Monthly Archives: January 2009


Basics never go out of style. With all of the options available on DSLR cameras today, you have no shortage of ways to manipulate the settings on shooting a scene. Understanding the basics and taking a fundamentally sound photograph should never be taken lightly or overlooked.

This morning, I woke up very early to shoot the sunrise. The weather forecast for last night had called for clear skies and very cold temperatures. They were half right, it was very cold. The skies were not clear and as I was driving to the location I had chosen to take the photos, I began to have my doubts that this was going to be worth missing the sleep and getting out of my warm bed. I had selected a spot atop Red Mountain on the south side of Birmingham. It would offer a good vantage point to see the sun as it rose over the mountains in the distance (for those of you that live near real mountains, what we have are more accurately called foothills). There is a park atop Red Mountain and the parking lot offers a good view of the surrounding landscape.

At this point, it is cold and cloudy but I am hopeful. When I get to the park, the entrance is still chained and locked – apparently they don’t get up all that early to open the parking lot. So now I have cold weather, clouds, and my location is closed. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a beautiful location any time of year. It wasn’t far away from my first choice location that was closed, so I just switched locations. The entrance to the botanical gardens is open so now I just have to scout a location.

Yeah, I know. Shooting a sunrise is time sensitive and the clock in my head keeps ticking as my cushion I had built into my setup is vanishing. I find a good spot with a nice view of a treeline and the sky. I am still not optimistic that this is going to yield anything in terms of a spectacular sunrise, but I am awake, I am setup, might as well shoot what I can.

My hopes for capturing a sunrise with amazing vivid blue, orange, and red back lighting the trees were not materializing. I could just pack up, shoot something later in the day, and come back for another sunrise another time. I decided to just salvage what I could and hope that I would get something worthwhile. For a long time, the only color other than the dark tree branches in the foreground was a faint blush or orange and pink. My hands were starting to get very cold and my desire to be warm was increasing as I was losing the feeling in my fingers. Slowly, eventually I began to see some blue patches begin to form in the sky mixed among the clouds.

After a while the sky was changing more but this was not going to be a day for the red and orange colors to light the early morning sky. I continued to shoot as the sky was changing. Eventually the clouds, the blue sky, the tree branches, and the clouds began to produce some nice but subtle colors.

My lesson for today was that some of the basics of photography are independent of the camera. In my case, this morning, it was patience. It’s easy to give up on a location. I decided to stay where I was and shoot what was available. The reminder to myself today is that I need to give a scene time to develop. Patience is not one of my strong suits, but I am hoping that I will have some good images as a result of waiting.

Tripods, camera bags, and gear

Having the right gear can make a big difference in what you shoot, where you can shoot, and the quality of the image you capture. Everybody has their own preferences and criteria for selecting their photography gear. Quality is one of the most important aspects of any equipment I buy and I try to look at the purchase as an investment. Since I don’t have a large budget for buying photography gear, I have to balance quality with price, at least for now. After I am a huge success and fabulously wealthy from my photography, quality will still matter but price will be less of a concern. Until then, if you are a manufacturer of quality photography gear or a vendor and want to get in on the ground floor before fame and fortune sweeps me away, please contact me and I will be happy to entertain offers to use your equipment.

I am obsessive about always keeping a filter on my lenses. Because dust and other particles on your filter can ruin an image, I always carry a Giottos Rocket Air Blower ( in my camera bag. They are not expensive and cans of compressed air are not recommended for digital cameras. Plus they look pretty cool and add to the collection of gear that is crammed in my camera bag.

I am currently using a backpack style camera bag by Lowepro. With my trip to Santa Fe for the landscape workshop on the horizon, I am wondering if I am fine with the current backpack or if I should consider buying something else. This will be the first time I have traveled any distance with my camera equipment and needless to say, I am a bit concerned.

Any advice, suggestions, or recommendations would be appreciated.

Slump, Stagnant, Struggling?

One of my ongoing projects to try and improve as a photographer is to try and shoot every day. Photography is one of my creative outlets and the quality of the images will vary from day to day. It’s easy to feel frustrated and discouraged. Whether I call it a slump, getting stagnant, or struggling, it’s going to happen and it’s part of the experience. The trick is to learn what I can from the days that are below expectations and not carry negative energy into the next opportunity to shoot.

If you are thinking, “Thanks for those pearls of wisdom, Captain Obvious.” Fair enough, but for some reason common sense isn’t as common as you might think. This is more or less a reminder to myself as I work through a slump with my own photography. It’s a familiar path. You can’t have peaks without valleys.

What’s the point?

It’s a fair question. The overall concept is to create a blog that will be a companion to my photography site. While writing captions for the images in my daily photo galleries, sometimes I would have a subject that I wanted to explore in a form that is better suited to a blog.

Posts will cover various aspects of photography, image processing, resources, and Photoshop techniques. You are invited and encouraged to participate in the discussion.

So with that in mind, the Dream Hat Photography Blog is born.