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Shoot Manual Instead of Auto

Todays SLR’s have several modes of operation besides just auto.  If your SLR does than this article might help you to shoot in the other modes.

Using auto mode is ok for simple snaps but if you want to move your photography experience to a higher level, you’ll need to change from auto to aperture or manual modes.  For example, to capture birds, or fast moving objects you will need a fast shutter speed.  If your subjects are birds for example not only is a High shutter speed required but an f-stop of f/8-f/16 may be required to control depth of field.  A large f-number allows for a greater depth of focus from a small f-number.  You don’t want to get the shot of the year and find it’s out of focus!

Most of the time I shoot in aperture mode to control my depth of field.  On my Nikon D610 I can fix my shutter speed to be a minimum of 1/800 sec. and let the camera decide the ISO if I set ISO sensitivity control off, otherwise I can switch it on and fix it at a desirable setting depending on the lighting conditions.  The trouble with shooting animals in or near the woods where lighting conditions can change dramatically you will need to setup your camera to handle settings quickly and to do that is to use the front and back wheels to change your settings quickly.

When I run in manual mode sometimes I am frustrated because the hysteresis graph shows over or under exposed images.  I would like to do something different other than making changes to the camera settings continuously until the hysteresis graph becomes acceptable.  To fix this problem I decided to find out what the relationship of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are to each other.  At first I did an empirical study where I shot in auto mode with a fixed ISO setting to see what was chosen for f-stop and shutter speed.  I then went to aperture mode and set the f-stop from f/5.6 to f/64 and recorded the shutter speed.  Then I updated the ISO and repeated the process.  I pointed the camera at the same spot in the shade for one set of values and then on a subject out of the shade on a cloudy day and recorded the results.   I transferred the results to Excel and built a graph to see visually what was going on.





The first thing I noticed is the smaller the f-stop, the shutter speed doesn’t change much and there is a significant difference between f/8 and f/16.  What was really important is how it changed over a range of values.  Notice how the shutter speed decreases as we increase the aperture value. The shutter speed decreases by half of the speed for each full aperture stop! Also as we double the ISO value, the shutter speed doubles. With this information we can calculate what the manual settings should be.

Auto setting of 1/100 @ f.4.5 at ISO 400. Unprocessed image

Adjusted Shutter Speed = Current Shutter Speed / 2n where n = number of full stops

New ISO = (Desired Shutter Speed/Adjusted Shutter Speed) * Current ISO

I snapped a picture of my grill on a heavy overcast day and the auto settings were 1/100 @f/4.5 with ISO of 400.  If I wanted  to shoot something at f/11 and a shutter speed of 1/1000 then,

Adjusted Shutter Speed = 100/ 23 or 100 / 2*2*2 = 12.5                    New ISO = (1000/12.5) * 400 = 32000

On my Nikon I set the aperture to Hi 1.  At the time I wasn’t sure what Hi 1 was so I snapped the picture.

Manual setting of 1/1000 @ f/11.5 at ISO Hi 1. Unprocessed image. Note the depth of field has increased from the image at the slower settings
Manual setting of 1/1000 @ f/11.5 at ISO Hi 1. Unprocessed image.  Note the depth of field has increased from the image at the slower settings

Between the two shots I took photos of my Nikon hysteresis graph with my point and shoot Olympus Tough to compare hysteresis graphs and verify the data.

Auto mode. Hysteresis is OK
Auto mode. Hysteresis is OK
Manual mode at new settings – Hysteresis is great! But…

With a little more research I found information on what the Hi values represent in actual ISO for the Nikon D610 which is different for other models and manufacturers.

  • HI 0.3 8300
  • HI 0.7 10880
  • HI 1 12800
  • HI 2 25600

So here is the dilemma. I needed an ISO of 32,000 but Hi 1 is only 12,800?  Well, the ISO setting of 25600 (Hi 1) according to the hysteresis caused the right side to shift to the left a little bit. Although the whites are not as white the hysteresis can be adjusted in post processing.

