Thursday, September 06, 2007

A funny sight in Estes Park last fall

This photo was taken in Estes Park on the same corner as McDonald's. A whole herd of Elk descended on the town from the mountains. They all seemed quite accustomed to being in town and around people. This lady (what do you call a female elk?) was waiting for the light to change even though there weren't any cars. She started walking just after the signal changed. You can see the red hand on the sign across the street. It may have been coincidence that she started walking after the light change, but it seemed too familiar to the animal.

This posting is here as a reference I made in a response to a fellow student in a online class. It will be removed in a week or two.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Use PhotoSecrets and Google Maps "street view " feature to Recon your next photo shoot.

Okay, so if you browse my blog you will quickly discover I am not a serious blogger. Actually you can’t really even take me seriously as an amateur blogger. I had the best intentions when I started; I was really going to make a contribution my fellow Camera Commando community. As you can see I am found wanting. But I do have two resources that you may not be aware of. (A third one added at the end of this post. For free!!)

My idea to use Street View on Google Maps as a tool for photographers is surely not unknown, neither is it well known. I've cruised the photography community blogsphere and couldn't find it written about. So I want to introduce the idea and see if any one else will find this useful or pick up the idea and run with it. If you do let me know.

I live in the San Francisco East Bay Area and have been wanting for some time to head out to the city and grab shots of the touristy highlights. I live just far enough away from the city that I don’t get there often and don’t yet know my way around SF too well.

Enter Google Maps.

Now, for those of you that don’t know; At the time of this writing there are nine major metropolitan areas in the U.S. that have been shot up by Google. Google has been sending out a fleet of vans with cameras mounted to take what is essentially a 3D view of the majority of a given cities’ streets, from “people’s eye view”. So if your live in, near or are traveling to any of these nine areas, I want to introduce you to another resource (or two).

Let’s say that you want to take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge but you’ve never been there. Go to Google maps and zero in on area around the Golden Gate. You’ll find that Fort Point on Marine Dr is right next to the Golden Gate Bridge and looks like it will offer a decent view. (Go ahead and give it a try right now… I’ll wait for ya.) At this point you would simply click on “street view” in the upper right hand corner. You will notice that all the streets turn blue and there is a little man icon. Anything outlined in blue is clickable for the street view. Drag the little man or double click on an area that you want to see the 3D view of. Once you are in the 3D mode you will get a good view of the area. Using your arrow keys you are able to navigate through the streets as if you were there in your car. Notice that there is an amazing view here with the possibility of parking if it’s not crowded (good luck with that). If you “drive” back down Marine Drive you will see more parking options and differing views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

So then how do I decide what I want to photograph? I use a book in Andrew Hudson’s PhotoSecrets series titled “San Francisco and Northern California” It’s a great book that is pretty much a “show and tell-all.” Hudson gives you first hand information on what, when, where, and how to take photos of the most photogenic sites in the area. It is simply a must have for the amateur and a great resource for the serious to pro shooter.

If you want to spend a weekend photographing the area, this is the first and last book you will need. Click here to see if PhotoSecrets has a book for your area. (Please note that I have not checked to see if they have books for each of the areas that Google has the Street View feature for.) Couple this book with the Street View on Google Maps and you have a killer combination and no excuse for not getting pro quality shots.

Added last minute:

*Scott Sherman and Michael Stein from The Digital Photography Show, if you are reading this feel free to share it on the podcast. By the way I am a HUGE fan of The Digital Photography Show!!! Thank you a thousand times for what you two do!

* If you are reading this and are one of the three people that are not aware of this podcast, do your self a favor and subscribe on itunes! And now you have three new resources to enhance your photographic pleasure.

Well there you have it. My contribution to society! I hope you enjoyed it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Workshop to end all Workshops!

If you are a fan of photography (I hope you are, or why would you be here?), and if you like listening to pod casts, you are in for a treat! Chris Marquardt, host of 2005 and 2006 podcast award for "Tips from the Top Floor," is hosting a series of photography workshops here in the U.S.! The series is entitled "Learning to see," and is sure to be a huge success!

I would highly recommend that you click on the link above to visit his web site, as well as the link below for the workshop. The workshops are going to be as follows:

Fort Collins, Colorado: Sept 22-25
San Diego, California: Oct 4-7
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Oct 11-14
Port St. Lucie, Florida: Oct 18-21

While I am not familiar with Minnesota nor Florida, I can vouch for the Fort Collins and San Diego locations. I grew up in California (my wife is from the San Diego area), and lived in Fort Collins, Colorado. Old town Fort Collins (where the FTC workshop is to be held) is an incredibly quaint and picturesque town. It is said that one of the developers for Disneyland was from Fort Collins thus Main Street Disneyland is modeled after downtown Fort Collins. There are many breweries wonderful eateries and galleries from many local artist and photographers. This is the workshop I am looking at attending. Now that I am living in California, there are many "missed opportunities" in Fort Collins that I would like to rectify.

