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Photography Link Grab Bag

Since I start my new day job this coming Monday, I’m slacking a little and just sharing some kind of random links about basic photographic technique.

One of the things you see a lot of photographers do, especially if they want to “go pro” and shoot portraits, is something called “seamless paper”.  Basically, it’s a huge, long roll of colored paper that you tape up to a wall or hang from a pole to get a smooth, uninterrupted, but still plain and not distracting background for portraits.  It sounds pretty straight forward, but, let me tell you, having worked with it a bit, sometimes, it can get a little tricky.  So, I’m starting out the grab bag of links with DIY Photography’s Best Tips for Working with Seamless Paper Backdrops.  These folks are always helpful and this collects some of their best tips for working with this mainstay of formal portrait photography, as well as some helpful hints for shooting other things with seamless paper.

The next link is from Canon, via PetaPixel, with a Tutorial on Cleaning and Caring for your Photography Gear.  This may seem super basic, but there are some good reminders here for those of us who forget how delicate our photography gear can be.  For instance, the suggestion to keep gear in a sealed, water-proof bag when moving it between temperature and humidity extremes until it can match local conditions to minimize fog, especially on lenses, is a great idea, especially in Houston!

Finally, I’ve been hearing how still photographers are passe now and, if you really want to “keep up” or break into professional photography, you need to know videography.  Personally, I’m not entirely sure that’s true, but it certainly does seem to be a theme these days, so I’m including another link from DIY Photography that’s an Introduction to the Basics of Cinematography.  Also, no matter how you feel about actually learning cinematography yourself, as a photographer, learning framing techniques from great cinematographers is a pretty good idea!

So, there you go; three links for you to explore on a lazy Friday, or this weekend, if you’re still pretending to work!
Either way, y’all have a good weekend!  And, get out there shooting!

Lightroom Workflow

With Apple’s recent announcement that they’re letting Aperture die, without really replacing it, photographers of all kinds are looking toward Lightroom as their photographic management and processing tool.

I, personally, have used Lightroom for years.  I can do most of the editing I would ever want to do faster and easier in Lightroom than I would in Photoshop.  Of course, I’m strictly an amateur and don’t do any other fancy art stuff with my photography.  And, I try to follow Syl Arena’s dictum to simply take better photos “in the camera”, because I’m a photographer not a Photoshop artist.  (Just to head off anyone’s hurt feelings, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing all kinds of post-work in Photoshop, but I prefer to be away from a computer more and just work with my camera.  It’s how I roll.)
All that aside, I know I could do better with Lightroom.  I could get more out of it with less effort if I took more time to learn the program.  So, with that in mind, I offer two links to tutorials for Lightroom.  (If you don’t use Lightroom, yet, hang in there.  Next week, I’ll share some pretty straight-up photography tutorial links for y’all.)

First, there’s a tutorial at PetaPixel titled The Ultimate Guide for Creating an Efficient and Effective Lightroom Workflow.  At less that 20 minutes, this video takes you through one way to set up a good digital photography workflow using Lightroom.  It’s a pretty simple and basic look at the software, but it will get you started down a good path that you can modify as you find tricks and short-cuts of your own.  It’s only a start and just scratches the surface of this amazing software, but it’s a good start!
Second, if you want to get more in depth with Lightroom, DIY Photography has a much longer tutorial titled Lightroom’s Develop Module Creative Workflow.  It’s an hour and fifteen minutes long, so a LOT longer than the first tutorial, but this one really goes into depth with the meat of this software.  What’s a little different about this tutorial is that it goes into more detail on the “why” question regarding the settings, not just the “how” of using the program.  So, in other words, it may be something you want to come look at again after working with Lightroom for a little bit.

So, there you are, two tutorials of varying length and experience level to help you get used to Lightroom!
Now, get out there this weekend and get some raw material to use in these with your camera!

Shooting Fireworks

Happy Independence Day!

For those of you outside the U.S., today is the day we celebrate our independence as a nation by barbecuing and carousing and having parades and, most of all, by firing fireworks.  All across the country, there will be fireworks displays, both large and small, and there will be photographers at everyone one of them with tons of gear trying to capture that feeling in an image.  My personal suggestion is to just go and enjoy the show, but, if you absolutely must take photographs, check out the links below for tips before you go!

First, and always one of my favorites, are the annual Ten Tips for Photographing Fireworks from Photofocus.  For most of us, these are the tips that matter most.
But, also, check out How To Photograph Fireworks at Digital Photography School.  They also have ten tips, but their tips are slightly different, so definitely worth a look.
And, finally, you can never go wrong with Fireworks Photography Tips from National Geographic.  Even if you are burned out on fireworks photography tips after the first two links, it’s worth following this link for the inspirational photography, if nothing else!