The other problem with High ISO’s is the introduction of color noise which may be reduced in post processing also.

The caveat here is you must know your limitations, max and min values of shutter speed, f/stop, and ISO settings.  Pay attention to the hysteresis graph on your camera.  When your hysteresis graph shows too much underexposed, black (left) or overexposed, white (right) changing the settings of your camera may help if your camera allows it.

We Shoot Horses


It was a perfect day for a private event to photograph the Tempel Lipizzans in Old Mill Creek, Illinois.  About fifty members of the camera club showed up for this amazing opportunity.  This is a large farm with rolling hills, white fences, green grass, and beautiful pastoral scenery.  It was reminiscent of the ranches in Kentucky. The group was divided into two groups and each group went to a separate section to photograph the Lipizzans in the field.


The Lipizzan is a breed of horse closely associated with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria, where they demonstrate the “high school” movements of classical dressage including jumps and movements known as the “airs above the ground.”

The Tempel Lipizzans began in 1958. Tempel and Esther Smith imported twenty Lipizzans from the Austrian state stud farm in Piber.  This laid the foundation to become the largest privately owned herd of Lipizzans in the world.  Lipizzans lighten to their characteristic color between 7 and 10 years old.  They start their training as early as 4 and continue performing well into its 20’s.  Only the best horses reach the high standards required for classical dressage.  Did you know lrg_9457-fb the 1963 Disney classic, “The Miracle of the White Stallions,” chronicles the daring rescue of the Lipizzans led by General George Patton during World War II?  The movie was the only live-action, relatively realistic film set against a World War II backdrop that Disney has ever produced. Lipizzans have starred or played supporting roles in many movies, TV shows, books and other media.  The 1940 film “Florain” stars two Lipizzan stallions based on a 1934 novel by Felix lrg_9484-fb

Salten.  fttp://  


A new movie based on the World War II evacuation of Lipizzaner from a Nazi breeding farm is expected to hit theaters in December 2016.


Towards the end of the photo op we were led to a riding training area were a small group of students and trainers where practicing.  They did various footwork, riding in pairs, and trotting.  It was enough for some great pictures.  Unfortunately no airs training was performed.  We’ll have to go to one of their live performances they offer from mid-June through mid-September indoors on Wednesdays 10:30 a.m. and Sundays 1:00 pm.


The public are also invited for “behind the scene tours” in October, November, and December.  Visitors get access to the daily routines of our equine athletes that are in active year round training with a tour guide.  A good portion of the tour takes place in an indoor arena where guests have an opportunity to watch the horses in their regular training program. Dressage training is often likened to ballet in which the dancers developing musculature is key to the development of advanced skills.  The horse trainers welcome questions as they enter and exit the arena.


For more information on the Tempel Farms Lipizzans visit:

Tree Bark Photography


Another fun thing to do while trailing through the woods is photographing tree parts!  Just be sure to wear plenty of mosquito repellent during the warm season.  Especially after a few days of rain.

What I reallylrg_9266-fb like to find are interesting patterns made from cuttings of tree trunks and branches, and knots because they can exhibit a range of color and texture.  Different geographical areas provide different types of trees which can show off beautiful patterns and color.

Florida’s eucalyptus tree bark shows smooth bark with streaks of color.  Aspen trees with plenty of knots for interesting patterns.  Cottonwood shows deep furrows, and aspen groves show off beautiful vertical  trunks with black knots and horizontal lines.


Plants attaching to the bark add interest like various moss growths or vines.  You can shoot the subject at different angles including flipping the camera from horizontal to vertical.  In post processing you can also turn the images at various angles and crop the image for a better impact.


Taking the tree trunk above I cropped it, increased contrast and vibrancy, then replacing color in several areas producing a more interesting image.  It was quickly done here.  I could have spent more time experimenting with different colors.


