Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

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A first time trip to The Netherlands

In Flight Sunrise - Over the Western United States

In Flight Sunrise – Over the Western United States


I’ve going on another business trip later today, this time to The Netherlands for a little over a week. It’s been over 25 years since I’ve been to Europe and it’s my first trip to The Netherlands so I’m excited.

I went to Singapore in February, a place that an urban photographer like me can really get into. The Netherlands is also going to be neat for architecture but I expect it to be very different. More old world, ornate and I hope, dripping with character. While I’ll be working in Breda, a smaller city in the southern part of the country, I’m going to fly through Amsterdam. I’m hoping to get a couple of days of photography at the beginning and at the end of the trip.

I briefly considered bringing 3 mirrorless cameras but settled on two. I find that the more cameras I bring, the more I get distracted which ultimately degrades my photography. The Fujifilm X100S is my primary camera this time. I’ll use it to document my travels as well as the beautiful architecture. I’ll see what one fixed lens, a 35mm equivalent, can do. It’s almost like the old days with one camera and one lens.

However, you know how much I like night and urban HDR photography. So, I’m also bringing my smaller Olympus E-PM2 with my wide-angle setup. I’m going to shoot that on tripod. It’s a very different kind of photography than the handheld shots I’m doing on the Fuji. The X100S is really not geared towards HDRs, hence the two cameras.

Actually, I’ll still end up carrying 3 cameras, if you include my iPhone 5S. I’ve been shooting Instagrams for my on-the-fly social photography. I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t distract me too much but you can follow my progress on my Instagram feed, if you are interested. I don’t expect I’ll be updating the blog during my trip.

See you soon.

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I’m in this month’s Olympus Magazine, sort of

Olympus Magazine, March 2014


I was getting some extra web traffic to an older post and I tracked it down. This month’s Olympus Magazine (March 2014, both the website and iPad newsstand version) was linking to my website. In the article “5 of the BEST underrated Olympus functions”, they linked to my post about turning on the Super Control Panel. Go to page 6 & 7 from this link and click on the yellow circle at the top right (a sample screen shot below).

I didn’t know they were going to do this — I’m both honored and slightly amused. If the manufacturer’s magazine was linking to my post, I must have done a good job, I guess. I update that post with larger images and in my new format. I’m mentioning this for Olympus users to enable this very useful feature and, I admit, to do a little personal horn tooting.

Here are the 2 “how to” Olympus posts I’ve written so far.

Unlocking the Custom Menu on your Olympus
Turning on the Olympus Super Control Panel

Olympus Magazine Article

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Paying extra to get rid of Ads

Once in a while, when I’m at an Apple Store or a Best Buy, I take a look at my blog. I’m mildly shocked at what I see.

At the end of each post, I see an ugly ad placed there automatically by WordPress.com. You see, when I view my posts from my computer and indeed as a WordPress.com user, these ads are hidden. People outside the WordPress community, however, do get these ads from time to time.

I really don’t blame WordPress. They are hosting my blog for free so it just makes sense for them to offset costs or make some money off my content. But, I’ve worked hard to upgrade the look of my site (I hope you have noticed) and I feel that these ads detract.

I’ve decided to pay extra to WordPress.com and get these ads removed. Many websites these days are so cluttered. I’m trying to do my part to reduce the noise.


Goodbye old design, the new one is here, sort of

The previous blog design

Out with the old and in with the new. This is the last image you will see of the old “black design”.

As you can tell, I’m in the midst of the changeover to the new blog design. It’s going to take a while but I will convert the key posts over time. Here is a fully converted post, so you can see what I’m trying to do. As I mentioned a few days ago, I rethought the design assumptions I originally had when I started this thing over 3 years ago.

Back then, I was planning to write a lot less. I wanted a black background to showcase the photographs, but I also wanted a sidebar for easy navigation. That of course limited the size of my photographs. There were some conflicting goals but I lived within the limitations.

Here are my new design goals:

1. Make the text as readable as possible I’m writing a lot more content and having a white background is easier on the eyes for most people. I’m also increasing the size of the font. I tested this on an iPad mini, and the larger fonts make it easier to read on smaller tablets.

2. Larger Photographs This is a photoblog after all so I wanted to maximize the photo size. This is one of the things that always bugged me about the old layout.

3. Simplify the Design I’m decluttering as much as possible, increasing whitespace. Removing the side bar and simplifying the header helps.