Just remember, be polite to those around you while you’re trying to setup your shots.  Just because you have a camera doesn’t make your viewing experience more important than anyone else’s.  And, of course, be safe!  Don’t get so worried about getting a good photograph that you let someone sneak up and steal your camera gear in the dark or that hot ashes from the fireworks land on your gear, or you!  Safety first!
But, most of all, enjoy the Independence Day holiday and festivities and appreciate the fact that, no matter how much the NSA listens to your phone calls, we still live in a free and glorious country!
Happy Independence Day!

An Easy Way to Share Your WIFI Password

I’m going to take a slight departure from my normal free stuff on Friday posts.

Don’t worry, this is still free, but it’s not just a “click here and look at this thing” kind of post.  This week, you’ll need to actually do a couple of things to get the full benefit of this post.  Basically, it’s a little Summer DIY project for the mildly geeky and social.

Have you ever been to someone’s home and had to ask for their WIFI password to get your phone or tablet or laptop on their network?  Have they gone scrambling for that password, which was tucked away in a text file or written down on a scrap of paper somewhere?  Or, maybe you’ve been the person scrambling to find the right WIFI password.  Well, Eve-Marie over at Tixeretne has an idea to help you; Use a QR Code to Share Your WIFI Password!
It’s pretty genius, actually.  The idea is this.  You go to a free site, put in your WIFI password in plain text and it generates a QR Code, which is just a fancy multidimensional bar code, that your phone or tablet can read.  You just print that out, frame it, and point your guests at it when they ask about getting on your network.  They scan the code with their phone and copy the WIFI password that pops up into the right place and, blammo!, they’re on the network.  Just that easy.  And, if fact, if you use the links she provides to QRStuff, they even have an option for making a special WIFI Login QR Code specifically for Android users that eliminates a couple steps.

Eve-Marie’s tutorial is great and super easy to follow.  She even takes you through some steps to pretty it all up and frame it all nice so that it kind of blends into your decor a bit more.  It’s a really smart idea, I think.  And, in fact, I have done one up myself, though I haven’t printed and framed it yet, since my wife and I haven’t been entertaining as much lately.  Still, a great thing to have in time for your Fourth of July party when everyone wants to share your amazing BBQ on Instagram!

So, take a little time this weekend and check out Eve-Marie’s tutorial on How to Use a QR Code to Share Your WIFI Password!  It’s fun, easy and worth your time!

A “New” Way to Prevent Photo Theft

No, those quotation marks aren’t ironic.

Last year, in August, I wrote about a free service called LensTag that would help you track your camera gear if any of it went missing.  Well, they’re back in the news for another service!  This one was discovered by accident by their president’s wife who mistakenly turned on the tracking for her camera when a couple of flashes got stolen.  It turns out, she started getting notifications about where her photos taken with that camera started showing up on the internet!  Well, this seemed like such a great opportunity that the fine folks at LensTag decided to work it into something useful for everyone.  Now, they’ve added it to their iPhone\iPad app as well as their Android app.  And, if that’s not all, they have a Chrome extension, too!  So, now, you can track your camera gear and the photos you took with it! All for free!

Superstitious Friday

Yes, today is Friday the Thirteenth.

I’m not really a superstitious kind of guy.  Not really.  But, I’ve known a lot of people who are.  When I worked in the hotel industry, I once managed to “sell” room 666 to someone not from a Judeo-Christian background, until a co-worker saw it and made a face.  Then, I had to explain to the nice gentleman that some people found 666 to be an “unlucky” number.  But, man, if I had pulled that off, it would have been legendary.
I always assumed that Friday the Thirteenth was considered unlucky due to some Biblical association.  You know, something like Judas being the Thirteenth Apostle or some such.  But, as it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.  As it turns out, Friday the Thirteenth is considered unlucky because of its association with the plot to suppress the Knights Templar, according to this article on Hey, stop laughing! That’s what it says!! And, I quote:

The modern basis for the Friday the 13th superstition stems from Friday October the 13th, 1307. On this date, the Pope of the church in Rome in Conjunction with the King of France, carried out a secret death warrant against “the Knights Templar”. The Templars were terminated as heretics, never again to hold the power that they had held for so long. There Grand Master, Jacques DeMolay, was arrested and before he was killed, was tortured and crucified. A Black Friday indeed!

