Blog Archives

Blogs that deal with the physical equipment of photography and how to use it.

Sharing Photos with Friends and Family

Nothing gets people sharing photos like a new baby’s arrival. The new parents want to share lots and lots of images with close friends and family. So what is the best way to share images? You can certainly post them on Facebook or similar social media sites, but there are serious limitations to size and ease of viewing.


Dropbox installed

One of the easiest methods – and the one I use the most – is Dropbox. Dropbox is the equivalent of having a 2Gig hard drive attached to your computer that can be attached to others’ computers anywhere on the web. The nice thing about Dropbox is that it will allow you to share folders on your hard drive with specific individuals. You can have baby photos to share with Aunt Sally in one of your Dropbox folders and in another folder have presentations to share with coworkers. Aunt Sally can’t see the presentations and your coworkers can’t see the baby photos. You set up your sharing to be precisely the way you want.

The folders are like the folders or directories on your computer. If you put a file in the folder, then everyone who is sharing that folder can see the file almost immediately. It is on their hard drive. If they take their laptop off the Internet then the image is still there. Beautiful.

[capion id=”attachment_1329″ align=”alignright” width=”400″] Dropbox installed[/caption]

Those 2Gigs of storage are free with a basic membership. When you get someone to join Dropbox then Dropbox will increase your storage. Today it is by 250 Meg for each person you introduce to Dropbox. There are other levels of membership, but you may never need to increase your capacity. The other big plus is that installing the software is the easiest install I’ve seen. It should take you minutes to be up and running.

There is one down side to Dropbox I need to mention. The shared folder works like any other folder on your system. Put something in and everyone who shares that folder sees it instantly if they are online or as soon as they come back online. Take a file and either delete it or move it from the folder and you guessed it, the file is removed from everyone else’s folder. The secret is to ensure that you copy a file (photograph, document, etc.) and place it in the folder. If there is a file that you want to keep for long term then you are best to copy it from Dropbox and paste it to a backup location on your computer. That way if someone deletes it you still have your copy.

Dropbox is a very useful utility. I use it on all of my systems: computer, iPad, iPhone. That way I can easily have access to files across all of my platforms.

We use it to share many types of files and of course baby pictures with nieces and nephews and our Rotary exchange students who are now married with kids of their own.


What’s in My Camera Case?

Like those commercials that ask “What’s in your wallet?” I’m asked what equipment I pack when I travel. The answer would definitely be, “It depends.” Depends on where I’m going, how I’m travelling, why I’m travelling, who’s going with me and what I want to photograph. Let’s see how these parameters play out.


There are few times when I don’t carry the DSLR with me. But only when I need to travel very light or I will be in meetings the entire trip. On almost every other trip I have my Canon with me. When I don’t have the big gun, I do have my iPhone and usually my iPad. So then the answer is, “I don’t travel without my camera.” Whenever feasible I do take the DSLR with me. Control is important from lenses to exposure.


Bob Gallagher-2827

Inglis Falls detail with the 70-200 lens

I have a selection of lenses from 24mm to 200mm with a 2x convertor taking me to 400mm. Then there are the specialty lenses: a 100 mm macro and a Lensbaby kit. The selection of lens(es) is really a question of weight and bulk. If I am travelling light then I usually stick with the 24-105mm lens and body. This is the lens that came with my DSLR, but unlike many kit lenses it is a great piece of glass. The Canon EF 24-105mm 1:4 L IS USM lens is very sharp. It offers wide angle (at 24mm) to a moderate telephoto (at 105mm) range. When I am travelling with weight restrictions then this is the lens that comes along.

When weight is not a factor, then I’ll add the EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS II USM lens. This is one of the world’s finest telephoto lens. With the Canon 2x convertor its range extends from 70-400mm. That is about as far as I’m interested in extending. I don’t do a lot of birds and small wildlife so I’m simply not into lugging really long lenses.

The telephoto is an essential lens. When I pull my lens usage statistics I find that the 70-200mm is used for about 35% of my photographs. That is higher than I would have first expected. But upon reflection I’m not surprised. It was a beast to master but a delight to use.

If I’m not worried about the weight then the 100mm macro and Lensbaby kit come with me as well. If I am expecting to do closeup work then the macro goes for sure. The reason that this lens is number 3 in selection is that both my 24-105 and 70-200 lenses cover the 100mm range. It is only needed for close up and macro work.

Sometimes if you have a travelling companion they will be willing to carry some of the accessories with them that you do not want to check in luggage. The second or third person certainly can help the weight issue.


Sedona at Sunrise ©Bob Gallagher

Sedona at Sunrise

A few years ago I remember being up near the airport in Sedona, AZ waiting for the sun to start illuminating the sky and the amazing red rocks that surround Sedona. I was shaking in the sub-freezing wind. But I knew that my photographs would be fine with my tripod supporting the camera rig. Now I had the 70-200 and the 2x convertor on the tripod. So there would be no hand-holding this rig in the faint early morning light. Another would-be sunrise photographer showed up a little before dawn. He looked at me and said he wished he could have had a tripod too. But he had flown in from back east. I gently explained that I had flown in as well, but my packing choice had been to bring the tripod and leave some clothes at home. This is my usual choice. The tripod goes before more shirts.

