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Photofocus Episode 5

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

Kicking it off this week is a question about the Vault in Aperture.

Question One – Aperture Vault

@dkalmbach: is there any need to use the Vault in Aperture if I regularly back up my Mac with Superduper? Do I need to 2 mirrors?

Scott: I do use the vault because it’s specifically designed to work with Aperture. Superduper is going to backup the whole file whereas the vault is only going to backup the vault and the changes to the photos. Nothing wrong with using both. Make sure that you have one that you can take on the road with you.

Question TwoExposing for the Hilites

@GertjanBaarda: Rick Sammon has mentioned a few times “..expose for the highlights..” What does he mean by that? Thanks from a great fan.

Rick: When you take a shot and look at the LCD, if you have anything blinking it means that the hi lights are overexposed and washed out. You’ll want to reduce your exposure or use your exposure compensation. If you’re taking a flash shot you’ll want to turn down the flash.

Scott: If you’re not seeing the blinking warning, most newer DSLR cameras have the ability to display the hilite warning alert. Blown hilite isn’t always a bad thing if that’s the effect you are going for.

Question Three – Bird Photography

@Emmerac: I am in Sierra Vista and I am trying to add some birds to my small portfolio, any tips on how to capture bird photographs?

Scott: You want to get a long lens. Birds tend not to be all that large so a long lens helps you to get the frame filled up. Learn as much as you can about birds. If you understand bird behavior you’ll be able to get better shots. For example, when eagles are about to take flight they will often defecate so if you watch for the signs then you can catch a great shot of them about to take flight. Third and final tip – a lot of patience.

Rick: Use AI-Servo (Canon) or AI-Tracking (Nikon) and take a lot of photos. Also be sure to fill the frame with the bird but leave some room so that wings and other items don’t get clipped off.

Question Four – Expodisc vs. Spydercube

@3ichaelleonard: Do the ExpoDisc and the Spydercube accomplish the same thing or would getting both be beneficial?

Rick: The ExpoDisc is great for setting the White Balance.

Scott: The Spydercube will not only let you set the WB but also the black exposure, mid tones, specular hilites, etc. It’s more expensive than the ExpoDisc but it goes beyond WB.

Question Five – NEF Files on an iMac

@BobJagendorf: What is the fastest way to get NEF files onto my iMac?

Scott: No matter what you shoot, the best way to get them onto your computer is to use a card reader such as the Hoodman UDMA or the Lexar Fireware 800 UDMA reader. If you use the cable that came with your camera it will be a lot slower. Even the cheapest USB reader will be faster than the cable.

Question Six – Group Shot Lighting Strategy

@davegriffin: What is a good lighting/posing strategy for 4-5 person group shot with 1 flash, off-camera (i.e. not head-on)?

Rick: Holding the flash off the camera is a good start. Also you should try to diffuse the flash and spread out the light or bounce the flash off a reflector to increase the size of the light source. With one flash you have to watch for shadows so try to position it close to the camera.

Scott: Get the light as close to the group as possible. The closer it is the softer it is.

Question Seven – Protecting Your Gear From the Elements

@sandro: We’re going on a National Geographic cruise of Alaska’s inside passage in August. What gear should I get to protect my 50D from the elements?

Rick: If you are riding around in a Zodiac with salt spray you definitely want to protect your camera. There are professional cases you can buy or you can use a plastic bag or a shower cap. If some spray does get on your lens, use one of those eyeglass clothes to wipe it off.

Scott: I do like to use the ThinkTank rain covers but if you can’t afford it you can use a shower cap or garbage bags.

Question EightStaying Motivated

@culturalsavage: What are some good ways to stay motivated to take pictures every day?

Rick: Photograph what you love. If you love flowers go out and photography flowers. Try to look for the joy in photography and realize that we are all artists and photography can help awaken the artist within.

Scott: Beyond getting paid, I find that looking at other photographs is another way to keep motivated and get better at photography. Another great way to stay motivated is to visit and read all of the great articles we post up there each and everyday.

Question NineMust Have Books for Beginning Photographers

@cdkrapf: What are the “must have” books for beginning photographers?

Scott: I think Rick’s great books on digital photography is a great starting point. Rick, what are some of your best books for beginners?

Rick: Exploring the Light is probably one of the best for beginners because it really talks about getting the best image in camera.

Scott: Another book on the why of photography is called Within the Frame – the Journey of Photographic Vision by David DuChemin. It’s a deep book that will make you think. Also check out our web site for our book reviews.

Question Ten – Ansel Adams Zone System vs. Camera Meters

@tspowell: Does anyone still use Ansel Adam’s The Zone System for setting exposure or are in camera meters better?

Rick: I use my in-camera meter but when teaching workshops I use my incident light meter to show the different qualities of light.

Scott: If you are a B&W photographer there is chance that you’ll be aware of the Zone System and you’ll want to look at how it works. The important thing about the Zone System is understanding tonal relationships. It doesn’t hurt to know it.

Rick: Speaking of Ansel Adams and going back to our previous book question; one book that I still refer to is Ansel Adam’s The Print which is another great one any photographer should read.

Special Guest Question Answerer – David DuChemin

This week’s special guest is David DuChemin – author of Within the Frame – the Journey of Photographic Vision.

Question Eleven – Seeing the Photo

Frederick Wilhamson asks: How do you go about seeing a photograph? I find myself conflicted when I’m out with my camera trying to figure out what to shoot.