Then I took the image that I just changed and puppet warped it with Photoshop.  This effect make it look abstract.  Just by fooling around with the different tools the expression of the ordinary photograph turns into another story.


Other times I use these images for adding texture layers when I create composite images.  The ilrg_9293amage below uses the tree trunk below the image of the forest.  The forest picture layer opacity is somewhat reduced with a decrease in luminosity to replace its color.  The tree trunk shows through with its variation in color instead.


I used the knot from the first photo on the top and added a woodsy scene with a winding road as an additional layer.  The knot layer opacity is reduced somewhat.  I called this “View From a Knot”.

I have more fun going outdoors shooting photographs, getting fresh air, and plenty of exercise.  Then on a rainy day get creative post processing the images as I see fit.  Your creative effort could allow your photography to get you a ribbon or 1st place in a photo contest!



Cantharellus lateritius, editble or is it Omphalotus illudens, poisonous?
Cantharellus lateritius, editble or is it Omphalotus illudens, poisonous?

There has been plenty of rain this late summer and with high humidity surely one can find mushrooms growing on the forest floor.  A good hour or two of hiking through the woods I found mushrooms galore.  Some of which I have never seen before and others that I know of in early stages of growth.

LRG_9233 FBThe mushrooms I see in the woods are classified as macroscopic filamentous fungi.  They produce a mycelium below ground and produce visible fruiting bodies that hold spores.  The fruiting body is made up of tightly pLRG_9234 FBacked hyphae which divide to produce the different parts of the fungal structure, for example the cap and the stem. Gills underneath the cap are covered with spores and a 10 cm (4 in. ) diameter cap can produce up to 100 million spores per hour.

When I first saw those bright orange mushrooms growing next to an oak tree, I thought these must be poisonous! Well they just might be.  In order to really find out more about a mushroom you are looking at in the field go to and check out the techniques used to identify mushroom species.  The mushroom above and to the right might be a Macrolepiota Singer then again it could be something else. False Parasol perhaps?  Highly poisonous!

A majority of most edible wild mushrooms are associated with specific types of trees. For example:

  • Pine: King boletus,Hedgehog mushroom, Masutake.
  • Oak: Chanterelles, Blewits.
  • Western Hemlock: Admirable Boletus.
  • Aspen, Poplar and Willow: Oyster Mushroom, Honey mushrooms.

LRG_9230 FB

You can just make out the bright orange mushrooms growing in the background.  This is a patch of mostly buckeyes.  These orange mushrooms are growing under an oak tree. So this mushroom must like oak trees.  It is most likely a smooth chanterelle.  Unfortunately, I only photograph the mushrooms just for the sake of photographing mushrooms!  What I should have done is cut one off at the bottom of the stem and looked underneath at the gills.  The gills would have told me instantly if it was a chanterelle and not a look alike, like the poisonous jack o’lantern.  One thing is certain though, chanterelles don’t cluster in a tight bunch as shown in the first photo but a jack o’lantern does!

Personally I’d rather buy my edible mushrooms in the store.  That way I know I won’t get sicker than a dog!  However, it is a good thing to know how to identify wild mushrooms.  It would come handy in case you get stuck in the woods and need food for survival!  There are a number of web sites out there to help you learn about wild edible mushrooms.  You can start here:  or  At mushroom you can learn:

  • Collecting for Study
  • Make Spore Prints
  • Descriptions and Journals
  • Identify Mushrooms
  • Determine Odor and Taste
  • Pronounce Latin Names
  • Testing Chemical Reactions
  • Using a Microscope
  • Mushroom Taxonomy

Or check out a book or two at the library.  I found “Mushrooms of Illinois & Surrounding States” by Joe McFarland & Gregory M. Mueller to be an excellent reference.  The pictures were great! Much better than those I found on the internet.

