“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
– Elliott Erwitt



My life as of late: read, practice, purchase, repeat. Sure, it’s hard to not come down hard with Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS), but I mean really – this stuff should last a while.

After using Nikon’s fast 85mm f/1.8G lens for about a week now, I’m now trying out Nikon’s pro-level 24-120mm f/4 ED VR as a candidate to replace my jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR lens. This lens should yield faster and more reliable auto focus, less chromatic abberation, less lens flare with bright light sources, and best of all, gives +4mm of range on the low end–something I’m far more likely to use in creating quality photos than the 121-300mm range I’ll be giving up. This is largely because of the other issues that come to play when shooting at such long focal lengths–vibration, vignetting, light–all become especially noticeable at such high focal lengths. Alas, in layman’s terms, I’d be swapping my 10x zoom for a 5x zoom, but in doing so I’d be looking through higher quality glass. Thanks go out to a photography buddy (you know who you are) and various online resources for helping me to identify that indeed, this switch might be in my best interest.

On other fronts, I’ve been very pleased to see the fast autofocus, beautiful bokeh and “pop” of the 85mm that I recently procured. I’m looking forward to using it for portraiture, having recently tested it out on family and learned some of its limits in various areas.

Latest Captures

Alright, now on to the good stuff.

Here’s an image that I captured on Dec 26th. It’s a 30 second exposure, taken just after sundown. The image was featured in Flickr’s “Explore” and as of this writing has garnered 299 faves and 7,740 views.

Sundown (Explored) – 30″ | f/6.3 | 28mm | iso 110

Here’s another image, taken a bit later in the night, capturing the purple winter sky and a headlights of vehicles on the bridge. It’s a cool shot, but I didn’t publish it to my portfolio. It’s simply too similar, and the other has much better lighting.


Now, in my last post, I indicated that I would try to get some more architecture shots and push the creativity envelope a bit. Here’s one such attempt, getting creative with One World Trade Center in NYC:

“One With The World” – HDR @ f/6.3 | 36mm | iso 110

Below is one of the Manhattan skyline as seen from Brooklyn. This image was not published – ISO was way too high, thus resulting image is too grainy. It was actually just a test capture for a long exposure, which unfortunately suffered the effects of wind shaking the camera during the exposure.

1/20″ | f/4.5 | 56mm | iso 6400

Here’s some other miscellaneous captures from trip (all can be found in my Flickr photostream):

Finally, here’s a capture from this week that I’m especially proud of.  I’m not sure if it’s because me, my cousin, and my wife were standing at the waterfront in the breezy, freezing weather at nearly 1AM to make this photograph (what troopers they are–seriously!), or because the resulting image turned out so spectacularly, but either way, I’m quite pleased with the result. Here it is:

“Manhattan” – 20″ | f/11 | 28mm | iso 250

That’s all that I have for now. Consider subscribing to this blog to receive automatic email updates when there’s a new post.

Next up, I hope to publish some results of testing the 24-120mm lens, and some 9 and 10 stop neutral density filters I’ve procured.  This should make for some interesting landscape shots in full sun and winter scenes!



Must. Learn. More.

“There is a fine line between hobby and mental illness.” – Someone, somewhere.

Post six.

Casual reading? Photography forums.

Dedicated reading?

Facebook? No, Flickr.

“My name is Ryan Lott and I’m obsessed with photography.”

Whew, glad I got that off my chest.

I’ve been out looking for some inspiring subjects to photograph.  Opportunities for outdoor photography seemed to be waning.  The air is getting colder, the skies more overcast and less inspiring.  For landscape photography in winter, this might just be the reality I’ll face.

Or is it?

Continuing the HDR theme, I recently snapped this one of a courthouse in Lexington, NC. Shown first is the original photo, then the five-bracket tone mapped enhancement, with lens corrections applied and manual adjustments for chromatic aberrations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve also snagged some other mildly interesting shots:

Candy Shoppe
“Candy Shoppe” – HDR – 1/80 | f/3.5 | 28mm | iso 898
“In Service” – LDR – 1/4″ | f/22 | 28mm | iso 110

Trying to learn more about camera settings, I’ve also set out to capture some silhouette photos.  I ended up with these:

I also got some more neat pics of sunsets through grass:

And finally, a few other random shots along the way:

That’s about all I have for now.  I’m definitely going to have to push my creativity envelope a bit more.

Next up, I hope to get a bunch more urban architecture/cityscape shots, and some portraits!

