The Colors of Charleston

31 10 2012

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful Charleston, SC. This is a bustling waterfront city in my home state with a fantastic market and tons of little shops scattered around.  Like many modern artisans, the folks selling there goods in the market are super funny about people taking pictures. Frankly, as many of you know, if you’ve got it in public we can snap it, in fact here’s a great article about that, but I don’t like to step on peoples toes so I tell them who I am, a bit about the blog, and they usually let me take a few snaps. Frankly, if they don’t appreciate a little publicity, I’d just as soon not give it to them. :O

I’m staying true to the title and with this first post I’m sharing the most colorful pictures from my visit. I like this shot because despite many of the pieces being similar, the colors help them to contrast each other really well. The background got a bit washed out but because the foreground held up so well and stayed so vivid, I actually like what it adds to the shot.

You all know I like to get low and close. The patterns on the handles of these swords worked really well for this shot.

A classic bed and breakfast on meeting street. Less color than the trinkets but a pink building downtown deserves a photo.

The wire keeping this sign from being stolen really makes this one. It’s simple but the sign really has a lot of character. I’m learning that for the sake of photography, my taste finds that most subjects get better with age.

I love the hand painted items in the market. There’s something special about walking through tables full of things not made in factories but on front porches instead.

I hate to send you off to wikipedia instead of another blog but here’s a link you should click. These glasses depict an actual place in Charleston called “Rainbow Row.” Here’s an excerpt from wiki: “After the Civil War, this area of Charleston devolved into near slum conditions. In the early 1900s, Dorothy Porcher Legge purchased a section of these houses numbering 99 through 101 East Bay and began to renovate them. She chose to paint these houses pink based on a colonial Caribbean color scheme. Other owners and future owners followed suit, creating the “rainbow” of pastel colors present today. The coloring of the houses helped keep the houses cool inside as well as give the area its name.”

The final shot and one of my favorites from the day is this beautiful spread of scarves. After years of shooting complex shots and intricate arrangements I’m still amazed by how simplicity masters every art form.

I shared today’s post of an ocean front town on purpose. Many people have faced hardship in recent days thanks to mother nature. If you would like to donate to help Hurricane Sandy victims, here’s the Red Cross relief page.

Thanks for visiting and reading the blog. I’ve missed our regular interactions but life has been pulling me in every direction lately. Have a wonderful week and God Bless!


I Almost Forgot to Title This Post, That Would Have Been Embarrassing

24 02 2012

The great thing about shooting the natural world is it’s always unique. No two scenes are exactly alike. That being said, sometimes we try to approach different natural scenes the same way. We, as photographers, have to strive to find a new angle or a new way to portray whatever we’re shooting. The same thing can happen when a photographer’s client work becomes stale. Look through your photos, if you catch yourself shooting everyone the same way, maybe you’ll please the people who come to you for that one look, but it’s also important to offer a diverse portfolio.

When I looked at the scene above I thought, “that’s interesting.” I took a few snaps but wasn’t too pleased. The images looked bland so I wanted to try to change it up. Jessica watched in shock and confusion as a climbed across a ditch and started working my way inside this mess of twigs, branches and vines. Have I ever mentioned I have a bad habit of taking pictures of things that tend to poke me? 🙂

The two shots above are of the same twigs and branches, just viewed from within the thicket looking out. Remember to think of what someone or something else may see when they interpret a scene. Find the other side of your subjects perspective and explore ways to capture it that will leave whoever is looking at your pictures intrigued.

Thanks for stopping by! I always appreciate hearing from all of you in the comments below! Have a great weekend!