If you are not familiar with Tips from the Top Floor, you are really missing out. Chris is creative, zany, down-to-earth, and an all around teddy bear of a guy! Be sure to check him out and be sure to take a look at the photo workshop.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

An Introduction

First of all I'd like to introduce myself. My name is John Calvin Underwood. I am a Canon Shooter. My set up is a 20D with a Manfrotto 3021BPRO tripod and 322RC2 head.

It is my experience that there are many sites that cater to the photographer that already knows what he or she is doing. Most of these sites are great resources. One of my favorites is The down side is that, if you are a beginner, it takes a lot of wading through the information to get something that you can understand! I hope to change that.

My intent is to bring you useful information that will change the way you shoot today, and every day that you read my articles. So with out further adieu, here we go.

Being that I use a digital single lens reflex (mostly known as a DSLR), most of my time will be spent addressing those that shoot with one as well. However, don't let that stop all you compact shooters from hanging around. Most of the basics of composition are the same for both classes of cameras.

With the advent of the digital camera, the photography world blew up. There are countless photo enthusiasts that would never have developed a love of photography had it not been for the advent of the digital camera. While I certainly enjoy the thrill that the "purist" film shooter gets from a day behind the lens, I find that there are just too many benefits to shooting with a digital camera to shoot with a film camera these days. This isn't to offend anyone. The argument can certainly be made that film shooting has greater benefits, but for me, the freedom that my 20D delivers makes shooting more enjoyable. Whatever type of camera you shoot makes little difference when you are just out to enjoy yourself.

First things first. Get to know your camera!

Read the owner's manual. Then re read it. While cameras offer many of the same basic features, each company places knobs and buttons in differing locations. The menus on your digital camera will offer features in various formats from company to company. So get to know your owner's manual.

Now, the owner's manual, while needed is quite limited. It will usually tell you "what" and "where". I have yet to read an owner's manual explain "why" on any thing. So it is very helpful to buy further instruction. For my camera, I started out with a "Black Lantern" guide. It was a real help, but it took a lot of reading and re-reading. I don't know about you but I like to see what I should be doing so that I can do it too. this led me to spent another twenty bucks on the "Blue Crane" DVD. I can not stress how much this helped me move along in my learning. (I do not get paid in any way by any of the companies that I mention. I just want to share with you what worked for me.) After spending a little time in front of my T.V. with my camera and this DVD, I was able to shoot with so much more confidence.

Do yourself a favor and get to know your camera. You should get to the point that you could operate your camera in a dark room with out needing the assistance of a light. All the buttons and features should become second nature to you if you wish to capture those "only come once" moments.

The second thing I would like to stress is that you should allow yourself plenty of memory and battery power. With the price of memory coming down, there is no reason to go around shooting with a 256mb flash card. When I bought my first 1 gig compact flash card, it cost me about $125.00. Almost a year and a half later a 1 gig CF card can be found for about $25 bucks. I don't go anywhere with less than two separate 1 gig cards. Neither should you. In fact, I'd recommend a lot more, especially if you are planning on making a career out of photography.

As for the batteries, CARRY A SPARE! Mr. Murphy is looking for a reason to camp out in you camera bag. Don't give him the room. With at least two batteries, you can charge on while you use the other. I suggest that you have at least three.

While the information that I've written is pretty basic, I hope that you can appreciate that I am trying to build from the ground up. I fully plan to write articles that address things like composition, artistic style, getting paid to shoot, digital work flow and such. Hang in there!

If you are reading this and have specific questions, feel free to write me at

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Humming Bird

This photo was taken on "the fly" no pun intended. I just happened to see him through back window at a friends house while I had my camera in hand. Please critique.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Kiss me

This is not really an example of the kind of work I go for, but its just so ugly that its funny. I thought that I'd share. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 25, 2006

This is a little buddy of mine that is just too funny and cute for words. I asked him to make some cool faces for me and this is what he came up with. I spent a wonderful thanksgiving week with him and his family in Texas. What a blast.


This little girl is such a great model. She likes the camera but does not pose in a pretencious way. A joy to work with!!

Thanksgiving week

Hi Everyone!

I hope that your thanksgiving week was as blessed as mine. I took some time off from work and went down to stay with some friends in Texas. What a wonderful state! This are a few shots that I got with my time down there. I tried experimenting a little with different effects. I think I like the results. I welcome your comments.

John Calvin