Friday, December 17, 2010

7am at Camana Bay, Grand Cayman

I love the architecture at Camana Bay, a new community built in the last few years on Grand Cayman. The development is a massive undertaking by Dart Realty, and includes a movie theater and a school in addition to mixed commercial / residential buildings. I must applaud Camana Bay for it's foresight in planning; In much of Western Canada where I'm from, we have made the mistake of developing big box outlet malls on one edge of town and suburban sprawl box-houses on the other, and linking them with congested thoroughfares filled with idling cars. Everybody knows this and complains about it, yet I believe it continues because of developers and banks wanting to make a quick dollar, and people wanting the biggest house for the least amount of money. What's the trade off? Community for anonymity. Walking to work for a commute, fresh air for exhaust.
But I digress...this post is about photography after all...

  So this morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6am, despite my usual insomniac's bedtime of 1:30am. And it was worth it. The water in the harbour at Camana bay was still and reflected a mirror image of the sunrise. The light was fairly soft, yet bright enough to give the sky contrast.
despite the miserable-invisible flies that feasted on my exposed flesh, the morning was well-worth the effort getting up.
 All of these images required a tripod to achieve small apertures and long exposures, and still be sharp. As a rule of thumb, always use a tripod when shooting landscapes or architecture. The first images is an HDR composite of three images, using photomatix pro. The tone was manipulated by adding a channel mixer adjustment layer and bumping up the red channel.
The next four are composites by layering two images in photoshop, then using a layer mask and low-to-medium opacity brush to paint away the top layer.  This achieved the effect of a neutral density filter.
The last shot of the palms is nearly straight out of the camera, except for a slight adjustment for contrast and vibrance in the camera raw editor, and of course some sharpening. (i sharpen all of my images)
All were shot in raw.

I hope you enjoy, if you have any questions about the images please comment and I'll respond asap.


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Sunday, December 12, 2010

A quick way to reduce blur in your photographs

 Erin Carney- Dardano
i have a nikon d90 and sometimes my photos seem blurry. how can i get all faces to look in focus? also how do you get a picture of say a kid in a swing? they always turn out blurry? thanks

Hi Erin,
well, there's a long answer to this and also a short one. The long answer requires an understanding of the mechanics of cameras, and shooting in manual mode. The short answer will tell you how to set your camera and should help you get sharper pictures in the mean time. We'll stick to the short answer for now.

Blur is often caused by motion, either the camera shakes when the photo is taken, or the subject your photographing is moving. Your camera has a setting called shutter priority. When set to shutter priority, you set the shutter speed and the camera automatically sets the aperture. It is the S setting on the dial on the top left of the camera. When the camera is in shutter priority, control the shutter speed by spinning the wheel on the back right of the camera. The number will display on the top of the camera, as well as when looking through the lens. 
The larger the number, the faster the picture is taken. the faster the picture is taken, the less motion blur. As a rule of thumb to avoid camera shake, make sure that the shutter speed is at least 1.5 times the focal length of the lens. If you have a zoom lens, the focal length is the number that indicates the amount of zoom.
Lets say your lens is a 28 - 200. if you're shooting wide angle at 28, you should set your shutter speed to at least 1/40 of a sec. (you may not be able to set the shutter to exactly 1.5x the focal length, as the shutter speed changes in increments, err on the larger(faster) number) On your camera display, it will just say 40. If you're zoomed in to 200, you should set your shutter speed to 1/320 (display will say 320).
If your shooting someone moving, such as child in a swing, set the shutter speed to at least 500.

Try this and let me know how it works for you!




Thursday, December 9, 2010

Questions from Elizabeth Isley Riley

 Hey Jim! I am an avid, amateur photographer that finds the Cayman Islands so inspiring! I do not understand f-stops and apertures at all, but still manage to get some amazing photos. I have 2 questions for you:
Should I use a fill-in flash morning sun? I am taking our Christmas Card photos at Smith Cove @ 10am and think the sun will be in our eyes. I want to do it then as the colour of the sea is so beautiful in that light. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
My 2nd question is regarding capturing lightning (I love yours). I have tried with no flash and I have a "boost" feature on my camera that has allowed me to capture a few cool forks.
Thank you so much for offering your advice. Take care.
Hi Elizabeth,

Good to hear you're inspired by the amazing scenery we have here!

Fill flash is a very useful tool for bringing up the exposure of the shadows to match the ambient light, and I'd recommend using it in the 10 o'clock sun at Smith's Cove. However, be mindful of the position of the sun and how the shadows are falling across your subjects face. If your subject is facing the sun, fill flash will not get rid of the shadows under the eyes (it will reduce them), nor will it help with your subjects squinting. If you're out on the ironshore, try facing your subject more north, shooting more south, so that the angle of the sun is slightly from behind them, lighting the side of his or her face to about the ear. This way, their entire face is evenly in shadow. Now the subjects can keep their eyes open slightly more, and the fill flash will light their face evenly.

Better yet, try putting your subject in the shadow of a sea grape tree. If they are close to were the shade meets the sun, you'll notice a lot of light reflecting from the sand onto your subject; this can be really nice light. With a little fill flash you can achieve a light that doesn't look flashed at all.
Sun is backlighting here. fill flash and sunlight reflecting from the sand light the couple

for the second question....

Generally the best way to capture lightning is by putting your camera on a tripod and taking long exposures (30 sec to 1 min).  That way, as long as the lightning strikes while the shutter is open, it will show up in the image. (some people see my lightning pics and assume I have lightning fast reflexes - not the case. patience and rain gear is more the case.) To capture lightning like this you have to shoot at dusk or at night. It needs to be dark enough to allow for a 30 sec to 1 min exposure.
 Start at F8 with your aperture. If the lightning is too dim, open up to 5.6 (lets in 2x the light). If the lightning is too bright close down to f11. (1/2 the light).
Most important, what else is in the shot besides the lightning? lightning on its own rarely produces an excellent image. Pay attention to what is in the image and how the lightning interacts.
Hope this helps! Feel free to keep the questions coming!

Happy Shooting,


In the new year I'm going to be doing courses and workshops so stay tuned in.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Free 8x10 fine art canvas print when you book a portrait session.

Book a portrait session for $175.
includes up to an hour of photography on location. Images will be uploaded to a private online gallery for viewing and ordering. Fine-art prints, canvases & albums are available online.

A Free 8x10 stretched Canvas print. How it Works: Follow my work on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button. Contact me though my website to book a photo session and mention that you saw this ad on Facebook. It's that easy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

new website

Check out my new website at There are some new images, a new flashy look and feel, and some new services such as my U.S. store! Now clients from the States that want to order professional quality prints, museum wrap canvas prints, and dozens of other products can order directly from a pro-lab in the states, and save on shipping & duty.
Let me know what you think.