Merry Christmas!

p.s. As I’ve learned more, I’ve gone back and re-processed a couple of photos. This one in particular is now much improved (prior photo):

Lighthouse Sunset


Power in Post

“There is a vast difference between taking a picture and making a photograph.”
– Robert Heinecken

Post five.

Alright…yup. I’m loving it.

When I’m out shooting photos, there’s nothing else. There’s me, the camera, and the subject. Everything else disappears; I’m focused. I’m enthralled. I’m doing what I love.

Post-processing is essential to producing a quality image…and I’m gaining an appreciation for the effort that goes into the process.

But before I go any further, I have some good news and bad news.

The good news is, in the past week I’ve learned a lot more about ghosting, chromatic aberration, lens vignette, and halos — and how to minimize these issues through competent post-processing.

The bad news is, I’m having to deal with ghosting, chromatic aberration, lens vignette, and halos in my photos, which means that at best, post-processing takes a lot longer than I’d like.  And at worst, an otherwise beautiful image can be irreparably damaged by lens characteristics.

As discussed in my prior post, the software application easyHDR makes adjusting photos via High Dynamic Range techniques quite…well, easy. At least the basics anyhow.

While it’s fantastic at increasing contrast and lighting of certain areas of the image, it, too presents its own challenges: HDR processing amplifies issues that may already be hiding in my images. In some areas, this will require better technique to overcome moving forward (in lieu of far more expensive gear), and in other areas, it just blatantly increases post-processing workload.

Anyway, on to the photography!

Last Friday I ran down to Piney Point and caught a sunset. My goal was to get a shot of the sunset under the bridge and of the Piney Point lighthouse. Had some success in that arena!

First off, here’s the resulting image of the bridge:

metered image: 6″ | f/18 | 28mm | iso 100 (bracket of 7 @ 1 stop/ea)

Below is the progression of seven bracketed exposures. Exposures ran from 4/5″ – 30″.

Here’s a screen cap showing the before and after in easyHDR.  The HDR process is quite powerful.


Moving on a bit, here’s the final lighthouse photos:

metered image: 1/400″ | f/4.5 | 55mm | iso 112
metered image: 1/320″ | f/3.5 | 28mm | iso 141

I’ve also gone back and done some post-processing of prior images shot in RAW, using my new software for Low Dynamic Range adjustments.  Much improved over my manual adjustments in Photoshop – though I’ll admit easyHDR can’t top Photoshop’s ability to selectively highlight and adjust colors.

Anyway, that’s about it for now.  I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me.  What’s next?  I can only dream.

Thanks for reading.


An Experiment in High Dynamic Range

“A still photograph is called a still photograph because the picture doesn’t move, not because the objects in the picture are not in motion. The photographer’s mission, should he decide to accept it, is to capture motion with stillness.”
– Vincent Versace

Post four.

At this rate, I’m going to need a larger hard drive, stat.

I’m also very interested in High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging.  Specifically, bracketed captures and HDR post-processing.  This technique allows you to under and over-expose an image, and then combine the results afterwards while selecting the best exposed portions of each.  It’s a fantastic way to capture scenes that otherwise could not be captured. HDR photos essentially allow you to capture a scene with a dynamic range much closer to what the human eye is normally accustomed to seeing, which is much higher than the dynamic range that my camera’s sensor is capable of. I will say, more-so than many other areas of photography, quality post-processing is what makes it HDR photos so special.

This week, I tried both HDR and daytime ND-filtered long exposures for the first time, at the same time.  And I’m rather pleased with the results!

Alright, that’s enough chit chat; on to the actual images!

I started off my photo trials at Cascade Falls in at Patapsco Valley State Park.

Here’s the setup:


The original (downsampled–you’re welcome) bracketing shots are shown below. Each exposure is two stops (measures of light) apart. Three exposures total made the bracket. I could also have done 5 or 7 exposures with smaller stop increments, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

Combined and adjusted properly, the effort paid off with a beautiful resulting image:

metered image: 2″ | f/18 | 50mm | iso 110

And here’s another which actually captured the sunset (the original goal of the shot):

metered image: 2/5″ | f/20 | 48mm | iso 126

I tried to do another couple of HDRs (but with a regular shutter speed) to capture the dynamics of a historic railroad bridge. This bridge runs through the park near the Avalon Area Entrance.

Here’s the setup:
And the results:
metered image: 1/13″ | f/18 | 28mm | iso 100
metered image: 1/640″ | f/7.1 | 65mm | iso 3200

What’s next?  Hopefully, some more HDR and long exposures!

