Mixed Light Selfie On The Beach

Mixed light photography

My wife Diane and I love the beach at Siesta Key, Florida. Anyone who has been to this beach raves about the white powder sand. As a photographer, I’m often left out of pictures. Which is OK. However, this particular trip caused me to think about a photo of my wife and I. Especially since we enjoy Siesta Key beach as we do. I’m always telling Diane, I want to create our portrait on the beach.

So one evening after we’d gotten cleaned up and had dinner, I told Diane; OK, let’s do the portrait on the beach thing tonight. The first words from Diane were; OK, let me fix my hair!  Imagine that. I told Diane, I want to get my camera set up, so I’ll head out and you can catch up.

The problem with this type of photography at this time of day is the low light levels and mix of light sources. With the sun setting or after sunset, you need a long exposure in order to capture the ambient light. To insure the light on the faces is correct, means you need to add some flash. Now you have a mixed light source. So how does this work?

First you need to make the giant leap of faith and shoot in manual! I  can hear you out there now: OMG – shoot in manual, what’s an f-stop? Yep, you will need to know your f-stop from shutter speed. The quick answer is to use the lens aperture to control the flash exposure. Then find a shutter speed to control the ambient exposure. After that, it’s just an issue to get the pose right. In this set up, I didn’t want to drag extra strobes, light stands, camera and tripod onto the beach. Although for you I’d make sure the extra lights are used. One other handy item was the hand held remote for the camera.

So after was all said and done, Diane and I chose the image below to have printed. OK, I’ll admit I did enhance the night sky a little. Let me know your thoughts!

We have this wonderful body of water here called Lake Erie. So if you’d like to have your family photographed in a setting like the one shown, contact me.

Mixed Light - night portrait on the beach

Diane and Tom on the Siesta Key Beach at dusk.

UPDATE – Hey Guys, You’re Not Forgotten!

UPDATE – Since this post was released, the Megalodon Tooth Necklace inventory has been expanded. An additional 4 pieces have been added. All the new pieces are large in size and include some on leather. Happy shopping!

Hey Guys, you’re not forgotten! I know that guys can be iffy when it comes to jewelry. Some like to wear jewelry and others – NOT! But for you guys that have wondered if a piece of Ocean Sands jewelry is for you, I just put up a couple of the first larger pieces in the on-line store that might be of interest.

Each of these teeth are wire wrapped using 14 wire gage corrosion resistant aluminum wire to match the hefty size of the tooth. The chain is a 7mm wide curb style and 20 inches long. It provides plenty of mass to compliment the tooth yet have a beefy appearance to it.

Both teeth are pretty weighty in spite of the missing portions. Imagine the weight of these teeth complete – WOW!

The smaller 31.0 gram tooth is amazing with the missing enamel. The missing enamel exposes the inner composition of the tooth. Which is something not often seen is Megalodon teeth.

So if you’re wondering why there are only two necklaces in stock, teeth this size are more difficult to find. Larger teeth can be much more susceptible to damage. You’ll notice the damage to the two teeth shown in this post.

In addition, it took some time to find a chain that would compliment the mass of these larger teeth and wouldn’t break-the-bank. There are more of these larger teeth to be released. They’ll be worked on soon. So don’t despair there are only two!

This should give you a good reason to keep checking the on-line store in case one of these Meg’s doesn’t suit your fancy. These two are now in stock ready for purchase. You don’t have to wait for your very own Ocean Sands Megalodon Shark Tooth necklace. Happy shopping!

Hints: Best Photo Tips Ever!

Hints: Best Ever

If you’ve my blog posts regarding photography, you’ve heard me almost if not full on RANT about the flood of marketing hype on technology vs art. I’m a firm believer that buying a new set of paints, brushes, canvas and an easel does not make one an artist. The same holds true for photography. You can purchased the biggest, best, camera; the latest apps, the latest software and it won’t make you a photographer. It’ll just make a big dent in your bank account.

You’ve heard me go on and on about exposure, composition, lighting and knowing camera limitations. I like other photographers would be more than willing to answer questions, offer how-to’s and hints, coach those interested in the medium as an art form.

