Dragging the shutter

Drawing shutter, Slow Shutter Speed

By slowing down your shutter speed (1/15sec) you can get some very interesting motion into otherwise static images



While in Washington DC last week I was able to get out one morning with my tripod for some early morning photography as the city came to life. I am increasingly drawn to longish exposures. For at least the last year or more I have been shooting all my moving water images with ND filters to draw out the exposure time and interject movement into the images. I experimented quite a bit this morning in DC with the same idea. Lengthen the time of the exposure with the tripod there to hold the majority of the scene crisp and sharp, while a small element within moved and created a sense of activity that would otherwise be lacking. This is one of my favorited from the day.

Want to shoot at the Prison where Shawshank Redemption was filmed?

Photo opportunities at the Mansfield Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio

The movie Shawshank redemption was filmed in Mansfield, Ohio in the Mansfield Reformatory.

Last year I made two trips to Mansfield, Ohio to photograph the reformatory where Shawshank redemption was filmed. It is such an interesting place. As a reformatory it was chartered to educate and teach new skills to the inmates in an effort to help them find legitimate work once they were released. Inmates had the opportunity to learn carpentry in the furniture shop, masonry, and numerous other life skills. The prison closed in 1990 and has since been used in numerous movies, most notably Shawshank Redemption in 1994. A small part of Air Force One with Harrison Ford was filmed there in 1997.
HDR image of Ohio Reformatory

Access way “behind the cells” to allow for maintenance of the mechanical systems.

There are public tours of the reformatory available, but tripods are not allowed. Private group tours however are available and tripods are allowed during private tours. I strongly encourage you to find a private tour directed toward photographers and join in. You will have much smaller crowds to deal with and the use of a tripod is paramount if you want to walk away with really great images. I have arranged for just such a private tour on Monday, March 14th from 11am to 4pm. Most people make it a same-day round trip excursion from metro-Detroit area. You can join in for $75. IF you have a friend or spouse that wants to attend but not take pictures they may do so for $12 (cash the day of the tour). Contact us to reserve a spot (248) 608-8563 or Info@GetShotByBob.com

Solitary, HDR

This image was shot in the deep recesses of the prison, where I am told you never wanted to end up.

All of the images in this posting were shot as multiple captures and then later blended to gather to create the highly detailed images you see here. This technique is designed to allow a photographer to capture a broader “dynamic range” than one could with a single exposure. High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a contentious subject among many photographers. Mostly because it can lead to very surrealistic images depending upon the software and personal choices made during the post-processing portion of the job. I personally love to shoot and process HDR images because I can create images that simply would not be possible without the technique.

Ornamental metal stairway, HDR image

All metal staircase found in the private areas of the prison where the warden and his family would have lived.

Most cameras will allow you to capture a 3 frame “bracket” of images that will later be processed down into a single image using software. The darkest image should have no overexposed highlights and the brightest image should have good detail the deep shadows. Occasionally it is helpful to have 5, 7 or even more images in the bracket to fully capture the full range of brightness within a scene. The greater the range of brightness, the more beneficial it is to have additional frames in the bracket. If you camera only captures a 3 frame bracket, there is a handy app called Photo Buddy that can aid you in properly capturing larger brackets.

Grungy wall, peeling paint

Newspapers or other reading matter is not permitted


The value of experimentation (Get out and play!)


Three frame HDR captured hand-held in the woods near West Branch, Michigan

I spent much of the past few days in the woods in West Branch Michigan with the Mud Chuggers 4×4 club at their Annual Sno Blind event. I have been attending and photographing the event for several years. The main attraction to off-roading for me is the opportunity to get out the woods and experience the more remote areas. This weekend provided plenty of opportunity to do just that. I am very pleased with how the final image came out. It conveys much of what draws me into the woods repeatedly.


Sun and Shadows in the woods.


Pine in Deep Snow

I am also pleased with the two images above, for similar reasons. They take me back to the moment I created them.

