November 10, 2013 • 1 Comment
The holidays are almost upon us. Some would say that they're already here, but not me. I value the Christmas season too much to cheapen it by letting it creep back earlier and earlier on the calendar.
The commercial Christmas season doesn't begin until after Thanksgiving. Some might say that it starts with the appearance of Santa at the Macy's parade. Others might say that it starts when the dessert course finishes on Thanksgiving day.
The liturgical Christmas season doesn't begin until the start of Advent, which this year is shortly after Thanksgiving anyway.
Despite all of this, there's certainly nothing wrong with getting a jump on the season with a little early holiday shopping. Along those lines, in the commercial spirit of the season, I've posted a few selected photos on my Fine Art America site, available for purchase in the form of prints or greeting cards.
Here's one of the photos, taken a few years ago:
I don't mean to commercialize the season, of course. But let's face it, we all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.
(Just kidding. That, of course, is a quote. The first person who identifies the source gets a hardy "well done" from me, and a mention in my next blog post.)
Anyway, as I said, the Christmas season doesn't really start for a few more weeks. But it'll be here soon, so start shopping now by clicking HERE! :)
November 02, 2013 • Leave a Comment
In my last post, containing my photo "The Glassblower", I mentioned that I considered converting the photo to black & white.
Well, I decided to go ahead and do that. I didn't actually go to "black & white". Instead I decided that a "sepia" treatment might be better. I used a plug-in for Photoshop Elements that my friend Joe told me about, called Perfect Effects 4 (by onOne Software). I think the modified photo really highlights the glassblower's flame nicely.
I also used that same tool to apply a vignette to the photo, darkening the already dark corners slightly, which also draws the viewer's eye to the center of the frame (another trick I learned from Joe).
Anyway, here's the result:
Much more moody and interesting, I think, than the previous shot. (Observant readers may also notice that I made one additional change to the photo seen in my last blog post. Can you spot the change?)
I've got a lot of photos from this trip that need to be processed, so I don't really have time to keep re-doing shots that I've already processed. But this one was bothering me, because I thought it had more potential.
More to come...
October 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment
While traveling through New England recently, my wife and I stopped at the Simon Pearce glassware store, at their original Quechee, Vermont location. Downstairs from the retail showroom, you can watch the glassblowers at work, shaping red hot pieces of molten glass into hand-crafted masterpieces.
Naturally, I had my camera with me during the visit, and the craftsmen working in the dimly-lit room with bright flames immediately struck me as a great photo op. I took a lot of shots, but this one is the only one that really seemed to work:
I'm so glad that the glassblower wasn't wearing a brightly colored shirt, like red or yellow. That would have distracted the viewer's eye in this shot. I probably could have changed that with post-production software, but I hate to make major "factual" changes to a photo's main subject like that. Anyway, that wasn't necessary, because he wore a gray shirt which blends into the overall color scheme of the photo, almost as if he knew that made for a nicer shot. (And maybe he did.)
I debated whether or not I should convert this photo to black & white (maybe leaving the flame in color). I still might do that, but for now I wanted to share this shot as it is.
Like the artisan pictured, I also worked in a dimly-lit room while "crafting" this photo. The difference, of course, is that he's an experienced craftsman working with extreme heat and fragile glassware, whereas I'm a hobbyist working with software and pixels.
Hopefully my end result is half as appealing as his.
October 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment
My wife and I recently returned from a trip to New England. We saw lots of gorgeous foliage, bought lots of maple syrup and, of course, I took lots of photos. The photos will be appearing on the web site just as soon as I can find time to process them all.
In the meantime, here's one I took in Portland, Maine. Portland is a great town on the coast, with lots of scenic lighthouses in the area. With a setting like that, you might think that I would share a seascape or lighthouse shot. But I haven't processed those yet.
No, instead I thought I'd post a shot I grabbed while walking the streets of the Old Port section of Portland, an area known for its cobblestone streets, old buildings, shops, restaurants and bars. It's a shot of a typical alleyway in that area:
Nothing groundbreaking - I just thought it was an interesting setting. Rather than get the shot from a standing position, I decided to shoot it near the ground, making the street itself the main foreground subject of the photo.
More photos to come. I promise a lighthouse will appear in at least one of them.
September 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment
At last, I finished processing all the best photos from our trip to Napa Valley earlier this year.
Here's one shot, taken from inside one of the wineries, and overlooking the valley:
The full album is called "Napa in the Sun". Hope you enjoy it.
