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Friday, September 14, 2018

Photographic Reviews, Instructional Articles, and More!

I've been ghost writing for a few different instructional online photo magazines for awhile.

Now, I am also online under my own byline, Stephen Harker.

See my articles on, a free to view spot where writers are writing about everything. And I mean everything!

Anyways, here are a few of my new articles:

Canon EOS R vs Nikon Z6 & Z7 vs Sony a7R III — Review, Specs & More

And a fun poem:


Friday, April 21, 2017

15 Simple Ways to Become a Better Photographer this Week

15 Simple Ways to Become a Better Photographer this Week

One of the great things about being a photographer is that we always can find something new to learn. Sometimes, reviewing what we already may know may be that something new, especially if we find a new idea, thought, or method.

You are already a photographer. Are you a beginner? An advanced hobbyist? Are you able to sell your art or time to people as a professional (sure, even every now and then counts)? Then, listen up! We are going to discuss 15 ridiculously simple ways to improve your craft. You can start doing these today.

One: Read your instruction manual. Seems like a no brainer. But, you would be surprised how much we could miss out on if we don’t thoroughly familiarize ourselves with our tools. In the days of all mechanical bodies and celluloid film, we could get by with the “Sunny 16 Rule” and knowing where the shutter speed dial and aperture ring is. Today’s DSLRs and ILCs have a lot packed in them. They are more like an imaging computer. Does your camera have a setting for bracketing? How about white balance adjustments? Does it do video? Sit down for an hour or two and go through your instruction manual with the camera in your hand. Another great resource is the internet. A site like might have in depth reviews of your equipment, including many of the features.

Two: Now that you really know all of your camera’s features, let’s use one. White Balance. Auto tends to work fairly well in many situations. Adjusting the white balance in camera will result in a truer color in special conditions. Underneath fluorescent lights, for example, or in mixed lighting. Some cameras (see Point One) even allow for a custom setting. Carry an 18% grey card with you. The other side is usually 90% white. Use either side (depending on your camera) to set a custom white balance

Three: Get close. It’s so easy to sit back and zoom in, isn’t it? And with our high MP sensors, we can use our imaging software to zoom in even more. Getting physically up close, or at least closer, to our subject often gives a new perspective that we can get creative with. Use this idea with your wide angle lenses too.

Four: Use flash. Not the tiny built in flash. A larger, shoe mounted flash can open up possibilities for a better photo. An outside portrait can be improved by turning the subject away from the Sun and adding fill light via the flash. Many cameras have semi automatic settings for this, or you can go manual. Be sure to know how to set fractional power on your strobe.

Five: Avoid flash. Yeah, yeah, see Point Four. But flash won’t always improve a shot. Look at the photography of some of the old time masters and see how they used existing light (and shadows) to create works of art. The work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams are easy to find online and in print. and are good sources. While you’re learning from the masters, take a moment to simply enjoy the beauty of the art they created.

Six: Become your own tripod. How still can we stand? Keeping your arms close in to your body helps stabilize your camera. Plant your feet about shoulder width apart. Standing with one foot slightly in front or behind helps, too. Any wall, tree, fence, rock to lean on? Use that as well.

Seven: Carry your tripod or monopod with you. Seems like a bother sometimes, but when it’s needed, it will make the difference between getting the shot or not. Any HDR photography will benefit from a tripod. Even with the programs that say you can hand hold it, using a tripod will make the end result easier to perfect. Same with any bracketing. Panoramas, too. Also beneficial for close up and macro, long lenses, low light, etc...

Eight: Play! We sometimes get so involved in the art and craft of photography that we forget to have fun with this wonderful process we enjoy. Go out to the lake, the park, your yard, and just take pictures. Point up, point down, use full manual and then switch to completely automatic. Post to Facebook, Flickr, MySpace and invite your friends to look and comment.

Nine: Listen to those comments. If a certain something we do gets lots of likes and positive comments, look at what it is they are noticing. Adjust and experiment from there. A negative comment might show us areas we need to improve. So, that becomes a positive also.

Ten: Smile and talk to people. At times, we need to become one with our craft, especially when we are involved in a special project, paid or not. Other times, we can relax and engage people in conversation. Relaxed subjects often lead to very natural poses.

Eleven: Grab your smart phone or P&S. Take photographs while working with the built in limitations of those devices. It might teach a person to really see the subject instead of concentrating so much on a technique or process.

Twelve: Watch the weather. An evening thunderstorm might give us a great sunset shot. Wild flowers after a gentle rain look so soft and peaceful. Protect that camera gear, though.

Thirteen: Read a book. A favorite of mine (currently out of print) is Understanding Photography by Carl Shipman. It’s very old school, written during the height of popular SLRs for film such as the Canon A-1/AE-1, Olympus OM-1/OM-2, and Nikon FM/FE. It has in depth discussions of concepts such as gamma and color temps that we can adapt to our digital world. Again, is a great source for photo books, as is a local library.