Happy (this area intentionally left blank) Day

14 02 2012

For myself and the rest of you single folks out there, it’s just another tuesday. Before you feel bad for us, you should realize that we don’t have to spend any extra money today and X-Box, Cold Pizza, and Soda is a completely valid option for our evening. Not as bad as you may have thought ehhh? So Happy (Tues)Day! I myself am again happily single on this February 14th but I’m not complaining and I’m certainly not trying to give you love birds a hard time. In fact if you want to enjoy a nice Valentine’s post check out Andra‘s story of her first date with MTM, or my new friend Alicia’s post on God’s love for all of us. Also I just saw a touching picture on Mary Lou’s Blog. If you want something  really heartwarming, visit the Angel Medflight Blog and read their Valentine’s post. Angel Medflight is a full service provider for medical ground and air transport. I had a number of friends work with them when I was invloved in aviation but that’s a whole different story.

Anyways, this year, it’s just a Tuesday for me so I’m gonna share some just a Tuesday kind of pictures. 🙂

At the risk of digressing to a “Guess What this is a Macro Picture of” sort of a post, let’s see who can guess what this is a picture of. 🙂 First comment to get it right wins a gold star in my book. I saw this off the side of the road and thought it might be cool as the foreground for a landscape shot. It wasn’t. I didn’t want to walk back to my car without a shot so I started moving around. I played a few angles, got in close, got far away, changed the backdrop, and finally decided on a tight macro shot with a short depth of field (you can get that with a low f/stop if you’re just joining the blog.) I was pretty happy so I started the march back to my car.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to take good photographs is to look for cool things to photograph then find a cool way of looking at them. About halfway back to my car I saw this hedge row with some thorns in it. (I don’t know what it is about subjects that have sharp points that makes me want to get close and take pictures but I’m sure the BandAid industry is appreciative.) I took a few shots at a few different f/stops and was pretty happy with this one. 

Here’s a deep dark photography secret for you, one of the things that makes “professional” photographs so cool is they’re a little bit different. Your camera is smart, it’s not creative. Get out of “Automatic” every now and then and try twisting some knobs. There are a couple rules of thumb that help you expose images well in Manual modes but I recommend spending some time just playing around with it before you even bother studying it. Get a feel for what your camera is doing… then learn why it’s doing it. Different cameras do it differently but a lot of cameras have an Aperture Priority Mode. It’s usually abbreviated A or Am on the little dial that has sport, automatic, etc. This will let YOU change your f/stop to control your depth of field and the camera will pick a shutter speed to make it work. It’s a great step in the manual direction and a simple way to learn a bit about getting more creative with your pictures. (sound Greek to you? Μην ανησυχείτε! Don’t worry, I’ll do a super simplified talk about f/stop and all that fancy stuff soon. Especially if you ask for it in the comments.)

I liked this picture because I like mixing an interesting texture in the foreground with unique, but out of focus, elements in the background.

I also like the subtle contrast of the ground on the left with a tree line

To an old road on the right with a street sign.

I honestly wasn’t trying to write rhymes,

So now it’s sweet gum ball pic time. 🙂

This is almost exactly where the last picture was taken. I just shifted my focus down and took a shot of this sweet gum ball. Sometimes I like framing a shot to block out distractions. With a texture shot, a lot of background adds to the effect, but sometimes it can take away from a shot of a small object like this. It goes from an “intriguing picture of a sweet gum prickly seed pod,” to a “blurry picture of a road and what’s that little brown thing in the bottom there?” I feel it prudent to clarify that isn’t a rule of thumb, I will break that rule many times to get the shots I want. It just happens to be my thought process for that picture.

It’s important to take your pictures one at a time. when you’re getting ready to take a shot there are a few things I like to consider…

  1. How can I make my subject interesting?
  2. What can I incorporate that will add to the shot and not take away?
  3. What should I frame out of the shot because it doesn’t add anything?
  4. What would this look like with different settings?

