Category Archives: Articles

Mastering iPhone Photography

Why the iPhone is my go-to backup camera for creative travel photography

The best camera is the one you have… and many times that’s your phone.
Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MN

I’ve owned an Apple iPhone since the original was released in 2007. Back then, the quality of camera phones was still rudimentary, and I didn’t consider using it for creative photography. Thirteen years later, my iPhone is a critical part of my photography kit and iPhone photography is here to stay. In fact, I often refer to my phone as my “backup camera.” Last fall, I upgraded to the iPhone 11 Pro, and I have to say that it offers an incredible array of built-in features that are just amazing. Whether you have the newest iPhone or an earlier model, here are some of my go-to tips for iPhone photography.

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Bird Photography with Nikon Z mirrorless cameras

Autofocus settings for birds in flight with Nikon Z cameras

Brown pelican in flight, captured with a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera and 200-500mm f/5.6E VR zoom Nikkor lens.

I’m back from my third annual San Diego Birding & Wildlife photo workshop, and this year I decided to use the workshop as a testing ground for the Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. Ever since the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras were released, the general consensus seems to be that their hybrid phase/contrast autofocus system was great for everything except fast moving subjects, like flying birds. I decided to test the Z6 myself and see how well it could perform in the field in real-world conditions.

For four days I put the Z6 through its paces, and came away with the conclusion that by tweaking the autofocus settings, you can nail BIFs with this camera almost as well as I could with my tried and true Nikon D850 DSLR. The trick is to customize your autofocus settings to something other than the defaults, and the settings I chose will actually seem counter-intuitive. More on that in a moment.

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Tips for the Traveling Photographer

These little tidbits will save a lot of headaches if you travel with your camera

In October 2010, I made the decision to pursue my photography career full-time. Since then, travel has become an important component of my business. As you might imagine, traveling with your camera gear adds a layer of complexity to any plans you may have. Whether its dealing with airport security or just figuring out how to pack everything so it is safe, there are lots of little things that can make your travel experience easier. Here are some of my favorite travel tips.

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The filters you really need for digital photography

How important are filters in the digital age?

Which filters should you use in digital photography?

Photographic filters modify the light coming into your camera, thereby creating effects during image capture. Filters are used to increase contrast, change color balance, and compress the dynamic range of a scene. In traditional film photography,the use of filters was commonplace, as film offered limited color choices and modest dynamic range. If you were shooting slide film (transparencies), what you captured on the film was pretty much what you’d get. Even the masters of black and white photography often used filters to improve contrast in a scene.

Ring-mount filters screw into the front of your lens. Clockwise, from top: Polarizer, UV/haze filter, solid neutral density filter.

Photographic filters can be made of glass or resin, and are attached to the front of your camera lens either by a screw-in (ring) mount, or via a filter holder (square/rectangular filters). No matter what kind of filter you use, when you put a filter in front of your lens, you’re adding another glass/air interface for light to pass through. Low-quality filters can potentially degrade image quality by reducing sharpness, creating unwanted color casts, or introducing reflections or other artifacts into your photos. Your camera lens is designed to precise optical specifications; don’t ruin an image by using a cheap filter!

Filters have long been a major photographic accessory, and one question I’m frequently asked is, “what filter should I buy?” A lot has changed in the last 20 years, and digital cameras are much more forgiving than their film ancestors. When you couple the extreme dynamic range of modern digital cameras with the ability to post-process RAW images, a lot of “go-to filters” are no longer needed for most digital photography. Let’s take a quick look at the primary kinds of filters you can get, and whether they should take up space in your bag.

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My Favorite Outdoor Classroom

Photographing the South Dakota Badlands

A HDR image I captured on my first photo safari in South Dakota in 2011.

The first time I experienced South Dakota was on a photo tour with Nikonians in 2005. I had just gotten the new Nikon D2x DSLR, and that was my first serious photo trip shooting digital. I’ll never forget the awe I experienced seeing the otherworldly rock formations there for the first time.

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