Overall, I’m trying to increase the production value of this site. Have good content, of course, but also make it look better. Perhaps even a bit more magazine like, if I’m ambitious enough.

There are always cons to any new design, the biggest one is the reduced navigation by removing the side bar. The Popular and Recent links are now located at the bottom. The font is smaller than I like but I don’t have much control over that. I do plan to put more related links within the posts to make it easier you.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but hopefully it is worth the effort. Every photograph needs to be resized to the new larger format. I also need to enlarge all the fonts on every post. Finally there are miscellaneous tweaks to make in color and styling to fit in better with the white background.

I hope you like the new design. Please tell me what you think. And as always, thanks for visiting.

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More blog changes coming, the biggest ones yet

Last week’s blog tweaks got me thinking. Actually, I’m always thinking about my blog design, never completely satisfied with the way it looks and how all the pieces fit together. What started innocently enough on Friday night with some experimentation is taking me on an entirely different direction, design wise.

I’m making some big changes, soon. Don’t know when. I might have it coincide with the Olympus E-M1 review, which I still need to write. I hit upon an idea to create a second, private WordPress blog where I can test out some layouts. After a couple of days, I’ve warmed up to the new look and I’m going forward with it.

My galleries, hosted on SmugMug are changing too. They recently released a completely new set of tools. Though Sumgmug are giving me time, I get not too subtle hints that they want me to use these new features. I’m biting the bullet and changing both, the blog and the galleries.

Of course, design is a set of tradeoffs. There are still things that I don’t completely like but I think it is an improvement, overall. I changed my base set of goals which enabled me to open my mind to new possibilities. It will also take a while to get everything completed. While the new look can be installed in less than an hour, I will need to change every post to fully realize the “vision”. In reality, the older, less popular posts will be probably live, unchanged. Hidden away, for the most part, in my sprawling world of 350 posts.

Over time, I’ll update my key posts and move on from there. I’ve also thought about content changes too, but that’s a topic for a different post.


Simplifying a WordPress theme with minor tweaks

As you can guess, I love photography. But I also love design. I’ve always had an interest for architecture and city design, which is probably why they are frequent photographic subjects. Product and graphic design, yup I like that too. That’s why I often talk so much about the design and feel of cameras just as much as how well they take pictures.

In addition to all the photos and blog posts, I get also into the look of websites, though I’m the first to admit that I really don’t have the chops to truly design websites. I do get really excited though when I see a really beautifully done site. For example, I ran across this blog yesterday that I absolutely love. The simplicity is so soothing.

I’m on a kick to simplify my site where I can. And though it doesn’t have a true minimalist aesthetic, I’ve done small tweaks to reduce clutter. Today, I changed the right side bar. The fonts and layout are more consistent, though arguably it might have lost some character. I’m using HTML tricks to bend this WordPress template to my will (as best I can).

I use the free WordPress.com theme called Modularity Lite. Overtime, I figured out little things to increase consistency and add white space (black space in my case). I know just enough HTML and CSS to be dangerous. Perhaps someday, I’ll pay extra for the Custom CSS option to truly change things up.


Three years old, is this blog a toddler yet?

Leica X Vario

Just recently I passed the 3 year mark with this blog. I almost forgot about it until I received an email from godaddy.com, with their usual busty and attractive spokesperson, encouraging me to renew my internet domain. I did so and instead of the usual 1 year renewal, I signed up for 3 more years. It appears that I’ll be around on the “net” for a while.

I like writing these anniversary posts. It allows me to take stock of what I’ve done and to consider what has changed since a year ago.

Writing has always been a challenge and I never really enjoyed it so I don’t know how I ended up starting a blog. But a funny thing happened as I continued to force myself to write posts — I actually started to enjoy it. I can now write posts quicker than before. It’s still time-consuming but instead of taking several hours to craft a post, I’m down closer to an hour. It just goes to show that if you practice a skill, you do get better, even if it’s something you are not crazy about.

With all this effort, I’m disappointed to say that my daily viewership stats have not grown. They go up and down without a discernible pattern.

But there is a subtle shift that is beginning to happen. Something a mere report does not accurately reflect. I’ve noticed that over the last year or so I’ve developed a small and dedicated readership. You’ve been kind enough to comment and I feel that a semblance of a community has begun to form. This makes me very happy, more than you will ever know. Thank you for visiting and adding your voice and opinions to this site.

My current formula is to balance stories centered around photography with some discussion about equipment. I continue to show a lot of my photographs, perhaps only to prove that I really do use the equipment. While some sites like to discuss photography abstractly or delve just into the gear, I think a photography site should have a lot of real world photographs.

