Wednesday, December 3, 2008

File Systems for New Hard Drives

The Alpha 900's large files will eventually take its toll on every owner's data storage strategy.  (Really, it's a good problem to have).  Recently I went out and purchased not one but THREE 1 terabyte external drives for my desktop computer: one to act as my primary drive, one to act as a backup, and the third to act as an offsite backup, which I will swap with Drive number two on a weekly basis.  At $130 for each drive, it is probably the best dollar-per-megabyte deal in the history of the planet.  (Actually, so is the Alpha 900.)

But be sure to read the fine print before you actually hook up these drives and start to use them!  Read on for the reason...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Greatest Gift for your Parents

I don't know about you, but in my experience as we get older the snapshots we take of our families become increasingly precious.  (Even the ones that are poorly framed and overexposed... that's the difference between a photograph and a snapshot.  A snapshot jogs a neuron associated with positive prior experience; whereas a photograph has to make people say "Wow!" without the benefit of that shared experience.)  Anyway, that's why photo-related gifts can be so valuable, and that's why so many people are thinking about gifting the new wave of digital photo frames now available.

BUT... if your giftee happens to have a computer (even if it's only to check email via the web), here's a gift idea that is inexpensive, easier, and more flexible than those expensive digital photo frames: Upload all of your digitized family photos throughout the ages onto their computer's hard drive and turn them into a screen saver!

"Isn't that essentially the same thing as what a digital photo frame offers?", I hear you ask?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lighting for Wine Bottles and Glass

How did I take this shot of a wine bottle and glass (below) using no fancy equipment other than a single off-camera wireless flash?  Read more to find out!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Finding the Subject when Shooting Fall Foliage

A week before the Boston Seminar (which was a lot of fun, as always), Carol and I took a road trip to Vermont and New Hampshire, to "watch the leaves turn" (translation: Look at the fall colors, something this native Californian never got to experience growing up).  Yes, it's beautiful, and yes, I took a few pictures.  BUT I also did what I always do, which is to constantly ask myself, "How can I make this shot more interesting?"  "What is my subject and how is it being placed?"  "How can I improve the shot?"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Saving Lenin and the Historic Value of Throw-away Shots

I have a really hard time throwing away images after I've selected the "good ones".  Even though I know that I'll probably never need them, the older I get the more I realize that even the mundane shots can become more valuable over time.  Here's a good example: I took this shot of the iconic Goodyear Blimp in the 1970's...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Grandchild arrives - how these portraits were made

Please welcome our first grandchild, Mikah James Clark to the world.  And rather than acting like a doting grandfather, telling you how wonderful and angelic he is, I'll just share with you some pictures, taken when he was 1 week old:

How were these shots taken?  Read more after the break to find out!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tweak to A700 Remote Control Behavior

Michael White, a reader of my Alpha 700 ebook, writes in with this tip:

"Dear Gary,

When you talk about the remote control in Chapter 2, you state: "Despite what Sony's user manual says, when you press either the "Shutter" or "2 sec." button, the camera WILL autofocus first before taking the shot!".  That is not quite true: it will only autofocus if you set the camera to AutoFocus Priority mode.  If it is in Release Priority mode... it will take the pic right when you press the button [without autofocusing first]."

Michael is right, and I'm extremely impressed at his attention to detail!  As soon as I get a spare minute I'll update the book, but in the meantime, now you know.  Thanks, Michael!

Florida and Nova Scotia seminars are open for enrollment!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Another Way to Use Dynamic Range Optimization

On this trip (see previous blog post) for the first time I experimented with combining DRO (Dynamic Range Optimization, which on the A700 you can actually invoke manually) with Sunset Mode during an actual sunset.  Wow!   (More info after the break...)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Latvia Photo Expedition - Trip Report

Well, what can I say?  The Photo Expedition to Latvia occurred on July 13-20th 2008 and boy did you miss a memorable trip!  The weather wasn't always agreeable (it rained during our first day in Riga; however this only served to challenge us some more on "how to get compelling shots when the light isn't always agreeable").

Read on for more...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Finding the Right Light in Alaska

I live in Southern California, where it is relatively easy to recognize good outdoor light. Not so in Alaska, where we participated in our family's 2nd-ever reunion.  With the skies overcast and the sun perpetually in the sky, it is sometimes hard to see the telltale shadows of where the good light is coming from.  Furthermore, the camera has no idea that you’re shooting in difficult light (ain't that always the case!) – if you’re pointing the camera the wrong way, even if the scene looks great to your eye, it WILL give a horrible underexposure which, given the wide range of brightnesses already in outdoor scenes, is very, very difficult to compensate for later on.

I tackled this challenge by not employing any exposure compensation when taking the images – I didn’t want to risk any blown-out highlights at all. Instead I let the camera underexpose (as all camera exposure meters are wont to do with bright subjects) and then brighten them in Photoshop when I returned home. 
Read on for more...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Published in National Geographic

Just like it is the wish of every soccer player to compete for the World Cup, so too is it the dream of every photographer to be published in National Geographic. So imagine my surprise and excitement when they licensed one of my images!  In my life, I had worked on some projects which I felt were worthy of publication in their magazine, but with all the talented staff photographers they had available to them, how flattering that they sought me out for one of my stock images!

Of course I had no idea how they were going to use it; at the time I only knew that it would appear in the July/August 2008 edition of National Geographic Adventure magazine (which some would argue is not the same thing as the formal National Geographic magazine, but hey -- I’ll take what I can get!). The image I sold them was this Chinese Stop sign:

And about two months later the issue went online and I discovered how they used the image:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New video footage added to China blog

Ever since returning from my 6-month stay in China back in 2004, there was always this nagging feeling I had at the back of my mind – there was one more thing I wanted to share with my readers, but I never was able to do so.
What was it?  In Chapter 17 I talked about what REAL Chinese food was like, and I also talked about the only food I encountered while there that I could not bring myself to eat:   Chicken embryos – still in the eggshell – that you open up, dip in salt, and the put the whole thing in your mouth – feathers, beak, everything.  You could buy them from street food vendors everywhere.  And although I showed pictures of them on the blog (, I really wanted to go one step further – to show a video of local citizens breaking the egg open, dipping them in salt, and then throwing the whole thing in their mouths.  Alas, I never got the opportunity to film it, but my desire to add the video persisted.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gary Fong’s Lightsphere II Diffuser - Cloud – Personal Experience sells a very popular light diffuser that I tried out, ann now finally my report is in.  In principle the diffuser is a great idea - not only does it soften the light, it also distributes it everywhere.  If you're in a small room with low, white ceilings and light-colored walls, this has the potential to make the lighting look much more natural.  Plus, there are so many variables regarding where the light goes!  You can shoot with the "top" (the "cloud") off or on, or you can point the entire assembly forward for a full-on, diffused light.  I like having choices.

But how does it compare to my old standard, the piece-of-paper-strategically-placed-on the flash (as described in my books) which is essentially FREE?  Click here to read the whole review and find out!  

Florida and Nova Scotia seminars are open for enrollment!