It makes me think about time I was at an event talking with another photographer, when an acquaintance came up to me. The person was there to photograph the event. Their images we way over exposed. The photographer (well actually, picture taker) asked for my help to figure out the problem. My problem was I was handed a Nikon camera when I shoot Canon. I had to figure out the menu navigation in order to help solve the problem. The photographer (picture taker) couldn’t even navigate the menu.

After getting the “picture taker” situated, it dawned on me; This person is the Official Event Photographer? Are you kidding me? Hey why not, the person has a “big camera”, they must know what they’re doing.

Anyway back to the original idea behind this post. I have a “Google Alert” set for portrait + photography, so interesting articles come in to my inbox. The other day, there it was. The article that summarized every really cool photography hint to the non-photographer. Guess what, no special camera/phone, no wiz-bang app, no marketing hype, just good-ole photography basics. The best advice anyone could give a wanna-be and good reminders for the seasoned photographer – like me! So I decided to include the article for  your benefit.


Please look it over. In fact, book mark it as you may want to go back to it again. I have to hurry up and finish my post so I can go back and read it again. Afterwards, take a moment to give me your thoughts on the hints. Remember the goal is not to make you a National Geographic staff photographer, but to help you improve your photos on Facebook. Let me know what you think. You can even post your questions for more discussion. Happy shooting!

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tom-szabo.com; jewelry, photography & scuba instruction.

Photographing Flowers – Easy?

Photographing Flowers!

In a recent article by Hana Tavener for I-News – The Essential Daily Briefing, she listed five suggestions to help you photograph flowers.

1 – Get Close

2 – Focus/Depth of Field

3 – The Whole Wide World (or field of view)

4 – Timed To Perfection (Time lapse)

5 – Vary Your Conditions

You can learn more by reading the entire article.

Let me suggest that you look over the 5 topics listed above. Do you see anything that says walk up to a flower and push the button? Of course not. To create good photography, you need to to use the gray matter between your ears – your BRAIN. Learning a little about photography also helps. That means reading to learn about your camera, exposure, composition and of course shoot and shoot and shoot some more. You can’t create art by buying the most expensive camera and simply point it at a subject.

First of all let’s get down to basics – your smart phone is NOT smart! You are a “Human” with the power to learn and think. That also means applying what you’re thinking and learning. So by all means, read. Then go out and apply what you read by shooting. That’s how you become a better photographer (vs. a “pitcher-taker”).

In addition, search for well known photographers. read what they write and study their work. It really helps. Good luck and keep shooting.

purple cone flower

Purple Cone Flower shot in author’s back yard.

Scuba Diving In Key Largo, FL

Scuba Diving In Key Largo, FL

Scuba Diving In Key Largo, FL

In March of 2016, my wife Diane and I vacationed in Florida. What a great time to leave NE Ohio!

Out With The Old!

As a photographer, it’s important to use updated camera gear. So when it came time to consider updating my main studio camera body, I was faced with what to do with my camera and housing for my underwater photography? The plan was to upgrade my main camera body to a Canon 70D. My older Canon T3i would become my back up body. Problem: The T3i would not fit my current Ikelite Housing, urgh! I called my good friend and Ikelite rep, Dave Haas (Haas Images).

Dave’s suggestion: Sell both camera bodies (T3i & Xsi) and the Ikelite Housing. Then purchase the Canon 70D, Canon SL1 DSLRs and the housing for the Canon SL1. After evaluating the economics of all this, I made the decision to move forward. In addition, this needed to be done for my trip to Florida. This would be a good chance to try the equipment while diving.

Canon T3i DSLR camera body.

Canon T3i DSLR camera body.


Canon XSi DSLR Camera body.

Ikelite camera housing

Ikelite underwater housing for a Canon XSi DSLR camera body.







Problems With Poor Viz!