Equally a few things not to think while taking a picture…

  1. I wonder what I can take a picture of next? (sometimes important for clients but less so for personal work)
  2. I can just fix that in post?
  3. Did I turn the coffee pot off? (I want to elaborate on this because I’m bad about it. In the words of John Cooper, we live in an OCD generation. I get distracted by tiny insignificant things while taking pictures and I stop thinking about what I’m really doing. I have to reign that in and look at my surroundings and be in the moment to really capture the moment best.)
That’s a baby pine cone and a growed up pine cone…

It’s always a pleasure writing to all of you and I look forward to hearing your feedback. Dont forget to guess what that first picture was of and…

I need your help. Well, I want your help. I have tons of ideas about things to write about and to take pictures of. I have a huge wish list of places I want to go and a page full of things I want to ShootAbout but I would love to hear from you guys and gals. If you have any photography questions, or photography answers email me. I want to hear what you have to say. I’m also looking to try sharing some stuff with other blogs so if you need fresh content from a different perspective don’t be afraid to ask. I’d love to write you an article and share a few pictures. Email or just ask me in a comment, I read every comment I get and reply to just about all of them too. Thanks for stopping by and God Bless!

Golden Sunsets and Fat Man Pants

13 02 2012

I left work today to go meet up with my dad to see the Safe House movie. Incidentally it was a pretty good movie if you like action thriller with a hint of corrupt international politics. I was about halfway there when I noticed the way the sunset was going down behind a few lone trees. I pulled over to get a few shots. My 70-200mm was on my camera from a portrait shoot I did yesterday so I decided to start with it, I also slipped my 60mm macro into my back pocket.

golden sunset through dark trees

One of the biggest problems with having a great sunset like this is it makes us want to capture exactly what we see. This has always frustrated me. The biggest internal battles I have always faced as a photographer is my desire to capture what I see versus the desire to create art. ShootAbout is more about art. I want to capture pictures that require more than the right place and the right time. It’s certainly not an exact science, but it’s simple enough to take a few steps in the right direction. The tool that has helped me most so far, is my macro lens.

Using a macro lens pushes you to look at things in a way you haven’t before and that was my first step to changing the way I shoot. Eventually it will bleed over to the rest of the lenses in your bag and you’ll start to see the world differently.

I had a walked a good ways from my car by now and was ready to switch lenses for the walk back. I pulled the 60mm macro lens out of my pocket, switched them over and came to a sudden realization. A 70-200mm lens is way bigger than a 60mm…

Fortunately, I was wearing my “fat man pants” today (Finally losing weight again 🙂 ) The large lens fit in my back pocket though barely. (Today might have been a good day to wear a belt though.)

There was a fairly deep ditch by the road so I was able to get below the grass and shoot up at the sunset, a rare pleasure. I loved the tiny flowers backed by the out of focus trees and the golden sunset. I know I’ve used the sunset as a background before but I had to do it one more time. 🙂 The funniest part of this picture is the fact I nearly fell down getting in position. The unfamiliar weight of the 70-200 in my back pocket made me rock backwards and nearly fall before adjusting to steady myself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed todays pictures. I’m hoping to get out of town soon so I can freshen up the pictures with an interesting location. Stay tuned and thanks for stopping by ShootAbout. Social links in the top right. Follow me on Facebook for updates about the blog or on Twitter for a glimpse at my personal life. God bless, cheers!

Iron and Steel Sunsets with Histogram Basics

9 02 2012

Today I’m going to tell you a bit about histograms. To understand what a histogram is, it helps to know what a dynamic range is. We talk a lot about what the human eye can pick up on vs. what the camera can pick up on. In the real world, the human eye can perceive about 15 stops of light at once. That is to say, once our eyes adjust to an amount of light, we can see a range of about 15 stops around that. A one being the dimmest light you can still see in and a fifteen being the brightest. Unfortunately, most camera sensors today only pick up 5-11 depending on if you’re using a small point and shoot or a high end DSLR. That’s why you manually adjust your f/stop to compensate for which five to eleven of those fifteen you can see that you want in your image. Put Simply Your eyes can see details in a darker dark and a lighter light than your camera can at once so we have to adjust which part of the “dynamic range” we want the camera to capture.

