First Day of Spring in Pennsylvania

It’s been a long, cold winter here in the Susquehanna Valley in Pennsylvania. We didn’t have any blizzards, record-breaking snowfalls or floods caused by ice dams or sudden snow melts. Having already been through those, I’m certainly thankful. But we are stuck in a pattern of below-average temperatures which just doesn’t want to quit. Nice days are few and far between, and the long range forecasts indicate no end in sight. So much for getting an early start on the outdoor chores!

Despite my whining, today is the first day of spring, so I thought I’d share one of my favorite flower photos. A chive probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your head when you think about spring flowers, but I think the colors are suitable. Enjoy the photo, the day and the warmer weather to come.

Chive flower photo

Nikon D300, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/1500 sec @ f/4.0

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Fish on Friday

Who abstains from eating meat on Fridays during Lent? Personally, I do, but it just doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice when seafood is an option. This shot was taken at Kimono’s at the Walt Disney World Swan, one of our favorite sushi restaurants.

Disney Swan Kimono's Sushi

Nikon D800E, Nikkor 24mm f/1.4, ISO 3200, 1/50 sec @ f/1.4

The Snowy Owl Invasion

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, “The winter of 2013-14 will be remembered for being one of the most spectacular migrations of snowy owls in history. It may be a lifetime opportunity for many to experience this iconic bird. By January 6, there had been reports of snowy owls from at least 33 counties, some for the first time in history.” I didn’t get lucky enough to spot one this winter, but the article reminded me of some snowy owl photos in my library. Here’s one of my favorite shots from an outing I took a few years ago …

Snowy Owl Photo

If you want to learn more about this year’s migration, the full article can be found here.

Making a Custom Phone Case: Start to Finish

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the wide variety of mobile phone cases that I make and sell in my Etsy shop, and how to best choose a case to match your needs. On a similar note, I thought it would be interesting to share the process of making one of these cases, and more specifically, what is involved with personalizing the case using a photo provided by a customer. It all begins with a listing, which includes a thorough description of the case, ordering instructions and a photo which looks something like this:

Greenpix custom phone case

As an example, I’ll use a recent sale to a customer who wanted a photo of her dog, Chloe, on an iPhone 4/4S case. The first step of course, was getting Chloe’s photo. I provided the customer with a link so that she could upload her photo to my file hosting service. This approach avoids the possibility of file corruption or compression that may occur when sending as an email attachment. Here’s what the uploaded photo looked like:

Chloe_AsReceived

That’s a great shot of a beautiful dog, but there was one problem – the aspect ratio. You can see easily enough that the aspect ratio is 1:1 (it’s square). However, as you could probably guess, the aspect ratio of the iPhone 4/4S case is more like 2:1 (about twice as high as it is wide). Depending on the specific details of the photo, there are some creative ways to fit the entire image on the case. But in this situation, we were left with cropping as the most practical solution. To make sure my customer got what she wanted, I created the following digital proofs showing two cropping options:

Chloe_Landscape

Chloe_Portrait

She decided on the portrait orientation, which unfortunately meant that the date stamp was included in that part of the image. Luckily enough, it was in an area that was easily edited using Photoshop. Speaking of which, I use Phototshop to prepare my images for printing, and for phone cases usually print in groups of three for economic reasons. Here’s a screen capture showing Chloe, along with two of my more popular photos, ready for printing:

PrintScreen2

Here’s what that looks like coming out of the printer (notice how the images are reversed):

Printer

Positioning sublimation blanks on paper (two ready, Chloe next in line):

PositioningBlanks

Getting ready to press:

Press

Successful sublimation:

Sublimated

Chloe on her insert:

ChloeInsert

Insert and case, ready to be assembled (no second chances):

Insert&Case

Got it right!

AssembledCase

Making sure the case fits the phone:

CaseOnPhone

One last inspection:

Inspection

Ready for packing and shipping:

Packing

*****

That’s really all there is to it, and it sure is nice to have full control over each and every step of the process.

Point & Shoot? I Don’t Think So!

Nikon D800 ModeLast week I wrote about a new series of tutorials that I will be launching in the coming months. As I wrote my first one (Image Sharpness – Part 1: Techniques to Eliminate Motion Blur) and was working on my outline for others in the series, I came to realize that there would be one common thread among all the lessons. Regardless of what I would be discussing, or what tips I would be sharing, or what techniques I would suggest you try, it always came back to the same prerequisite — you need to know how to use your camera. I don’t mean that you need to know how to turn it on and press the shutter release. I mean that you need to understand what features your camera has, what those features do, and how to adjust the settings to achieve the results that you’re after.

Sony RX100 Top Control DialEvery camera has a unique set of features, and every manufacturer has their own terminology and format for their user manuals. I don’t know what cameras you all are using, and even if I did I couldn’t possibly cover the wide variety in each and every lesson. I also don’t see much point in using the first page of every tutorial telling you how important it is to understand how to use your camera. So I’m asking that you help me to help you. If I instruct you to change your ISO from AUTO to 400, or your exposure compensation from 0 to +1, you need to know how to do that. I’ll explain why you need to change it, and give you some general guidelines on how to do it, but when it comes right down to pushing the right buttons or turning the right dials, it’s all you.

zoomcontrolSince the manufacturers have already done their share, your homework is to spend some quality time getting familiar with your camera and user manual. Trust me, it’s time well spent, and certainly more productive than continuously re-shooting your entire inventory. So spend a cold, rainy afternoon with your favorite beverage and your camera’s user manual.  Learn about the features of your camera, what settings can be adjusted, what they do, and how they affect the finished image. So much for “point and shoot,” right? Sorry, but there’s no such thing when it comes to product photography. And when it comes to learning how to use one of the most important tools in your shop, there’s no time like the present.