Saturday, December 31, 2011

Most popular posts of 2011

As the first calendar year of the Prairie Rim Images blog winds to a close, it seemed appropriate to look back at which posts made the biggest splash with our readers.  If you're a new reader, this will hopefully turn you on to a few of the gems that you may have missed.  I'm not surprised at which posts top the list, but I am, somewhat, at the degree to which they blew past their competition.  The top ten most popular posts, in reverse order, are...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A few of my LEAST favorite things

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a few of my favorite pieces of photographic equipment.  Those were items that I'd recommend to a friend without any reservation.  Of course, I'm not in love with all of my gear.  There are some items that I must use frequently, but curse them all the while.  While these pieces may work well enough for some, they don't meet my ever-increasing standards, and I'll be replacing them soon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Small scale DIY light tent

I wrote a while back about photographing some camera lenses using a DIY light tent that I made from a plastic storage tub and some printer paper.  This time, I demonstrate that the smaller the subject is, the simpler the lighting gets.  In this case, the subject is the SD memory card that I bent in two a few days ago.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why I prefer CompactFlash cards

The card reader in my computer has had trouble lately reading the SecureDigital card from our P&S camera unless the card was seated very securely in the slot. I've gotten in the habit of giving it a firm press when inserting it. A few nights ago, I guess I must have been pushing in at a slight angle, because I heard a crunch as I taco'd my SD card. I apparently seated it sufficiently, because despite the damage, I was still able to pull all the data off the card. This is not the first time I've heard of the data on SanDisk cards surviving catastrophic physical damage.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A few of my favorite things

With Christmas almost here, many of us are compiling lists of equipment that we'd like to own.  To that end, I wanted to mention a few of my own pieces that I've come to really love.  I tend to collect older equipment from various non-retail sources, so I've got a lot of gear piling up.  Some of it works well for me, and some of it doesn't.  The gear listed below is some of my best-loved equipment that I'd highly recommend to friends.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

First snow of the season

Today brought the first significant snow of the season to Lincoln.  There wasn't a lot -- only about an inch -- but it was enough to turn everything pretty.  As luck would have it, this is Saturday, so I was home & available to spend some time outside enjoying it with my camera.  It was even relatively warm and calm, which made shooting rather enjoyable despite the continuing precipitation.  Read on for a few pointers on cold weather photography.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Courthouse wedding

I spent some time recently photographing a wedding for some friends of my neighbors.  The ceremony took place at the county courthouse and lasted just 15 minutes.  I was a little concerned going in that I wouldn't be able to get very many photos from such a short event, but by showing up early & staying late (for a whopping 45 minutes on the job), it all worked out.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Choosing your first DSLR

Thanksgiving is approaching here in the US, and with it, the abundance of ads enticing us to do our Christmas shopping at their establishment.  Many people will use this opportunity to upgrade their camera beyond their current point-and-shoot model.  With the enormous selection of camera models available, how do you choose the right model?  I'll give you a few guidelines below.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Old glass: Tamron SP 90mm f/2.5 (52B) macro

If you've been reading a while, you know that I have a weak spot for old things.  This includes old, manual-focus lenses -- some of which are older than I am.  Today marks another installment of my "old glass" series.  This time we'll feature the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.5 (52B) macro lens -- a well-built, well-respected beauty of a lens that works equally well for close-ups and portraits.

Friday, November 4, 2011

One-light pocket watch

For my previous blog post, I wanted a photo of a watch -- and I wanted it quick.  My son is the latest owner of an old, well-worn pocket watch that originally belonged to my great-grandfather, and I figured that would be a perfect subject for my shot.  I was able to throw together a graphically-simple image using a single flash and some found props to create just the right image straight out of the camera.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Working behind the scenes

Don't worry, I'm still out here.  Things have been a little slow on the PRI blog lately, due in part to some great new things that we've got in the pipeline.  I can't spill the beans on them just yet, but watch for something resembling a formal announcement before the year's out.  In the mean time, I'll still keep turning out new photography posts as frequently as I can, and that won't change after the big announcement.  Don't touch that dial!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Interview with Khara Plicanic