The above picture was shot at f/2.8. All other factors being the same, (shutter speed, ISO, etc) increasing the f/stop will help you capture a higher (brighter) part of the dynamic range, and lowering it will help capture a lower (darker) part. The histogram is the thing that tells you if you’re getting the brightest and darkest parts of the image or if they are washing out or turning black. Almost all digital cameras, from point and shoots up to the nicest DSLR’s, will show you a histogram. Below is an example of a good histogram…

See the graph thing in the upper left. The one in your camera probably won’t have all the color but it will look a lot like that. The far left side represents the darkest part of the image, the far right side is the lightest part of the image. If your image is properly exposed, the histogram will be all bouncy in the center and will have tapered off by the time it gets to either edge. This is a really simple way to look and see how you did right after you take the picture. A bit of glare can make it nearly impossible to clearly see your picture on the LCD but the histogram can be easily checked in any light.

In the above picture, we have more low tones. You can see where the image falls into complete shadow and we lose all the details. The histogram is accurately representing this. You can see the left side of the graph is still really high because we have lots of pixels that are too dark for details. (A pixel is a little square of color, a photograph is made up of a bunch of these little dots) Sometimes areas of extreme dark or light are done intentionally and artistically. The key here is awareness. If you’re using artistic dark regions, you ought to know about them 🙂

Sometimes you get an image that you just can’t get the squiggly lines inside those five stops. Times like these you have to make a judgement call. Get the settings the way you think it looks best, and go for it! There’s a lot more to learn about histograms and with the right knowledge they can be a powerful tool. Here’s another great article on histograms–> Understanding Histograms by Darren Rowse

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love hearing from all of you and look forward to all of your feedback. Don’t forget to follow the blog and check me out on Facebook and Twitter. Social links up at the top in the sidebar. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

P.S. I updated this post on the thirteenth thanks to some help from a new friend over at The Uncensored Photographer. He noted a few incorrect values up in the dynamic range the camera and the eye can see. His blog is just getting off the ground and is certainly not for the faint of heart. Looks like no holds barred reviews of equipment and well, reviews. Might hurt your feelings if you like Ken Rockwell as much as I do 🙂 but definitely worth a read, I’ll certainly be checking in from time to time.

Old Fences, Bridges, and Stumps. Star Fort Part 2

8 02 2012

I’m going to pick up here where the last post left off. A ways further down the path I decided I wanted to shoot the fence line. It had a really nice symmetry to it. At first I stood a ways back and focused on the building so I could see the entire fence line but it didn’t feel like a picture of anything in particular. One of the things I like to think about when I’m shooting is “what is my subject here?” Not all pictures have to have a single subject. Sometimes you have enough good in a picture it can just be appreciated as a whole. But a great way to make a picture more interesting is to draw attention to one interesting part of the image by getting in close and let everything else be supporting elements.

In this shot I put the focus squarely on the end of the closest fence slat. The texture had nice variety and the overall color really helped make the mood of the image a bit more rustic. Variety and non-uniformity are two great features of old and rustic architecture that don’t come naturally any more. When you do see it in modern architecture, it looks forced. A big focus of today’s post is going to be mood and color. Pay close attention to the next two pictures, I’m going to be telling you a little bit about white balance.

The above and below shots are the same subject, same time of day and nearly identical settings except for the white balance. White balance is the way your camera tries to make whites appear white regardless of the light source. When it affects the “white balance” the full color spectrum follows suit though. The trick is that while the human eye can adapt to different light sources nearly perfectly, the camera again falls a bit short. In the top picture, the camera tried to push some blue tones in to offset the rust which it thought was appearing reddish because of the light source. For me, the rust is a major part of this picture so I really didn’t like when my camera turned this rusty steel bridge support into a modern blueish grey.

