Category Archives: Photography

Starting Up Again

It was about four years ago that I shut down this blog to pursue my music and other interests. I feel it is time to start it up, as I am shooting a new camera system, Canon, and  hitting the streets again.

You will notice the dates of most of the pics and posts are from a few years ago but they are as current as ever. The only thing that has really changed is that I am older, retired and shooting a Canon M6 and M50. Below I have posted a pic I took a couple of days ago. I have posted it in B&W and color. Glad to be back again and welcome to those who have happened by. Enjoy!

Canon M50
ISO 200
1/125 sec.



As I progressed as a photographer, and spent more time observing other photographers as they were taking pictures, I noticed a strange phenomenon. They would point their lens at their subject, press the shutter down half way and then move their lens again before taking the picture. At first I wasn’t sure what they were doing as it seemed strange. It was as if they were focusing twice.

As time progressed I found out that they were locking focus the first time and then recomposing their shot while they kept their finger pressed half way down on the shutter button. Why would they want to do this?

Many times, when taking pictures, a photographer wants to use the “rule of thirds.” Instead of having the subject right in the middle of the frame, portrait style, they want their subject slightly to the left or right. This is employing the “rule of thirds.”

When I look at many of my first photos, they are pretty good but everything is smack dab in the middle of the frame. There is something about moving the subject to the left or right that appeals more to the human eye. I can’t really explain it fully but there you have it.

Does that mean that I never have a picture with the subject right in the middle of the frame? Of course not! This is acceptable, especially in portrait photography, but not something that should be done all the time.

Many cameras let you have a grid visible in the viewfinder or on the LCD on the back of the camera. I highly recommend this. If you choose the 9 point grid it looks like a “tic, tac, toe” board is overlaid on your screen.  This makes it easier to use the “rule of thirds.” Simply put you subject in one of the places where the lines intersect. You can do this by recomposing or you can do this later in post-production by cropping/moving your subject. Personally, I prefer to get it right in the camera if possible.


Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 5.23.57 PM

I wish I would have known this when I purchased my first digital camera four years ago. Then again, one of the best things about photography is that I will never know it all. There is always something new to learn.

I have posted some examples below showing the difference between a portrait view and a view using the “rule of thirds.” I hope this helps.

Portrait mode- Pic in middle


Rule of thirds- Correct

_DSF3023-2Rule of thirds- Incorrect

_DSF3023-3I labeled the last one “incorrect”, and this is my personal feeling, because I tend to give more space in front of the direction the subject is facing. The second pic gives more room to her left.  The last one does not and puts her too close to the left edge of the frame.

© Vic Schmeltz

Things I wish I would have known- Part 2

In part one of this series I wrote about the “Exposure Triangle.” For this post I would like to discuss the “Composition Triangle.” This triangle has three parts also: Light, subject, and background.

First, let’s talk about light. Photography is about capturing light. There is a subject and some type of background but ultimately the light is of paramount importance. Will the light be exposed correctly or will it be underexposed or overexposed? Is there a correct exposure at all? These are all things that we need to think about. As you grow as a photographer you should be looking for the correct light. When I began shooting it was about the subject. The subject is important but it really it is about the light. Light will make or break a picture. I know you have seen multiple examples of this on Facebook. How many times have you seen a pic taken at the beach where there is a sunset but you can’t make out who the people are in the pic? Apparently the person taking the pic didn’t know what fill flash is so all they got in the picture was a silhouette. Don’t be that photographer. Look at the light and how it falls on the subject and expose accordingly. Currently, I am teaching my youngest grandson about photography and this was our last topic when we were out shooting. I showed him the same subject exposed normally and then I showed him that subject backlit. As we were hiking, the rest of the time he “focused” on finding backlit subjects be it a leaf, vine or cattail. We had a blast and he learned something new. The next time you shoot look primarily for great light- something that grabs you photographically. Then pick your subject with the light falling on it just the way you want.

Second, is the subject. The subject can literally be anything or anyone. When I hike I am not necessarily looking for large subjects. Many times I am looking for texture, maybe in the bark of a tree. I may be looking for something that will look good in black and white. I was out a couple of months ago and I focused on twisted things- be it a vine or branch. I shot exclusively in black and white and had a blast doing it. I have included some of those pictures at the end of this post. As an aside, today I tend to do this more. I may decide to shoot the entire time in macro mode, or at f/2 or with just one lens. It is a great challenge and a different way of looking at your subject, whatever or whomever it may be.

Third is the background. Many good pictures has been ruined by a tree in the background growing out of someones head. I have trained myself to slow down, take a moment to consider all three aspects of the composition triangle and then take the pic. I don’t “run and gun” anymore. I have tried in the last year to concentrate more on quality instead of quantity. If you are framing a pic notice what is in the background and move accordingly. Usually, that is all it takes. A step or two to the right or left can improve your background immensely.

I realize these are basics but I sure wish I would have known them four years ago. Maybe, by reading this post, you will save yourself some time and grief by considering the “Composition Triangle.”






© Vic Schmeltz

Things I wish I would have known- Part 1

It has been roughly eight years since I purchased my first digital camera. Lately, I have thought about what I have learned the last eight years and what I wish I would have known in the beginning. Obviously, it is impossible to know everything all at once but there are some things that would have been helpful to know and may have actually saved me some money in the long run. As I begin this series there will be no particular order to the posts and I have no idea how many there will be. First up- The Exposure Triangle.