My current tripod is a beautiful carbon-fibre model from Really Right Stuff. You’ve heard it said when you buy the best you only have to buy it once. Well the tripod is a good example. Find a sturdy set of legs that you’re willing to carry and buy them as early in your photo career as you can. You will not be disappointed. If my DSLR is coming then my tripod will be right with me.


All of my lenses have circular polarizers on them at all times. If I don’t need it then I’ll take it off that lens while photographing. I also carry three Lee Filter graduated filters and the Lee Big Stopper. These all attach to the camerawith a Cokin ProZ holder. The Cokin is an all right holder, but I will no doubt upgrade it for a Lee system soon.

Miscellaneous Stuff

There are four Compact Flash cards attached to my camera strap. I carry 24 GIGs of cards with me. These have always been sufficient to handle my needs. A few times I’ve downloaded photographs at lunch time to my backup hard drives, but that is rare for me. The cards hold over 700 RAW images when all are full. If I will need to download files I carry my laptop, card reader and cables.

I also carry a few other “essentials”:

    • plastic cover for inclement weather that goes over the camera and any lens I have,
    • Gloves and toque or hat for cold mornings.
    • Hand warmer pack for really cold mornings.
    • Cable release.
    • Multi-axis bubble level that fits the camera’s hot shoe.
    • Flashlight for early morning and late night shoots where you need to see the camera settings.
    • Spare camera battery and charger.
    • Filter boxes to hold the circular polarizers if they need to come off and spare UV filters.
    • X-rite Colorchecker Passport for colour balancing scenes.
    • Flash.
Wimberley Plamp

Wimberley Plamp goes from the tripod to hold a blossom steady in the breeze. This is essential equipment if you are doing macro work.

  • Wimberley Plamp. This is a versatile clamping arm that is indispensable when doing macro photography. It clamps onto the tripod and holds the subject still in the breeze. The plant end is a very gentle clamp with the ability to attach with velcro or a pipe cleaner to hold the plant or subject without damage. You can see it in action in the photo to the right.
  • Panorama bar from Really Right Stuff for creating panoramas. I have created a no parallax position chart for both my 24-105 and 70-200 lenses for panoramas.
  • Bottle of water.
  • Granola bars.
  • Backpack style camera bag is my bag of choice. Sometimes if I know I will want to just carry my DSLR for part of the trip I will pack a smaller carrying bag in my luggage to use on those days. This is usually stuffed with socks and such in my suitcase so it takes up almost no room and it has little weight.
  • Lens cleaning cloths, air blower and sensor magnifying glass to clean the camera.
  • Business cards for when someone you meet on the trail wants to contact you later.
  • A very small fold up stool for those low to the ground shots.

Now you won’t need everything I take with me. And I’m sure you will have other things that you couldn’t think of travelling without. That’s fine. I seldom take everything. Pack what you think you need and what you are willing to carry. Travel by automobile certainly gives you more options, but flying gives you more destinations. Ah, photography: always a balancing act.


Sharpen Your Photographic Axe

We’ve all heard the story about the young axeman who thought he could fell more trees than the old lumberjack. So he challenged the old man to a head-to-head competition. Throughout the day the old man would always cut down more trees per hour than the youngster. The harder the young man worked, the more trees the old codger would cut. The challenger would work non-stop and yet the old man would best him. What was worse that even though the young man would work without a stop, the seasoned veteran would take regular breaks!

Finally the challenger decided to see what the old man was doing on these breaks. He had to be cheating somehow.

At the next break he followed the old man back to the camp. What he saw amazed him. Rather than kicking back and relaxing the old axeman went right to the grinding wheel and spent his time sharpening his axe. When the veteran returned to cutting trees he did so with a knowledge that his axe was the best it could be for the task at hand.

We all know who won: the old lumberjack with the sharp axe.


Fog Over Gin Lake a limited edition photograph on canvas.

Photography is like that too. Not that old men always win, but that the person with the sharpened skills and vision will create superior images. We have all seen an inexperienced photographer create a stunning image. And you say, doesn’t that disprove the point? No, it does not. For as with the lumberjacks if the competition had been to fell one tree the young man may have won. But the competition was over time. And over time the person with the skills and vision will turn out superior results.

Yesterday I spent significant time setting up and calibrating a panorama rail. Not exciting photography. But now when I set out to shoot panoramas I know that my camera and lens will be the best it can be for the job. Sharpening the axe can mean spending time reading your manual or going online to learn a new technique. If you want to learn about calibrating a panorama rail go click here and see how the people at Really Right Stuff do it.

Now I can’t wait to create some amazing panoramas in the field. I wish you a good week and urge you to spend a few minutes sharpening your photographic axe.