After arriving in Florida, the first dives were to search for more fossil material for my jewelry line. Diving off Venice, FL means diving the gulf side of Florida. As a result the water temperature was around 66 to 69 degrees and visibility ranged from 1 to 3 feet. Certainly do-able for fossil hunting. Not so great for photography.

After checking out of Siesta Key, we made the drive to Key Largo, FL. Diving conditions improved. Water temps were around 74 to 76 degrees and visibility ran 40 to 60 feet. After getting the new Canon SL1 set up in the housing, a trip to the pool was in order for some testing. Later, it was off to the dive boat. I only had time for 2 days of diving, so photography time was premium. You can see the results by checking out my images from Key Largo.

Anchor Winch

Anchor winch from 19th century vessel in 27 feet of water.

Your comments are welcomed!

Light, It’s All About The Light!

Light, It’s all about the light.

Light! My wife Diane and I like to vacation at Siesta Key Florida. The beach has the softest and whitest sand you’ll see anywhere. During our walks on the soft powder white sand, Diane gets tired of my commentary on the people taking photos with their cell phone cameras. It generally goes something like this “there’s another photo that won’t turn out very well!”

Even though she gets tired of listening to me, I’m right. Two major problems I see: Stop putting the sun at your subjects back! Number two, move in closer. So let me spend some time again talking about lighting. Why my comment about sun placement? Camera sensors don’t have the capability that our brain does. Sensors can’t adjust the image we see through our eye and correct the exposure. Don’t believe me? Take the scenario I just described and experiment. Put the sun behind your subjects back. Look at their face. I’m sure you’ll see the detail in the face. That’s because our brain and eyes work together to adjust the lighting and see the detail. Now take the picture. How much detail do you see in the near black orb called the face. Almost none.

So how do you fix this problem. You have to train your eye to evaluate scenes for lighting. Look for the highlights and the shadows. Make slight adjustments in subject positioning to reduce the amount of shadow in the subject. Take a picture after your adjustment to see the results and continue to adjust your subject. Eventually you’ll begin to learn what works.

Another way to learn is to observe what other photographers do. I’m not saying to copy their technique as much as observe and adjust. Evaluate the lighting of the scene and subject to see how they work with light. Look at what award winning photographer Irene Chen has accomplished in her photography. Although she uses studio lighting for the award winning images, see how she uses control over lighting to work her magic. Read more about her work.

You’re welcomed to ask me questions. Or just give me your comments.

Film used in family portrait photography. Light.

Portrait photographers strive for detail in their final prints.

Light – Composition For Photography

Use Light and Composition

If you’ve been following me for a little while, you’ve heard me comment about understanding light in order to improve your photography. In the article attached to my post, I’d like you to examine the photographs of the artist – Vivienne Gucwa. First, notice how her images evoke a mood. Whether it’s the night scene or a snow storm. It sets the mood for the subject.

Secondly, when you look at her images do you notice your eye moving through the image. That’s her use of light combined with composition to accomplish that. Next time you pick up your camera think back to Vivienne’s images for inspiration. What are your thoughts?

Mount Rushmore Light Show

Electric lighting on Mount Rushmore at night.

Golden Hour Photography?

Golden Hour vs. Mid Day

The Golden Hour as referred to by photographers as the hour around sun up or sundown. The sun and atmosphere combine to give the photographer unique and colorful lighting. Photographers often avoid shooting mid day. Why? The more direct and overhead sun causes a lot of shadows, a lot of contrast and deep dark shadows.

So do you put the camera away during mod day? Absolutely not. This is where you have to be a photographer not a “snap-shot-er”. Huh? Yes, spend the time looking at the scene obviously for composition but also for lighting. Can you position your subject in a location where the lighting is softer and away from dark shadows? Can you shoot in an area that is in shade? Of course you can. You may have to think a little bit and take the time to find a location that gives the light you want.

Take a look at what Chris Gampat has to say on this topic. At the same time look how He controlled the light in his images.

Golden Hour vs. mid day photography

Choose an environment that offers soft light. If needed, add fill flash.

