Protective Filters… should you use them?

I am often asked by my students and Seattle Photography Club members whether or not they should use protective filters on their expensive lenses.  In my career, I’ve gone back and forth on this one myself.  However, over the past few years, I’ve come to a conclusion which i will share with you now.   See, just by reading my blog, you’ve saved hours and hours of research and deliberation.

B+W Protective Filter

So here’s the deal.  First, if you are paying big buck for a lens such as the 70-200 f/2.8 or any 2.8 lens, for that matter, why would you add a piece of inferior glass to the package.  The lens maker designed the lens with a particular number of glass elements.  Are we to decide, 9 isn’t enough, I’ll add another.  BUT, dear reader, if you do want to add a protective filter after reading this, then, by all means, do so.  However, spend the money to get a good one from B+W and get the top of the line.  Prepare to spend $100 or more for a 77mm UV filter.   I’ve seen $20 Colkin filters on $1500 lenses.  What?

Anyway, here’s my take on protective filters.  If you hit your lens hard enough to break the filter, guess what happens… the filter will shatter and those shards of glass will scratch the front of your lens.  The best protection for your lens is to always keep the lens hood attached.  You can knock it pretty hard and the lens hood will take the shock and protect your element.  I never take mine off except to attach the Lee Landscape filters but when it comes off, back the hood goes.  Always!

Continue reading “Protective Filters… should you use them?”

Two Worlds Collide!

Last night, my wife and I hosted our first annual Holiday Kegger.  I invited close friends, members of the Seattle Photography Club and my fellow ride Leaders from Cascade Cycling Club.  50-60 folks showed up from all camps bringing wonderful food and a great holiday spirit.  I was proud to be apart of this wonderful crowd’s lives.   It’s that time of year to be thankful for what you have.  I’m thankful for my family, my business with it’s loyal customers, my fellow photographers and my ride buddies.  It’s been a great year and I’ve come in contact and gotten to know a lot of great people.  I am reminded daily that we’re all in this world together.  We all share common goals of happiness, closeness and grooviness (is this a word?).  Anyway, thank you to everyone who’s supported my efforts this year and I hope everyone has a very happy holiday and new year!  See you in 2013!

Koboto Gardens
For me, this tree really represents the complex road taken through life. What a great journey it is.

Rattlesnake Lake in the Late Afternoon

Went to Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend today.  Unfortunately, the light was flat and unexciting.  I was able to get some decent shots today using several techniques.  This one was taken using the Lee Big Stopper.  This was a 3 minute exposure at f/11.  During  the 3 minutes, I continuously threw rocks into the water at various places to create some movement in the stillness.  This gave the appearance of the milky water below.

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The image below was 3 initial images taken one stop apart.  I used Photomatix to create this HDR image.  Though I’m not a fan of the “HDR Look”, I thought it worked on this image to give it another world feel.

Rattlesnake Lake 1

This was three images combined using HDR Pro 2 by Nik Software.  I then took it into Lightroom and added a bit of color to the sky.  I love the reflection of the tree stump in the water below as well as the small tree growing out of the top.

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Lightroom Tip of the Week 12/11/12

With all the panels in Lightroom, it can often be difficult to work with them if they are all open because you have to scroll up and down to find the one you want.  Or, you have to keep opening and closing the various panels.  What a waste of time!  There’s a fix for this.  Solo mode can auto-collapse any panel that you have open just by going to another panel.   This makes viewing your options and switching to other panels very easy.

All you have to do is go to the bottom of either the right or left panel, right click and select “solo mode”.  That’s it.  Do it now and never go back.  It will make your life in Lightroom much easier.

Right click at the end of the panel and select solo mode.

Lightroom Tip of the Week

One of the advantages of Photoshop is that you can add layers, blur the background, create a mask and paint out the mask over the parts you don’t want blurred. But, what if you don’t have Photoshop? Let’s say you took an image with a small aperture with a deep depth of field and later, in the digital darkroom, you wish you had a larger aperture to isolate your subject by blurring the background. How can you do this in Lightroom?

Well, one little know tidbit about Lightroom’s adjustment brushes is that, while they are nondestructive, they do have a cumulative effect. in other words, you can stack effects on top of each other to mutiply the set. Here’s what you do:

  • Open your Adjustment Brush (shortcut “K”)
  • Set your clarity to -100% … all the way over to the left
  • Turn masking off
  • With a feathered large brush paint over the background
  • Close your adjustment brush
  • Hit K again to open your adjustment brush… now you have a new adjustment brush (and another dot on your image)
  • Paint at -100 again
  • Close
  • Repeat as necessary

The more times you do this, the more blurred your background will be.  All the effects in the adjustment brush are cumulative.  So you can always go back and reduce some, delete some, etc.   There you go!  Like this on Facebook if you found this helpful!

Cumulative Effects of Adjustment Brush

Win a free CustomSLR Glide sling strap!

It’s simple! Just subscribe to my blog emails on the right side of this page.  Not only will you receive notification of my blog entries which will hopefully enlighten and delight, but you’ll be entered into a drawing for this fantastic camera strap.

I will give away a CustomSLR Glide Sling Strap ($64.95 Value) to a random subscriber. Drawing will be December 10th. Check out the the strap here: http://www.customslr.com/.

Adobe Lightroom Tip

As a Lightroom instructor for Bellevue College, I thought I’d occasionally share some tips and tricks that I have tucked away deep in my brain or as I come across them. Here comes one now…

A feature that I use regularly is the Auto Advance. In the Library module, go to Photo in the menu and click on Advance. This is useful when culling your images. If you flag it as picked or rejected, assign a star or color rating, etc., Lightroom will automatically advance to the next image. Very useful and fast.

However, there are times when it gets in the way. I don’t always want to move on to the next image when I flag it. Well, there’s a better option than “permanently” activating this feature in the menus. You can use the Caps Lock button to toggle this feature on and off. Need it? Just hit your Caps Lock key. Don’t need it, hit it again. This way, you can quickly activate the feature, cull your images and turn it off. Enjoy this time saving feature.

Get out and shoot.

Sometimes, nothing happens. Nothing. I met some friends at 8am this morning at the market. The light was boring, the market was boring, blah blah blah. Chris noticed the jet trails going across the sky and we challenged each other to take some sort of interesting shot of it. This is what I got. We walked around for another hour barely snapping the shutter and complaining that it wasn’t New York or Paris. Well, we don’t live in New York or Paris so Seattle it is. The point of all this is… I got out and shot. Had I sat at home stuffing my face with artificial light, I wouldn’t have had the camera in my hand.

Did I get any fantastic shots? Hell, no. Is this a great shot? Hell, no, again. BUT, I did get out and shoot and that’s the name of the game. Next time, who knows.

Kirkland Waterfront



Kirkland Waterfront, originally uploaded by AlanLawrence.

Yesterday’s weather was not great. Completely overcast, boring light but I had the itch to get out with my camera. There was nothing. Solid grey sky, boring light. But, I took some images anyway… 3 to be exact. Of those 3, I got this one which I really like. You never know what you can get unless you get some shutter clicks in for the day. The lesson here is just get out and shoot. If you get one shot, that’s great. If you don’t get any, at least you tried.