News: 500,000 Visitors!! Thank you!!! (Win 2 free prints!!!)

Places 2 Explore has just passed 500,000 visitors!!!!  Truly amazing to me!!!  Thank you so much for reading my blog and visiting!!  Whether you are a new, occasional, or everyday reader…thanks!!!!  Such an honor to see numbers rising every day and month!   Photography is a never ending learning process…thanks for growing along with me!!   Being voted as one of the Top Travel Photo Blogs (HDR Category) in the world recently was wonderful!   What does the future hold?  Not sure…but I am hoping tons more of my best photos being posted right here!!   Thanks so much again!!

I’d like to thank you by giving away  2 free 11×14 prints!!!   Just post “Hello!” in the comment section below!!!!  I will pick a random winner on August 27th!!!   You can pick any photos in my collection!!!   Good luck!!!

Wortham, Texas – Holeshot in HDR – Freestone Raceway

Here is a photo from the AMA National from Wortham, Texas – Freestone Raceway.  I went on Saturday.  My first ever MX (motocross) race.  I was pumped as it was going to be a nice hot sunny day!  Unfortunately, it was hot…about 97 degrees!  Whew!  Lots of liquids this day!  So I arrived at 9 AM.  (3 hour drive form Austin).  It is about 1 hour east of Waco…deep in the Texas country.  Beautiful though!  Many farms and small towns.   I parked (free parking!) and walked to the track.  What an awesome track!  Great jumps and trees scattered around…the dirt looked wonderful!

I had nio idea what to expect photographically…will it be tough to move around?  Will I get great shots?  Will the crowds be too deep to get in close?  As I arrived practice was going on.  A great time to start shooting.  I was excited as I studied hard beforehand to make sure I had the correct settings for action sports.  I re-read sections of my David Busch’s Nikon D300 guide.  My last excursion to Del Valle was just ok.  So this was the key… (I am a Nikon shooter…so if you have another camera…settings like this may be similar?).  The standard settings are below…but these are helpful in/on camera settings:

1. Continuous:  “C”  (Continuous mode) – located by the lens barrel .  That way moving subjects can be tracked

2. Autofocus: “Dynamic AF Area” – here you have a choice of 9, 21 or 51 points.  Set it on 21 points.  9 points is ok, but 21 points will take less time focusing than 51 points so your focus will be faster!

3. Autofocus: “Focus Tracking with lock on” – set to LONG.  When shooting sports the tracking stays on longer and when something gets in the way (person, etc..), it causes no interruptions.

Now every lens has its sweet spot f/stop.  The 70-200 VR is at f/8.  But I really didn’t want to shoot it at f/8…I wanted a semi-blurred background, so I went with f/5.6.   Somewhat in between f/2.8 and f/8.  F/4 was an option, but decided on f/5.6 for the day.  Another key was just shooting in Jpeg only for sports.    I did a few RAW shots in the beginning and they just are not as sharp as the Jpeg’s (as jpegs write faster).  So for any sports…I’d say Jpeg rules!  I decided that I could make an HDR out of a Jpeg if necessary.    I also shoot on Aperture Mode – this lets my camera decide on the shutter speed that is need for the shot.  Nice!  My shots were wonderful!  I’d say 85% were great…of course cropping was needed as the action was moving…but sharpness was sweet!   I put up a bunch here…Talke Photography Mototcross …just look for the Freestone shots.  I would surely use these setting for sports again!   Sports photography is tough, but I feel as though I am a step closer!

I had a great time!  Shooting was a piece of cake.  I would shoot a curve or straightaway and move onto the next area.  I basically took me 90 minutes to move all around the track.  I wanted shots from all over.  Of course available light and the sun’s directions affected my shots, but overall…sweet!   I have put up about 175 shots from Freestone.  I took 2000 on Saturday (14.5 GB)!!  Whew!  I will get more up later in the week.  I’ll cap it around 300 pics.

I sure was a tough day with the heat.  I only shot with the 70-200 around my neck all day with lugged my backpack along as well.  What a work out!  After the practice runs you can hit the pits and see the bikes getting worked on and cleaned.  You may also go grab a few autographs as well!  I saw a line for my favorite rider…Ryan Dungey.   This kid has skills!  He is a rookie and just won the Supercross Championship.   I got his autograph and then was off to buy a Dungey T-Shirt for my daughter.  Success.

The first 450 race was set to go at 1 PM.   I grabbed a spot near the start so I can get a holeshot photo barrage!   A “Holeshot”  for those that do not know…is the first turn of the race.  It is key…if you get it, your chances of winning are increased greatly.    Here #24 Metcaffe grabbed the holeshot on this race.   Now the one thing I did beforehand is place my settings to RAW as I knew that I wanted an HDR of the moment.  So this was one of my few RAW shots this day.  #5 (on the far left) is my boy Dungey.  He came out of the holeshot 5th and won this race…also the 2nd race this day…taking the title at Freestone!!!  Congrats Dungey!!!!

Just an awesome day…I will gladly photograph MX anyday!   Even in such conditions!   Shooting sports is tricky, but keep trying.  Read you manual and study your settings!    Great photographs await you!   I promise!!!