Thank you again for coming to this site. There are so many distractions in the modern world that I feel privileged that you would spend your precious time to visit.


Happy 2nd Birthday, mostlyfotos

Birthday Cupcake, mostlyfotos 2nd Anniversary - Austin, Texas

Birthday Cupcake, mostlyfotos 2nd Anniversary – Austin, Texas

Yesterday, February 8th, 2013 marks the 2nd anniversary of my other blog, my one-photo-per-day blog called mostlyfotos. As a two year old, my blog has entered the toddler stage. This description is apt since, like a toddler, I feel like I’m really getting the hang of this thing and then I stumble.

I’m generally satisfied with the photographs that I’ve posted. I hope in some way, each picture has merit either artistically or shows a place of interest. The good news is that I have loads of photographs that I have yet to publish. Even if I stop shooting, my catalogue of available images will last a year or more. Since I do continue to take photographs like a mad man, I end up generating images quicker than I can post.

On the downside, the side that I’ve stumbled, is my failure to grow a larger audience. It’s really tough to carve out a presence on the internet and I’ve only had modest success. Often times, I’m at the whim of Google and when they change their search algorithm, my audience changes and usually for the worse.

mostlyfotos runs on the Blogger platform, unlike this one that runs on WordPress. On Blogger the statistics are not quite as good but I suspect my audience there is different from my loyal, core audience on this blog. It’s hard to tell especially since I don’t have commenting turned on for mostlyfotos — I want the keep the pages there clutter free as possible. If you are reader here and visit mostlyfotos on a regular basis, please let me know. I’m just curious, I guess.

For now, I plan to keep both blogs active. I feel the discipline of posting a photograph a day pushes me to shoot on a regular basis. I strongly believe that, like any craft, continuous practice is key. I also believe that mostlyfotos gives me credibility, in one sense. Sure, anyone can put up a limited portfolio of their best photographs, I’ve added one myself this year. But when you post 730 photographs over two years, you really get a feel for the photographer. Not all the photographs are brilliant, you many not even like them but you do know that I shoot often. For that reason, when I give equipment recommendations here, you know that I’m not just an equipment enthusiast that makes test shots of brick walls. I use my gear often and in real world conditions.

Thank you for continuing to visit this blog and mostlyfotos. It is such a privilege and in fact an indulgence to share my photographs with you. I hope I have helped you in some way, whether it is a piece of advice, a glimpse into another world or as a slight distraction from your busy day.


My guide to mirrorless cameras

The mirrorless interchangeable lens camera world has gotten crowded. All the major manufactures have jumped in and many have multiple models. I created my guide to mirrorless cameras to help people navigate the waters and make the proper decisions.

If you disagree with my recommendations, that’s fine. Add your suggestions in the comments area underneath this post. If you look at my portfolio or mostlyfotos, you’ll know that I like urban landscapes, architecture and street photography. I also take a lot of candid family photographs which I don’t post on the blog. These mirrorless camera recommendations are based on my experience taking these kind of photographs.

If you are confused by this new and fast growing market, don’t be. Just click on my guide for a straight forward look at what you should consider.

If you have friends that want to step up from a point and shoot or a DSLR user who is tired of lugging their beast around, please send them a link to this page or click the Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus buttons. You can also find a link to the Mirrorless guide on the right side under “Recommended Gear”


Introducing my Sony NEX Resource Page

Following on the heels of the Olympus Micro 4/3 Resource Page I released a couple of weeks ago, I now present the Sony NEX Resource Page. You can also find a link to it under the Gear section on the right side.

You probably know that I’ve shot mostly with the Olympus Pens these days but the Sony NEX is a great mirrorless system. In fact, it is the camera system I recommend for beginners. Unless they want to shoot sports, I see very little these days to get a DSLR. It also has a convenient video system that works great for home movies.

When I went back into the archives, I realize it was the NEX-5 that really started my move away from DSLRs into the mirrorless cameras. The resource page nicely lays out the story of why I went Sony. I also have links to the Sony NEX-5 related posts.


A big thanks to Marilyn

Marilyn Armstrong over at Serendipity blog nominated me for the blog of the year award. Best I can tell, this isn’t any official endorsement from some blog committee — it’s a personal honor given by individuals — friends — from within the community. And for this, I am very grateful.