For me, artistry is more important than accuracy, so I play around with features like white balance until I see what I want in my images. I went into the shooting menu on my camera and found the white balance setting panel. I switched to “cloudy” which was mostly true and pushed the selector a notch or two to the left to warm the image up. That made these two nearly identical images have two entirely different feels.

Under The Bridge

Beside The Bridge

Once I got across the bridge (and out from under it) I shot a few snaps of an old rotted stump. This is an example of what I was talking about before of a decent picture that has no real hero. A little perspective change and I could have brought the focus in tight on the clover, or a small patch of bark and changed the whole feel of this image. I still like it, but it could have been better. It’s important to look at your pictures and try to figure out how you could have improved them. It’s frustrating to catch yourself doing something wrong (or at least not perfect) but the fact is we all still have lots of room to grow. Not to get too Biblical on you but Paul once called himself the worst of sinners. He was a great man but he recognized his short comings and realized that since he knew better, he should be better.

My goal is to learn more so I’ll know better more often and will eventually improve the areas in photography I’m still weaker in. My hope is that some will learn from my mistakes and others will teach me new ways to improve with every post. Thank you for stopping by. It’s great to hear from all of and I really look forward to your comments on my blog and your posts on your own. Don’t forget to follow the blog and like the Facebook if you haven’t done so already. If you twitter, @96arley is my name and I love to hear from all of you on there too. All that social stuff’s in the sidebar up top. Have a great day and God Bless!

Star Fort National Historic Site ShootAbout

7 02 2012

I spent the afternoon at Star Fort and took dozens of pictures that I absolutely loved. Star Fort was the Crown Jewel of Ninety Six, SC and was the site of two major American Revolutionary War battles. My friends across the pond will be happy to hear it was a loyalist stronghold and despite a 28 day siege, the longest of the entire war, it was the last Loyalist fort in SC until July 1, 1781 when the British left of their own accord. History lesson aside, the site has beautiful scenery, some beautifully restored buildings, and many opportunities for pictures.

Shooting at the historic site was a lot of fun for me because I’ve brought numerous clients here to use the lush open grass and amazing patterns and textures of the old buildings. I was walking down the path past the restored Black Swan Tavern and the way the sun set behind one of the support beams caught my eye. During a client shoot I never would’ve (and never had) noticed this but the freedom of being out there just shooting for me really opened my eyes to the kind of picture I have grown accustomed to ignoring for sake of time and task.

It’s a shame we pass photo opportunities like this every day but I’m happy to say I’m looking for them again.






The site has an old wood fence around most of the entrance that made for a lot of interesting photos. The texture of the wood is very rugged and photographs really well. I particularly like the splintered pieces jutting off from the main body.

A little further along the fence line I found this leaf resting rather precariously beside one of the splinters. I tried this shot a little more backlit by the sun at first but it completely killed the detail so I reframed it with the sun higher behind the leaf and it turned out pretty well.

I wanted something that got far enough back from the fence to see how it was actually constructed. The interwoven wood strips had a really nice aesthetic so once I got to a nice green patch in the grass beside the fence I got down on my belly and shot the connection between two sections. I put the sun in the background to accent it. I kept a low f/stop, 2.8 and dialed my shutter in for a quick 1/2500th of a second to get crisp detail, short DOF, and a relatively dark image. The green grass really came out well and I couldn’t be happier with the shot.

I immediately recognized the potential for a shot focussing on the grass. I’ve found that a slight change in perspective, even if it’s just tilting the lens a few degrees and focusing somewhere else can really change an image. I like the above image for what it is, but I like the below image because it feels a little more surreal and the detail of the grass is really pleasing to the eye.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post and pictures. This only scratches the surface of what I did at Star Fort so keep your eyes open for more very soon. In my next post I’m going to talk a bit about adjusting the white balance on your camera and how it can help (or hurt) your pictures.

I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below and be sure to hit me up on Twitter and Facebook, the links are in the sidebar over there –>

Thanks for stopping by and God Bless, see you again soon!