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Newfound Gap Smoky Mountains
Newfound Gap, Smoky Mountains

Every month I do a Q+A session on my Facebook page where I answer questions as quickly as possible about photography and related subjects. I thought it would be a good idea to post the questions and answers here for the benefit of those who missed it over there or aren’t on Facebook regularly. So here we go…

I tried a similar shot from Clingman’s Dome last May and now I am embarrassed after seeing yours. My succession of mountains lacked detail and my sky was quite noisy. Since then I’ve learned a lot but my question is about the noise–should I have used an ND grad and/or reduced my ISO?

It’s hard to say without seeing your image and settings, but in general low ISO’s are better in terms of having less noise and more detail. An ND grad has no effect on noise per say, but has more to do with exposure and maintaining highlight detail. This particular image was shot without a grad, just exposed to avoid clipping the highlights.

Do you use any secondary printing software such as Qimage or Image Print in your printing workflow?

Not anymore since I use Lightroom for most if not all of my printing workflow. The convenience, ease of use, and built in features like templates, selectable profiles, layout options, soft-proofing, and printing directly from RAW files make it the go-to choice for me.

Do you shoot video when you are out taking photographs, and if so, how often? One of the great things I love about Canon is the stunning video as well as stills.

I do shoot lots of video, but not when I’m shooting photos – way too much to deal with in terms of gear and creative approach to do at the same time. I use a combination of a Canon 60D and hacked Panasonic GH2 DSLR for video. Audio is also a problem, so I use a Zoom H4N to capture audio and sync later post.

How do you know how to price your photos? And besides using your printer where else would you recommend to print up your photos?

Pricing prints is a combination of the current market, perception, artist reputation, and cost of materials and labor- there is no easy answer. Here’s nice guide from PhotoShelter on selling and pricing prints.
I recommend White House Custom Colour for printing and have used them in the past with great results.

If you had to travel light and could only bring one Canon lens on a hike to photograph “flora and fauna”, which would you chose and why?

mmm…that’s a tough one, but I’d go with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro Lens. Great image quality, image stabilization, lightweight, fast 2.8 aperture, and great for many subjects besides flowers. A close second would be the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM Lens. It has a very close focusing distance and .70 magnification factor, which is the highest for a zoom lens from Canon, has image stabilization (IS), great quality, and a versatile zoom range.

I shoot in RAW, but when I upload my images to an art site that I use for sales I have to convert them to jpeg. Does this damage the photo, and should I just shoot in jpeg since I have to convert them anyway?

Absolutely shoot in RAW – this is your original digital negative. You don’t convert the image to jpeg, you generate a copy that is a jpeg. This is a smaller version and is compressed, but you still have your RAW image as the original to work with. If you shoot in jpeg, your “original” is already compressed and compromised in other ways, so that is not a good option. Always start with the highest quality file, and generate copies from that in whatever form you need.

Lightroom 4 manages this entire process for you, and it’s a major reason why it’s my recommendation for cataloging and processing of your entire raw library. Most of the industry agrees with me as well 🙂

If you are taking pictures on a windy day, how do you make sure the image is not blurred, example flowering trees?

The key is to maintain a high enough shutter speed to avoid blur (or wait for the subject to stop moving!) Use high ISO’s (800+) and fast (large) apertures of 2.8 or bigger to raise your shutter speed. This is very general and depends on the image itself, but the higher the shutter speed, the less the risk of blur from movement. Aim for 1/250th or higher for flowers and leaves.

I teach beginning nature photography classes and rarely does a beginner have a tripod (which I feel is just as important as the camera/lens). They have usually spent money for the camera/lens and are glazed-eye when I recommend a tripod. Do you have any suggestions for inexpensive tripods ($250 & less) that would be sturdy and efficient? Know anything about Induro or Vanguard? I have always used Manfrotto and am happy with them.

Any suggestions for a lightweight tripod suitable for hiking (I have the Gitzo CF – wonderful and stable with a big lens but much too klunky to cart around in the woods!).

There are so many out there it’s hard to choose just one. I love the Manfrotto 190CXPro3 carbon fiber tripod for a long term investment that will outlast most of your other camera gear.

Yes tripods from Induro are good quality and economic as well. Check out these other great economical tripods (relative to Gitzo) from my friends over at Outdoor Photo Gear who I highly recommend.

Here are some reviews of 3 more carbon tripods that are super lightweight and affordable.

Thanks to all the readers for their great questions! If you have any related questions or feedback, or comments about my responses, please leave them below. I’m always happy to hear from you.

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