I was riding along with a few other people in a Jeep Grand Cherokee and didn’t have the time or room to haul a tripod, nor did the group have the patience for me to be seeing up and breaking down a tripod repeatedly, so I was shooting hand-held. After being out in the woods for a while I started to experiment with some longer exposure times. I wanted to capture a different look and feel to the images.

Driving by at 1/15th of a second.

Driving by at 1/15th of a second.

Did I mention it was around -15 degrees much of the day, so shooting from inside the Jeep was preferred much of the time. These next series of images were the result of playing with different shutter speeds and techniques.
Upward sweeping motion at 1/4 of a second.

Upward sweeping motion at 1/4 of a second.

I did some while turning the camera almost like you would a steering wheel.
Rotational capture at 1/10th of a second.

Rotational capture at 1/10th of a second.

My point being in all of this is that playing and experimenting can take you places that you may never have gone otherwise. I previously had tried similar techniques during night photography, but not during the day out in the woods. Make no mistake, I tossed out more images than I kept. The “hit” rate isn’t always great, but I am really excited about several of the images that resulted from this experiment.

271 Seconds – Streaking Clouds

I have been experimenting with extreme time exposures.

This image was shot in early October while driving to Drummond Island.

I used a 10 stop neutral density filter and the resulting exposure worked out to be 271 seconds. The extremely long duration allowed time for the clouds to “streak” across the image. The tree also managed to wobble quite a bit during the exposure thus the unique shaky look.

This Winter I will be hosting a “filter” workshop. The factory rep from Vü Filters will be on-hand to assist and we will have a full selection of filters available for purchase at special rates for workshop participants. Stay tuned!

Stretching out time

Extreme Time Exposure

Want to improve? Get out there and play.

Photographed during a Night Photography workshop held in Denver, Colorado.

Oysters . . . Seafood in neon!

I teach numerous people in a variety of different ways. I often hear “there is so much to remember…how do you do it”?

The same way you manage to drive your car everyday without incident (hopefully). You do it repeatedly until muscle memory takes over. Have you ever rented a different car when you travel? The initial few minutes behind the wheel are a little awkward while you are finding and familiarizing yourself with all the controls, but once you do all is well.

Strolling a vibrant downtown with a camera is one of my favorite activities.

Clock Tower as seen from the Downtown Denver walking mall.

If you have to look for each setting on your camera every time you want to make a change, that tells me that you simply need more time playing…developing that muscle memory. I’m afraid there simply isn’t any shortcut. It come with time and experimentation.

The images in this post were shot during a Night Photography workshop I instructed a few weeks back in Denver, Colorado. It was the night of the Mayweather – Pacquiao boxing match. The weather was cooperating nicely and the city was bustling. Many of the women were still donning their Kentucky Derby hats from earlier in the day. All in all, it was a superb evening to be out and playing with a camera. Most of the workshop participants had never attempted night photos and were constantly delighting themselves with the images they were able to create.

Caribou Coffee along the Denver walking mall.

Coffee shop at night

You can read every photography magazine printed and watch youtube channels until your eyes bleed, but your photography skills won’t improve until you actually get the camera out and work it. Join in on my photo walks, or register for a workshop that piques your interest. Playing and experimenting are simply the only way you will develop the familiarity required to make you feel comfortable with your camera. Even more amazing, is that once you really learn your camera, you will be able to pick up any camera and very quickly acquaint yourself with the controls (just like a rental car) and make beautiful images.

Raw vs. JPEG…my take on the situation


I love the advent of the digital darkroom, and my ability to get creative with my final vision.

As I sit watching it rain, I found myself wishing for a nicer day. I decided to find a fun image of better times. Thus the picture above, from a wonderful day in Savannah, Georgia.

So what does this have to do with my topic RAW vs. JPEG? Well let’s see. Let me take a moment to point out that this is an extensive topic, and this blog post is intended to provide an overview. If you want to get into detailed evaluations of the potential of RAW files there are other sites that can get very technical.

When people ask me if I shoot RAW or jpeg I tell them that I predominantly shoot in RAW. Typically the next question is why? For me, the answer is that I have numerous post processing tools that I use to optimize my photographic vision and the more information I have in the original file, the more options I have when it come time to processing the image in the computer.