David: If I try too hard I spend a lot of time looking and not seeing. It’s when I see something and make that connection then I know when to shoot it. Sometimes though you just have to stick the camera up to your face and look at a bunch of stuff until you see it. Sometimes you won’t see things until they are in the frame.

Scott: In your book you talk about storytelling and everything that happens happens in the frame which relates really well to this question. What part does looking for the story play in your desire to see? Do you find the story first and then the subject to go with it or do you find the subject first and then the story or is it just a case of what happens happens?

David: I wish I had a good answer for that My process is pretty organic. It all comes back to seeing something that moves me. It’s usually the moment when you’re not looking when the story appears.

Question Twelve – Approaching People in Foreign Countries

Next question is from Angie James who says “How do you approach people in foreign countries about having their portrait taken. I’m concerned with offending them or at worst being arrested.

David: Great question. I still struggle with that. It really comes down to your ability to suck it up and introduce yourself. If you treat people with respect then you don’t need to speak a word of their language. People see kindness and respect.

Scott: How do you handle it when you are in countries where it is customary to give someone a dollar for taking their photograph?

David: I generally don’t. A lot of my work is done for humanitarian organization and would rather see a large collection of the dollars go to one place. However if someone has taken a good amount of time and allowed me to take their photography, I’ll generally give them a buck or buy something from their stall or print them a photograph on my Polaroid Pogo. I make sure my photography is an act of giving and not just of taking.

Scott: I find that in some places most people are quite happy if you just show them the image on the back of your LCD after you take the photo.

To learn more about David visit his blog at

If you have a special guest question answerer that you’d like to see on Photofocus, drop me an email at [email protected].

Question Thirteen – Getting the Flash Off the Camera

@kevinobvious: How do you get the flash off the camera and where do you put it? Belt clip? Pocket? Hat? Shoe?

Rick: First of all you have to trigger the camera when it’s off the camera. The least expensive way to do this is with a sync cord. What I use is a wireless transmitter like the Canon STE2 or the PocketWizards.

Scott: I put them on light stands. I have a couple of Photogenic light stands that are 30 years old. Believe it or not there are a myriad of clamps that will let you hook a flash to just about anything that you can think of. Another great way is to use a Gorilla Pods. Most of the high end flashes comes with a cold shoe stand to put the flash just about anywhere there is a flat surface. You can also use some of your older tripods that you started out with to mount your flashes.

Question Fourteen – Photo Hosting/Sharing Site Suggestions

@CarloPagano: Can you suggest a Photo Hosting/Sharing/Printing site for someone starting out wanting to gain exposure on the web? SmugMug?

Rick: I’ve been using SmugMug which is great and you can also use it to post videos.

Scott: We use SmugMug for the Photofocus videos. I’m using several sites that I’m not going to name right now as I’m in the middle of some long term testing and will post the results later on in the summer. I’ve been experimenting with PhotoShelter and you can do a lot of this on Flickr. If you are putting out images that are saleable you won’t be very well protected against people who want to download them. Also pay attention to the terms of service

Question Fifteen- Aperture Travel Library

@katiecaress: Can you discuss how your Aperture Travel library works?

Scott: When I’m out the field with my laptop, everything I’m shooting goes into an Aperture library that is on that laptop. My regular library is back at the office on a Drobo. At the end of the job, I take all the projects in that library and export them onto a hard drive. I then bring them back to the office and import them into my main Aperture library. While on the road I use external hard drives for the Vault which I keep on me and I keep the images on the laptop.

Rick: You mention that you carry this hard drive in your pocket. Why is that?

Scott: If something happens to the laptop, I want to make sure that at the very least I have the images on my person.

Question Sixteen – Wide Angle Lens Suggestion

Elton Correia writes: I own a Nikon D300, and I’m looking to buy a wide angle lens, and my price range is $800 or less. Is there any recommendations you can make on your podcast? I’m looking for a lens to shoot landscapes, and also be able to use it effectively for outdoor pictures of buildings, people, etc.

Scott: Since we don’t know what type of photography you are going to be doing, instead of talking about a specific lens for your D300, Rick and I will just generally discuss what to consider when buying a wide angle lens. For example if you are doing architectural photography you would want to think about something that is recto linear controlled. If it’s landscape, there are lots of great pieces of glass. How do you feel about the wide angle zooms vs a fixed lens Rick?

Rick: Today zoom lenses are super sharp. They are more versatile and if they are a little soft around the edges you can always sharpen in post. In the Canon line I’d go with the 16-35mm or the 17-40mm

Scott: If you really want to get the most out of your wide-angle experience, a zoom will be the way to go. The high-end Sigmas are also good if you’re trying to get the most for your $800. I started out with a simple 20mm f2.8 but I’d need to know more about what you want to accomplish. It will also depend on how wide you want to go since the D300 is not a full-frame sensor.

The Blog

Just a reminder that you can visit the blog at for the show notes and plenty of other photography related articles. Please email us your questions at [email protected] or you can follow us on Twitter and leave questions with the hashtag #photoqa. If you can tell us where you’re from and how to pronounce your name that would be great too.

Wrap Up

Rick and Scott will also be teaching together on the final leg of the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop so head on over to for more details.We want themes and questions from you. Be sure to visit the blog at for articles, how-to’s, videos and more. You can also subscribe to the blog on a Kindle. Email us at [email protected] follow us on Twitter. Don’t just take pictures – make pictures.

Rick Sammon

Show notes by Bruce Clarke