Do I sabotage my own success?

I’m pretty sure I do, choosing to stay in my comfort zone. I’m not afraid to stretch myself some, especially in artistic areas. But socially and in business, not so much.

This week I’ll be exploring this question with some trusted fiends at

It should be interesting at the least.

And since this is a “photo” blog, here’s a photo for no particular reason. Except I love this photo and I love this gal, Yomara Steen, my nephew’s new wife.


What in the world is ISO anyway?

When people ask me about my camera, the discussion often turns to ISO and what it is. But your real question is, “How can I utilize ISO to take better pictures?”

Here’s how, but first here’s what ISO means. In short it is a number that represents the digital camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Higher = more sensitivity. Numbers usually range from 100 up to 1600 on most cameras. (Pro cameras like my Canon 5D MkII goes up to ISO 25,600 or higher.)

In AUTOMATIC mode, your camera sets the ISO without your involvement based on the available light of your subject. Your owner’s manual includes instruction on manually setting the ISO, which can be helpful.
For example, if you take a picture in low light and zoom in to review your photo and find tons of tiny red and blue spots, especially in the shadow areas, you are seeing “color noise”. Some cameras are better at “noise reduction” than others. To reduce noise, lower the ISO you are using. It’s that simple. Always, always, always use the lowest possible ISO to keep noise at a minimum!

So when would you need a higher ISO? I’m glad you asked. Let’s say your friends are dancing at a club in low light and your photos of them are blurry (subject blur during the exposure). Set your ISO higher so you can use a faster shutter speed to reduce motion blur. Play with ISO vs. shutter speed to find a happy medium of minimal noise with minimal subject blur.

There’s a compromise setting in there somewhere that will be best for the situation.

After awhile you’ll realize that all of photography is a series of compromises:
Shoot tripod mounted for sharper photos vs. freedom of movement for better angles?
Carry a heavy bag and have everything or travel freely with just one lens?
Master available light photography or set up lights for “perfect lighting”?

So give your ISO setting a whirl. And at the next party, I’ll let you explain it… 😉

Where to start? There are 7077…

…photo apps in the iTunes Store. I know – I counted them today. I must admit I thought there were a lot, but 7077??? Well, the internet is practically made for photos and photographers, so why not offer tons of apps for all the smart phones around.

But where to start – obviously the choice can be bewildering, and trying them all is out of the question. That’s where I come in…

I won’t pretend to have tried even a fraction of them but I’ve tried some of the most popular apps. And since photos and the web and Facebook etc. seem to be made for each other all in the name of FUN which is the “funnest” one of all?

For me that’s easy – Instagram! It’s free and users rate it 5 out of 5 stars!

Actually Hipstamatic is the most popular photo app for the iPhone (but only rated 4 out of 5 stars), but Instagam offers something different – a community of fun-loving photographers behind the app.

Here are a few of the “Instagrams” I’ve made recently:

So, how does it work? Well, download the app and open it, click the center SHARE button and take a new photo or select one from your photo albums. Then the fun part begins:

Crop the photo to fit Instagram’s square format (reminiscent of old square format films). Then your cropped image appears onscreen. Along the bottom are “filters” which give your photo a variety of old camera/old film type looks. A range of retro looks with custom borders can be recreated, and you can try as many as you’d like (15 total)
before committing to a final version. Then click NEXT.

SHARE – From there you can let Instagram automatically upload the final image to your Facebook or Twitter accounts, or simply add them to your albums on the Instagram site. The Instagram community is interesting. You can meet and interact with other photographers there, “Like” their photos, “Follow” them, “Comment” on their work, etc. sound familiar?

Here are a few of mine full size:

So give it a try. I’m really enjoying this app and I’ll bet you will too. If you do try it, let me know what you think in the comments below. Thx!