This post marks the first of an upcoming series of interviews with photographers doing unique, interesting, and/or exceptional things.  When I recently learned about Lincoln, Nebraska, based wedding photographer and instructor Khara Plicanic, I could think of no better person for my kick-off interview.  Besides doing some excellent wedding (and formerly, portrait) work at KaBloom Studios, she has just published her first book, Your Camera Loves You:  Learn to Love It Back, and she is an avid speaker who loves sharing her passion and workflow techniques with the world.  In fact, she and husband Emir are currently in the midst of the [UN]tour, a cross-country bicycle tour on which Khara is presenting two free photography workshops in a handful of cities across the southern United States.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New camera releases

I'm not generally going to focus much on newly released equipment in this blog, but I'll make an exception here because I've already posted my speculations on one of these new cameras a few months ago.  Today, Lytro finally announced the commercial offering of their new light field camera.  Canon also announced a refresh of their flagship DSLR, the 1DX, earlier this week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Post-shoot culling/rating workflow

A few months ago, well known photographer Chase Jarvis posted the steps he uses to weed thousands of photos from an extended professional shoot down to just a handful of truly wonderful shots -- in just a matter of hours.  In a recent session, he culled 21,000 photos down to just 50-60 keepers in only five hours.  Granted, that was an exceptional case given the low hit ratio of the subject matter, but it's still an impressive degree of efficiency.  The key, according to Chase, is making multiple high-speed passes through your images and incrementing the star rating of appropriate images with each successive pass.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Black & white photography pointers

Early photographers -- during the first 100 years of the technology -- shot in black and white because it was the only thing available to them. This is the primary reason that most of Ansel Adams' great photos are in B&W. It wasn't until the late 1930's that color film became readily available. Still, many photographers prefer B&W photography because it produces a simpler image that allows the viewer to concentrate on what the photographer was trying to communicate through the photo.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DIY light tent + product shot BTS

I have an ongoing series of posts here at Prairie Rim Images in which I highlight many of the older, manual focus lenses which I love to use.  Because these are relatively small subjects, many of the photos that I take of these lenses can be made in a simple, table top studio made of parts scrounged from around my house and lit with only a single light source.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old glass: Yashica ML 75-150mm f/4

Many of you know that I like old things, and that includes camera lenses.  I love using inexpensive, old, manual-focus glass on my new DSLR bodies.  This is the second in an ongoing series of posts in which I highlight one of these old beauties.  This time, the spotlight is on my Yashica ML 75-150mm f/4 zoom lens.  It's an uncommon and inexpensive lens, even my my standards, but it still gets lots of use.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

United Way Campaign Kick-Off

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to photograph the local United Way / Community Health Charities' Campaign Kick-Off breakfast / tailgate party, which featured inspirational speaker and former Husker football player Aaron Davis as the keynote speaker.  Football season has started, and along with it the main fund raising campaign for the United Way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Patriot Day

Next Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the airborne attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, and the downed United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  11 Sept 2001 was a day that few American adults will ever forget.  I'd wager that everybody you meet on the street could tell you exactly where they were when they first heard of the 9-11 attacks.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Canon Loyalty Program

I learned recently of a program that Canon has to encourage owners of older Canon equipment (not just cameras) to stick with the brand on their next purchase.  It's called the Canon Loyalty Program, and it's not widely promoted.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Drinking in the rain

For a recent blog post, I wanted to create an image of a tray of coffee cups in the rain, preferably being held by me doing my best impression of a drowned rat.  I'd had this image in my head for a couple months, since I first conceived of the article.  Unfortunately, the shot didn't turn out quite like I'd planned.  In this BTS post, I want to discuss how I did what I did and what I should have done differently if I'd had sufficient time and ambition.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Are more pixels always a good thing?

Have you ever had a friend tell you that their new point and shoot camera has a 14 megapixel (MP) sensor, so they can print professional quality shots at 16x20"?  Ever wonder why the images from your 10MP DSLR look so much better, especially when taken in lower light?  One of the major reasons is the size of your image sensor.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Be there

Photojournalists from the 1960's popularized the phrase, "Tri-X, f/8, and be there" to describe the three most important aspects of their job.  While a forgiving black & white film and a moderate aperture may not be paramount for most photographers today, there's no getting around that last part.  The importance of "being there" has been underscored in my own experience many times, and I'd like to share one of those stories with you today.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Old glass: Asahi/Pentax SMC & Super-Takumar 50/1.4

