Reaching Down Into The Depths Of Our Images

I could spend an incredible amount of time writing about all the factors that make up depth of field.  But so much has been written already that it would really be an act in futility.  However what I can do is direct you to links that contain good information about circles of confusion, which they are and depth of field.

What is important and worth reading about and learning is why you want to use depth of field of your lenses for more creative photography.  It is a very important part of your daily photography just like getting the focus point correct, and the exposure nailed.

Plumbing The Depths (Of Field)  Luminos Landscape

The issue of Depth of Field (DOF) seems to cause a great deal of confusion. Every photographer understands it somewhat, but rarely with the rigor needed to explain it to others. In fact, to be completely honest, I’ve had to go to a couple of reference books to be sure that I get the explanations here technically correct.

The term “Depth of Field” describes the range in a photograph, from near to far, that appears to be in focus. Everyone knows that the more a lens is stopped down, the more depth of field there will be, (true).  Most people also believe that wide angle lenses have more depth of field than telephoto lenses (false). Let’s see what the facts really are, and why.

Editor note:  This article is a bit dated but most certainly answers the questions about depth of field.  The concepts don’t change because a few years have gone by

Depth of Field – Nice easy read

There is also software for your PC, MAC, IPHONE, ANDROID PHONES, IPADS, ETC. that can really settle the whole issue for you.  As you begin to use little programs like this you will begin to understand how your particular sensor sizes and lenses perform and you will eventually not have to rely upon them to set up your perfect shot.

Software right here

Cameras, Meters, Lenses Meet Snow

Elliot Paul Stern – – February 6, 2013

When your sophisticated camera’s metering system comes across the white of a winter storm and you are on the ready to capture the beauty that snow brings with it.

There is a really good chance that you are going to be disappointed.  All that beautiful white snow mixed together with a blue sky, and weighted down pine trees is going to look gray.

The reason for that is because your camera meter is based on approximately 12 percent gray so when it sees white it wants to make it gray.  While not pertinent to photographing snow, the same meter, if it sees a bunch of black creates an exposure that gives you 12 percent gray.

In order to increase the accuracy and in our case come up with white snow the solution can be pretty easy if you have a camera that allows you to set an over exposure via a dial or through the menus..

To get the snow white and you are in aperture or shutter priority you want to over expose (+) by 1.5 to 2 stops on the dial.

 As long as we are talking about the dial or menu, then I know you have already figured out how to get black, black.  That’s right.  Underexpose  (-) by about .33 to 1.5 stops.

If you are shooting in the manual mode of the camera for those cameras that have a manual mode, you can modify your lighting by adjusting either shutter speed or aperture.  I prefer to adjust using the shutter speed which means I have a constant aperture.

 You could also  deal with this in software like Adobe Lightroom, but getting to white snow may cause burn out in the image.  If you were trying to get to black then you may wind up increasing the noise/grain levels.  Neither of those is a good idea.  That’s why it is always important to get that exposure correct in the camera.  If your camera provides a histogram, remember to always expose to the right.

 Of course if your camera allows bracketing it is not such a bad idea to use that as well.  That way you will give yourself several choices.  You can use bracketing with exposure modification as well.

I usually use 200 Iso.  While today’s modern cameras can shoot at much higher iso, the best quality is still going to be at the base iso of about 200.  I also like to have a tripod with me which I can use for steadier images if shutter speeds get to slow with that low iso.

If you have a point and shoot camera that does not have these adjustments (some do) then you probably have a scene mode in your camera that is called beach or snow or both.  Try that and you will get better results than you would shooting the camera on regular automatic.

Of course all we need in Virginia is some real snow to work with.


