Tampa Bay

Default Sunny Day DSLR Camera Settings f/11 1/320th lowest ISO

My DSLR photography students often ask me what settings should I use?  Well, that is a very hard question to answer as there are any number of factors that would determine how one would set the five settings necessary to produce a well exposed and sharp shot.  So for this photography tip I offer my default sunny day settings.  If it is a sunny day, before I leave the house I would set my DSLR to the following in general:

aperture:  f/11

shutter speed:  1/320th

ISO:  (lowest for your camera)

Of course there are factors like what lens you are using, what type of subject, etc., etc., but if you are looking to make a shot like the one above on a nice sunny, Florida day, try starting with the default settings above.

Safety Harbor Pier HDR & Panorama Clearwater Florida

The view from under the Safety Harbor Pier - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/11 ISO 200 5-exposure HDR handheld

Due to a very low tide, I found myself with the opportunity to go under the Safety Harbor Pier.  I did not go to Safety Harbor with the express purpose of photographing it, but I of course did have my DSLR with me, but not my tripod.  The sun was still high in the sky and as you can see from the shadows starting to make its way toward the west.  A single exposure shot would not capture much of the detail under the pier itself.  However, since there was still quite a bit of available light I dared for a 5-exposure handheld HDR shot.  I highly recommend using a tripod for HDR no matter what the light, but as you can see, in a pinch, and with enough light, even a 5-exposure shot can be handheld and still produce a sharp image.

Click for large 2000px version - Safety Harbor Pier and Tampa Bay panorama - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50 @ f/11 ISO 200 1/400th 5-frame panoramaLacking my tripod did not stop me from also making a 5-frame panorama of Tampa Bay and the Safety Harbor Pier.  I used the gridlines in my viewfinder to keep each shot level with the horizon as I set the exposure to f/11 in aperture priority mode and rotated to make the five shots that I would later stitch together in Photoshop CS5 using the Photomerge function.

Safety Harbor Pier HDR image - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 5-exposure HDR handheldOnce again no tripod on hand, but I felt confident to be able to handhold this shot for five quick frames (using my Nikon D300's 6-frames per second burst mode) given the light available.  My composition choice came from putting the horizon in the lower third of the frame and having the pier form a leading line toward the center.

First Sunrise of 2012 Florida Sunshine Skyway Bridge New Years

First light of dawn on New Year's morning 2012 Sunshine Skyway Bridge - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 10 sec tripod mounted with cable releaseI was just thinking about a week ago how I have no photographs of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, one of the top landmarks in the entire Tampa Bay area.  With New Year's Day 2012 approaching it seemed then a great chance to continue a Japanese custom, watching the first sunrise of the year, while finally photographing the bridge.  I learned from a photographer in Japan that the best morning light is actually way before the actual sunrise.  The above image was taken approximately 49 minutes before sunrise.

Dawn light surrounding the peaks of Sunshine Skyway Bridge - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/16 ISO 200 5 sec tripod mounted with cable releaseDawn photography is similarly easy to night photography.  If you have a stable tripod and a cable release, then it is basically just a matter of choosing the best shutter speed to produce the most vivid color and also of course composing the shot in an interesting way.  With my Nikon D300 mounted on my Induro CT214 carbon fiber tripod, making these shots was no mess, no fuss.  By that I mean the tripod takes away the physicality of holding the DSLR and heavy lens, correcting a shot just means turning one dial for shutter speed, and the act of making the shot itself is just holding the button on the light cable release.  Painless!

The sun first peaks over Sunshine Skyway Bridge St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/16 ISO 200 1/60th tripod mounted with cable releaseIn the fifteen or so minutes before the actual sunrise the light is already poor, especially compared to the light fifty minutes earlier.  So in that time I did not even bother making any photos.  Thus, it is important to know the exact minute of the sunrise so you can keep an eye on the time because once the good dawn light is gone, all that remains is to photograph the sun itself rising above the horizon.  Once it is above, that is the end of the excitement.

Vivid orange sunrise Sunshine Skyway Bridge Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/16 ISO 200 7-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseSince the sunrise is well in the distance along the horizon, using a longer lens with a focal length of 200mm is very handy for being able to fill the frame.  The above shot was taken at 200mm (300mm effective focal length).  

Please put links to your New Year's sunrise photographs in the comments below!


Dramatic Stormy Sky Over Tampa Bay From The Pier

Dramatic Sky over Tampa Bay - 5-bracket HDR f/8 ISO 200 tripod mounted with cable releaseI have been starting to miss mountains the past few weeks.  I watched every stage of the 2011 Tour de France as the riders first went over the Pyrenees and then the Alps.  The helicopter views of the French countryside were often as stunning as the cycling action.  With the option to make landscapes of mountains and architecture shots of old castles, I was thinking, "Florida really has nothing in comparison."

Well, Florida has almost nothing.  Here we do have near daily dramatic sunsets and stormy skies.  Each twilight brings a slightly different cloud pattern, sky color and reflection over Tampa Bay (if looking east from The Pier as in the above photo).

Still, once one lives around mountains, it is hard to forget them.  I imagine it is the same for living by the Sea.  Perhaps the combination of mountains and sea are why so many songs are written about California.  

This Tampa Bay landscape is available for commercial license and fine art print, inquire today!