September 15, 2013 • Leave a Comment
I'm still working on photos from a trip to Napa Valley earlier this year. It's been a busy year, so finding time to process photos has not always been easy. But I am getting through them, and this is looking to be one of the largest albums of photos I've published on this site. (Over 20 photos, so far.)
Anyway, until I get through them all, I thought I'd keep my blog active (which social media and marketing experts say you're supposed to do) by generating a quick post with a sneak preview of that album.
Here's a shot, from Inglenook Winery -- a legendary winery in the history of Napa. It's a simple little shot of some doors on the winery's exterior:
There's nothing special about this particular photo, other than the fact that I think it turned out pretty well. I'm posting it here simply because it's the shot that I most-recently finished processing. I was happy with the details in the ivy, and the way the shadows worked. I was also able to successfully desaturate the green leaves at the top right to prevent them from being a distraction to the shot. I guess this is one of those shots that maybe only photography fans might like - otherwise it's just a simple photo of some doors. :)
I've "leaked" several of the photos from this up-coming album on this blog already. As I said, the full album is coming soon.
One more thing... I want to say a special thank you to Frederick Van Johnson, the host of This Week In Photo, a podcast that I featured as a 'Spotlight' last month. I tweeted a link to the blog post and directed it at him, and he was nice enough to re-tweet it to his legion of followers. I wasn't expecting that, but it sure brought a lot of people to my site! Anyway, that was a nice gesture.
September 01, 2013 • Leave a Comment
One morning, a little while ago, I was outside my home with my dog (for his morning constitutional) when I noticed exceptionally good light in the east, compliments of our wonderful rising sun. As any photographer will tell you, the best natural light is available in the mornings and evenings.
So I took the pooch back inside, filled his bowl with kibble (which looks rather unappealing to me, but he seems to enjoy), then ran to get my camera. I couldn't, after all, let this light go away without taking advantage of the situation to grab some shots.
Here's the shots I grabbed.
The first is a portrait of a clump of miniature roses on my wife's rose bush. I needed to shoot directly in to the eastern sky here, in order to get the best blooms in the frame, hence the blown-out exposure of the sky. But I think that works for this shot, and I think the detail in the flowers turned out ok.
The next shot was taken from our beautiful Dogwood tree. I love this tree. It's not too big, not too small, and seems to always look good. It's gorgeous in the spring (with nice blossoms, which have appeared on this blog before), full of leaves in the summer, radiant in the fall when its leaves change, and in the winter it's the perfect size for Christmas lights. Anyway, here's a close-up shot of one of the little red berries that grow from its leaves:
Finally, here's a shot of a little pink flower in my wife's flower bed. This image came out just the way I wanted.
I didn't use a tripod for any of these shots. I probably should have - I usually like to use a tripod for flower shots (as do most people). In this case, I was just anxious to get outside and get some shots before I lost the light. (These were all taken using my 40mm f/2.8 macro lens, which I love - it's on my camera most of the time these days.)
As I write this, September is upon us, which means that autumn isn't far off. I love the fall, as anyone who knows me could tell you. I love the crisp weather, the changing leaves, the approach of the holidays, the return of football (as my beloved Nittany Lions and Steelers start their seasons), and the thrill of post-season baseball (which hopefully returns to Pittsburgh this year as our Pirates continue to do well). Autumn is easily my favorite season. But it's also a season in which things start to disappear, most notably green leaves and flowers. These photos were a reminder that summer isn't quite done yet - there's still stuff budding and blooming out there and, when you catch some early morning light, you can get some decent shots.
August 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment
My SPOTLIGHT features shine a light on a photography-related link on the internet that I found interesting, from the point-of-view of an amateur photography hobbyist like myself. I feature articles from photo magazines and news outlets, blogs, blog posts, podcasts, or even other web sites like this one.
This episode of Spotlight shines on "This Week in Photo", a weekly podcast that covers all the latest news of the week in the world of photography.
I never miss an episode of "TWiP" (as it's known). It fills my drive to work, distracting me from the otherwise annoying rush-hour traffic. The interesting topics, conversations and interviews get my brain ramped up into work mode.
Host Frederick Van Johnson is joined by 2 or 3 guests each week, each an established photographer. Topics include new releases of equipment and software, web sites and apps related to photography, and photo-related events and announcements in the news. Frederick does a great job of soliciting the opinions of each of his guests on each topic, keeping the conversation interesting and relevant, while going off on occasional tangents that are of interest to his audience. Some episodes include interviews with photographers and other industry figures, and Frederick does an outstanding job with those too, asking the questions that his listeners would want him to ask.