Many of you know that I like old things, and that includes camera lenses.  I love using inexpensive, old, manual-focus glass on my new DSLR body.  I promised earlier to take some time now and then to talk about some of my older equipment, and this is the first installment.  Today, I highlight two of them:  my trusty Asahi (Pentax) Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens (built in 1967) and it's younger brother, the SMC Takumar 50/1.4 (built in 1974).  Although I have quite a selection of "fast fifty" lenses on my shelf, the Super-Tak is the one I grab most frequently for low light and portrait shooting.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Party lighting with multiple speedlites

Photographing family parties like birthdays or Christmas can produce some wonderful memories.  With just a little bit of pre-planning, the lighting at those events can produce not only fond memories, but also some attractive images at the same time without blinding the other participants with your on-camera flash.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You DO have a backup, right?

As a professional system administrator who has experienced many potentials for data loss both at work and among my extended family, and who has personally lived through a house fire, I have a somewhat uncommon level of expertise when it comes to preparing for the inevitable loss of electronic data, whether it comes from hardware failure, ill-advised modification, theft, or natural disaster. I often hear people mention how lost they would be if something happened to the data on their computer. Sometimes they ask my advice on the subject. More often, I give it without being asked because it's one of my pet peeves.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Welcome home, Grandma

Last Wednesday, my dear, 94-year-old grandmother was freed from her earthly bounds and taken home to join her husband and her Saviour in heaven. Cora Bell Hollingsworth was born and raised here in Lincoln. She lived for 73 years on a farm south of town. The first 67 of those years were shared with the love of her life, Robert.  I could write every day for a year without adequately conveying all Grandma & Grandpa have meant to me or done for those who knew them, but their Christ-like example is what most impressed me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fair photo competitions

The last few years, my daughter and I have taken part in the photography competitions at the Nebraska State Fair.  For those of you amateur photographers whom have never taken part in such a contest, I highly recommend it.  It's a fun experience, especially if you don't have much experience printing and displaying your images.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Increasing head rotation on a Canon 430EX flash

I love my flashes, thanks in large part to David Hobby. I don't love spending lots of money on equipment, which is why I opted to buy the cheaper Canon Speedlite 430EX flash instead of the bigger, badder 580EX. One of the things I sacrificed with that decision was the ability to rotate the flash head more than 90 degrees to the right. Most flashes will rotate a full 180 degrees to the left, but for some inexplicable reason, both Canon and Nikon limit the right rotation to 90 degrees on most of their flashes.  Read on to learn how I remedied the situation and increased the 430EX head rotation from 270 to 340 degrees.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tiny Hands... Big Hearts

Tiny Hands International is an organization based in Lincoln, Nebraska, which works to rescue young women and girls from the sex trafficking industry in Asia.  These girls are led from their homes in Nepal and surrounding countries with the promise of a new life and high paying job that will help pull their families from their poverty-stricken lives.  Instead, they are sold into slavery at brothels in India.  The promise of hope turns into a nightmare more horrible than most of us can imagine.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Three ways to shoot fireworks

With the USA's Independence Day (July 4th) falling on a Monday and creating a three day weekend, I was afforded the unusual circumstance this year of photographing fireworks on three consecutive days.  Generally, I get one -- maybe two -- chances to shoot fireworks per year.  If I wish I'd done something differently, I have to wait an entire year to try it again.  Getting three chances in rapid succession was kind of fun.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lytro's new light field camera

This changes everything.  Well, it might.  Or maybe not.  It could just turn out to be a lot of unsubstantiated marketing hype.  New Silicon Valley startup company Lytro announced recently that it will soon be marketing its new light field cameras to the consumer mass market.  I dropped back into my grad student mode to do some digging into this technology, and I'll give my opinions below.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Manual focus lenses: an introduction

Micro-Nikkor and two Super-Taks
I like old things.  I like to tinker.  I like to do things myself, preferably better and cheaper than the average Joe.  All these traits work together to give me a fondness for using old, manual-focus lenses on my new digital camera bodies.  Some of this old glass is very high quality, and can be had for pennies on the dollar.  With the proper adapter, many old lenses can be used on new cameras -- you just need to know what will work with your body.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Catching lightning

7s, f/11, ISO 100, 17mm, fluorescent
It's severe storm season, kids.  You all know what that means:  time to go outside and watch lightning.  IMHO, lightning is the coolest display of God's awesome power.  I love taking pictures of lightning, even though I don't get as many opportunities to do so as I'd like.  Here's a few things I've learned about how to do it over the years.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Photographing kids at play