Tampa Bay with Clouds 6000px Panorama

Click to view 6000px version -- 10-frame panorama of Tampa Bay with morning cloud coverLast year a friend requested some photographs of clouds.  I never felt I got the exact shot she imagined so in the back of my mind to this day resides that cloud photograph request.  Well this morning out to the east over Tampa Bay was a whole front of large puffy clouds.  I steadied myself on the upper railing on the roof of The Pier in downtown St. Petersburg and using the gridlines (I would never buy a DSLR that does not have this feature) in my Nikon D300 I lined by hand a 10-frame panorama.  Of course it would have been best to use a tripod, but I did not have one with me and since I could clearly see the horizon and thus line it up with the lower-third gridline in my viewfinder, I do not think I could have done much better.

I put the 10 photographs into a folder on my desktop, called up the automated PhotoMerge function in Photoshop CS5 and let the app and my Core i7 cpu do the rest.  Once stitched together I did a little further editing and then resized it to a more manageable version.  The original file is over 14,000 pixels wide!

This Tampa Bay panorama is available for commercial license and fine art print, inquire today!

Luxury Real Estate Tampa Bay Apollo Beach Home

Sweeping view of Tampa Bay facing west - Luxury Florida Real Estate PhotographyI believe the view of Tampa Bay from the Apollo Beach side is best because, for one, it faces west allowing for prime viewing of Florida's amazing sunsets.  Another reason that may only bother me is that there is a large electric plant on the Apollo Beach side.  So if you live on the St. Petersburg side this small spot of smoke stacks jars what is otherwise a flawless view.  It would slowly drive me crazy.  Of course if you live on the Apollo Beach side, then you have to be neighbors with the power plant.  Hmm, which would you choose?  

This luxury home in Apollo Beach had a great "backyard" for entertaining, i.e. no grass, an infinity pool and expansive covered and uncovered seating areas.  Personally, I would take a grassy backyard over pavers and a pool any day because I would want a place to run and play with beloved puppy Kiki.  Plus I am a recluse and never entertain.  However, if you are the opposite of me, as most people are, this type of space would be ideal.

Great Room opening wide to Tampa Bay - Luxury Florida Real Estate Photography

All along the back of the house are a series of sliding glass doors that all open in a cascading fashion into a pocket in the wall creating a completely open feeling to the great room as if Tampa Bay itself flowed to the doorstep.  

Estate-like Apollo Beach Home grand entrance - Luxury Florida Real Estate PhotographyRoyal palm trees do their best to create a curb appeal for the home to try and keep up with the million dollar water views from the back.  I think the front definitely holds its own.

Rusty Pelican Sunset & Twilight Wedding with Mary & Jason

Rusty Pelican in Tampa waterfront view of Tampa Bay provides the background for the wedding couple

You really never know where you might find a wedding photography job.  Back in February I was still considering other work to supplement the photography business.  I was at some nursing college in Tampa to interview for an English teaching position there.  One of the other two applicants was Mary.  During the mind numbingly boring 2-hour class we were "requested" to sit in on we got to talking and it turned out she was engaged and did need a wedding photographer.  From that very chance encounter, it ended in me photographing her wedding to Jason at the Rusty Pelican along Tampa Bay.  Oh, and though we were told we were the only candidates for the jobs, no one was ever contacted again!

Inside the lobby of the Westin Hotel in Tampa was this very cool waterfall background that presented a challenge to photograph well.

I started photographing their wedding from their apartment near downtown Tampa.  Mary was getting ready there as well as the bridesmaids.  Then I was off to the Westin Hotel to meet Jason and the groomsmen.  The lobby of the Westin was really cool looking and I was excited to have a very modern looking glass waterfall to use as a background.  

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/4 ISO 800 1/40th Strobist: Nikon SB-800 to left & Nikon SB-600 to right

I have to admit it took me quite a few tries to finally get the exposure correct so that the colors in the waterfall could be seen and that the groomsmen were all adequately lit up.  To get the above image, I had to use a settings combo that I never had before.  I had to have very steady hands while using 1/40th of a second shutter speed.  I told the groomsmen to likewise hold there poses as statuesque as possible.  In the end I was very pleased with the results and gained a lot of new experience from shooting in such a unique location.  

 At the Rusty Pelican, father of the bride walks her down the aisle to give her awayThe weather cooperated perfectly for Jason and Mary's outdoor wedding ceremony at the Rusty Pelican.  It was not even that hot.  The sky had just enough clouds to make an interesting backdrop for the ceremony and later the formal portraits.

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/80th Strobist: SB-800 to left and SB-600 to rightThere were two other weddings earlier at the Rusty Pelican.  We were fortunate to be last because that meant I was already well setup for getting the best sunset and twilight backgrounds for my photographs.  Two other photographers had to scurry for lesser spots.  

Making a group portrait like this at twilight would not be possible without a 2-strobe setupOver the course of this year I added a second strobe to my strobist setup for sunset and twilight portraits.  This allows me to properly light a wide group of people like the nine adults in a row above.  This is one rare, highly specialized skill that is available to clients who choose Jason Collin Photography.

A Wedding Kiss at Twilight from the Rusty PelicanOn their shot list, Mary and Jason wanted a photograph of them under the Rusty Pelican sign.  Time was running short, as often tends to happen with wedding photography, so as we were walking in to the reception, I had them stand under the sign while I quickly setup my 2-strobe technique with my camera bags being hurriedly tossed aside (closed though!) and was able to get several different shots of them while placating the Rusty Pelican staff person urging them to get inside to their guests.  

For me, that was the last tough, time pressured shot of the night.  From there it was off to the free flowing shooting environment of the wedding reception.  Mary and Jason's wedding was a great technical challenge that allowed for me to produce some of my most creative shots of the year.