Much of what makes the web special are still the small peer-to-peer connections. Like any growing system, the big guys continue to become bigger and threaten to monopolize the most scarce resource we have — time. But I feel lucky that almost anyone these days can publish their thoughts to a world-wide audience. The many who blog collectively add richness and color to a place that otherwise may be dominated by corporate interests and low-grade spammy filler.

Part of me feels guilty for not being more active within the blogging community. Of course I can make excuses about being busy, we all are. Yes, the two blogs and the photography take up much of my free time. Kind of crazy but perhaps it is an outlet. A creative outlet arranging photons and words that balances my increasingly analytical world.

I do, however, need to visit and comment on more blogs. At least things are trending that way. I recently realized that, as well as not watching TV, I hardly ever go to main stream media websites. Blogs from people who I trust and respect are now my source of knowledge and entertainment.

While there is some level of self-satisfaction in creating a tiny, personal corner on the internet, it’s aways thrilling to get feedback from one’s audience. Marilyn has some very kind and encouraging words and I am truly grateful.

Thank you.


Introducing my new Olympus Resource Page

As I approach 200 posts, things are getting hard to find, even for me. I’ve decided to create resource pages, displayed on the right.

My first one is the Olympus Micro 4/3 Resource Page, You can access it from the section on the right under Gear. This page references my best articles on the Olympus micro 4/3 and explains why I like them so much. I think it will help orient new readers. Please tell me what you think.

I’ll add more pages over time. There will be more on gear but also sections for travel and events. Instead of being just a collection of posts, when completed, the pages will add structure to my blog.


Introducing my portfolio, the best of atmtx

atmtx portfolio, front page

atmtx portfolio, front page

You know I post a lot of photos on my blogs, like a man obsessed. On mostlyfotos, I post a new photograph everyday. I also post some more on this blog. So why do I want yet another site to post photographs? Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I realize I don’t have a true online portfolio. A place where I can direct someone to see my best and/or favorite work.

I’ve looked around on the web for a good-looking yet budget priced portfolio site and of course they are hard to find. I wanted a modern looking, minimal aesthetic. One where the pictures grow as the browser window is resized. Of course there are beautiful and really expensive sites that do this but I, being frugal, wanted a less expensive alternative. I think I’ve found what I’ve been looking for at 500px. There are a few more things I wished it could do but it does most of what I need at a reasonable price.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that 500px’s Awesome membership was on sale for $24.95. I jumped at the opportunity and now my portfolio is live. I’ve actually been working on this 500px site for a while. It takes some effort to go through the thousands of photographs and pick a small number that I truly like. On mostlyfotos, I post what I think are decent or interesting, but not all are of the same caliber. I also post a crazy mix of genres. My portfolio, however, is going to concentrate on a narrow set of topics.

Perhaps it is part of the maturation process but I’m gravitating towards architecture, interiors and the urban life. Particularly in the evening and night-time. I like color, as you can probably tell but I also search for reflections and a certain quality of light which I call “glow”. I’ve added one word descriptive and slightly goofy categories on my portfolio such as Glow, Striking, Structure, Blur and Cozy. I have selected 40 or so photographs and I may change them around once in a while but plan to keep them focused.

Please take a look and tell me what you think.

You can access the portfolio from the link up top but here is the direct URL:
http://portfolio.atmtxphoto.com


Freshly Pressed, the 2nd time is still a charm

atmtx on Freshly Pressed, a 2nd time

atmtx on Freshly Pressed, a 2nd time

Thank you to the editors of WordPress.com for selecting my post for the honor of “Freshly Pressed” for the second time. Freshly Pressed is a section of the WordPress.com site that showcases blogs on their site. This time, my post Proof: creativity not determined by price made it on their list. Certainly the bump in viewership is always welcome but more than that, it is always gratifying to be recognized by one’s peers.

While my first Freshly Pressed post, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration in Austin is completely original, it is a Photo Essay on an event that I attended, this latest post is different. This time, I linked the primary content to showcase someone else’s work, the spectacular work of Dan Chung at The Guardian. Sure, I added my perspective and tied what he did to a point I was trying to make. But this is the first time I really referenced someone else’s work as the central theme. In the past, I was wary of just linking to someone else’s work; I always wanted to create original content. I’m beginning to change this stance, somewhat. I’m still believe in creating original content but I now think it makes sense to included works by others that fit into the narrative of this blog site.

Earlier today, I linked to a YouTube video which I found inspirational, (Re)touching lives through photos. It fits into my belief about the power of still photography. I’ll add more nuggets from the web but will continue to mix it with my point of view. Of course I will continue to add original content as well. Hopefully, as always, you will find these interesting and even worthwhile.