These aren’t oyster mushrooms, there are quite a few species of mushrooms that look like this that grow on wood.
These aren’t oyster mushrooms, there are quite a few species of mushrooms that look like this that grow on wood.
LRG_9281 FB
I don’t know what these are either but the pattern and texture of these mushrooms growing on the tree trunk held my photographic interest.
The Tricholoma genus is a large group of mostly white and light brown mushrooms
The Tricholoma genus is a large group of mostly white and light brown mushrooms

There are books dedicated to just one genus.  For example Tricholomas, such as “Tricholomas of North America” A Mushroom Field Guide by Alan E. Bessette, Arleen R. Bessette, William C. Roody, and Steven A. Trudell.

If you are interested in mushrooms as a naturalist a trip to the library is an excellent resource.  If you are like me, grab your camera and have fun capturing images of mushrooms in the field.

The Sycamore Steam Show

Working Hard - Steam driven thrasher being loaded with hay.
Working Hard – Steam driven thrasher being loaded with hay.

A delightful display of early steam driven farming implements is presented every year on the Taylor Marshall Farm in Sycamore IL. The Northern Illinois Steam Power Club had its first membership meeting on February 16, 1957 at the Halverson’s Implement Co. in DeKalb IL.  J. I. Case Company showed a motion picture “When Steam Was King” to 150 people, led by Rupert Jordan and Chuck Taymond.  Rupert Jordan was elected president and the name “Northern Illinois Steam Power Club” was officially adopted. 49 people registered for the membership.

Inside a steam boiler
Inside a steam boiler

The first Thrashing Bee for the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club was held at John Allen’s Corners in Hampshire.  The 50th Annual Threshing Bee occurred in 2006.


The clubs purpose of the show is to be known as a friendly place among beautiful shade trees to visit and exhibit.  A large Vilter Tandem Compound Corliss Stationary Steam Engine and Ammonia Compressor has been operational since 1999

LGolla 9
Close-up of the rotating wheel on the Vilter Tandem

The show was held for 4 days.  On the last day I went there to photograph some of the machines.  It was fascinating and I got some interesting shots.  Besides the steam engines, there was a small group exhibiting WWII equipment.  We had a discussion with one of the presenters who was a tank operator back in the day.

WWII Ambulance
WWII Ambulance

There are some interesting pictures and comments on the clubs Facebook page

The official Northern Illinois Steam Power club windmill
The official Northern Illinois Steam Power club windmill

The Farm Yard

The Farm Yard
The Farm Yard

Finally finished “The Farm Yard.”  Typical setting of Midwest farm scenery this image is similar to the Primrose Farm in St. Charles IL.  See the previous post “Primrose Farm” September 21, 2014 for the description of this restored 1930’s working farm.  Why the interest in painting a barn picture?  Well, agriculture has always been one of my interests.  When I worked at Case Corp. a few years ago, I studied soil types and weather conditions then applied the knowledge to building a database for field recording of soil samples and crop conditions.  Today I realize there are quite a few farms converted into parks and museums and wondered if urban sprawl may be a reason.  Is there a decline in farm land in Illinois?  Here are some facts on agriculture in Illinois.

Some 80% of Illinois is farmed with 2/3rds in row crops such as corn and soybeans and 1/3rd in pasture, forage crops, orchards, and woodlots.

From the 1880’s to the 1930’s, a succession of innovations came into use to transform the pastoral farmscape by these introductions:

Higher yields. From animal husbandry to mechanical equipment,  fertilizers and hybrid varieties of corn causing yield from 50 to 120 bu/acre fron 1940  to 1990.

Different crops.  Addition of soybeans and reduction of wheat, oats, and hay.

Fewer kinds of major crops. Production of orchard fruits and vegetables for the canning industry with orchard acreage.

Fewer animals. Livestock (especially hogs) became a specialty crop, less as part of ordinary farm operations and replaced by factory-scale facilities. Livestock remains a significant income-producer mainly on land less favored for row-crop agriculture, such as the hilly districts of west and northwest Illinois.

