turned out.   This photo is a good example of white and good exposure.  I always use the spot meter on my camera to get the white right. 

I generally shoot 1/2 or so stop hotter when shooting white to compensate for the camera wanting to see grey.  That's my camera yours may be different. And remember the light changes fast in early morning and late afternoon so you may need to constantly change that setting.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small nature pa photography tips wildlife Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:00:00 GMT

Back from Alaska and looking through pictures.  WOW!  Not for the great photos but for the 50% that were severely over cooked or undercooked.  I did not do well at all and when looking at the file info I saw that I left the ISO on 1600 most of the time.  I was not ready to shoot manual but I did and learned a lot of what not to do.  I had to learn Photoshop and i will say this again and again; I should not be that good using Photoshop.   I did get some good pictures and even have some hanging on the walls. Another saying is if you get a few good pictures you had a good day.  I would think that doesn't apply to static things.  If you are shooting action or moving things maybe.  After this experience did I go back to shooting auto?  No, on to Wildwood Park and I'm going to lick this mentality.  I spent 265 days in 2007 wandering the paths and waterways around Wildwood Park shooting just about everything.  They are somewhere on my hard drive, everyone of them.  A good friend ask me what I was going to do with all those photos.  At that moment I had no plans except to keep shooting.  He does a lot of filming and gives presentations.  He told me to think about doing something with them.  After some thought I put a slide show together and gave a talk about my year at Wildwood at Wildwood as a featured lecturer.  It was not about photography but about the amazing things I learned while looking at nature through the lens. 

I now have of photos and well underway to the 10,000 clicks.


(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) alaska better photography camera clicks dennis small photography settings ten thousand Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:00:00 GMT

Getting to Alaska with all the gear you think you may need is a lesson in its self.  I was still using a D200 at the time and added the 24 to 70 with the 200 to 400.  Batteries, chargers, tripod, mono-pod etc.  I was traveling with my brothers and nephew and had some help carrying the extra stuff.  Alaska is huge and you spend a lot of time moving between destinations and a 3 month trip would not be enough.  I had a week.  Now I am in one of the greatest places on earth to do photography. Just  another thing to factor in with the camera settings, zooming when framing a shot, depth of field, and lens choice. The above picture was taken at 200 mm when I could have been at 400mm.  I wish I had those 10,000 clicks.  Composing your subject for another time.   On to Denali and the 11 hour bus ride through the park.  You get on an old school bus and take a tour one way in and same way out.  I had to shoot most photos from the bus window because when wildlife was around they didn't want you to interact.  They would shut the bus off and set awhile to let you shoot.  With 20 or so people moving to better position themselves you now introduce another camera factor, camera shake.  How do you handle that?  High shutter speed and in Nikon VR.  It only goes so far.  From Denali we went to Glacier Bay and stayed at the lodge in the park.  I saw more wildlife in those two days.  All the shooting was from a boat using a mono-pod.  The whole motion of the ocean, the way light plays off water and going from rainy to sunny in minutes.   I took hundreds of photos on my way to 10,000 clicks.  Many of them were not worth the time it took to take them.  Many under or over exposed because I couldn't remember to adapt to the light and make changes to the camera settings.  The biggest thing I should have remembered was to set my camera back to an auto mode and practiced manual another time.  Today I still use some auto when things change drastically especially in sports and family events that are located indoors and out.  However, I am well on the way to 10,000.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) alaska dennis small learning photography wildlife Sun, 06 Jul 2014 10:00:00 GMT


Another thing I had to learn about was the effect of light.  When I started to use manual settings I lost the auto adjustment in ISO to compensate when I was shooting low in a darker background and then focus in a tree causing the extra light to over expose beyond what everyone thinks Photoshop can fix.   Practice and more practice but nowhere near 10,000 clicks.  The excitement of being able to get a photo of a King Fisher, soaring Eagle or some creature that I didn't have a photo of yet was overwhelming when you added the manual adjustments as the light changed.   Light changes fast early in the morning and then as the sun goes down.  Most cameras have a meter that looks like a gas gauge with one side under and the other over for exposure purposes.  This is not a perfect meter which I'll get into later.  I don't know how long I went till I understood it was there.  In auto mode it didn't matter.  Then I spot metered to make sure the subject was exposed properly.  I refer back to the concentration to get into position, make sure you have focus on a moving target, watch the meter and change the settings on the camera  was a little much to get consistency.  Set the camera to continuous focus, fast frame rate and spray and prey.  I got a few that way.   It was getting close to my Alaska trip and didn't realize I still didn't know enough to continue using manual mode.  I could talk the talk but was shaky on the walk.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) blog camera dennis small light photography settings tips Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:25:34 GMT


As most first time photographers the learning curve is steep.  To be proficient at anything you need to do something 10,000 times or so they say.  I read the manual and only really understood about 1/4th of it.  I decided shooting aperture priority because that's what I thought I should be doing. I had an expensive lens that was F4 and should be used that way.  Set the shutter and let the ISO on auto.  It worked at first but I couldn't figure out why things weren't in focus at F4. (DEPTH OF FIELD)  Photographers in general are a friendly bunch and more than willing to help when ever possible.  To date I have only met one jerk. I think he was compensating for total lack of skill.   As I chased birds all over the place I met more and more photographers.  At first You don't know what to ask.  It shouldn't be what F stop or shutter are you shooting.  Listening to others prompted questions especially on the definition on terms.  I would run home and do a internet search because I didn't want to admit I didn't understand.  If you want a first thing to learn after learning how to turn the camera on and off it would be shutter speed, F stop and ISO.  Each one plays an important role and can not be dismissed as a minor player in correct exposure.  You also have to understand that everyone has their own way and expensive equipment doesn't mean expert.  I was getting decent pictures shooting the way I was so why change?  I made friends with a fellow photog who took great pictures and shot in the film days when you had to know something about those three things that control exposure.  He shot totally manual and convinced me it was the only way to shoot.  I want to make something very clear. 

Depending on the equipment there is no one way and sometimes auto settings are just fine.  Especially when you are going on a trip of a lifetime and haven't taken 10,000 clicks.  

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) better photography blog dennis small pa photography tips wildlife Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:23:51 GMT

Don't know how you got started however, I started in March of 2007 because I wanted to go to Alaska and never had a real camera with a lens that could be changed.  Didn't know much and had a few weeks to learn something.  Picked a Nikon d200 because it was in budget and middle of the road with good reviews. It came with a 18 to 200 MM lens that I soon found  wouldn't be long enough.  Back to the research of what to get.  One thing that I always believed when buying anything,  if you buy the best available you'll never get caught up in envy.  Envy can get expensive buying and selling til you finally get what you should have bought in the first place.  I bought the Nikon 200 to 400 MM and went every day to a place called Wildwood Park near Harrisburg Pa. The Egret photo with the shadow on its wing was one of the first photos I took and the defining moment that put the passion in me.

(DENNIS SMALL IMAGES) blog dennis small nature photography wildlife Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:13:00 GMT