Has it been 2 years already?

Two

2 years ago, I started this blog. And after two years I finally feel like I’m finding my voice. I think like photography, a semblance of a style has begun to form. It is still in the primordial oozing stage so what is currently developing may turn into an evolutionary dead-end. But the good news is that I’m finally starting to move from just creating random posts to developing a set of stories and expressing my perspective on photography and camera equipment.

I continue to learn a lot about writing, developing a site and the general creative process. Much of what I said a year ago on my first anniversary post is still relevant and I won’t rehash them here. The main thing I’ve learned is sometimes it is more important to “just do it” than strive for perfection. I know I’m not the greatest writer but with practice I’m getting better and faster. Getting the ideas down and posting them is what counts. It is analogous to going out there and shooting photographs all the time. Repeated practiced does help. I’ve learned that writing is a skill and a craft just like photography.

I’ve learned that creating an audience on the internet is damn difficult. There is so much noise out there that getting noticed and having people coming back is such a challenge. A challenge that I, at times, wonder why I am taking. But over time my audience has grown and the general trend seems to be going up, though to my chagrin, it is quite an irregular climb. I’ll be lying if I said I was doing this just for myself. Sure, I’m proud of what I’ve written, photographed and the site I’m building. But I would love to have more people enjoy what I’m doing and maybe gain some insight or a new perspective from what I have written or photographed. Thank you to the people who have come back and over and over to visit my site. Some have added their comments which is wonderful and I know there is a larger group that just visits quietly. I feel immensely happy when I run into someone and they say they enjoyed what I’ve written.

I’m begun to add more of my opinion these days. My objective is to be well thought out and not come across as a jerk but I’ve realized that a blog is a platform for opinion. I try as hard as possible to be factual but this is not journalism. This site is ultimately going to be about my perspective, right or wrong. I’ve received some more negative comments which ultimately means that I’m doing the right thing. Sure, its tough and at times I feel a bit hurt by some of the comments; I think most people would like people to agree with them. But this is not reality. And I understand that if I express a stronger opinion there will be equally strong opinions that will come back. As long as we are respectful of people’s positions, it’s all good.

Over the year I’ve done some design tweaks to the site and got it pretty close to the way I want it (at least within my ability). I’ve started to add affiliate links in hopefully a non-annoying way. Thank you to the people who have purchased items via my links. Keep in mind that while I my promote a product that I use and like, you can always click on my links to buy any other product, even non camera gear, and I will receive a small commission. I realize that there are many other sites vying for your affiliate clicks so thank you for using mine.

Finally, I’ve gotten a bit more confident in the commercial aspect of my little operation. Whether it’s people who want to license my images or me asking people for money (via affiliate links), I’ve learned that if you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will. I don’t consider myself a natural sales person but it doesn’t hurt to be able to sell. So In that spirit, please use the following links to support this site. Click on the links before you buy from these sites and I get a small commission and you will get the product at the same price and the satisfaction of supporting a blog that you find enjoyable.

Thank you.


7,000 and counting – Shooting in Japan

Kokeshi on Display, Store Window - Kyoto, Japan

Kokeshi on Display, Store Window – Kyoto, Japan

My blog posts have been a lot more sporadic these last couple of weeks, as you may have noticed. I’m currently in Japan and want to maximize my time making images rather than creating lengthy blog posts. I’ve been to Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo and Yokohama. I’ve shot about 7,000 photographs these last couple of weeks so I know I’m going to fall even more hopelessly behind in my image post-processing. I have a little less than 1 week left in Japan so we will see what the final image count will be.

I’m shooting all Olympus this trip. I thought about bringing my Sony NEX-5 like I did to India and Singapore but I decided use my Panasonic Lumix 14mm as my wide-angle lens. I picked up the, still rare, Panasonic wide-angle adapter in Japan for the 14mm which basically makes it a 11mm. With the conversion factor, I now have a 22mm on my Olympus Pen cameras. Not quite as wide as my 18mm equivalent on the Sony, but the Panasonic lens quality is a lot better. So, I brought 3 cameras with me. Two of my Olympus E-PL1s and my newer Olympus E-P3. Lens wise, I have the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 plus the wide-ange adapter, the Lumix 20mm f1.7, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and the Oympus 40-150 zoom. While I have to juggle a few cameras, the weight is not bad at all. The 3 cameras and lenses together weight about the same as my Canon 7D with the wide-angle Sigma 10-20 lens. A bit more camera juggling but no lens switching required. I find it faster getting my images and I don’t have to worry about getting dust on the sensor.