Fourteen: Get out that film camera and shoot a roll or two. Think of how what you’re doing can cross over into the digital world, either in camera or with our imaging programs. Certain techniques force us to consider what is actually happening with our sensors (film), optics, and controls. Look in those old books from Point Thirteen for project ideas.

Fifteen: Teach a basic photographic idea to a beginner. It’s enjoyable. Make it fun!

Hopefully, some of these ideas will inspire you try them out. Use the equipment you have and give two or three of these ideas a try.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Prints framed in Reclaimed Wood!

11x14 prints $60.00
Matted and framed,
Total size 22” x 26”.
Frames made of reclaimed wood.
Local pick up only! Oklahoma City
See us on Instagram as @sweetharkcrafts

Friday, October 28, 2016

Why do we like B&W photography?

Most of us see the world in color. Our brains have the ability to focus in on color, too. Sometimes making the scene appear to be saturated with certain colors.

Many snapshots, tho, show a more balanced scene. We have to use filters (pre or post processing) and exposure tricks to highlight what we viewed in our mind's eye, to show others what we saw.

Nothing wrong with adjusting colors, contrasts, and exposures. That's part of the art of photography.

Sometimes, our mind's eye has a view that differs significantly from the levels present in the scene.

That's where Black & White excels.

For a long time, most photographs were in black and white. Technology advanced and then color became the norm. 

When most photographers were likely using mostly B&W, we found ways to make adjustments that showed what we saw in our mind.

Now, we have to rethink color, contrast, and exposure in order to take our color images and make them into B&W art.

An old photography course book (from the 50s, 60s, or 70s) can help us to see how colors can appear in the B&W medium. And what adjustments were made back then, can be done today. Either with glass filters and altering exposures, or in post processing with a good imaging program. 

Check out these pics. First in color. Filtered, processed, tweaked. Then reprocessed to B&W.

Try your hand at it.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

My Transition to Digital Pro

I've been doing this a long time. Photography, that is. Both as a job and as a personal art form.

The transition from being a film professional and hobbyist to doing all the same things in digital has taken me some time. Part of the reason is the sheer cost of some of the equipment. When shooting film was the norm, I could buy and sell used equipment at the drop of a hat. Being trained in camera and lens repair also helped, since I could basically buy low, fix and use, then sell high.

High end digital equipment, on the other hand,  is expensive, period. But, by being patient and frugal, I was able to piece together a set up that equals or surpasses almost everything I did in film.

Not a single brand new item in this rig. Used, demos, refurbished... saved me a lot of money. And yet, I get to shoot with heavy duty, super high resolution, and extremely versatile equipment. About the only thing that still doesn't match up is the large format view camera movements and the extreme depth of tonality in those films, but even at that, I can get pretty close with some of the newer image manipulation software programs.

Even the motion picture work I did (on film and video), training videos, local TV commercials, and an independent feature length film, I could now do on these same cameras.

In one bag, I can transport a rig covering fisheye and ultra wide angle to super telephoto and including macro and portrait. And it all doubles as a motion picture outfit. Of course, I still need other bags for the tripods, lights, reflectors, panoramic mounts, etc...

I still love film. And film is still needed for certain applications. But the high quality and versatility of digital has remade professional photography in this modern space age. I, for one, am loving it!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Panoramic Rig

Setting up a new rig for my panoramic photography

I've been using a budget rig and adapting my procedures to make it all work out. Since I've been consistently getting the highest ratings from my contracted client, my procedures have obviously worked.

But, I want to be available for the higher end jobs for my client, so I updated my equipment. 

Still, I didn't want to break the bank, so I even upgraded on a budget!

You can do that. Buy used. Used, refurbished, demos, all are good sources of quality equipment at bargain prices. 

You have to find places you can trust, tho. I picked up an 8 year old camera with almost no use at all for about 1/8th of its price when brand new. Sure, there is a new upgraded version of the camera in the brand's current line up, but did I want to pay almost $1800 more for that brand new camera? Or, could I use the high end features and quality of the used high end camera? I chose used.

The fisheye lens, too. I saved $500 by scouring the internet for a usable version. 

So far, I saved $2300.

The tripod set up I use is over 30 years old. Yep, I bought it in 1981. The same model is still for sale. Around $350. I can't recall how much I paid back when, so let's just call this a little more than 1/2 off, or $150 or so.

The one brand new item was my panoramic mount. There are several on the market, from $200 to $950. The most common brand/model is about $300. I found thru a multitude of reviews that the $200 brand is exactly the same, just not well known. So, a no brainer for Mr Budget. Another $100 saved. 

Even from discount sources, all brand new and current equipment would have been about $2500 or so more than what I have invested. For a rig that has no substantial difference in quality or use for my specific job needs. 

Want to know what I got?

(This was me calibrating the rig) 

I'm using a Nikon D300, Sigma 8mm f/4.0, Panosaurus 2.0 nodal point mount,  Bogen (now Manfrotto) 3021 legs plus 3028 head.

New models would be D500 (D7200 would work but is missing a few vital features), Sigma 8mm f/3.5, Nodal Ninja MkII, and Manfrotto tripod.