Billions and billions of digital photos…

…are taken every year. According to a compilation by Michael Lesk in 1996, 52 billion were taken. More recently I heard 62 billion, 58 billion of which were taken with a cell photo/camera. So what, you say? So what?

Well that means that most people are happy to take and post on FB whatever comes out of their cell phones. Cases in point:

Some are decent – some are not. And these are not just random photos taken on the fly – these are these folks’ FB profile pix!

So what’s the point? I’m glad you asked. PEOPLE TAKE PICTURES FOR FUN (QUALITY IS OPTIONAL).

So, while I can be as serious about photography as the next photo pro, here we are going to have fun with our photos. I have a leading edge pro grade HDSLR (high definition single lens reflex camera) with a gazillion gigabyte sensor, shoots 30 frames per second, cost three month’s salary and is a real chick magnet (I wish). BUT, lately I’ve been having FUN with a “plastic fantastic” Holga and some fun iPhone apps for when I’m just having fun taking pix with my cell phone.

My next posts will share with you what I’ve been having fun with lately and how you, too, can be the envy of all your friends!!! lol

White balance and other geeky color stuff

Or, how to fix your goofy color photos.

The human eye and brain working together are pretty amazing. Our brains are constantly sorting through the confusion our eyes see to make order of things. Even photos with goofy color are “fixed” in the brain. Here’s an example:

Not a bad photo of my friend Saxon Holt, except the color is screwy! Much too red. But you can see it’s a guy holding a camera that is probably black. Right?

Doesn’t look too bad, huh? What if you saw a color corrected version like this:

If some of your photos look like the first one, one thing you can do to fix that is to set the “white balance” in your camera. In your camera’s Menu, set the white balance to match the type of light your subject is in. If you are in “mixed lighting” like room lamps with  sunlight through a window, you may be able to set a “custom white balance”. Check your owner’s manual for info on how to do that.

And for some real geeky info on color, check out this article in the Digital Photography School: How Colour Works

And enjoy Saxon’s blog, Mental Seeds, here: Saxon Holt’s photoblog


Alternate title: 10 Pro Photo Tips for the Casual Shooter

Alternate title: 10 Pro Photo Tips for the Casual Shooter

1. NOT FOCUSED – If shooting people focus in their eyes – “the window to the soul”. Let your camera focus properly before shooting, and don’t be closer to the subject than your camera can focus.
2. BLURRY OVERALL – hold the camera steady with both hands, feet apart slightly; slowly press the shutter button, don’t stab it.
3. DIRT LENS (BLURRY AREAS IN PHOTO) – small camera lenses seem to attract fingers. Keep lenses clear with a soft cloth or Lenspen ($10 at camera stores – works great!)
4. TILTED BUILDINGS OR HORIZON – Take a half second to square up the picture in your viewfinder.
5. CUT OFF HEADS, ARMS, FEET – include all or most of the person(s) in the photo.
6. HORIZONTAL PHOTOS OF VERTICAL SUBJECTS – utilize the whole frame by turning your camera on its side. It’s OK – it works fine that way. 😉
7. COLOR IS BAD – most cameras will let you tell the camera what kind of light your subject is in (called ‘setting the white balance’). Do that if needed, otherwise indoor photos will be orange and outdoor shade photos will be blue!
8. SUBJECT MOTION IS BLURRED – Move the camera (pan) with the movement to follow your subject. Click the shutter WHILE moving the camera.
9. PEAK ACTION IS OVER BY THE TIME YOUR CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKS – do you have lots of photos of already blown out birthday cake candles? Lower priced cameras often suffer from “shutter lag”. Learn how long that lag is and anticipate the action. You’ll get the hang of it. Turning off the ‘red eye’ option helps a lot!
10. PLAIN AND SIMPLE, THE PHOTO IS BORING – In the words of legendary war photographer Robert Capa, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Move in on some interesting details – smiling faces, twinkling eyes, flowers – whatever it was that caught your eye in the first place.
So next time you pick up your camera practice these tips. Your photos will be better for it. I promise!


