Images by John 'K'

Life as seen through my lens…

Tag Archives: hobby

The freedom to soar comes at a price…

Red-tailed Hawk, originally uploaded by Images by John ‘K’.

Despite what others might think, and despite being in a position to actually make a little bit of money from it, photography is just my hobby. Like most hobbies that involve specialized equipment, once you start getting heavily into it you start to realize that it’s also very expensive if you want to see any sort of progression or want to further explore where your hobby can take you. Thanks to my job and my wonderfully understanding wife I already have a pretty good selection of tools to help me explore my hobby, but as always, the more you explore the more you want the freedom to go further and push that exploration as far as you can… and that freedom comes with an even bigger price-tag.

For me there are currently ‘just’ three big-ticket items left on the “wish list”, and because of the cost involved I’m going to have to spread these out over the next couple of years. One is a telephoto zoom lens with more range than the ones I have now. I had the opportunity to try one out at the weekend (this shot was taken with it) – it was 2-generations older than the model currently available, and was lacking some features that are important to me, but the current model has those, and so that one comes off the list this year.

The next is a good general-purpose “fast” lens for shooting in lower lights without the need to resort to either high ISO (some loss of quality) or use of flash (annoying for those in the area and can result in harsh lighting). There are a few offerings that are available that when looked at as a single purchase doesn’t appear to be too expensive, but when looked at with the purchase of the afore-mentioned telephoto lens is pushing the boundaries of budgetary “acceptability” for the year and so I am likely to defer this unless I get a pleasant surprise or two later during the year.

The last I am really debating, as it involves upgrading the camera body itself. I am pushing the technical limits of what can be done with a camera that does not have a full-frame 35mm sensor. The size and density of the camera’s image sensor makes an incredible difference to the technical quality of an image, which you’ll likely not see for “typical” shooting but makes one heck of a difference when doing some of the more technically challenging photography that I seem to be drawn to (just because it’s more challenging). Were I not in a position where I now have some commercial opportunities opening up for my photography I’d be looking to carry on with what I have, but in order to maximize my potential opportunity for earnings I need to move to a more “professional” camera to get the benefits of a full-frame sensor. Nikon are refreshing their whole pro-level range, and by the time I am ready to take that next step they will hopefully have worked out all of the initial post-launch kinks, so assuming things next year are still looking as they are now in terms of career and income, I’m contemplating moving to a full-frame camera from Nikon.

The current theory is that once these are off my list I’ll be happy for a while, but we all know how that goes, don’t we!! 🙂




As an amateur photographer who takes pictures for enjoyment, there is nothing that helps maintain an interest in the hobby more than words of praise and encouragement from people who see and appreciate and enjoy your images.

Well actually that’s not entirely true. What really strokes my ego and makes me want to keep taking pictures and sharing them with the world is the chance that someone will see one of my shots and want to use it in a cool and unusual way, and if it happens to be in support of a cause or organization that fits with my beliefs that’s even better.

I never take photos with the intent of trying to get them published – I take them for my enjoyment, and I like to share them with others in the hope that they might enjoy them too. The fact that someone has seen a picture of mine and has wanted to use it is really the icing on the cake for me, and I’ll happily support anyone who wants to use a shot of mine if they are kind enough to ask. I don’t want money (although it would be nice!) – all I ask for is photographer’s credit, and if the work is to be printed, I ask for a copy of the finished piece to add to a slowly growing collection of such works.

The latest shot to join the collection in the form of an open-out brochure is this panorama that I stitched from some shots I took while hiking on Mount Diablo in California in 2009. The image was seen on Flickr by someone looking to put together a brochure about some of the wildlife seen in the Mount Diablo State Park that would be given out to park visitors. As we are frequent users of the park and have had more enjoyment from the park than the entrance fee pays for, I was more than happy to donate this image to be used by them.

They asked about 4 months ago and we went through all the formalities for me to give my consent soon after, and I had all but forgotten about this, until a copy of the finished brochure arrived in the mail today accompanied by a very nice “thank you” letter. The brochure is now available from the summit visitors center in Mount Diablo State Park, is titled “Common Mammals of Mount Diablo State Park”, and features the work of a number of talented photographers who have given images for use by the authors.

It’s occasional rewards like this that truly make me want to keep shooting.



