Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

No filter? No tripod? No problem

Shooting hand-held long exposures with the OM-1

Cascades in New Brunswick, Canada. 1/2s f/5.0 ISO 160, hand-held at 35mm (equivalent to 70mm on 35mm format).

I’m back from a nice trip to New England and Canada, and while fall colors can be hit or miss, I did find some fun landscape subjects. We were driving along the Fundy Trail Parkway in New Brunswick, when we came across a trailhead to a waterfall. After a short walk down some trail stairs, we found ourselves on a viewing platform. Of course, I hadn’t brought my tripod, nor a set of ND filters on this trip.

I did, however, have a polarizer, and I was able to take advantage of the Live ND feature in the OM Systems (Olympus) OM-1 camera. Live ND is a computation feature that simulates a solid ND filter for extended exposure times without using a glass filter, up to 6-stops. This feature, combined with the tremendous image stabilization in the OM-1 allowed me to easily capture sharp shots hand-held at 1/2 second while not needing to stop down to f/22. I simply braced myself on the railing and captured images until I was happy.

The Live ND feature is so useful for casual long exposure shooting that I’ve taken the extra step to assign it to a function button on my camera for easy recall. Photography should be fun, and this situation certainly was.

A is for Aesthetic

Understanding the creative aspect of lens aperture

Shallow depth of field provides subject isolation and sets images captured with dedicated digital cameras apart from those captured with smartphones.

We all learn in Photography 101 that the aperture setting is a physical property of the lens, and you can vary its size to control the amount of light entering your camera. Usually, we think of aperture as it relates to the rules of exposure.

Back when I was shooting film and early digital cameras, it was considered ideal to have a “fast” lens (meaning one with an aperture of f/2.8 or wider). Why? because with limited ISO options (remember film rarely was faster than ISO 800 and early DSLRs got noisy in a hurry above ISO 400), a fast lens meant you could shoot hand-held in dim conditions without a flash.

Today, ISO no longer limits most photographers. Sure, images are still cleaner and have greater dynamic range at a camera’s base ISO, but you can shoot above ISO 6400 these days pretty much with impunity. That means you have much more creative latitude to choose the aesthetic of your shots by varying the lens aperture.

Continue reading A is for Aesthetic

The Image Doctors #193

Getting Sharp Shots

This week, we revisit the age-old challenge of getting sharper shots. Sharp photos require a combination of camera settings, technique, and post-processing, and we’ll offer our suggestions for each one. If your photos aren’t sharp, it might have more to do with your camera settings than your focus system.

Show supporters can read our companion article here!

Nikon Z8 Owners: Never Worry About A Dirty Sensor Again

Change this setting before removing the body cap

Nikon Z8 sensor

Ever since interchangeable lens digital cameras entered the market in the early 2000s, sensor dust has been a constant nemesis of digital photographers. There’s just no way to really keep dust out of your camera, unless you never change lenses in the field. Blower bulbs and sensor cleaning kits became a mandatory accessory for digital photographers, and even then the occasional dust bunny would still show up on an image.

Mirrorless cameras are even more prone to sensor dust given that the sensor is completely exposed to the elements when you remove the lens or body cap. Thankfully, the Nikon Z8 and Z9 cameras offer a great feature to prevent dusty sensors, but it’s disabled by default.

If you have a Nikon Z8 or Z9, there’s one setting you should make before doing anything else when you get your camera. This one setting will keep dust off of your sensor and save you time post-processing your photos.

Nikon Z8 & Z9 Sensor Shield

The Nikon Z8 and Z9 cameras have no mechanical shutter in front of the sensor, just like most mirrorless cameras do. But these cameras offer a great feature: a sensor shield.

The sensor shield is similar to a camera shutter, except it’s sturdier and serves no purpose except to protect the imaging sensor from dust. However, the feature is disabled by default in the Nikon Z8/Z9 cameras.

If you enable the sensor shield function before removing the body cap from your brand-new Nikon Z8 or Z9, you may never need to worry about a dust spot on your images ever again.

Get my Nikon Z9 (and Z8) wildlife settings guide here

Enabling the Sensor Shield

To activate the sensor shield feature, go to the Setup Menu (wrench icon) in your Nikon Z8/Z9. From there, scroll down until you find the menu item labeled: Sensor shield behavior at power off.

Enable the sensor shield from the Nikon Z8/Z9 setup menu

By default, it’s set to “off,” meaning that the shield isn’t deployed. Change the setting to “on.” and you’re good to go. If you make this setting change before removing your camera’s body cap for the first time, you may never need to clean your sensor ever again!

Note that if you do need to use a blower to clean your image sensor, you’ll need to disable the sensor shield before powering off your camera so that the sensor can be exposed for cleaning.

Topaz Photo AI

Photo AI is the newest Topaz plug-in, and it combines sharpening, noise reduction, and upscaling features in a single application that uses AI-based technology to deliver impressive results. In this presentation, I discuss the software and several use cases for how to incorporate it into your own photography workflow.

Topaz Photo AI is part of the Topaz Image Quality Bundle, which is available here.

Watch: Discovering Topaz Photo AI