Watching The Space Station With Neil Armstrong

Last night I went up to the Purdue campus with my friend Trevor Mahlmann to photograph the International Space Station as it flew over campus. I will be the first to admit that I don’t know what the heck I am doing when it comes to planning these events. Trevor just invites me and tells me where to point my camera. Check out his website here to see more of his photos of the space station. No matter how many times that I watch the space station fly over it never gets old. This was a cool opportunity to watch it again.

The Week In Photos

Last week was a week that was supposed to be action packed, but the rain and snow cut it short. This week looks like it could be the same way. I still had a fun week though, and you can check out my favorite photos from the week here.


Ten Tips To Help Improve Your Drone Photography

One of the coolest purchases that I have made for my photography is my drone. It really allowed me to see things in a new way. Sometimes you need a change in perspective to jump start you for a while. The drone certainly did that. Below I have listed ten quick tips to help you get off the ground with your drone. They are things that I found useful early on, and I still use today.

10. Stay safe and obey the laws – While drones are fun they are also potentially dangerous. Your first instinct may be to take your drone out and fly it without thinking about where you are. The first tip is to first stop and look at where you are flying. Can you even fly your drone there? I have come across places that I thought were in the middle of nowhere that actually are very near a small airport that I didn’t even know about. The laws are in place for a reason so make sure you know what they are, and obey them. The first bad drone crash will be the last one as they will probably all be banned.

9. Prepare your drone pre and post flight – This tip kind of goes hand in hand with the tip above. I put them at the top because I feel that they are the most important. Before flying somewhere new make sure that you props are in good shape and secure. Another important tip is to calibrate your drone. Not getting a proper calibration in can result in a flyaway or a crash. Before you have even left your house make sure that your batteries are all fully charged, and if possible you have a few backup batteries for the drone. One battery can give you a long flight, but multiple batteries can mean a fun day of flying. One quick post flight tip is that I always swap cards out. I take out the card that I used to make my images, and I immediately place a new card in the drone. This prevents you from getting out a ways with your drone and then realizing that you have forgotten a card. It also prevents the same scenario without having one on you. I have done both and it is not a fun feeling.

The Sun Sets Over the Purdue Bell Tower

8. Shoot in RAW – I always shoot in RAW, but with the drone I feel that it is even more important. The megapixels of your drone vary from model to model, but they are not fantastic in any model. You want the most data that you can get for your images in post. Shooting in RAW makes that happen.

7. Think of all of your post-processing tools while in flight – You have a lot of tools at your disposal in the digital darkroom now. Early on in my flying days I was not using everything available to me. One way to increase the quality of your image is to get a little closer to your subject and make a panoramic. With the steady nature of the DJI crafts it is very easy to do. A slightly more advanced move is to make what I call a vertirama. This is where you stitch a photo made from vertical pans. Combining these two styles can make for an interesting photo. Continue reading “10 Tips For Better Drone Photos”

The Start of a Game In The McLeod Center

Last year I had a cool opportunity. During a break in the MVC Track and Field Championships I walked down a hallway from the stadium I was in, and into the McLeod Center. This is a really cool basketball arena that had not yet been built the last time that I was on the campus of Northern Iowa. The Northern Iowa Panthers have some very cool facilities, and this is one of them.

Creating The Tilt Shift Look

In the past you had to buy extra software to make the tilt shift look in your photos. Either that or actually buy or rent a tilt shift lens. I don’t know how I missed it, but Photoshop now has some cool tools to re-create the tilt-shift look. This was my attempt to use the software for the first time and play around a bit. I would like to mess around with this a little more.

An Unidentified Object On The Campus Of Indiana State

I found this very cool piece of artwork on the campus of Indiana State while walking through it last year. I liked the colors it, and I thought that it would be a good subject. There really was not anything too interesting around it though. In fact right next to the artwork was a large bucket that was annoying to me. It sat in a folder for over a year because of that bucket. This is still no portfolio piece, but it is an interesting photo from a cool campus. I still kind of want to know what this is. With all of the lights around it does it do something really cool at night?

Using Photoshop To Improve the Photo

I have a few rules when it comes to photos. When it comes to sports photos I don’t use Photoshop at all except to make a panoramic. When it comes to my other photos though I will use Photoshop to take some elements out of the photo. I will never add anything in because what fun would that be? If you could have a perfect sky every time why even go out and make the picture. In a case like this one though getting rid of the bucket in the frame really made this photo better for me.

My 17 Favorite Photos of 2017

It is really hard to narrow down all of the thousands of photos that I made in 2017 to just 17. The number is arbitrary because of the year. The good news is that with each year that passes I get to add another photo to my year end countdowns. This list is not a list of my best technical achievements. I would rather pick seventeen moments that I really liked from the year. Even doing that it is a hard list to put together.

17. Oh boy he is going to talk about his kids again! Of course this countdown starts with my little one. She is probably the person that is most photographed in my life. Here she has a great time trick or treating in downtown Lafayette. I love the smile and the sense of place of this photo. It is probably my favorite photo of her from last year.

16. On August 21st everyone turned their eyes to the sky. The sun would be eclipsed by the moon. With the sky looking cloudy in our area I made the quick decision to head north to where I saw clear skies. We found a country road that we could park on, and we watched the eclipse. Here my step daughter enjoys the moment. I could have set up gear and shot the actual eclipse, but this seemed more important to me at the time.