The best day ever in my career was yesterday. I’ve been doing photography for 51 years, 14 of it professionally. I spent 40 of those years as a horticulturist/garden writer/photographer and have worked for the top nurseries in north Texas. I’ve been married to the same wonderful (amazing) woman for almost 41 years.
So why was yesterday the best day of my career ever? Well, I believe that every day has a purpose in God’s plan for us. So every day of my life prepared me for yesterday. My marriage, my children and grandchildren, my work, my computer skills, my photography talent and passion. 


They all came together right here, in this little blog.


What began as an assignment from my marketing coach, DotJenna (, has become a great joy in my life. Here is the feedback I got from my marketing group friends on Facebook (read from the bottom up.)

When my wife, Susan, read my latest posts last night, she said, “Honey, that is really good. I really like this.” Wow!

It’s no secret that I love appreciation and kudos from the people who mean most to me. I appreciate your comments and support also. If you would subscribe to this blog, in return I will give you myself, one post at a time.

5 Things About Myself That…

…I like most.

FYI – If this were not an assigned topic, I would not even think about writing about myself like this. In fact, if this blog itself were not an assignment of sorts, it (I) probably wouldn’t even be here. However, thanks to my social media coach, dotJenna, I’m putting myself out there and trusting her instructions.

OK – here goes, David Letterman list style…

Number 5 – I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. At age 63, let’s just say there’s been a lot of water under this bridge. Not much surprises me, though I am still learning about myself and what God’s plan is for me. I am blessed in this way in that some folks are not happy in their own skin.

Number 4 – I’ve gone through so much in my life, by God’s grace, that the future does not frighten me. Some folks live in fear of losing their jobs, losing their health, losing their money, whatever… God has seen me through so much and I know nothing can separate me from the love of God in the future.

Number 3 – I don’t mind being alone for a time. I’m not a recluse but I enjoy being by myself at times. That doesn’t bother me. For the record, I am happiest surrounded by family.

Number 2 – I am thankful for some God-given artistic abilities. My medium of choice is photography (big surprise there, huh?) and my favorite subjects are people and nature.

And lastly the Number 1 thing I like most about myself: I’m a great team player often making an excellent number two guy on the team. Loyalty and dependability with integrity and honesty are key attributes that serve to strengthen any endeavor I am involved in.

So there you have it. We’ll save the 5 things I don’t like about myself for another time. Or never…

My first paid photo job at age 12!

I am sometimes asked when I started in photography. My usual answer is that I did my first job for hire at age 12!

Here’s the whole story.

I had two amazing grandmothers. (Most grandmothers are amazing, I believe – we just don’t realize how amazing they are until they are gone.) One of them, Katherine Moll, was especially instrumental in my upbringing. She loved to travel and take pictures long the way. (They weren’t photos or photography back then – just “pictures.”) One day she upgraded I suppose, and gave me her old Kodak Brownie. That old plastic camera instantly became my most prized possession. I would scrape together enough loose change to buy film – processing would have to wait. Even to this day, I love creating photos more than working on them.

I took it almost everywhere including summer camp. As we were boarding the bus for camp, one of the camp counselors said, “If you’ll take photos of the boys doing different activities at the camp, I’ll pay for your film!” That was good enough for me!

My little Brownie and I were inseparable until one day I fell off my bike and the camera spilled out of my basket. It cracked on the sidewalk and that was the end of it. I cried, of course, and gave up photography for several years. It wasn’t until I arrived in Viet Nam as a fresh U S Marine that I bought myself a “real” camera, a Minolta SR-T 101 for $126.00. $126 for a fine camera, the first camera in the world with a built in light meter! Those were the days. My current camera cost $3200, and it didn’t come with a lens! I love my current Canon EOS 5D MkII and Adobe Photoshop CS, but I’ll never forget my photography roots and that clumsy old Kodak Brownie.