I’ve already started posting images from Japan on mostlyfotos, my one photo per day site. I’m trying to have a mix of modern and old Japan for a nice slice of life here. Please take a look if you have some time. I will start posting longer form entires and talk about my experiences once I get back.


I took this photograph with my Olympus E-P3 with the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5. Please make sure to click on a photograph to see a larger image and hover over the photo to see the exposure details.

See more images taken with the Olympus E-P3 at mostlyfotos, my one photograph per day photo blog.


On blog design and some tweaks

I came across an article yesterday that got me thinking, about blog design. You know I like photography but I also have other design related interests (yeah, I used to read books on city planning just for the heck of it). And while I don’t have the skills to create a really original blog design, I really appreciate a decent looking site. I try to balance my desire for simplicity with other stuff that I figured I need on a blog. When I read this post by Oliver Reichenstein, it challenged my notions about what a blog needs and conventions that have become the norm on most sites. His post has tons of juicy bits like this one:

If you’re unknown, social media buttons make you look like a dog waiting for the crumbs from the table. You might have magnificent writing skills and a lot to say, but you will still only get a few retweets and likes. Yes, it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. If you’re known, you will get attention, even for the mediocre. If you’re not known, no matter how good you are, initially you won’t. That button that says “2 retweets” will be read as: “This is not so great, but please read it anyway? Please?”

To someone like me with a blog that is maybe, one or at most two steps above unknown, his words were an eye opener. I might not agree with everything he wrote but my disagreement is not based on any hard or even anecdotal information. It’s just that conventional wisdom and conventional design have brainwashed me into thinking in a particular way. So I decided to experiment with my site design last night. The changes are subtle and most readers probably will not even notice them. But for me, it is a move to simplify this site, at least somewhat. My main efforts were around cleaning up the right hand column and getting rid of all the extra stuff that I originally thought would be cool. I got rid of widgets, combined things and reduced the noise. There are more things I would like to change but can’t since I live within the constraints of a free WordPress.com site. I also decided to remove the WordPress Like, FaceBook and Twitter buttons displayed after every post on the front page. I wasn’t bold enough to remove these buttons completely, though. I still have them at the end, just above the comments section, when you click into a post. For now, I find any feedback valuable from my readership, whether they are Facebook Likes, WordPress Likes or comments. So yes, despite my experiment with simplicity, I do like getting feedback and would love to have people tweet or “Facebook Like” my posts (do I sound too desperate?) It’s just that now, you will have to click into the article to do so. There several ways to do so including clicking on the title of the post.

Speaking of blog changes, some readers my have noticed that I’ve added gray boxes at the end of some posts. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I wanted to come up with a semi-elegant way to show affiliate links. I wanted these to be visible, of course, but not too loud and not too in your face. I was also trying to avoid standard looking banner ads. We live in a world where we are bombarded with so much advertising so I wanted to put these in in the least intrusive way that I can think of. I’m not sure if I’ve achieved it but, I’m giving it a try. I’m also keeping these links topical so they are about the products I talk about in the post, not some random product like a blender.

If you think there is any value to this blog and the information I’m sharing, I will certainly appreciate if you click on my affiliate links from time to time. I have set up accounts at Amazon, B&H Photo, Adorama and Cameta Camera. if you click on any of these links before you buy anything, your price does not change and I get a small commission from these stores. I’ve shopped many times at these websites; this is where I get my gear online (I also buy local at Precision Camera), so I trust these guys.


Happy Birthday, mostlyfotos

Birthday Cupcake, mostlyfotos 1st Anniversary - Austin, Texas

Birthday Cupcake, mostlyfotos 1st Anniversary – Austin, Texas

Today, February 8th is the 1st anniversary of mostlyfotos, my one photo per day blog. Readers of this blog may not know that I actually have two photo related blogs. Kind of crazy since one blog by itself takes up enough time. I started this one first, back in the summer of 2010. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing back then and maybe after a year and a half of blogging, I ‘m starting to get an idea of where I’m going to take this thing. Like may of my photography friends in Austin, who have their own blogs, I wanted to occasionally post a photo and talk about it. And that is the way I started out. Then as I continued, I started to add more photos per post, my prose increased in length and my blog started to evolve.