To UV or Not UV – To Protect Or Go Bare Glass

Elliot Paul Stern – Blog  –  February 5, 2013

I carry two types of filters. A variable neutral density and a polarizer. To save a few bucks I use step down rings. I use step down rings with the largest filter size I need. Usually, that would mean one size fits all. Excellent filters, made from excellent optical glass are not cheap. These two filters are more or less specialized in controlling light. Neutral density filers cut back light so you can get to slower shutter speeds but have no effect on the color of the image. Polarizer filters also cut back light by about 2 to 2.5 stops, eliminate reflections and deepen color.

But this blog is about the most basic of filters. UV filters, Skylight filters and Clear protective filters.

Many years ago when I purchased my first lenses, the choice of basic filters was to “correct” the effects of Ultraviolet Rays on film, which are prevalent in overcast and hazy lighting conditions. Therefore they are called UV Filters. In that same time period there was and still is another filter called Skylight. This filter also corrected for some ultraviolet but also produced a very slight warming effect. Photographers usually choose one or the other and stayed with it as part of their shooting style. As time moved forward and technology in regards to lens coatings did the same, photographers felt that the UV issue was covered in the lens coatings. Overtime, the UV filter became the protective accessory that no one should be without. The UV filter now became more important as a means of protecting front elements as opposed to correcting for UV light. Then came the neutrally clear filters which did nothing but protect.

So here is where personal opinion comes in. Please remember that it is my opinion and there are others that differ. No matter what anyone believes to be true or not true or partially true is of no consequence. What is important is the quality of the filter if you decide to use one. It must be one of excellence. It must be equal to and better than the lens you are putting it on. Buying a cheap filter is like shooting through a Coke bottle. Who makes an excellent UV filter? Zeiss, Heliopan, B+W, Calumet made by B+W.

I believe that UV filters are still necessary to block UV light when shooting in hazy conditions. WITH FILM.

  1. I believe that under certain conditions such as being on beaches with blowing sand, salt water, highly polluted areas, muddy forest trails, skydiving, and the like could require protection of the front elements.

  2. Rainy and misty conditions.

  3. Digital Camera sensor are no where near as sensitive to UV rays as film. So for digital cameras we are looking more at a piece of glass for protection as opposed to image enhancement.

I have used UV filters on my lenses for as long as I can remember. Having been in the photography industry for many years I grew into the philosophy that UV filters needed to be a permanent part of the lens. It was the only way to protect against UV issues and too protect front elements. Back then there was very little thought given as to the effect that the extra piece of glass might have on overall optical quality.

Today, a battle goes on about the image quality with and without the filter on the front. One school of thought says it does not effect the optical quality as long as it is an excellent filter. The other school of thought says that the optical design of the lens today is highly complex and the addition of one more surface will create quality issues. That was probably viable 50 years ago as well.

What do I do?

I carry UV filters for all of my lenses and use them if shooting conditions require if I find myself in a situation where the front element might be damaged.

I have become a part of the school of thought that putting the additional piece of glass in front of the front element could affect the image quality edge to edge.

More important to me, is the lens hood. It not only affords you a great deal of protection from stray light, but from bangs and dings you may encounter on your quest for the perfect image.

Finally. Front lens caps and rear lens caps. USE THEM PLEASE.

Waiting For The Next Best Thing

Elliot Paul Stern – – -February 5, 2013

The camera industry, thanks to technology in sensors has been able to remake itself into one of the biggest electronic industries out there today.  Computer technologies have enabled cameras to have image control features that never existed with film cameras.

The one thing you can be sure of is that technology will not stop moving ahead with newer and better developments in sensor technology and other technology with which to enhance your photographic experience.  Whether or not that will really make a difference in the final image delivery, either electronic or paper and ink is hard to say.  I can say that as the sensor technology improves so must the glass that brings the image to the sensor.  You can never go wrong investing in better optics.  And better optics will make a difference in the final image presentation.


One of the main questions I always get in emails or at workshops is “I want to buy a new camera, but should I wait, because something better is going to come out, what do you think?”