So what are the implications of shooting RAW?

  1. First and foremost, you need a software product capable of viewing and editing the RAW file. While most cameras capable of capturing a RAW file come with manufacturer supplied software to view the files, they don’t all come with software capable of processing the files. Even if they do provide software, the workflow often leaves a lot to be desired.
  2. You need to understand that your initial “capture” or file will seem a little lackluster compared to a jpeg. Jpeg’s are fully processed in the camera before being saved to the memory card, as a result the jpeg will typically have more punch. The RAW file is much less processed and more of an all encompassing record of all the photographic information related to the scene.
  3. The RAW file will be larger, take up more space on your memory card and computer hard drive because it contains more data.
  4. If you miss judge your exposure a RAW file will provide you more latitude to correct your image back to a useable state than will a jpeg.

How should you decide which one to shoot?

  • If you want to work on your images in the digital darkroom, RAW files contain more data, and hold up better to adjustment. (My post-processing workflow starts with my tool of choice – Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5)
  • If you under or over expose, RAW files may give you the additional post processing latitude necessary to rescue an otherwise unusable image.
  • You plan to make enlargements and want to be sure you are getting the maximum file benefits that your camera has to offer.

What about shooting both? While most cameras capable of shooting RAW will also allow you to shoot RAW + JPEG, I am not a big proponent. It leads to twice as many file with which to download, organize and process. If you are a little leery of getting started into RAW processing by all means shoot both for a few outings to give yourself a safety net, but I think you will quickly find that shooting all RAW is not that daunting.

Thanks for reading my blog and say hello if we meet up in the real world.

Another fine day with the Easter Bunny

Easter BunnyWe had another fun Easter photographing families with the star of the day…The Easter Bunny!

We love event photography.  The looks on the kids faces when they meet the Easter Bunny is just amazing. Of course there were a few tears, but for the most part, their faces just light up when they turn the corner and spot the Bunny for the first time. Some of the big kids were pretty happy to see the bunny as well. I’m just saying…if you don’t believe then you don’t receive.

With the ability to print 5×7’s on location, event photography has become one of our favorite activities.


Architectural Photography in Detroit

View from the third floor of The Detroit Public Library looking East toward the Detroit Institute of Art

The view from the 3rd floor ofThe Detroit Public Library looking East.

Earlier this week I lead a group of photographers in an Architectural Workshop in Detroit. We had expected to start in the main branch of  The Detroit Public Library, and then walk around the DIA and Wayne State area. Well the library proved to be a treasure trove of photographic opportunities to such an extent that we stayed there right up until it was time to eat our dinner before heading to the roof of the Park Shelton to shoot sunset over the Detroit City Skyline.

This image, shot with a Nikon 16mm Nikkor AF Fisheye lens mounted on my Nikon D4 DSLR shows the grandeur of the main room on the third floor of the library.

A fisheye view of the Detroit Public Libry's third floor mural located in Adam Strohm Hall

This image was crafted with my Nikon 16mm Fisheye lens to give a sense of the scope of the third floor space.

After a delicious meal at Fourteen East, located within the Park Shelton, we proceeded to the roof top deck to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the City of Detroit. The shot below is one of many images I created in nik softwares HDR Efex Pro 2. I love the creative control I have with my HDR photography

Detroit as seen from the top of The Park Shelton (Kirby and Woodward Avenue)

Detroit as seen from the top of The Park Shelton (Kirby and Woodward Avenue)

Thanks for a great Portrait Workshop

Robert DiTommaso Photography Portrait Workshop Collage

After several recent classroom based workshops I just concluded a 3 workshop series “in-the-field” to give participants significantly more hands-on time.  The feedback has been wonderful, so it looks like I will be offering more such sessions in the future. Claire joined us today for the portraiture workshop and it helped substantially. The participants, like most photographers had no interest in being on the receiving side of the  lens, so it was greatly appreciated to have such a great model.