But I wasn’t completely satisfied with the way the blog and the accompanying photographs came together. I wanted larger photographs but I didn’t know how to modify this template to make it work for me. Besides, I like this format for longer posts. I add medium size images along with text, and I think it’s nicely structured to tell a story. It would be hard to add another entirely different kind of format, one with large pictures, into this blog. For that reason, I decided to create a second, photo focused blog. I wanted one large photograph per post with a small amount of text underneath. That is how mostlyfotos was born.

Now with the flexibility or pain of having two different kind of blogs, I can focus each one for a specific purpose. The posts on this blog have increased in length. I get to tell stories, share my photographic experience and review the stuff I use. On mostlyfotos, I get to showcase different photographs from around town and my occasional trips away from home. So why do I do all this work? Good question. Sometimes I question myself for spending this much time on blogging. I know that by forcing myself to post an image on mostlyfotos, I forces me, in a good way, to get out there and shoot more often. I need a deep buffer of photographs to be able to put one up every day. And while I don’t necessarily think each image is equally good, I don’t just post any kind of image to satisfy my one per day “requirement”. I believe that each image has some kind of merit, a different look, an interesting scene or a viewpoint that is uniquely mine.

So if you happen to stumble over to this blog and read about my photographic point of view or about the equipment I use, please take a look at the photographs I shoot on mostlyfotos. Good or bad, they are a reflection of who I am. More importantly, if I may be so presumptuous, you may find an image that inspires you. You’ll become interested in photography or in blogging and share your work with others. It is fun to talk about photography, the theories and the tools but I think ultimately, it is all about the images. By shooting constantly, I like to practice what I preach and not just become an equipment review blog. So I would greatly appreciate you taking, what little time you have out of your busy schedule, to take a look at my photographs once in a while. And if a photograph floats your boat, please feel free to share it on Facebook, Tweet it or G+ it by hitting the icons at the bottom of the image on mostlyfotos. After all, there is no better honor for a photographer than to have a large audience.


New Year’s Photo Resolutions

New Year's Baby - Austin, Texas

New Year’s Baby – Austin, Texas

As a the calendar flips over again to start a new year, I started thinking of what 2012 my bring for my photography and blogging. I’m generally not much into New Year’s resolutions. I figure, why wait for the beginning of the year to start a new habit? If something is worth changing, doesn’t it make sense to change it immediately? I won’t bore you with non-photographic stuff. I did want to discuss observations and changes that have occurred in my photographic realm and my guess at the future direction of these trends.

I talked about some of this in a post called Canon losing the buzz, why I’m not interested but I’ve noticed this year that my interest in using my big Canon SLR has been decreasing. The initial trend started more than a year ago when I got my first mirrorless EVIL camera, the Sony NEX-5. I would carry by NEX-5 and the Canon 7D along on photo walks. I discovered, however, that the small Sony camera gave me a freedom of composition and expression that I didn’t have with the larger camera. Mid-year this year. I purchased the Olympus E-PL1, initially to play with and to get a color and exposure that I wasn’t getting on my Sony. It turned out that the slightly clunky E-PL1 especially with the Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens have become my go to camera for casual shooting. When I want a camera to make snaps of may family, the Olympus is in tow. When I want slightly more “serious” images from my photowalks, I still press the Olympus into service. The 40mm equivalent format is really easy to shoot but it also challenges me to see and make interesting compositions. I no longer, just relay upon super-wide images with HDR enhancements to make interesting shots. I’m hoping to create worthwhile images even with a lens that has a normal view and with a single exposure. I’m not sure if I’m succeeding or not but I’m starting to see changes in my newer images. I also feel more freedom when I’m no longer tendered to a larger camera and a tripod. I can move around easily, unencumbered and really explore alternate compositions. For 2012, I’m going to continue with this style. Less weight, more flexibility and a simpler way of shooting.

I also learned that skills and ability drop quickly. The downside of all this shooting with my small cameras is my loss of familiarity with my Canon DSLR. When I used the 7D all the time, I knew the controls and could make adjustments quickly. Now, when I pickup the camera, I’m sluggish and I need to search through my brain to set the controls. Recently, during my son’s school performance and at the Christmas gift opening, I broke out the good old 7D. I immediately noticed that my handling skills have dropped off and it took me a bit of fiddling to get the shots that I used to get with ease. Bounce flashes off the ceiling weren’t exposed right. I eventually got dialed back in but my hard learned skills were fading quicker than I imagined. While I’m planning to use the smaller cameras more than ever, I must remember to use my Canon and keep my skills refreshed. That, unfortunately, is the downside of having several different cameras — different interfaces. I need to rotate though my cameras to keep their usage parameters fresh in my head.