Episodes also include a listener Q&A segment (that I wish was longer), and a "Picks of the Week" segment where each guest recommends a photography-related product, book, web site, app, etc.
TWIP has a corresponding web site where show notes are made available, with links to the web sites mentioned in the show.
I would imagine that a large part of the podcast's audience are professionals or advanced amateurs. I'm not either, but I still enjoy the conversation. I'm often inspired by the discussion to try a new technique, a new app, or a new online service. An example is my participation in the TWiP community on Google+, where I recently posted this photo:
I got some kind feedback for this shot from the TWiP Google+ community, which is encouraging to hear when you're trying to get better, as I am.
So if you're a photography "buff", either a newbie or a pro, or somewhere in between, and you've got an hour or two to kill each week, I recommend This Week in Photo. It's time well spent.
If you have a suggestion for a future "Spotlight", please email me at: email@example.com.
August 04, 2013 • 1 Comment
On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, we were fortunate enough to stay near a relatively hidden waterfall that feeds into Seneca Lake. Hector Falls is a great waterfall to photograph because of its setting, and its rocky landing.
I took a bunch of photos of the falls, including many that employ the standard "soft water" effect that everyone seems to love. (Search for Hector Falls on the web, and you'll find a lot of them.)
For this photo, I decided to try something different, and make some foreground foliage my point of focus, using the waterfall as a blurred background:
I think it worked. It's a different take on a much-photographed scene, anyway, which is always one of my goals.
July 23, 2013 • 1 Comment
I don't usually post my iPhone shots. Not sure why that is, since it's a decent point-and-shoot camera, and it's the camera that I have with me at arm's reach most often.
I decided to go ahead and post this shot though, because it turned out better than expected, and also because I thought it was an interesting demonstration of the effect of proper white balance.
The white balance setting of a photograph, if you didn't know, affects the "color cast" of the image. A "correct" white balance renders an image which looks exactly as it did to your eye. I put quotes around "correct" because there's no reason why a photographer couldn't purposely adjust the white balance of a photo to give it a blue cast, red cast, yellow cast, etc., in order to create a certain effect.
Anywho, enough technical talk. This shot was taken after an early morning rain shower. The sun came out immediately afterwards, resulting in some interesting light. I took the shot, and then adjusted the white balance slightly. Before I show you the "correct" white balance, here's a first take at it, with a distinct blue cast:
Since this was a sunrise shot, a yellow cast might have been a better choice:
Most often, especially with landscape shots, I've found that a "correct" white balance is the best way to go. Here it is:
You decide which is the best choice. There's no right answer.
July 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment
A few blog posts ago, I mentioned that more flower shots were coming. I had recently discovered the interesting shots I could get using my macro lens, so I planned to take more.
Well, I did. Several more. I won't share them all here yet - I'm hoping to take more, and make a full album out of them. For now, I thought I'd just share the one I did of a rose.
The rose is a classic flower, I suppose. (No rhyme intended.) It's identifiable by even those who know little about flowers (like me). We had a bouquet of assorted flowers on display in our home, and the rose is the first one I went for.
In this case, it's a yellow rose. In this shot, and in the others that I took, I put aside all the notions of the "right way" to shoot flowers. Photographers are often told to shoot flowers from a low angle, usually with shallow depth-of-field to really make it pop against a blurred-out background.
That's all good advice, but I decided to try something different, and really put my macro lens to work. I decided to shoot straight in to the flower, with a very close-up crop, to fill the frame with the flower, and get as much in focus as I could, highlighting the details of all those weird and alien-looking doo-dads that seem to be in all flowers.
Anyway, here's the yellow rose shot:
It took a little post-processing work to get all the highlights and details to look just right. I think it turned out ok.
As beautiful as roses are, they're actually relatively uninteresting in terms of 'doo-dad' detail. Some of the other flowers I shot were much more interesting. Still, a rose has a certain elegance. And I couldn't help but notice that the folds of the rose petals look relatively random - making me wonder if all roses look alike, or if each one has a unique pattern and layout of petals. Sort of like a rose fingerprint? If so, maybe "a rose is a rose" isn't quite accurate.
I don't know. I've got to stop thinking about these things and just shoot.
More to come...