More use of chemicals. Low-cost nitrogen, and herbicides. Today more than 96% of all cropland in Illinois was treated for weeds at least once each year.

The most permanently destructive of agricultural Illinois land is urbanization. Farming became untenable even on land that is not yet built upon. Increased traffic on narrow rural roads makes it harder to move machines and material to fields; field drainage can be disrupted by construction on adjacent land; vandalism and complaints from nearby residents about farm noise, dust, and smells are common.

It has been estimated that 17 of Illinois’ top 20 farming counties are located in or adjacent to urbanized areas. The population in Illinois increased from 6 million in 1920 to 12.9 million in 2014 or an average increase of 7% per year.

The Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission estimates that between 1970 and 1990 the population of the six Chicago-area counties grew by 4%, while the amount of urbanized land expanded by 51%–a net land consumption over the two decades of more than 360,000 acres. Today, cities only occupy 1/7th the land, conversion of farmland to residential use impinges on the state’s ability to meet future demands for food.

Farm Yard – In Progress

Farm Yard In progress
Farm Yard In progress

Didn’t quite finish the pastel.  I stopped and thought I need to add something to the foreground.  I decided I should add a farm animal like a cow or something .  Maybe a fenced in area with a cow?

The picture above shows the sides taped.  This is to prevent pastel dust migrating to the framing area.  The actual sand paper is 16″ x  12″. The tape masks off some of this area leaving a 12″ x 9″ area to work with.

I should be able to finish this up this week.  Later….

Back to the Farm

LRG_9062 WC Block FB

The outing to the railroad museum was cancelled last Saturday afternoon due to excessive heat.  I didn’t do much in photography other than prepare images for possible expositions.  In lieu of that I decided to start a pastel of a farm yard.  In particular, the Primrose Farm in St. Charles, Illinois where we did a photoshoot there a few weeks ago.

I haven’t done any painting so far this summer since it was rather nice outside photographing and hiking.  As a result I sketched the farm on a 9” x 12” sandy paper for pastels then added water color for the background blocking. Now I’ll have to add the pastel layers.

One of my blogs “Studio Photography” mentioned a Promaster LED Lighting Wand for $300 which I used for a close up of a rose.  The light did a good job a couple of feet away.  Looking at the specs, however, I didn’t quite understand the relationship to wattage and lux!  The light puts out 116 lux at 10’ at maximum power.  Is there a wattage equivalent I asked?  I found these tables on  The tables show the typical luminous efficacy for various light types, a lumens to watts table, and a lux to lumens calculation along with the math formulas for deriving the results. One formula is lux and square feet to lumens or lumens = 0.09290304 x lux x (square feet).  For the 166 lux lamp that comes out to lumens = 0.09290304 x 166 x 10 2 = 1542 lumens.  According to the lumens to watts table 1500 lm = 100 watts!  That’s not too bad at 10 feet.

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky)

Emmanuel Radnitzky
Emmanuel Radnitzky

Radnitzky grew up in New York City where he studied architecture, engineering, and art.   He became a painter about 1911.  In 1915 he met Marcel Duchamp and they formed a group of Dada artists.

The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows 1916
The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows 1916

Man Ray moved to Paris in 1921 and was inspired to experiment with many types of media including photography.  He rediscovered how to make images without a camera called photograms.  He called photograms rayographs made by placing objects on light sensitive paper which he exposed to light and developed.  (Note of interest:  I did the same thing when I was in high school but wasn’t told the process was called photograms.)  He published a book in 1922 of his collection of rayographs “The Delightful Fields”. In 1929 he also experimented with the technique of solarization which is exposing a negative and part positive with a print or negative to a flash of light during development.