So, there you have it, Friday the Thirteenth is a global conspiracy, though, for a nice twist, it’s not the Knights Templar or Freemasons who are behind it! Which I appreciate, incidentally, because I am both a Freemason and, via another Masonic body, a Knight Templar, ironically.
Personally, I usually have better luck on Friday the Thirteenth, but, then, I always have been a little out of step with the world. Oh, and if you’re not buying that story, here’s a link to some alternate ideas why everyone else is afraid of Friday the Thirteenth.

Enjoy it.

Free Summer School

As the kids get out of school for the Summer, why not “audit” a couple of culture classes for free?

No, seriously!
I know when I got out of school, I thought I’d never want to go back and learn anything new again.  But, times change and so do we.  I’ve done a whole lot of professional training, picking up some good certifications along the way, but there are times I wish I had paid more attention to the cultural courses I took in school.  You know, the mandatory classes on things like literature and philosophy.
Well, just in time for some very grown-up “summer school”, here are two links gathering together more than 150 free courses for you to brush up your Humanities!
First, there’s 100 Free Philosophy Courses and that’s followed by 55 Free Literature Courses, both gathered together by  In fact, they have almost 1000 free courses in assorted subjects that you can download or watch from the web for your continuing education.   You may not get a degree from this course material, but you’ll at least be more enlightened!

So, try and do something productive this Summer, if not this weekend, and check out these free on-line courses!  It’ll give you something to talk about at those boring BBQs and picnics this Summer!

Create Ebooks from Webpages

Okay, this isn’t exactly a new idea, but it’s still worth sharing.

I got this from Lifehacker back in 2012, but I’ve been behind in my link sharing, so I’m just getting to it now.
The idea is simple.  Reading on-line is rarely the best, most comfortable, most convenient way to keep up with all the things we want to read, especially all the “long form” articles that really get in-depth on topics we care about.  That’s where Readlists comes into play.

This site lets you gather links and articles together into a “readlist”.  What’s a Readlist? According to the Readlist website, it’s “a group of web pages—articles, recipes, course materials, anything—bundled into an e-book you can send to your Kindle, iPad, or iPhone. ”  Don’t worry, though, if you use the Barnes and Noble Nook or some Android device, though, because you can just download the epub file and manually upload it to your ereader for your convenience.  So, yeah, you can finally get all those blog posts from that one friend you’ve been meaning to read gathered together into one, convenient, easy-to-read ebook to peruse at your convenience.  (You can also grab the latest news or anything else that strikes your fancy.)

The best part is, you can do this for free and even anonymously, if you’d like.
So, if you all will excuse me, I have some reading to do!
Have a great weekend!

Two Free Security Plugins

This week I’ve got two very serious freebies for you.

Security, as some of you may know, is near and dear to my heart.
In my day job, I’m a system administrator and constantly worried about security.  It’s a huge issue.  Lately, you all may have been hearing news stories about the “Heartbleed SSL vulnerability” which, in theory, could endanger your personal login information, as well as other account credentials or other things you’d want to keep private.  It’s not entirely clear how bad that particular vulnerability actually is, but it’s pretty universally recognized as “not good”.  So, what to do?  Well, if you use Firefox, like I do, you can install the Heartbleed extension, which automagically checks every site you go to and lets you know if the site may be vulnerable to the Heartbleed SSL security hole.  Just follow the link, click on “Add to Firefox”, then restart your browser.  After that it will display a little green or redicon letting you know if the site you’re on is okay or not.  Or, as the author puts it, “GREEN is GOOD, RED is BAD”

The second plugin comes in two flavors, one for Firefox and one for Google Chrome.  More importantly though it’s from the EFF.  This little beauty is called Privacy Badger and it’s meant as a preventative step in keeping you safe and private.  In the EFF’s words, Privacy Badger “… is a browser add-on that stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web.  If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser.  To the advertiser, it’s like you suddenly disappeared. ”

And, remember, these are both free, for your safety and protection!
So, go and download these and make the system administrator in your life happy by giving them one less thing to worry about when you’re on-line!

How It’s Made – 500mm lens

My wife calls the Discovery Science channel the “Lion King channel”, because when she needs me to be calm and entertained, this is what she puts this on, like a mother puts her toddler in front of the Lion King.

Sadly, she’s pretty much right.
How It’s Made is one of my favorite shows.  Whatever channel it’s on instantly becomes the “Lion King channel” for me.  Even boring stuff is fascinating when it’s being made by big, high-speed machinery.
So, today, while I’m running around all crazy doing things, amuse yourselves by watching a video of how a Canon 500mm lens is made.  It’s fascinating and only about 14 minutes long, so not much time to slack off on a Friday.

I’ll be back next week with something else photography related, but I have no idea what yet.
Until then, enjoy the video and have a great weekend!