I’m still looking for the elusive camera/video multi-function camera, maybe 2012 will be the year. When I bought my NEX-5 back in 2010, I thought this might be the camera that combines high quality still images with an easily usable, auto-focusing video camera. As I wrote in The Sony NEX-5 Review and the new NEX-5n there were a few limitations with the NEX-5 that ultimately disappointed. The NEX-5n has addressed much of my frustrations but I’ve decided to wait. There are rumors of a new Fujifilm EVIL camera coming out, there is always a chance that Canon might finally address this high quality mirrorless market. This market is rapidly changing and I’m excited to see what is in store for this coming year. What will the successor to the NEX-5n be like? Will a Olympus E-P4 come out with a better low light sensor and better video? Will Nikon release large aperture primes (at least f2.0 or better) for their Nikon 1 line? Of course, If I do end up getting yet another camera, I exacerbate the issue I talked about in the previous paragraph. I add yet another interface to the array of interfaces that I need to remember.

Shifting gears to social media, I’ve noticed that in 2011, keeping up with my photo friends have increasing been difficult. It used to be simple for me. Everyone I knew was on Flickr. Now people have scattered to the different social medial islands that compete for our attention. Google+ is the new shiny site that has pulled many photographers away from Flickr and Twitter. There is also that large Facebook world and lone island that is personal blogs. I have two blogs, this one which has longer form posts and mostlyfotos which is my daily photoblog. I’ve developed these sites over the last year and a half and put significant effort in to them. And while I like how they are shaping up, concentrating too much on my site isolates me from my online friends. This year, I need to return to my roots, somewhat. I need to post more on Flickr again. When I return there, it feel like I’m back in the neighborhood in which I was born. Some of my old friends are still around and posting just as much. Some of the gang have left for greener pastures and are no longer around. I probably can’t spend as much time as I originally did a couple of years ago but I need to show up more often on Flickr. I’m still unsure of the Google+ world. While I have posted some to G+, I really have not spent the time to make too many new friends. I’ve bumped into people I know from Flickr, which is aways a pleasant surprise. It feels like running into an elementary school friend in the large out-of-state University. Social media seem to be changing quicker than cameras so I know I won’t have this figured out in 2012. I will just have to make adjustments that seem to make sense.

Finally, I’ve learned that writing is a skill like photography. I don’t know if my writing has improved any over the last couple of years but I find that I can craft together posts quicker than before. I also found that I have no shortage of topics and ideas that I can write about. Maybe, if I keep at this, my writing skill will continue to improve and I’ll be able to crank out these posts. Of course, blog post creation time has to complete with photography, photo processing and organizing not to mention all the rest of my life activities, so it is always an uphill battle to find time. I hope 2012 will bring more interesting and useful posts to anyone that my stumble upon my blog and my photography. I hope you all have a great 2012.

Happy New Year


A Site Index to this Blog

I wanted to do this for a while and I finally finished it. I wanted to create a site index of all the posts I’ve made on this blog. Even though I’ve slowed down some, over the last year, I wrote about 70 posts — hard to believe. I broke up my posts into some rough categories that seemed to make sense for me. The Review and Observations sections are the largest and I’ve broken them down into subcategories. The other categories include some of my photo philosophy and photo industry trends that I have seen. I think my two favorite posts are under the Photo Essays section. There I wrote about my visit to the two old and non-functioning power plants in Austin, Holly Street and Seaholm.

Looking over my posts, I’ve seen changes over the last year. My earliest posts were simple, short and more focused on one photograph. Over the year, my posts have become longer and many of the entires have multiple photos. Instead of short photo oriented posts, I have started to write more about my thought process and things that I’ve discovered about photography. My second blog that I started in February, mostlyfotos focuses on the photograph with very little text. Over the next year, with these two blogs, I can focus on different things. This blog will continue to have medium to longer form text content with some photographs, typically to illustrate a point. My one a day photo blog, mostlyfotos, will continue to showcase my range of photography.

If you look near the top right of this page, you will notice the links to the site index and mostlyfotos. These links will be available on every page so you can quickly access them at any time. I’ve also further revamped my right hand column with my Twitter feed and a link to my Facebook Fan page. I hope you visit these links and read some of my earlier posts or look at a sample of my photography. Thank you for continuing to visit my site and please let me know if you have suggestions for future blog posts.