Les Champs délicieux 1 1922
Les Champs délicieux 1 1922

During the 1920’s and 1930’s Man Ray pursued fashion and portrait photography of the celebrities of Parisian cultural life.  His photographs were published in Harper’s Bazaar, Vu, and Vogue.  He also experimented with short video clips where he directed a number of influential avant-garde short films known as Cinéma pur.

Man Ray moved to Los Angeles, CA from 1940 to 1951 due to the Second World War.  While there he concentrated on painting.  He married an American dancer, Juliet Browner in 1946.  His exhibits of the Shakespearean Equation Series were held at the Copley Galleries in Beverly Hills.  A book of 38 pages with 248 illustrations is available at

Man Ray returned home to Montparnasse in 1951. He continued to work on his paintings, and published his auto-biography in 1963 – titled “Self-Portrait”.  Man Ray passed away in his studio in France at the age of 86.


Taking Photography to a New Level

Days End - A photographic collage
Days End – A photographic collage

The tools needed to post process your photographs may be used to modify images to give them more impact, add emotion, and bring attention to your work.

Off Road Geese DSC_1906 FB

If the tools allow layers such as the various Photoshop apps, ON1, Gimp, NIK, etc. you can cut out, combine, and blend images.  Note Gimp and NIK are free if you’re concerned about cost and do a great job.

In Days End above, a white background sized for a full frame image, started the 1st layer.  The 2nd layer added a cropped lake with waves, then enhanced with ON 1.  A clouds texture with reduced layer opacity was applied for the 3rd layer. The 4th layer is a photograph of a rocky shoreline with a misty ocean where the ocean was blended using Photoshop mixer brush tool. Geese were cut out from a plain photo using Topaz Labs Remask.  (Topaz does a great job of masking photos.)   The cutout geese were converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro before applying them for the 5th layer.  For the final layer a Photoshop grass brush was used for the foreground and polished off with a dark vignette to enhance a foreboding emotion.

A simpler process but intensely emotional is “Foreboding Skies”. The photograph of the geese flying over the tree tops was converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro.  ON1 Perfect Effects was incorporated to supply two textured images.  One was an ON1

Foreboding Skies
Foreboding Skies

texture called “Earth” at a reduced opacity and another texture layer overlaid the “Earth” layer, also with a reduced opacity.  The image then added a vignette layer to darken the edges. The trick to using textured images is changing the opacity and using layers effectively to achieve what you are looking for.

 We Are Here
We Are Here

“We Are Here” was an interesting challenge.  I needed to make my own texture to create the new image.  I took a very small cut out of a section of the cannasol lily and resized it to full frame size. ThatCannasol Lily Showing cutout area FB action produced a very grainy image which was modified by adding soft dynamic contrast, strong noise reduction, and reduced saturation of red and yellow in ON 1 Effects producing a more pleasant image.  I then created another layer with overlaid reduced opacity place mat fabric texture.  Another layer of a reduced opacity texture of clouds was applied. Finally a light straight rain layer was added.

An image of gazania flowers were cut out with Topaz Labs Remask then placed in the bottom corner of the image. The final touch I used the grass brush from Photoshop below the flowers.  This brush is interesting because repeated clicks of the brush cause the grass to paint in a new position.  It not only uses the chosen color but also blends the background colors when it paints.

Lady In White
Lady In White

I also wanted to create a high key photograph.  I photographed a macro shot of an orange and yellow rose then converted it to a black and white image using Silver Efex Pro.  A little fog was selected to soften the image somewhat with contrast and brightness adjustments. I also selected Agfa APX pro film type which produced an excellent rendition, after that, a white vignette was applied.

Eliminate harsh shadows and create a bright environment to achieve high key. Using a camera, shoot between 100-200 ISO in a bright environment with an f-stop that’s high enough to give a bright scene but remember the lower the f-stop number the shallower your depth of field will be.

The development of layered images, cut out, and assemblage takes time, patience and practice.  I mean lots of practice!  Not all photographs will work but with persistent attempts you will discover your own art form.