Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Power of a Picture - Photo Contest - Human Impact on the Environment

The pristine, snow covered Mt. Baker juxtaposed to this major oil refinery in Northwestern Washington. This is a shot I submitted to contest to show "Human Impact" to the planet, nature, etc. I thought the contrast between nature and mademade really fit the theme of the contest and made quite a commentary.

If you agree, please vote for me by April 8, 2008!!! Click on the pic to vote. Thanks!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mark of the Beast Cameras & Me, the Commuter

I have a really long and boring commute. One day I was cruising along and saw an awesome sky with perfect fluffy white clouds. I had my camera with me, so I opened my moon roof and snapped a few shots while stopped at a light. They turned out great and the rest they say... is history. Now I frequently take pix out from my car. Usually of trees, power lines, construction cranes, clouds, winding roads, and the occasional self portrait.

Sometimes I forget that there are other people around me until I look in my review mirror and find the person behind me is laughing at me or glaring. I recently started thinking in my paranoid mind that all this casual snapping might be drawing attention from other than my fellow commuters. I mean, who's to say who controls those "traffic cams" really. In my circle, we refer to them as "Orwell Cams" or "Mark of the Beast" cams. Que the suspenseful music... dun, dun duuuuuun.

Tonight there was a great sky behind this major power substation & high lines. As I sat at the traffic light, I held the camera out of my moon roof and un-shyly fired a bunch-o-pix off. This time I broke my own "ALWAYS turn the flash off" rule accidentally, so I probably appeared to be flashing some sort of signal that was picked up by the beast cam and sent to NORAD or some place deep under the ground in Virginia for deciphering. I am sure there is now surveillance at that substation as we speak. Sorry.... don't mean to freak anyone out.

Now, if I was in London, I would DEFINITELY be on Scotland Yard's list of shame & suspicion. Have you seen what is going on over there with the anti-photography stuff? Scary! Do we or do we not have freedom any more? Geesh!

Please read these articles about the anti-terrorism steps that involve asking citizens to turn in people taking pictures around London.

CRAVE Article London Police Target Photographers
Gardian UK Article Time to Fight Security Superstition

Hello? Tourist take pictures. Duh! OK, I really do understand both sides of the issue actually. I know that times are scary and it's hard to know what to do to protect us. I just know that if we give up our freedoms, the terrorists have succeeded.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patricks Day... The photography-o-the-green

Hey. It's green day. No not the band. No not earth day. It's St. Patricks Day! To celebrate, I'm gonna feature some pretty green flickr photos. Click on the photos to visit the photographers site. Check 'em out:

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Originally uploaded by bluemarla

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Shooting at Long Beach (with a Camera)

A shooting at Long Beach is nothing new unfortunately. The "LBC" has quite a bit of gang activity. But by some reports, perhaps shooting with a CAMERA at the Port of Long Beach might actually get more attention than shooting with a GUN in these post 9-11 days. Or, will it??

I found this video interesting because I live in Seattle which is a major US port and my husband and I frequently talk about how fun it would be to take photos of the colorful containers, trains, tracks, large orange cranes and huge ships, but we do not even attempt it because we have heard that security is tight due to national security concerns and that photography is a big "red Flag" that is sure to bring you unwanted armed attention. We have heard stories of people having their cameras confiscated, which is not legal, but you can't really fight it when you are standing there surrounded by men instructing a German Sheppard to sniff you from head to toe. There are many, many articles and debates out there about the legalities of this, but that is a huge topic all to it's own so let's save that for another day.

This video shows how a reporter and photographer were able to take photos in a supposedly restricted area for one hour without being approached. As a photographer I think it is cool. As an American, that scares me. Hopefully they were under surveillance and just did not know it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can't Wait to Shoot with the New Baby!

Well That Didn't Take Long... I already broke my promise to blah, blah, blog 5 times a week, but I have a good excuse! I have another blog I maintain too ( and I have been working on a complete redesign of my site and new site for my crafty stuff (, both of which I hope will go live in the next couple of weeks.

But now I have a new distraction that might steal me away from all of this geeky bloggy/web mastery stuff....

My New Baby is Coming Soon!!! Yahoo! No, not that kind of baby. I'm talking about my new Canon 40D camera which should be arriving soon. Nothing can distract me from what I should be doing like a new toy! I can hardly wait to play!

40D & 400D
Originally uploaded by the other Martin Taylor

I currently have a Rebel XTi (400D) which is an entry level DSLR. I think I am ready to move up to the next level which is a "Prosumer" level. There are features like the live preview, larger LCD, Spot Metering, improved noise handling and 6 fps burst mode that I am really looking forward to. Plus, it is just built better overall with some water seals that the XTi does not have. The 40D is quite a bit larger than the XTi. I was worried that it would be too bulky, but once I held it in my hands, I realized that it is so much better balanced and has a larger grip, that it is much, much easier to hold and therefore in one way feels less clumsy.

I am excited. I'll post some pics as soon as I have a chance to try it out!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How to Take Better Photos for Scrapbooking, Part 2

Hey there photo phriend! In yesterday's "How to Take Better Photos ....Part 1", I talked about 8 tips to improve the photos you will be scrap booking. I have a few more tips that will surely help most of us take "photos" rather than "snapshots".

FYI - though the focus of the articles is for scrap booking pix, the truth is these tips apply to anyone for all photos for pretty much any situation, whether the photo will be scrap booked or not.

Please review the steps in "Part 1" and then let's pick up where we left off... Here we go!