Reading the Manual?

Ok, I admit it. I do read the manual. There it’s out in the open for all to see. But then why wouldn’t someone read about the features that they have just laid out a lot of money to buy. That never made sense to me. Sure it was alright I suppose many years ago in the film days when cameras and equipment were non-electronic. You had a shutter, aperture ring, focus ring, depth of field and mirror lock up buttons. Each button had a function and they were simple to figure out what they did.

Manual from Canon 5D Mark II.

Canon 5D Mark II manual.

Today we are in a different time. Once electronics took over photography there are more settings and buttons and button sequences than you can keep track of without a manual. My camera has custom function settings. There are 70 different settings available. In the manual the custom function settings start on page 193. That is a lot of information before even getting to the settings section.

So why wouldn’t you read the manual? Well, one reason is that the manuals are often really hard to read. The are obviously written by a technician who is throughly entrenched in the company jargon-speak. The language and thought process is difficult to follow. In many instances the translation becomes really stilted. I never understood why companies that spend so much in producing a product falter at the last step in the communication chain. If you are a manufacturer reading this let me suggest that you spend a few dollars and have writers in the different languages rewrite your manuals to make them flow.

One alternative which I use from time to time is to buy a third party book about the equipment in question. This has two advantages: it is usually written by someone who speaks your language and it is often written by a photographer who knows his or her audience and what they are trying to do with the product in real life.

When I buy a new camera (or other piece of equipment) I usually follow this process. I read the manual starting carefully at the beginning and then picking up speed. Those features that I know I’ll never use I still skim over just to know what it will do. Unless I will be using a feature very soon I don’t bother reading the detailed step-by-step instructions. I’ll never remember the steps so why bother to take the time reading. When I need to use the feature then is the time to go back and go through it slowly. When I’m done I will often revisit the important parts and read it again in more detail.

Sometimes I will purchase a third party book about the device even before I buy the hardware. This allows me to be ready to use the equipment as soon as it’s in my hand. At other times when the manual is particularly bad I buy the book to replace the manual. When I’m selling a used piece of equipment I always include any books about it as a value added feature. This clears my book shelf for more materials.

Finally I make sure I carry all the manuals with me in the field. I carry not only my camera manual but the manual for all my lenses and other gear as well. No need being five hundred miles away and not knowing how to activate a feature. I don’t carry the paper manuals because they would weigh almost as much as the photo gear. What I do is to download the manufacturer’s manuals onto my iPad. All the manuals are kept in one collection in iBooks ready to read wherever I’m at. If you have ever tried to figure out a setting on your flash in the field you will find this an invaluable tool.

To summarize: read your manual and have at least a passing familiarity with the features on your equipment. Take the manuals with you electronically. Don’t be afraid to buy the how to use books available for your equipment since they will often teach you how to improve your photography as well.


Use Technology to Move the Sun

It doesn’t take long looking through a gallery of my photographs to realize I enjoy photographing water in motion. Waterfalls, rapids, water flowing over a rock they all appeal to me. Maybe it is because I grew up in flat Essex County where water flowing over a rock is called “rain.”

In any case, I do enjoy photographing wider in motion.

Yesterday I delivered a dozen canvas mounted photographs to Marten Art Gallery in Bayfield for a one man show entitled H2Oh! and yes, they were primarily images of water.  Judy Stephenson, the gallery curator, had suggested the show should have a central theme. I was proud of the images I had selected. It will be a good opening show for her 2013 tourist season.

Waterfalls at Rock Glen, ON, Canada.

Waterfalls at Rock Glen, ON, Canada.

On the drive back I stopped in the town of Arkona, Ontario to check out the Rack Glen Conservation Area that my close friend Mark Clemens had shown me some years earlier. Rock Glen Falls is a lovely small waterfalls. While the lightning was acceptable, I felt it would have been better coming from a different direction.

Those of you who know me will attest there is a moderate amount of geek in my bones. I do like technology and the benefits it can deliver. Now, as Paul Harvey would say, here is the rest of the story.

The Photographer's Ephemeris showing the sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset for Tuesday, May 14, 2013. You can ask for the details for any date.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris on my iPad showing the sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset for Tuesday, May 14, 2013. You can set any date. If you will be outside of cell coverage then be sure to do a screen save at home.

I’d like to go back to Rock Glen to photograph. But what would be the best time of day to get there? For that I turn to my iPad app The Photographer’s Ephemeris. You can see why they call it TPE.

This amazing app combines satellite imagery similar to Google Maps with the movement of the sun and the moon. All I had to do was to type in Arkona, ON and TPE zoomed into the town. I dragged over to the North East and found the Conservation Area zooming in on the Falls. By sliding my finger over the timeline I can see where the sun rose and set. By saving the location (see the screen capture) I will be able to predict precisely where the sun will be at any given time on any date I may return. This is a phenomenal tool for photographers. If you want to see where the sun or moon will rise or set anywhere in the world I strongly urge you to download this app. It’s $10 well spent.