Kids move pretty fast in the summer.  There's so much playing to cram into 15 short hours of daylight.  As parents, we naturally want to remember these fun times, both to relive our own fond memories of childhood and to preserve these memories for our children when they grow older.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making the money shot

If you can't tell already, I'm a teacher at heart.  Whether it's via one-on-one conversations or published text, I love to help people learn.  One good way to bring newcomers up to speed is to explain how I obtained a certain effect in my photos.  The first of these "behind the scenes" (BTS) scenarios describes how I obtained the "money shot" used to illustrate a previous blog post about David Hobby's business advice.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Shooting a round of golf

No inspiring, educational posts today. I finished this crazy week by shooting a round of golf. I don't play golf myself, mind you -- I photograph others doing it. Today was the Cross Pointe Innovations charity golf tournament to raise money for P.R.O.M., an organization which provides a senior prom for special needs high school kids who otherwise wouldn't attend a traditional, school-sponsored event. The full gallery has been posted on Prairie Rim Images' commercial site, but I'll give you a little taste of the event below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Saying goodbye, and other unpleasant events

Today, I killed a good friend.  Shazam, a wonderfully loving Vizsla / Springer Spaniel mix, had lived with us since she was weaned 11 years ago.  Our oldest son is only four months older than she was.  Our three kids have never known a time without her, and she was a great companion to them and, recently, to my daughter's 2-year-old Shih-Poo.  Zammy had the softest coat of any dog I've known, was very obedient, very loyal, and generally a great friend.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Photographing fireworks

Photographing fireworks is a popular pastime on certain holidays (like Independence Day in the USA) -- at least for those who aren't responsible for entertaining the little kids by lighting the fireworks. I've tried both lighting and taking pictures at the same time, and it just doesn't work well. You gotta pick one or the other. Anyway, you can get some pretty dramatic shots with just a little pre-planning. Below are a few pointers that I've learned over the years.  With July 4th just a few weeks away, hopefully some of you can find this helpful.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 aperture blade cleaning

I once ran across a garage sale selling a Nikon FE body (made 1978-84) with a Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 AIS macro lens attached. This is a highly regarded lens which will reach 1:2 natively and 1:1 with a 27.5mm extension tube. Even wide open, it's "so sharp you can cut yourself just by looking at it." Everybody loves it, except that this design has a chronic problem: oil leaks onto the aperture blades, causing them to stick. The lens I bought had already succumbed to this. I was too ignorant at the time to realize this and try to talk the seller down, but I still only paid $75 for a body/lens that, in working condition, could fetch $175 on eBay.  It doesn't take much prodding to convince me to take something apart and fix it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

DH on the new world of professional photography

David Hobby, creator of the overwhelmingly popular web site, has been writing and speaking a lot during the past months about his five-year adventure creating the Strobist web site and eventually turning it into his full-time job.  His is a pretty inspiring story for anybody who wants to work smarter, not harder.  While I do immensely admire DH's skills with a speedlight, I'm even more inspired by the business he has been able to create.  His most recent writing occurred just a couple days ago on Scott Kilby's blog, and that prompted me to share with you a few of his other ramblings on the subject.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Details, details

How many times have you gear heads visited a car show and come home with a collection of relatively wide angle shots, taken from head level, of single, entire cars.  If your purpose in taking the shot was to document that you were in close proximity of a shiny car... fine.  Mission accomplished.  But will that really bring back fond memories of the event years from now?

Friday, May 27, 2011

A plea for basic photo organization

We've all seen it:  the proverbial shoebox full of random photos hidden away in a drawer in your parents' basement.  It's fun to look through them and be reminded of the memories they depict.  But what happens a year later when you really need to get a certain picture, but can't find it because you don't know which shoebox it was in?  Sure, laugh... but how many of our own digital photo collections are organized any better?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


You've stumbled onto the very first post of the new blog for Prairie Rim Images.  We're a photography business based in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.  Ben Hollingsworth, the lead photographer (that's me), focuses primarily on fine art, commercial, event, product, real estate, and candid photography.  Although I have shot weddings and posed portraits, that's not really my niche.  When I said "we" above, it's because my daughter -- a talented artist in her own right -- occasionally lends a hand when necessary.

Who am I?  I'm a tinkerer -- a died-in-the-wool engineer.  I fix things.