9. Pay attention to the background. Try to position the subject or your body and the camera so that the background that will show in the picture is not distracting. Try to avoid extra clutter in the picture that could detract from the subject. If you are able to adjust the aperture on your camera, use a very wide aperture (low number) to turn the background into a nice silky blur.

10. Use the flash outdoors when taking people pix. I know in a previous step I said to avoid using the harsh light of the flash, but outdoors the light is dispersed enough so that it just fills in the shadows on nicely. Also, if you are somewhat close to the subject, a flash can stop motion blur. For example, take a pic of a flower blowing in the wind using the flash to freeze the image for a split second.

11. Focus on focus. I know that it seems obvious. Of course you have to focus! Right? But, sometimes we get so excited to capture a picture we don't pay attention to which part of the picture the camera is focused on, then when we see the resulting pics we are disappointed to find that a unimportant part of the photo is tack sharp while the subject is blurry.

12. Be aware of shadows. They can be an interesting feature or ruin a picture. It's cool to capture the elongated shadows of trees & people when the sun is low in the sky. It is usually not cool to have an unintentional shadow covering 1/2 of the subjects face. In situations where there is a partial shadow that cannot be avoided, use the fill-flash (item 10 above)

13. When possible, use leading lines to draw the viewer in to the photo. Lines that start near the lower corner of a picture, continue to the subject or diminish in to the distance help to pull the eye into the photo.

14. Use a tripod, especially when there is low ambient light. The lower the light, the slower the shutter which means if your hand shakes at all the picture will be blurry. Built in anti-shake features found in cameras and lenses help, but there is no substitute for a tripod in low light.

15. Love your camera. Hug it, learn it, keep it clean. After all, it's THE tool required to take good pix, ya know? Learn how and when to use all the settings and features of your camera. Read the manual and play around to see what the settings do. Maintain the camera by keeping it dry and store in a stable temperature. Carry in a padded camera bag. Keep batteries charged and store them outside of the camera if you will not be using it for a while. Protect LCD's with clear protective stick-on covers. Be really careful not to get dust or scratches on the lens. Clean it carefully and often with a cloth or tool designed especially for cleaning lenses. Never clean with tissue, paper towel, etc. All of this is pretty basic, but it is important so worth mentioning.

Here's a few pictures that are good examples of what is covered in this blog and Part 1:


leading line
Originally uploaded by audi_insperation


"B" is for Bokeh
Originally uploaded by Steve Pearce


Argenit's First Portrait
Originally uploaded by azem

Why it's good: RULE OF THIRDS APPLIED. (Subject is placed at one of the four intersections where the lines meet.)

Rule of thirds
Originally uploaded by Pablo Montesdeoca


Originally uploaded by maureenwilson

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How To Take Better Photos for Scrapbooking, Part 1

What makes a page POP!?

If you are in to scrap booking or thinking about scrapping to do something cool with that giant box-o-pics you have at the bottom of your closet, then you have probably spent some time looking at other peoples scrapbook pages for ideas and inspiration. I'm sure you have admired the colorful papers and embellishments, and journaling, but I am willing to bet that the pages that truly 'grabbed' your heart the most were the ones with one or two quality photos where the photos were the star of the page. Right?

So now let's think about this.... What makes a quality "photo" vs. a snapshot?

Here are some really high-level, simple rules that will immediately improve most photos:

1. Fill the frame with the main subject. Get close or zoom in.
2. Take candid shots instead of rigidly posed shots.
3. Take the photo at a fun angle. Don't take a picture standing with the camera straight on every time. Tilt the camera, hold it high and have the subject look up, hold it low and angle up to the subject. Get down on the ground with kids and pets.
4. Don't force a smile. The most moving images are when the person has a natural expression.
5. Catch mid-giggle pics of kids.
6. Make sure there is lots of natural light. Avoid the harsh light of the flash whenever possible. Daylight with the subject near a window works great or outdoors on overcast days or at sunrise/sunset when the light gives the subject a warm glow.
7. Don't center the subject in every shot. Move the camera so that the main subject is off to one side. Also, don't center horizon lines when taking outdoor shots. Follow the "Rule of Thirds".
8. Use interesting crops to show just a portion of the photo, like maybe the whole body without the head in the frame, or just show the hands or feet.

and more...

Please check back to this blog for photography tips on how to take better photos part 2 coming soon.

Here is an example of some pages found on flickr that I think exemplify some of the tips mentioned above(permission to blog granted by the owners):

The pages above, IMHO, are embellished in a way to bring the photo more attention vs. draw attention from it. The memory is the foremost subject of the page, and that is what tugs at our hearts, makes us smile, or gives us warm fuzzies!

More tips coming soon! Subscribe to get automatic updates!

Yea! My Art is Now Available at!

You know how on most fine art photographer's websites they have a link to a "Press" page (AKA Brag page) showing all the publicity their art has received and the accomplishments of the artist? Well, I'm sort of a newbie to the commercial side of photography so I have not yet had the need to devote a whole page to "Press", but I am working on it!

I have had several blessings lately...A few nice write ups from online art critics & bloggers about some of my pictures & a nice corporate art sale. But perhaps my most brag-worthy thing, IMHO, is having select a piece to sell on their website, and possibly, stores later.

A few months ago I was approached with the idea of possibly offering one of my pieces on their site along with a few other artists works. I was, of course, flattered and thrilled at the idea of a large volume of people seeing something I created & possibly purchasing it. I was told that Costco's online sales are nearly equal to that of their stores, so there is potential for a large audience. I'm very excited!

"Placidity" is now available at with custom framing options.


If you like this piece, please check out the rest of my work at