I think that no matter what kind of camera style you want, whether it be a compact mirrorless system, a full sized Dslr system, a point and shoot, a range finder system,  or a fixed lens mirrorless, I would not wait for the next best thing because the changes are not going to be that much better and may not be better at all.

If you already have a system, then think about upgrading your lenses.  As megapixels grow so does the need for better lenses.nicubunu_Emoticons_Question_face

If you are at a new stage of your photography and want less gear in lighter packages that produce outstanding images then consider mirrorless cameras from Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony.

If you want high speed, rapid focusing, full frame cameras then consider Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax cameras.

If you have questions then please email me at

Sometimes You Just Have To Read About New Technology

I came across this web site and the Iphone products they offer and was struck by the need to know hammer.  So I spent some late hour on Saturday evening reading about Draw/tiff.  That’s right.  It is sort of raw but sort of tiff and comes from jpeg and produces a better Iphone image in a variety of programs offered by the company called JAGGR.

So without anymore words from me, this link will direct you to the blog I read and also  let you read about their different products.  If you are an Iphone photographer then this could be a must read.


Black & White Photography – It Has Always Been The Most Telling Of All The Photographic Media – Create Sensative and Bold Artistic Stories

Black and White Photography: It’s All About Tones (Philadelphia, PA)

When: Friday, March 22, 2012, at noon to Sunday, March 24, at approximately 3:00 pm

Where: Philadelphia, PAHotel: The Hampton Inn, Philadelphia, Pa

Instructor: Brian J Zwit and Elliot Stern,  and Keith Ervin

Registration Fee: $450.00

Click here to register for Black and White Photography: It’s All About Tones.

With the victory of digital imaging over film, many photographers thought that the era of black and white photography had come to an end. It was simply impossible to create true, neutral black and white images with the equipment available at that time. However, black and white photography is currently undergoing a renaissance as a result of improvements in software and printers. We can now create black and white images that rival silver halide images.

In Black and White Photography: It’s All About Tones, you will learn how to take and create stunning black and white digital images. You will learn and practice how to choose an appropriate subject, compose your image, calculate exposure, and convert your color digital images to black and white. The workshop includes classroom instruction, field work in downtown Philadelphia and the surrounding area, and practice in the digital darkroom.

Philadelphia offers some incredible subjects for you to hone your black and white skills. Your instructors, Brian Zwit and Elliot Stern, & Keith Ervin (in our instructor pages) will take you, among other places, to the Eastern State Penitentiary to photograph the old prison, the waterfront to capture the excitement and beauty of the harbor as well as downtown Philadelphia, and two local parks for outdoor work.  Philadelphia is very historic city and offers some wonderful opportunities to photograph great sculptures and architecture.  You will love the tones that all of this great subject matter will produce.

In addition, you will learn how to convert your images from color to black and white using Photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom, & Capture one and Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro plugin and learn about the different options available to you for printing and presenting your black and white images.
Admission costs and donations to our shooting locations are included in the registration fee.

****Blue Ridge Workshops has negotiated a special room rate with the Hampton Inn for the workshop of $139.95 per night plus taxes. To get this special rate, please tell the hotel that you are with Blue Ridge Photography Workshops when you call to make a reservation. You can make reservations directly with the hotel by calling (215) 665-9100

Click here to register for Black and White Photography: It’s All About Tones.

Many years gone by – Finally a camera system I love

Because I worked for Nikon for a great number of years a lot of people think I still shoot with Nikon.  Nikon like Canon and several others make great Dslr cameras, and there are a lot of them but they do not fit my shooting style or my personal needs.  They are heavy, big, as are the lenses and at this stage of my life represent what I do not want to carry around all day.

I have two favorite mirrorless camera systems and they are the Fuji X system & the Olympus OMD system.  Fuji uses a very advanced APS sensor design which produces crisp and great color images.  Olympus uses Micro Four Thirds sensor.  The Fuji cameras have become my own personal choices of cameras because:

  • They are small, but not to small.  I can reach all of the controls without looking.