Talke Photography Settings:

  • Camera:  Nikon D300
  • Lens: Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR
  • Setting: Aperture  Mode
  • Focal Length: 200.0mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Exposure:  1/806 – Single RAW HDR  (+2 to -2)
  • Aperture:  f/5.6
  • Gear:  Hand Held
  • Post Process: Adobe CS4, Photomatix, Viveza

REVIEW: IPad (a Photographers Tool)

I purchased the IPad 64GB 3G version and now have had it for about a month.  I must say it is one great powerful tool to have!   I can just imagine future generations will be even better.  I know it does not support flash and does have its drawbacks.  And in my opinion is is not a laptop.  I still bring my laptop for above and beyond work that they IPad cannot handle.  What the IPad is to me is a super fast instant on for (no particular order)…

1) Email  2) Internet  3) Movies 4) TV Shows 5) Podcasts 6) Games 7) Files 8)Music-Music Videos 9) Apps  10) Photographs!!!

I am an Apple fan and really enjoy my IPhone…now the apps never get played on my phone…IPad is the choice!   I think if you can afford it..get the largest available IPad.  Storage space goes fast!  I have a ton of stuff on it and still have 16 GB remaining.  So thinking as a photographer…the photos look amazing on the IPad!  Like HD!!  I have many shots on there.  For an example of usage..I brought my IPad the other day to a Real Estate shoot…I whipped out the IPad and gave a slideshow of my previous Real Estate HDR’s to the sales person…he was impressed!  A picture is worth 1000 words indeed!   A great platform to show your photos!  The IPad is small enough to fit in my photo backpack…nice!

Another big benefit is the available “Camera Connection Kit” from Apple.  For $29.00 you get 2 connectors to your IPad (USB and SD).  As I shoot with Nikon…no problem at all downloading Jpegs or NEF files!  So now you can download your shots on location and then view them in a beautiful format in minutes!   I find myself  downloading my shots on my MAC and then putting them also on my IPad.  I grab the IPad and sit on the coach (or anywhere in the house) and view my shots. A nice mobile photo viewer.

On a glad I didn’t moment..I was thinking of buying an EPSON photo viewers for the same reason a few months ago ($600)….now it is not even necessary!   I can assume that in time as the storage gets larger for the IPad…these photo viewers will be obsolete.   I also enjoy video Podcasts like DTown TV, Photoshop TV, Geek Brief TV…and now they are large and wonderful to view!  I even now have a subscription to “Digital Photographer UK” magazine on my IPad and can read the current or back issues any time!  I’d say if you are a photographer and have some extra cash…the IPad is a must!!  An unreal tool that has already changed life as I know it.  Technology is amazing!

As for some negative comments, yes, the IPad is not equal to a laptop yet (as I stated above), but will be in my opinion in about 2 years.  I am not a big fan of the very reflective screen.  It also is a fingerprint magnet!  So I tried a film cover and that helped. I was  still not happy about the reflective screen with the std film cover.  I then found another film that reduces glare…Screen Guardz.  Works awesome, but of course reduces brightness/quality just a tad.  But I will accept that in order to have less glare.

The IPad is revolutionary.  If you own one, I am certain you are extremely happy!!!  Kudos Apple!  Keep making our lives easier!!

A Splash of Spring

Spring is here…hopefully in your area!  As I am not a flower expert…I am not sure what type this wonderful yellow guy is?  I need to get back into macros flower shots…been a while since I last took a few!   I have been traveling tons recently…I basically missed Texas Wildflower season here.  Time to hit our local gardens!!  Have a sunny day!

Talke Photography Settings:

  • Camera:  Nikon D300
  • Lens: Nikon 105 VR f/2.8 Macro
  • Setting: Aperture  Mode
  • Focal Length: 105.0mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Exposure:  1/320 second
  • Aperture:  f/9.0
  • Gear:  Tripod
  • Post Process: Adobe CS4

Porto, Portugal – HDR

While in Porto a few months back…I had a few hours to walk the city.  As I was walking across the San Luis Bridge, you can look down and see the homes of the local people.   I assume these are semi-poor people…but hey the one dude has a satellite dish!!   What up DirecTV!!!   Many of the homes on the river/hillside are dilapidated and need some serious repair.   The one good thing is that it gives you a look into the past.  It probably has not changed much in many years.   The textures, colors and style are beautiful to me…I dont mind the aged look as well!.  Wine is better with age, why not aged homes in the city of Port wine?    I loved Porto and all of its history!  I wish I had more time to spend here and all throughout Portugal!   A beautiful country!