One of the things I love about photo hosting sites like Flickr is the opportunity to have your photography seen by others – to share your vision of the world and its beauty with other people in the hope that people get the chance to see things they might otherwise not see, and also to inspire others to look a bit more closely at the things around them.

With that in mind, while some people on Flickr hate it when others take their images and post them on blogs, I am honored to have my work chosen by someone else to illustrate a theme or help make a point (so long as the blogger links back to my original post on Flickr). My view of my photography is that it’s a hobby that brings me pleasure, and if that pleasure can be shared with others who also get enjoyment from my images, then that’s just a big bonus – the cherry on top as it were.

I’ve had my work used by a number of non profit groups, many with themes close to my heart for a variety of reasons – if my hobby can help them, I’m more than happy to play a small part. It’s rewarding and gratifying to have my images used in this way, but at the end of the day I know they’re looking to do something on a low budget and the fact that I’m happy to have them use my images or nothing more than a name credit probably plays a large part in their selection criteria.

Where I start to feel a little humbled though (because I don’t think my stuff is that good) is where people have included one of my photos in a “best of” blog collection. Typically the only way I see this has happened is when all of a sudden my Flickr usage stats show an image I posted some time ago has started to attract fresh attention. Often I’ll look at what the blogger has chosen and think “but I have better examples of this theme than the shot you chose”, but clearly they chose what they did for a reason, so who am I to argue? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all.

A few examples of where this has happened can be found at the following pages…

Every time I see one of these kinds of posts use one of my shots I find myself thinking “with the huge number of excellent shots out there from so many talented photographers, why on earth are you picking one of my images?”, but then I step back and realise that I’ve been picked by someone else with the same eye for things that I have (as I won’t share a shot if I don’t like it myself), and the more this happens the more I feel that I’m not so different from the other people out there after all…

Am I a lunatic?

Mystical MoonOriginally uploaded to Flickr by Images by John ‘K’.

I had been hoping to get a clear moon shot every night this week to track the moon’s transition to being full, but the weather was against me. Tonight the sky was covered with fluffy white clouds through which the moon would make an occasional appearance. The moonlight on the back of the clouds made for a beautiful scene though, so even though this wasn’t the crisp clear moon shot I was hoping to grab, I decided to get an image of the sky anyway.

Now anyone who knows anything about digital photography will know that there is no way I got this picture from one shot – to get the right exposure for the clouds the moon ends up as a ball of white light. To get the right exposure for the moon, the clouds in the sky disappear into the darkness of the night. So to make this image I had to take two shots and then merge them together. I’m quite pleased with the result though.

My friends on Flickr call me “The Moonman” because I seem to be fixated with photographing the moon. Am I The Moonman or simply a lunatic? :-)

Shooting the moon


Moon, 38% off, originally uploaded by Images by John ‘K’.

After much early experimentation trying to get something I considered to be a half-way-decent photo of the moon using the equipment I have, I came up with the following guidelines….. (these are based on my experiences with 2 Nikon cameras, a D40x and a D5000, usually with my AF-S NIKKOR 70-300mm 1:4.5-5.6 G lens – feel free to adjust this to fit your equipment!)…..

* Have no filters on the lens (you want as little unneeded glass between you and the moon as possible)
* Have the camera on a good tripod (if not possible, be sure to brace yourself against something solid)
* Don’t use VR unless you are shooting freehand (if the camera is stable you don’t need it)
* If you can (especially if on a tripod) use remote shutter, or timed shutter release (eliminates shake from shutter press)
* Set to spot focus and spot metering
* Use Shutter Priority
* Set shutter speed so the camera thinks the exposure will be dark (this will vary dependent on how full the moon is and what lens you have)
* Use as low an ISO setting as your camera will allow (ideally 100)
* Pre-focus the shot and then turn AF off for when you take it (sometimes AF will do funky things when you don’t want it to).
* If you want clarity, don’t shoot with the moon low on the horizon.
* If you really want clarity, you want the moon to be fairly high in the sky at a time when the sky itself still has some light (dusk).

Moon shots typically need a bit of post-processing, but be careful to not overdo it.

* Contrast and level adjustments give the most bang for the buck.
* Keep sharpening to a minimum.
* Do what you can to remove noise from the sky
* If the color is odd (and you don’t like that!!) consider converting black and white.

If you use my suggestions, please let me see how your shots come out! If you have a recipe of your own that works well, please share it!