I Drank The Kool-Aid

When you’ve been around photography for even a short time, you hear of every gadget that will take your photography to the next level.  They promise to give your photographs that extra bit of “umph”.  I recently saw a video touting the virtues of a new 8 inch, round soft box that will do wonders for your photography.  I drank the kool-aid and ordered this photography transforming gadget.  I used it outdoors on camera.  I liked the results.  But today, I decided to put the soft box to the test, using it off camera.  After I looked at the results I decided to test the new soft box against some old standbys.  The flash I used was a totally manual Youngnuo YN460.  It is a manual flash that lets you control the flash power from full all the way down to 1/64th power.  The light stands were kept in the same position, the flash was at 1/4 power.  The camera settings were 1/200 @ f/5.6.

To see the full full-sized photo, right click it and open it in another tab or window.


The bare flash.  Notice that the photo is somewhat overexposed and the sharp, pronounced shadows.


The 8″ soft box (used off camera)

02-03-13_069The results are very sharp, pronounced shadows.  Notice that the light is indeed diffused and not as harsh and overexposed as in the bare flash.

02-03-13_076I decided to compare my first “soft box”, a 4 3/4″ x 6″ cardboard soft box that fits on your flash and can be used on camera.  For this experiment I used the flash off camera.

02-03-13_070Again, notice the sharp, pronounced shadows.  But, again, also notice that it is an improvement over the bare flash.  Notice the orange color cast to the photo!


I received a new 2 feet x 3 feet softbox. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get back far enough to show the whole softbox, but it is there.

02-03-13_072The results are astounding! What is missing in the photo?  SHADOWS!  The shadows are still there but they are not as sharp and pronounced as with the other two soft boxes I used.


What happens when you take the diffusing panel off the 2×3?

02-03-13_077Again the results are astounding.  The shadows are a little more pronounced than when you use the diffusion panel.  There may be times when I am looking for that edgier look and will use the soft box as a big, reflecting umbrella (so to speak).

What did I learn?  Well, women are right:  bigger is better!  All that being said, I will still use my new 8″ soft box when I’m outside.  This little experiment has shown me the advantages of the larger soft box.  And, no, my 2×3 soft box did not cost a bundle of money.  It cost a little over $30 on Amazon.

Jim the Photographer
Manchester CT
e-mail:  ctpicman@aol.com

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Great Sites For Portrait Photography Around Manchester Connecticut

People often want to find great sites for taking outdoor portraits.  Manchester, CT offers a number of great photo sites that work well for portrait photography.  Even if you don’t ask me to do the photographs I’ll offer you some ideas for great places to take photos (especially portraits) in the greater Manchester, Connecticut area.

The first place I recommend is Northwest Park.  It has easy access to I-84, ample parking, and (most of all) great photographic sites.  When you enter the park by automobile, bear right and continue on to the picnic pavilion.  At the picnic pavilion you have a number of photographic vistas to choose from!  And all of them are within easy walking distance.

My model isn’t the handsomest man in the world, but he works for free and kind of looks like me.

05-24-12_012The Children’s Butterfly Garden offers a variety of photo opportunities.  Perhaps the best opportunity is the natural frame the entrance makes.



A few steps away is the overlook on Union Pond. 05-24-12_017



05-24-12_024As you leave the overlook and turn left (heading toward Manchester), you will notice a path that goes into the woods.  The woods offer an escape from the sun on a hot, summer day.  There are great places to stop along the path and use as backgrounds for your portrait.


Go back toward the overlook and go down the stone stairs to the shores of Union Pond.  05-24-12_041The area beneath the overlook provides some great background opportunities.


The greater Manchester area offers some great photographic opportunities and I will share more of them so that you can find interesting places for your portrait photography.

Jim the Photographer  Manchester CT
e-mail:  ctpicman@aol.com

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Select Portfolio 03

Jim the Photographer, Manchester CT  e-mail:  ctpicman@aol.com

Welcome to the third page of my select portfolio!  To best view the images, right click them and open in a new tab or page.

Portfolio #1:https://jimthephotographer.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/select-portfolio-01/  Portfolio #2:https://jimthephotographer.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/select-portfolio-02/

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Color Balance Revisited

Photo 1–White Balance “cloudy” (click photo to see full size)

How important is the correct color balance for a photograph?  Normally, I would say that it is very important.  Recently I was in Maine on vacation.  While in York I took the two photographs on this page.  The day was a bit unusual because one moment it would be bright and sunny, the next moment the clouds would cover the sun (fully cloudy).

“Full sun” and “cloudy” have different light temperatures (and white balances).  I’m not going to explain the physics of light temperature.  Others have done and done it better.

Both of the photos were taken from the same place of the same subject (as you can readily see).  I made one mistake.  I forgot to change the white balance from “cloudy” to “full sun.”  You can see the differences in color rendition in the photos.  There is one small problem.  While the second photo (full sun) renders the photograph the way it actually appeared, something in me prefers the first photo.  I prefer the warmer color renditions in the photo I took by accident!

Photo 2–White Balance “Full Sun” (click photo to see full size)

What’s the moral of the story?  Experiment!  By experimenting with the light temperature/white balance you may take a photograph you really like.  Understand white balance and how it works, but don’t be afraid to adjust your white balance–you may actually like the results of the “wrong” white balance.  When you know the rules, you can bend the rules and even break the rules to achieve the results you want!

