Author Archives: Curt

Lightroom Magic

I used this picture of a horse in a Lightroom demonstration this week. The original shot, as you can see, is not that good at all. Badly overexposed, crooked, generally poorly composed.  I’m not even sure why I even kept it.  I opened it in Ligthroom, and with about a minutes worth of work, turned it into the second image you see. So I posted that to Flickr, and it made it to the Explore page! If Lightroom is this good with a bad image, it’s even better when you start with a good image. If you want to learn more about it, check out the class I’ll be teaching on March 2nd.

Horse Barn Before and After



Posted in Learning Photography


Lightroom for Digital Photographers

This is an all day workshop designed to give you an in-depth understanding of how Adobe Photoshop Lightroom can help streamline your digital photography workflow from the moment of capture to final output.

The workshop covers the major features of Lightroom:

  • Understanding the digital photography workflow
  • Managing the Lightroom workspace
  • Configuring preferences and settings
  • Working with catalogs
  • Importing assets
  • Using the Library and Map modules
  • Working with the Develop module
  • Exporting media
  • Working with the Print, Web, Slideshow, and Book modules
  • Round Trip Editing with Photoshop


Who Should Attend?

  • Digital Photographers looking to organize their image archives.
  • High-volume shooters wanting to efficiently process large numbers of time-sensitive images.
  • Experienced lightroom users looking to get more out of the program.
  • Anyone serious about improving their photography workflow (probably you since you’re reading this!)

The workshop will be held at the MCPS Technology Lab, 1180 North Franklin Street, NE
Christiansburg, VA 24073 on Saturday March 2nd, 2013  from 9-5.

For the first 20 to sign up, and those who attended the Exposure Roanoke “Lightroom Workflow” meetup, the cost is $75, half off the regular price of $150You can bring your own, or computers and software will be available in the Lab

Posted in Learning Photography

Tripod Recommendations for Every Budget

Back in the summer I hosted an Exposure Roanoke discussion on tripods. The group learned several things that day: 1) I can talk about tripods for hours, and 2) For many types of photography, a GOOD tripod is every bit as important as the camera body and lens.

As a demonstration, I mounted a laser pointer on top of my camera, and attached my camera to tripods of varying quality. Watching the laser on a distant target gave a clear indication of how steady the camera was during the experiment.  With no remote shutter release, it was easy to see how much camera shake was introduced by my hand alone on the cheaper tripod. Even on the good tripods it shook a tiny bit while pushing the shutter button, so a remote release is highly recommended, or using the shutter timer feature will work as well. In all the test circumstances, the better quality tripods were far steadier than the cheap imitators.

A tripod is a very personal choice. What you need depends on how you intend to use it, and there might not be a single tripod that does everything you need it to. There seems to be an endless array of choices, and choosing the right tripod can be a frustrating experience. They all do essentially the same thing, which is to keep the camera steady when hand-holding is not practical. There are many different questions to ask when choosing a tripod: What should it be made of? How high should it be? How heavy or light do you need? How stable is stable enough? Will it work for my style of shooting? Will it support the largest lens I plan on using? How much does it cost? I weighed all these factors and researched tripods for a solid year and finally settled on the one tripod that best met my needs.

I am going to give a quick rundown on the major features and then give some specific models that you can check out.