  • Very comfortable to hold and wear

  • They are light weight, but made of magnesium so they are very strong.

  • Old world design coupled with modern day technology all coming together to make a tool a photographer can depend upon.  Simply put the right choice of camera at a fair price for all it provides.

  • Quiet.  Almost impossible to here the camera fire.  No clack clack clack.  Just the whisper of a very quite shutter.

  • The best image quality I have seen (opinion) out of any cameras available.  They have a very creamy, tack sharp, great look no matter which film setting you choose.  Did I say film settings.  Yup!  I did.

The lenses that Fuji has made for the cameras are nothing short of superb.  Very sharp, extremely well built, and easy to work with.  I also have a Leica M mount adapter to Fuji X and a Nikon F and Nikon G adapter for Nikon lenses.  All these lenses work manually for focus and in aperture priority or manual control for focusing.  They work great.  There are of course adapters for other brand lenses as well.  Carl Zeiss will be manufacturing very special lenses with the Fuji mount this year. 2013.

For more information you can read reviews here: Fuji

Micro Fiber Cloths – Beware

Micro Fiber Cloths – Not good for optics?

Microfiber Cloths Are Great For Dusting Furniture But Not So Great For Cleaning Lenses

Small microfiber cleaning cloths are commonly sold for cleaning lenses and other photographic equipment as well as computer screens and eyeglasses. They are promoted for cleaning lenses because they absorb oily matter without being abrasive or leaving a residue.

I don’t, however, consider microfiber cloths suitable for some cleaning applications because of the dust, debris, and particles that can accumulate in the cloth itself. Sensitive surfaces (such as all high-tech coated surfaces e.g. CRT, LCD and plasma screens) can easily be damaged by a microfiber cloth if it has picked up grit or other abrasive particles during use. The cloth itself is generally safer to use on these surfaces than other cloths, particularly as it requires no cleaning fluid.

Microfiber clothes should only be washed with regular washing detergent; no oily, self-softening, soap-based detergents should  be used nor should fabric softener. Oils in the softener and self-softening detergents will clog up the fibers, making them much less effective and potentially leaving residue behind. See

Many years ago, we used Kodak lens cleaning tissue and lens cleaning fluid in a small plastic bottle at our local camera store. That combined with a soft bristle blower brush would always get the job done.

In the old days, we cleaned lenses by blowing off, as much as possible, any dust particles using the blower brush. The secret to success was in not touching the brush part of the blower with your fingers. Doing so could leave behind oils from your fingers.  Then we would pull out a piece of lens tissue and wet it just a little bit with the lens cleaning fluid and lightly swept the front of the lens in a circular pattern.   Finally, we would take a dry piece of tissue and wipe the lens dry.  If there was any lint left over on the surface, we easily removed it with a quick squeeze of the blower brush.

This worked for many years and still does.However, today many photographers would not be caught without a microfiber cloth. (described above).  Micro fiber cloths however are not the safest way to clean optical surfaces.  The method described above is the best way.

If your microfiber collects any dirt or oil, instead of cleaning your lens, you will be rubbing dirt and oils into the lens. You can wash them carefully, as noted above, but ultimately they lose their effectiveness. The best way to ruin a micro fiber cloth is wash it with softener.

I have read so many reviews touting the benefits of micro fiber cloths but not one of them has ever mentioned the drawbacks. 

The best way to clean a lens and the way I clean my lenses (and the LCD on my computers) is to use a one-use, pre-moistened towelette.While there are a few different brands on the market, my favorite is made by Hoodman and it comes in two parts. The first one is a wet towelette, pre-moistened with lens cleaner and the  second towellete is a dry tissue for drying the lens lint free.  For more information, see These are available locally from PhotoCraft, Burke Va.

This is the closest I can get today to lens tissue and lens cleaning solution.  I recommend this product so you can prolong the life of your lenses and LCDs.  By the way, you can also still get lens tissue.