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Just wanted to let everyone know I’ve migrated this blog over to my website. Please change your bookmarks to reflect the new address:

www.dennistennant.com/wordpress

I hope you follow me to my new digs. The blog has a new look I think you’ll like. This move will allow me to offer more features in the future and, hopefully, attract more viewers.

See you there!

Dennis

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…have been in a cave for the last month, you might want to think about sending your camera to Canon service immediately. Seems this model has a problem with the mirror falling off. Apparently this has happened enough to warrant a recall and free repair by Canon. Check this link for more info: http://tinyurl.com/dennisblog

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During a recent photo walk, I was hard-pressed to find something interesting to shoot at the chosen venue. Instead of being satisfied with the usual night shot of decorated trees and other holiday lighting, I pulled out an old-school technique (yep, from the days of film!) to add some interest to my evening’s shoot.  It’s basically a time exposure/zoom. It’s easy to do and, with the right subject, will produce some wonderful effects. The key here is to experiment and not be happy with your first try.

What this effect looks like straight from the chip.

What this effect looks like straight from the chip.

 

Here we go, step-by-step:

  • Start by mounting your camera (with your favorite zoom lens attached) to a sturdy tripod. What you’ll be doing next requires a solid foundation. 
  • Next, line up your shot so the optical center (dead center of your frame) falls in the middle of your subject (or maybe not, remember my earlier call for experimentation here?). Your image will zoom out from this spot, so you want to get this right.
  • Set your camera to manual focus and manual exposure. Focus on your subject, lock up mirror (if possible).
  • Start with these settings: ISO 100, f/16, 30 seconds (this is for an exposure after the sun’s been down for an hour or so…black sky).
  • Slowly press your shutter release and, after a few seconds, slowly zoom your lens.
  • Check your LCD and repeat. I should have put you in the ballpark and you should have said “ahhhhhh, ooooohhh” at your results.

The key here is to play around and have fun with this technique. A zoom made after 15 seconds have passed will make the underlying lights more dominant. A slow zoom from start to finish will have a completely different effect. I was happy with my resulting images and, with a little help from Photoshop, one eventually became my Christmas card!

Finished image with a little liquid filter applied a'la Photoshop.

 

Okay, now go experience some holiday joy using my little tip. Please, please, please share your experiences using this technique here (and give us the URL for your work so we can enjoy it too!).

Happy Holidays,

Dennis

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Remember, your portfolio should be a selection of your very best work. It’s no place for photos that don’t measure up to that high standard and elicit a “wow!” from viewers. Hopefully, you’ve got a stack of images that are potential additions to your portfolio. The next step is to thin the herd, so to speak.

This is where you’ve gotta have the intestinal fortitude to “kill your babies.” What I mean by that is this is where you take out the photos that “wow” only you. The photos you worked hard to get, strike a chord with your inner being, yada, yada, yada. Everyone starts with images like this in their first edit. I suggest getting this over with early in the process — but only after you’ve let several other photographers (and non-photographers too) look at your initial portfolio edit.

Okay, now go show your first edit to other people. Let’s start with five discerning individuals. Five’s a good number. Take their comments to heart and look for a pattern in what they say about your work. After that, it’s up to you to weigh what they say against what you feel about your work. After all, your portfolio represents YOU and how you see your world.

More to come…

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Judging photo contests is something I’m asked to do from time to time. I had the enjoyable task of choosing the best photo from a recent photo walk (yes, the one I posted earlier). That winning entry, by Kristina Johnson, was chosen as the best of over one hundred photos.

Kristina Johnsons winning entry, ladybug road

Kristina Johnson's winning entry, "ladybug road"

So, you might ask, what does a judge look for when judging a photo contest? Hmmm, that’s a toughie. Well, we all know that photography, like any visual art, is subjective. A photo I like might not get a second glance from another photographer/judge. Photo contests are much like beauty contests in that there’s a lot of pretty entrants and most will be going home without a crown.

Here’s how I approach judging photo contests. In many ways, it’s the same way I edit photos for my newspaper. First, I take a quick pass through all the images. This is when I’ll bounce the unsharp, off-color and poorly-exposed images out. This first purge will usually knock out a quarter to a third of the entries and leave me with photos that deserve a closer look.

On the second pass, I’m looking for images that are different. Different techniques, compositions and subject matter are king here. If it makes me do a double-take it goes on to the final round. Here’s also where I factor in the type of photography being judged. For example, I’ll approach judging a photojournalism contest differently than I would a nature photography competition. In the former, capturing the “moment” and telling a story is most important. In the later, form, color and composition play a bigger role.

The final selection is the toughest. Here’s where I earn my money (well, not really, I’m lucky to get a meal or free drinks). This is where I look very critically at the remaining images. I want a photo to “move” me and stir my emotions. I’m also looking for the photo I wish I had taken myself. Finally, I want the winning image to “wow” me. If I’m excited about an image and it meets all the criteria mentioned above, it’s my winner.

I’m sure my approach is unique. My experience as a photographer and photo editor for almost three decades affects the way I look at photographs. This is why I advocate multiple judges for photo contests. Entrants deserve to have their work seen (and judged) through more than one person’s eyes. Plus, it’s more fun to watch the judges argue!

One last bit of advice. If you ever have a chance to watch a contest judging session, do it. Being there and hearing the comments made by judges will help you better understand how your work is seen by others. Usually, the judges will explain why they like one photo over another. The discussions over why one photo is better than another will give you insight into the judges’ visual thought processes and will definitely affect the way you approach your next photo session.

For me, judging a photo contest is exciting, energizing and exhausting. That said, I never say “no” to the opportunity to judge a contest. It’s fun and, sometimes, I even get fed!

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I had the pleasure of organizing a photowalk recently. After reading about the growing number of photo-oriented walks across the country and seeing some great photowalk photos on Flickr and photoblogs, I thought I’d throw out the idea and try to organize one at a local park/wildlife area.

Ducks in the late afternoon at Newport News Park

A late afternoon silhouette at Newport News Park (C) 2008 Dennis Tennant

Pulling together a diverse group of photographers from all skill levels wasn’t hard to do. I just invited some of the regular contributors to the HRTownsquare.com photo galleries and made a place for them to upload their work to afterward. In no time at all everything was ready.

Photographers enjoying a target-rich environment

Photowalkers enjoying a target-rich environment

I was truly surprised when over 25 photographers showed up for the event. We gathered, shared tips (as well as lenses) and enjoyed nature for over three hours. The result: a surprising number of awesome photos made by newbies as well as pro-level shooters. The best part of it all was meeting others who share my love of photography. It was a truly invigorating experience. Try hosting one, you won’t regret it.

Oh, if you joined in the fun, please share your experience here! Post a comment below.

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Looking for a new way to see things? Try shooting from a low angle. I found this patch of gigantic mushrooms perfectly lit by a shaft of late afternoon sunlight. From my normal, standing perspective, the photo wasn’t much to look at. Bending my knees and shooting up from ground level, however, made a big difference.

Keep in the back of your mind “would my shot be improved by going lower?” the next time you’re out with your camera. It can transform the ordinary photo to something extraordinary.

Oh, and purchase a gardener’s knee pad, they make getting low more comfortable and less messy on the knees!

 

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