15. On our way home from Ocean City, Maryland this year my wife budgeted some time into our schedule to spend in Philadelphia near the Liberty Bell. If you know me then you know that I love American History. This is basically where American history started if you think about it. That is what I love about my wife. She knew I would love this, and she made sure that it happened.

14. The night before our Ocean City, Maryland trip I headed in the other direction to see Metallica play at Soldier Field. I love Metallica, and I had not seen them play live in quite some time. This was a great night listening to my favorite band. This photo also shows just how fluid these top 17 lists have been. This photo wasn’t even included in the Top 17 concert photos post, but it appears here. As I was making this post I realized how much I loved the colors. When viewed larger I think that it looks much better than it did in the thumbnail that I used to choose the concert posts.

13. This photo was made on the way to Indiana State. Here I saw a familiar barn that would allow me to create a starburst through. It was a no-brainer to pull off of the road to make this photo. When you can make colorful photos in the winter you do it.

12. Here is another photo made on the way to Indiana State. This was an early morning drive to cover one of the first football practices of the year. I left a little early on purpose so that I could make a sunrise photo somewhere along the way. I looked fruitlessly for a while. The mist in the air would have made for a good photo, but I couldn’t find anything interesting to put around it. Here I found a scene that looked okay, and then the deer showed up. It ran through the frame and made the photo. This is another photo that looks best larger. Click on the image to see it that way.  Continue reading “Top 17 Photos of 2017”

Christmas Comes To Downtown Lafayette

Last week while driving across the Union St. bridge I saw this large Christmas tree in downtown Lafayette. I made a mental note to come back and see what it is all about. Right now Lafayette is just coming out of a big overhaul. Most of the streets and sidewalks downtown are or have been worked on. Of course the controversial bank is also going up as we speak. I found this quiet scene after walking across the pedestrian bridge. I would have liked to have been there about a half an hour earlier, but it was already pretty dark when I showed up.

A Closer Look

On the scene I was all about using all 24mm of the lens that I had on my camera. Once I got back home and started editing the photo I realized that I wanted to see more detail in the middle of the frame. Most of the outside of the frame was boring. I was shooting at ISO 100 so cropping in would not give me too much noise. I cropped the photo at the top of the post to make the photo that you see above. What do you think? Is the wider angle better? Do you like the cropped version better?

The Best Time to Photograph Christmas Lights

When I first started taking my photograph seriously I would drive around well after dark to photograph Christmas lights. At that point the lights really looked great to my eyes. Of course my camera has nowhere near the technology that my eyes do. I quickly realized that the best time to photograph Christmas lights is at blue hour. An issue with getting our bill at a local restaurant put me behind, and cost me this chance to get my photo. The great thing about photography though is that you get another chance tomorrow. I like this photo, but I think that it could be even better.

Stepping Out To Photograph the Sunset

Last night I was packing a bag to head to a basketball game down the road that I would never attend when I saw a ray of light in the sky. After a rainy day it was a welcome sight, and I knew that there would be a rainbow somewhere. I stepped out of my front door to make the photo that you see above. The clouds were amazing, and they were flying through the sky allowing for many compositions if you just had the patience. I tried a few out before the light faded. I used to always need a large scale sunset photo to share with you. I have come to realize that these little micro shots can be interesting too. I didn’t have the foreground for the epic shot so I took what I was given.

A Failed Drone Attempt

I really have not been flying the drone much lately so I thought the beautiful sky was a great opportunity to take it for a spin. After letting it warm up I took it up in the air. Once it got above our house the wind grabbed a hold of it. On the ground the wind did not look too bad, but in the air it was tough. It really seemed like it was going to take my drone and run off with it. I quickly got it back down in a safe spot in the yard. Before I went up I always go through things to do it the takeoff does not go as planned. I rarely have to act on these things, but this time the extra prep allowed for me to land safely.

Fall Over the Campus of Purdue University

Last week I took the drone up for a few minutes over the campus of Purdue. I posted my photos of the football and basketball stadiums along with a photo that makes up a piece of this one. Time was not on my side though, and I was not able to fully realize this photo until this week. I liked the idea of one large photo that show just how amazing this campus is during the fall. I have always liked this view of campus looking at it from Cary Quad. A lot of my time as a student was spent in this area so it is cool to make a photo like this many years later. As I write this the color is fading from the trees. Campus will look much different until we are blessed with a blanket of snow to give us something else to look at for a while.

Making Another Large Panoramic

On the same day that I made this photo I also made another large panoramic. You can read about that one here. This is another 12 shot panoramic made with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. In some ways it seems easier to make a pano with a drone than your camera on the ground. Here I just find what I think my edges are, and move out a bit from them. That is to say that I give myself some room on the edges in case the image needs to be cropped. I start off by having my camera just ever so slightly panned down, and I made a few images across. Here I made three images across. Then I moved through the bottom just filling in what I just did. Finally I make three images across the top of the frame. If you put them together then you get the image above. I like the idea of a panoramic more than me just moving the drone further back and up a bit. That would get the same amount of real estate in the frame. The pano gives me many more megapixels, and a lot more detail. My drone claims to be a 20mp drone, but I have always thought that in the digital darkroom it has seemed much less than that. Here I can make a big image while still keeping a lot of the detail in the image.

The Week In Photos

This photo was made too late to be including in my weekly round up of my favorite photos. This past week was a fun week to shoot though, and I am pretty proud of my Exposure page that you can see here. There is a picture from every day of the week represented in the collection which is always a goal. There is also a lot of good emotion which always makes the collection stronger as well. This week there should be some good emotion as well.