Oh, and Miss Wifey, I need a 9 or 10 stop ND Hoya filter.  77mm, please.  Fortunately, they are very reasonably priced.

Until next time!


UPDATE Dec 09, 2016: I’ve been asked by pretty much everyone reading this blog post, how exactly I’m doing the HDRs. Clearly, I should have included more detail in the original post!

I have tried Photomatix, Photoshop, and easyHDR.  My experience was that Photoshop required maximum effort to achieve a “fair” looking image. I’d rather be out taking more photos, or spending time with friends and family, than spending every waking minute in my basement doing post-processing.

Photomatix was far improved over Photoshop (for what I’m looking for anyway), requiring much less effort, but I wasn’t a fan of how many of their preset settings were inclined towards making the photograph look very artsy and not a true portrayal of what I remember the scene looking like.

I came across easyHDR (Windows and Mac software application), after reading a professional photographer’s blog post that ranked his opinion of 20 common HDR applications. My opinion after a using demo of easyHDR was that it lent the best, most realistic-looking HDRs that I had been able to produce. Alas, easyHDR was procured.

Yes, I could have done the HDR using the camera’s built-in feature. However, I’m shooting RAW for a reason–and that’s to maximize the potential of post-processing in case something didn’t come out “quite right” in the photo and requires adjustment.  Alas, I bracketed the photos and post-processed the ones you see here using easyHDR.

If you’re looking at procuring post-processing software applications, try before you buy.  What worked for me and my camera might not work for you.  I’ll also note that I am absolutely not sponsoring or sponsored by any particular software application.

Best wishes, and thanks for reading!


“When you photograph a face, you photograph the soul behind it.”
– Jean-Luc Godard

Post three.

I spent my free time over the weekend learning about my camera’s metering modes (spot, matrix, center-weighted, highlight-weighted), and about balancing ISO, aperture, shutter, etc.

Itching with desire to try out these techniques, I threw my camera in the car on the way to church–hopeful that time might allow for a State Park detour. It did!

As we started off on the walk, she had her sights set on portraiture. 207 images later, I ended up with quite a few decent captures! You’d hope.

Below are some of the highlights.

These notes apply to all:
– 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G NIKKOR
– Manual aperture
– Manual shutter
– Auto ISO
– Autofocus (focus points manually set)
– Photoshop post-processing

Shining Smile


Look There!


Someone's Silver Platter

Safety Zone

Note: a few of these photos have been retouched in other editing applications since the original posting.

I had hoped to get some wildlife photos, but wildlife was hiding as though it was December in Maryland.  Oh well, maybe next time.

This week, my lens filters finally came in and I’ve been studying up on some more advanced concepts that should lead to better photography — High Dynamic Range (HDR), manual bracketing, manual exposure delay, ND filters and long daytime exposures, among others.  I’ve also been reading up on astrophotography as I’ve always been an admirer of that type of work.

Next up, maybe some HDR images.

Until then, best wishes.


p.s. Please feel free to comment below!  Let me know your thoughts and even critiques — I can take it!

I bought a camera

“Buying a Nikon doesn’t make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner.”
– Author Unknown

Post two.

I really struggled with the idea of buying a camera.

“Am I worthy of such a nice camera?”

“Are these photographs worth thousands of dollars?”

Eventually, I settled on the notion that it’s the hobby–not the photographs–that I’m paying for.

I’ve had the camera for just over a week and have shot 1,315 photographs. There’s been a lot of learning, a lot of getting used to things. I’ve made a couple of decent photos. Mostly, I’ve reaffirmed that I have a lot of learning to do about the technical items (ISO, shutter speed, focal length, aperture, bokeh, etc). In wanting to have better captures, I’ve introduced a lot more variables into the equation.

Let’s review a few of the better photographs from this past week.


The above photo is untouched from its original version. It came out pretty decently and has gotten a few fav’s on Flickr. That one, though, I have since processed.


This photo has been retouched to enhance color depth put the background to b&w.  Pretty much how I saw it. 😉  Flickr version, again has been re-processed since original posting.


Cropped and slightly adjusted color. As soon as I saw the grass, I knew it would make for a great shot. In hindsight, I should have made another with focus set to infinity. It came out well, though. We could adjust the photo to make the reeds pop a little better, but why bother?  I’d rather go make another photograph.


These flowers were not exactly found in nature; they were sitting in a vase. Nice try, Ryan.  (Flickr)

Next up, Ryan buys a polarizing filter and sees the world in a whole new light.

Or, something like that.