  1. Tripod Construction Material and Build Quality.  The tripods I have experience with are either aluminum, or Carbon Fiber. I can’t say that one is better than the other, but carbon fiber is much lighter and very strong for its weight. Carbon fiber is much more expensive as well, but if you hike to remote locations, that lighter weight will be much appreciated. Quality tripods are well-built and reliable, but if things go wrong, you should be able to count on support from reputable manufacturers many years down the road.
  2. How Big (or small) should my tripod be? My advice would be that at a minimum, it should be tall enough to put your camera near eye level while standing, without extending the center column. If you plan on traveling, the total length of the tripod in its compacted form is a factor if you plan on packing it in your suitcase or stowing it in the overhead compartment on an airplane. Among the specs the manufacturers will publish is the maximum weight it will support. Cameras and lenses get heavy, pick one that will easily support the largest lens you think you’ll be using. Keep in mind that as your focal length increases, so does your need for stability. Don’t think if your camera and lens weighs 12 lbs, a tripod that says it will support up to 12 lbs is sufficient. Things can get a little shaky if you overload it.
  3. Does the tripod suit my style of shooting? My tripod has a feature that I can not live without, and that is the articulating center column. What that means is that my center column can be used in the standard vertical fashion, to give me a little extra height when needed, or, I can extend it horizontally and put my camera directly over my subject when shooting close-ups. Some models will only go 90 deg. horizontal, but my tripod will adjust infinitely within 180 deg from vertical. I can position the center column straight up to straight down, and everywhere in between. Not every tripod has an articulating center column. One other feature of my tripod is the infinitely positionable legs. Some legs will only let you spread them and lock in 3 or 4 positions, but I can put mine exactly where I want out to 90 deg., and lock it in place.
  4. What kind of Tripod Leg Locks do I need? Twist locks and lever locks are common. It is really a matter of personal choice, and one of the reasons you’ll want to try before you buy. I’ve used both, and find my current twist lock to be ideal for me. Twisties make the legs very streamlined with no protruding parts, and I can deploy and stow the tripod very quickly. I have had levers break and twisties over tighten on my cheaper tripods, so that is something to look out for.
  5. How much does it cost? A good tripod will not be cheap. A cheap tripod will not be good. As with many things in photography, there is no limit at the top end. The most basic, dependable, durable, affordable options have prices starting at around$150. There are some great choices in the $300-$800 range, and many costing much more. Those tend to be very specialized, and if you need one of those, you probably already know what you need.  If you are unable to get in to at least one of the recommended models, my advice would be to get the cheapest one you can find until you can. So many photographers I talk to have done the same as I did, start out with junk, then buy a little better, a little better, and 4 or 5 tripods later, end up with one that suits. Better to buy smart the first time. A good tripod should last 20 years or more, if you amortize the cost over that period, it may be easier to justify the sticker price.

So, all that said, through my research, I found several tripods that I can highly recommend:

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Tripod heads will be a seperate post, but here are a couple of proven winners to get you started:

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Posted in Gear, Learning Photography

Motivation to clean

A Blue Sky Will Reveal Any Dust Problems

No More Dust In My Sky

I have been so busy with my photography lately, that my office has become quite messy and is getting on my nerves. So today I cleaned my camera sensor… Much better! I need no longer avoid shots with clear, expansive skies. On that note, I’m off to shoot some expansive skies with some of my Adventure Pants friends. We’re headed to one of my favorite places: Sandstone Falls, WV.  The office can wait.

Posted in Adventure Photography

Really Nice Updates to my website

Well, I finally got around to accomplishing some of the goals I had when I started my website. I just finished adding a shopping cart for selling prints, (via smugmug integrated into my own site), and my Amazon store is now online and functional as well. While I was at it, I added a page for the Photography Instruction venture I have going with my friend Jon Beard.

If you are a regular shopper on Amazon, please check out the Really Nice Gear page.  Any orders on Amazon through this link will earn a small commission, which I would appreciate very much.

Posted in Uncategorized

Test Post

When I post to my blog, it should show up on my facebook page. If everything works.

Posted in Uncategorized

Adventure Photography Weekends

Weekends are for Adventure Photography, evidently. Trying to convince myself that I’m going to complete any of my chores on the weekend seems pointless. The last several have been so full of interesting adventures, I find myself buried under avalanches coming from two different fronts: chores, and all the awesome pictures that are waiting to be processed.

The outlook isn’t looking too favorable in the coming weeks either. At least for the prospect of catching up around the house. The office is a wreck, I’m always about a week behind keeping up with the grass that needs mowing, and those pictures aren’t going to photoshop themselves. Oh well, the real important stuff always finds a way to bubble up to the top of the priority list. In the meantime, glorious adventures await!

Posted in Adventure Photography

Finished teaching my Open University winter classes at the Virginia Tech YMCA

WooHoo! Schools out for winter! My Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and Off Camera Flash Photography classes are over, and the wildly successful Photographer’s Boot Camp is behind me as well.  It’s been busy around here for sure.

I never thought of myself as a teacher (still don’t), but the way I see it, I’m going to be talking about this stuff anyway, it might as well be in front of people who are actually interested.

I’m considering what to teach next, and looking for ideas. If you can think of anything, inbox me. For now though, time to go out and shoot!

Posted in Learning Photography

Streamlining my social networking

I admit that I am pretty lazy about keeping up with my blog and facebook page. The truth is, the way it is now, it’s kind of a pain and I would rather be out shooting, than playing on the computer. I found a few new tools that might make things easier, so I’m going to be trying those out her in the next few days. Wish me luck!

Posted in Uncategorized

Christmas, a time for some really nice pet portraits

My daughter and her puppy Piper came to spend the week of Thanksgiving with us. After the tree was put up, it made a really nice background for some pet portraits. No special setup, just got down on my belly to be eye level with a 6 inch tall Chihuahua, and fired away

Chihuahua Puppy Piper Under the Tree Waiting for Santa

Piper Under the Christmas Tree Waiting for Santa

Posted in Learning Photography