June 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment
I haven't posted anything to this blog in about a month. It's been a busy June, so I was short on time. Plus, my wife and I were out of town for a bit, on a mini-vacation. On top of all that, I've got a backlog of photos to process, so finding time to shoot anything new has been difficult. So there just wasn't anything to talk about.
Until now, that is. A couple months ago, I submitted a few photos to Shutterbug magazine, for their monthly Picture This! feature. Each month has a theme, and that month's theme was 'Shallow Depth of Field'.
That gave me an idea regarding a couple of my photos. The first, entitled "Dogwood Blossom" was, I thought, the superior of the two. It's a shot of a blossom on our Dogwood tree, with (of course) a shallow depth of field, such that the background was nicely blurred. The photo has appeared on this blog before. Here it is again:
The second shot, which I threw in just for the heck of it (up to 3 submissions are allowed) was a photo of some daffodils in our garden.
Apparently, Shutterbug liked that second shot, because my photo, entitled simply "Daffodils" (the original title was "Daffodils 2.1"), APPEARED IN THE AUGUST 2013 ISSUE!!! Here's the shot:
Needless to say, I was thrilled. My photographic goal was to have one of my photos published, and now I've done that. I didn't win anything for this, just the satisfaction that a national magazine (and one that caters to professionals and advanced amateurs) thought one of my shots was good enough to publish. I won't lie to you, that feels pretty good.
Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a bragging blog post -- I just wanted to share the good news with you, my loyal readers. Now that I've achieved goal #1 for my photography, I suppose my next goal is to actually sell one of my photographs. (Not for the money, since I'll never be a pro. Just because it will represent another milestone.)
Of course, my real over-arching goal is simply to get better, and to keep learning.
Thanks for reading. Hopefully this blog will be more active in July.
June 02, 2013 • Leave a Comment
A while back I did some shots for my wife's blog, entitled "On the Kitchen Shelf". The topic was 'Buffalo Burgers', and I must say they were delicious.
Anyway, I was glancing at some of the shots I took that day, and I thought it was interesting that the shot we decided to use (and by "we", I mean my wife -- it's her blog, so it's her call) was essentially a tighter-cropped version of some of the other shots. By effectively zooming, we got the composition we needed.
Here's what I mean. Here's the first shot:
Not great. You see way too much of the napkin (which is distracting) and the table, and the burger itself, which is supposed to be the highlight, takes up less than half the frame.
Here's a second shot:
Here the burger is at least taking up more of the frame, but still only about half. Your eye is still partially distracted to look at the side dish, and the bright napkin.
Here's the photo that we decided to use:
Here you can still see the side dish (which is ok, it gives the burger a "setting" I suppose), but the focus is clearly the burger, and the details (the melted cheese, the tomato and avocado, the bun) are easy to see.
I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
Last weekend marked the unofficial start of summer here in the northern hemisphere. Happy grilling.
P.S. Don't forget: Prints of selected photos from this site are now available for purchase. Visit the M.A.P. Store (http://markaliphotos.com/store) to learn more.
May 28, 2013 • 1 Comment
When I started doing photography seriously, and I set up this web site and blog, I had no intention of ever attempting to turn it into something commercial. Not only was I not good enough for an endeavor like that (and maybe I'm still not), but it was beyond the scope of my interest. I was really just doing it for fun, and just trying to learn.
None of this is meant to imply that I think my photos are "good". I'm still learning, and any expert photographer who critiques my shots would probably tell you that I've got a LOT to learn.
May 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Yeah, I know, I do a lot of flower shots. It really isn't because I'm nuts about flowers. It's more to do with the fact that: (a) they're a readily-available subject for photos, and (b) they're relatively easy to photograph, if you do it right (and I don't always).
To be honest, another reason is that I always thought flowers were interesting, just because they're so diverse. I suppose there's some botanical reason why they're often vibrant and colorful, and why there are so MANY different varieties worldwide. It probably has to do with attracting bees for pollination, or something like that. But that's a very scientific way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is to just be amazed at their diversity.
My wife recently planted a new flower in our garden. I don't know the name, but it grows somewhat tall, and with only one bloom, which grows into a relatively large ball of what appears to be smaller flowers. So essentially it's a flower of flowers. Anyway, here it is:
Here's a closer shot of a few of the "mini-flowers" within the bigger bloom:
Isn't nature cool?
I used my macro lens for this. It's the first time I tried using that lens for flower photography, and it worked pretty well, I think. So I'll keep my eye out for more fabulous displays of nature. (So, yeah, more flower shots are probably coming.)
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