One of the most important bits of information that is important to know is the exposure triangle. Unfortunately, this is something that many people learn later in their photographic journey as they spend way too much time shooting in auto mode. The attitude is, “All I want is good pics. Let the camera do all the work.” The problem with that thinking is a lot less creativity involved in the long run. When I purchased my first digital camera, a Nikon D5000, I shot on auto too- for the first week or so. My goal was to learn the basics of the camera and then to progress to being able to shoot with all manual settings. Yes, all manual! Personally, I believe every photographer should know how to do this. Most of the time I do use AP, aperture priority, but I do enjoy the challenge of setting the camera to manual and experimenting with different settings. You should definitely try this. It is digital after all and the worst thing that can happen is you have to delete some files that don’t come out the way you want. Now to the “triangle.”

The first part of the exposure triangle is ISO. In the film days this referred to how sensitive my film was to light. Nowadays, it refers to how sensitive you make your sensor to light. I always manually set this as I am not a big fan of auto ISO. I usually look at my conditions, be it sunny or cloudy, and set it accordingly. ISO 200 is less sensitive to light and ISO 4000 is more sensitive. On a sunny day I usually begin at ISO 200. If it is cloudy I may choose ISO 800. After four years I have a pretty good idea where my baseline will be. After a few frames I can adjust it up or down as the need arises. This setting is so important that I have it assigned to a function button on all of my Fuji cameras.

The second part of the exposure triangle is aperture. There are a few factors involved in setting the aperture but for me it is always Depth of Field (DOF). What kind of look do I want in the pictures I am taking? Do I want the background out of focus or do I want everything in focus? Aperture controls this and directly affects the rest of the triangle. If I choose to shoot wide open, say f/2, I may have to set my ISO to a lower setting if my camera does not have a maximum shutter speed that will allow a good exposure. This is why it is so important to pay attention to your viewfinder or LCD screen to double-check your settings. I recommend always having ISO, aperture and shutter speed displayed in your viewfinder or LCD.

The third and last part of the exposure triangle is shutter speed. If I shoot in aperture priority then the camera will choose this setting. Many times this works out great but it may be that I decide to set the shutter speed. I like doing this when I shoot in manual mode as many times I like to underexpose or overexpose certain scenes. For me, I tend to underexpose more. This is one of the main advantages of an Electronic View Finder (EVF) as you can see how your settings are effecting your shot. I was recently taking some night pics in Washington, D.C. I had my Fuji X-E2 on a tripod and was taking pictures of some trees with lights in them. I could look at the LCD and watch the scene change as I adjusted my shutter speed. I also ended up doing this in a hallway. I really liked the lights in the hallway as I liked their leading lines. They led to the end of the hallway which had a pink/purple hue to it. I have posted a couple of pics at the end of this post for you to see.

I have listed the three aspects of the exposure triangle in the order I actually use when shooting. Obviously you don’t have to do this but it works well for me.

As a side note, and a very important one, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to know your camera. Setting the exposure triangle should be something that is second nature for you, not something you have to think about. You know where on the camera to set the ISO, aperture and shutter speed and you can do so very quickly.

Let’s make that our first challenge. Find the quickest way to get to these settings and work on setting them quickly. I was out shooting my Fuji X100s today and was working on rotating the aperture dial without even looking at it. I knew how many clicks it was from f/2 to f/5.6 and did it while walking down a trail. Again, get to know your camera. You won’t regret it.

ISO 200; f/22; 1/4 sec


ISO 200; f/20; 1 sec



© Vic Schmeltz

Shooting with Film- Part 7

I was fortunate enough to receive my negatives and CD back from The Darkroom today.  This roll I shot with my new Leica M6 and  Leica Summarit 35 2.5 lens.  Since then I have also purchased a Leica Summarit 50 2.5 lens.  The 50 will live on the M6.  The 35 will stay on the M8.

After looking at the pics, and comparing to my other film pics taken with the Yashica camera, I can tell you that I love the look of film!  It is completely different and I can’t duplicate it in Lightroom 5.

I do shoot ISO 400 film so I have learned, after three rolls, that I will need to underexpose slightly when I shoot.  The only adjustment I need to make in Lightroom currently is to cut the highlights slightly so some areas are not blown out.  If I underexpose I shouldn’t need to make any adjustments with the next roll of film.  I use a higher ISO so I can use a higher shutter speed.  In street photography people are moving and I want to be able to freeze the action.

The upside to shooting with film is the look. The downside is the time and expense of shooting film.  I have already posted about some of the expenses so I won’t go into that again.  If I do not process the film myself it does take time to see the results as I have to send it to The Darkroom in California to be processed.  I have looked into processing the negatives myself.  It is not difficult but there is some expense involved in buying a processing tank and chemicals etc.  If there is not a room that is completely dark a changing bag or tent will have to be purchased too.  This is something I may do in the future.  The real expense is buying a scanner.  That can run $300-40o.  I am not sure if I want to do that right now.  We will see.

I have shot the last three rolls as an experiment.  Now I will begin shooting my next roll looking for some really good subjects.  I will post the best ones here on the blog when I can.  Undoubtedly it will take a while as shooting with film has slowed me down and made me pickier about what I take a picture of.

Tomorrow I will be posting a pic I took with this last roll of film.  I hope you like it.