Visit the original posting concerning white balance and its importance at:  https://jimthephotographer.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/white-balance-its-important/

Jim the Photographer, Manchester CT,  ctpicman@aol.com

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White Balance–It’s Important

You may have read about white balance; you may have heard about white balance; you may even wonder why white balance is important.  This little entry will not get into the intricacies of white balance; other people have done it and done it better than I ever will.  This little entry will SHOW you WHY white balance is important.  Each of these photographs was taken under nearly identical circumstance of the same subject but there was a different white balance setting for each photo.  The photos were taken at about 1:30 p.m. in Charter Oak Park, Manchester CT, USA, in full sunlight, with a Nikon D3000 in manual mode.  See what happens when you use the wrong white balance.

Click on the thumbnail to see the full sized photo.  I recommend right clicking it and opening it in a new tab (but that’s just my preference).

Full Sunlight (the actual photo conditions)

Incandescent (old fashion light bulb)








Seeing why the right white balance is important, you can now choose to use the wrong white balance to achieve a special look you desire!

Jim the Photographer, Manchester CT,  ctpicman@aol.com

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Playing With a Circular Polarizing Filter (CPF)

Do you have polarizing sunglasses?  Polarizing sunglasses not only cut down on the amount of sunlight you see but will actually cut through glare.  When you drive into the sunlight, the glare on your windshielf sometimes is so great you can barely see the green light change to red.  You have a hard time seeing the child playing by the side of the road.  You have a hard time seeing because of the glare coming through your windshield.

I like wearing polarized sunglasses when I go bass fishing.  I will always remember the day I was fishing with a friend.  I wore my polarized sunglasses; he didn’t.  We joked about catching fish and the like.  Because of my polarized sunglasses I could see the fish swimming beneath the surface.  I outfished my friend and outfished him badly!  The next time he went fishing with me he had his polarized sunglasses!

Polarizing glasses cut down on the glare, all sorts of glare.  Photographic polarizing filters

photo 1

also cut down on glare.  They can dramatically cut down on glare!  I bought a circular polarizing filter last year but didn’t get a chance to play around with it until yesterday.  I decided to see the effects a polarizing filter had on my photography.   It’s called a circular filter because, after you screw it onto the end of your lens, you can adjust the polarizing effect, increasing it or decreasing it,  by adjusting the filter.

The first two photos are photographs of sunflower plants in my wife’s garden.  In these

photo 2

photo 1

photos, I am using fully manual mode.  There was full sun.  The settings are ISO 400, f/16, at 1/125.  The first photo is taken without the cpf; the second  photo is with the cpf.  .  Do I need to comment on the difference?

photo 4

photo 4, 5, and 6 are of cloud formations.  I wanted to see the effect of the polarizing filter on the sky.  The photo setting are, again, ISO 400, f/16, at 1/125.  I was surprised by the effect of the polarizing filter!

photo 5





photo 7

photo 6





Photographs 8 and 9 illustrate something.  I don’t know what it illustrates; I don’t know why it happens.  Photo 8 is of a group of kayakers.  As I  photographed the kayakers, I noticed that the photo seemed out of focus.  No matter how I adjusted the focus, it still seemed out of focus.  The distance was set at infinity.  In photo 9 I changed the camera angle about 90 degrees to take a “landscape” shot; this photograph was taken at the same time as photo 8!  Photo 9 was taken under identical conditions, at the same time, from the same location.  Photo 9 distance was also set at infinity.  After taking photo 9, I returned to photographing the kayakers with the same results as photo 8!  Why did this happen?  I have no idea.

photo 8


photo 9




Photos 8 and 9 were shot in shutter priority mode.  The setting for photo 8:  ISO 400, f/5.0, 1/250.  Photo 9:  ISO 400, f/11, 1/250.



I kept the circular polarizing filter on the camera at all times as I was experimenting with it.  I learned that the cpf is probably best used for landscapes; it can really increase the intensity of the sky and accentuate cloud formations.

I learned another thing about circular polarizing filters:  I have a lot more playing and experimenting to do with it!  I plan on experimenting with it around water and for landscapes.  I again want to try using it in situations like photo 8 and see what the results are.

My recommendation?  Get yourself a cpf and play around with it.  You’ll find that it will enhance your photographs!

Jim the Photographer, Manchester CT

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White Balance

These photographs were taken under identical circumstances.  The shutter speed was was 1/125, the aperture f/5.6, ISO setting 100.  The only difference was the “white balance” setting.  I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of white balance, like how it is measured and things like that.  But white balance is an important setting because it will give you a photo that will closely approximate what you truly saw when you made the shot.  Also, by changing the white balance, you can make interesting changes to your photos.  To put it simply, different types of light (incandecent, flurescent, sunlight, shade, cloudiness) have different qualities (color temperature); they are warm or cool; they have a different color balance.  The human eye is a superb machine (made and designed by a great Creator); it can automatically compensate for changes in white balance.  Your camera cannot!

White Balance #1–I intentionally used the direct sunlight white balance setting in this photograph.  It gives a bluish (and darkening) tint to the photo and perhaps a primeval atmosphere to it.

White Balance #2–The white balance in this photo was set to “shade.”  The sun was shining brightly, but this photo was taken in the shade of the woods.  It is a true rendering of what I saw when I took the photo.

Setting the white balance is important in taking great photos; knowing how and when to use it can bring your photography to a whole new level.  Experiment with your white balance, use the “wrong” setting in order to see the results.  You maybe pleased with the “wrong” results.  But you will never know unless you start using your white balance settings.

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