Talke Photography Settings:

  • Camera:  Nikon D300
  • Lens: Nikon 18-200 VR F/3.5-5.6
  • Setting: Aperture  Mode
  • Focal Length: 32.0mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Exposure:  HDR 5 exposures (+2 to -2)
  • Aperture:  f/4.2
  • Gear:  Tripod, Cable release
  • Post Process: Adobe CS4, Photomatix, Color Efex Pro, Viveza

Austin, TX – HS Baseball in HDR

This past Saturday I wanted to try out my new Nikon 70-200 VR lens.  What better way than to shoot sports!  I shot a football game a few months with a rented version of this lens.  Now I have added it my lens arsenal!  LOL Our local high school is called Lake Travis.  I went to the game as our good friends son, Bret plays for the team.  I was hoping to get some good shots for them and practice my skills.  I had never photographed a baseball game (a few quick shots at a MLB game does not count).  For this one I was on the field with my lens, teleconverter and monopod ready to roll….oh yes and my Hoodman Hoodloupe!

Why a Hoodman Hoodloupe you ask?   Last year while shooting Ana Invanovic (WTA Tennis Star) at a tennis tournament in Palm Springs, I shot a bunch of pics and would look at my screen…looked good to me!  But as I was shooting in super  bright sun, when I got to really look at the shots afterwards, I had the wrong shutter speed and all the photos were dark.  Ugh!  So for any sunny day…I bring my hoodloupe and immediately check out the pics to ensure the proper exposure!

Back to the game…with luck… as soon as I arrived, I found out the Bret was pitching the game!  Perfect!  I could surely take tons of pitching photos.  I always love the baseball card pics of pitchers in motion.  So my goal was solid pitching pics and the batters swinging to hit the ball.   In action shots were tops on my list!   It took a bit of a learning curve…as the pitcher and/or batter went in motion they become smaller as their body was in pitching or swinging motion.  So I adjusted and zoomed in a bit tighter.  In about 2 hours time I took about 800 pics!

I was taught to always shoot sports in Jpeg and max your fps (frame per second) abilities.  So I kept ripping off a bunch of pics on each motion.  Not a bad day…tough to work with the sun movement (some shadowing was tough), but all in all a few solid shots!  Now for the HDR photo above…I have always wanted to try a sports HDR.  As I have noted in the past, any action shot in create an HDR..use a single raw or jpeg.  So I processed this one and it did not come out too bad.  For people in HDR…they look like zombies if you are too close.   I had tried one other shot, liked it…but one guy in the back of the photo was from Zombieland!    Ahhh!

Sports in HDR…yes indeed!  But be careful!!!   Have fun and hope your day is a “Thriller”!!!

Talke Photography Settings: (for the HDR)

  • Camera:  Nikon D300
  • Lens: Nikon 70-200 VR f/2.8 + Nikon TC-14EII (1.4x Teleconverter)
  • Setting: Manual  Mode
  • Focal Length: 280.0mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Exposure:  1/640 sec
  • Aperture:  f/8
  • Gear:  Monopod
  • Post Process: Adobe CS4, Photomatix, Viveza

Paris, France – The Louvre (HDR)

Here is a cool point of view HDR from Paris of the Louvre.  I was here recently and shot the Pyramid for an hour from tons of angles.  I shot this subject this evening with a wide angle lens and fisheye…trying to get something different.  For some reason this Pyramid draws me in like an orb.  LOL  I enjoy photographing it!

Here is some info on the Pyramid from the web:  It has been claimed by some that the glass panes in the Louvre Pyramid number exactly 666, “the number of the beast”, often associated with Satan. Various historical enthusiasts have speculated at the purpose of this factoid. For instance, Dominique Stezepfandt’s book François Mitterrand, Grand Architecte de l’Univers declares that “the pyramid is dedicated to a power described as the Beast in theBook of Revelation (…) The entire structure is based on the number 6.”

The story of the 666 panes originated in the 1980s, when the official brochure published during construction did indeed cite this number (even twice, though a few pages earlier the total number of panes was given as 672 instead). The number 666 was also mentioned in various newspapers. The Louvre museum however states that the finished pyramid contains 673 glass panes (603 rhombi and 70 triangles). A higher figure was obtained by David A. Shugarts, who reports that the pyramid contains 689 pieces of glass. Shugarts obtained the figure from the offices of I.M. Pei. Various attempts to actually count the panes in the pyramid have produced slightly discrepant results, but there are definitely more than 666. A quick calculation based on 18 units per edge with two tiers removed in the center at the entrance easily confirms the 673 number.[original research?].

The myth resurfaced in 2003, when Dan Brown incorporated it in his best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code. Here the protagonist reflects that “this pyramid, at President Mitterrand’s explicit demand, had been constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass – a bizarre request that had always been a hot topic among conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan”.  However, David A. Shugarts reports that according to a spokeswoman of the offices of I.M. Pei, the French President never specified the number of panes to be used in the pyramid. Noting how the 666 rumor circulated in some French newspapers in the mid-1980s, she commented: “If you only found those old articles and didn’t do any deeper fact checking, and were extremely credulous, you might believe the 666 story”.

Talke Photography Settings:

  • Camera:  Nikon D300
  • Lens: Nikon 12-24 f/4
  • Setting: Aperture  Mode
  • Focal Length: 12.0mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Exposure:  HDR 5 exposures (+2 to -2)
  • Aperture:  f/5
  • Gear:  Tripod, Cable release
  • Post Process: Adobe CS4, Photomatix, Color Efex Pro, Viveza