Make Shutter Speed A Photography Tool

If you have read some of my posts, you may have read this before: “You’ve got to be smarter than the camera!” That means understanding how the camera works and camera limitations. Cell phone manufacturers want you to believe that you can take professional photos with their product. Well, even a blind squirrel finds a nut! Good images are made not taken. So that means what I said earlier – “You’ve got to be smarter than the camera!”

Lets start with one of the tools used to create good images – Shutter Speed. Simply the time the sensor is exposed to light from a scene or subject. That time be be a fraction of a second to minutes. Shutter speed can be a very creative tool. Read on to learn more and see some wonderful examples.

Photographers – We All Were Beginners!

As a photographer and a Scuba Instructor, I often tell beginners: “We all started as beginners”. It’s a thought we should all remember. We need to be reminded that we had to work to get where we are today. Here’s an interesting blog post that talks about the road we travel to improve as photographers:

A Declaration Of Love To All Our Crappy Shots


As A Photographer It’s Click, Click And More Click!

Here is a very interesting article about a “newbie” photographer who started in his back yard. Read how his hobby has brown through Click after Click after Click.


People Photography – Your Eye Is Key

If you’re not looking at your subject and visualizing the resulting photograph, chances are you’re DOOMED! That’s right take a quick look at the surrounding elements and the subject then ask yourself: How will this look when finished? For People Photography, the first thing you should check is whether the face is in shadow or not. If the face is in shadow, then move to illuminate the subjects face. In addition, what background elements are there to add or distract to the surrounding environment. Want to improve your photography? Read, Practice; Read, Practice; Read, Practice; then repeat.

Check out this article to see what I mean.

Portrait Photography Projects

Worldwide Photo Walk Day – 2013

Scott Kelby is a world renowned Photoshop expert.  His company is the largest training service provider in the world.  So it’s no surprise that he sponsors this event.  On Saturday, October 5, 2013 three photo walks were scheduled in Northeast Ohio.  They were located in Downtown Cleveland, Chagrin Falls and University Circle.  This event gives area photographers a chance to meet up with each other and create some amazing images.  Each photographer is asked to upload one image.  This gives everyone a chance to see the results.

Late Friday evening the night before the walk, I registered for the Chagrin Falls, OH walk.  All of Northeast Ohio knows Chagrin Falls is very picturesque.  That being the case, I still wanted to find something that said Chagrin Falls but took the image beyond the typical shot.  One point of interest most everyone knows and photographs is the waterfall behind the “popcorn” shop.  There are probably thousands and thousands and thousands of images taken at this particular site.  I needed an image that was different.

After walking to the bottom of the staircase, I watched all the cell phone cameras clicking away at the falls. So my image had to be unique.  The original image was done to give the falling water a soft lacey appearance.  But that just didn’t seem enough.  So I added some soft color for enhancement.  Give me your thoughts.

Photo Walk 2013, A Thomas Image, Northeast Ohio photographer

Original image of the falls behind the “popcorn” shop in Chagrin Falls, OH. Image exposed to create a soft, lacey effect on the moving water.

Photo Walk 2013, A Thomas Image, photography

Photo Walk 2013 image to enhance the soft, lacey water effect.

Can Painesville, OH Become An Art Meca?

I had a couple meetings with some local folks in the City of Painesville to discuss boosting the arts presence in the city.  Think about it – we have some very artistic people in north east Ohio, Lake Erie College is a fine liberal arts college and Lakeland Community College has a great arts department.  Throw in Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, areas like Tremont and the Cleveland Art Museum and you see just how artistic the area is.

So how can little ol’ Painesville capitalize on this.  Our discussion has centered around two approaches:

  1. Display works of art in the retail and commercial businesses in the downtown area.  This idea has been well received by the merchants
  2. Use empty storefronts to display artwork for public viewing.  This effort is still in progress.

Now I’m going to offer a third approach.  Often property owners worry or complain about graffiti.  I’d like to suggest an approach taken by Rapid City, South Dakota.  It’s called “Art Alley” (http://artalley.awardspace.com/index.html).  Art Alley is located in a one block by three block central historic district of down town.  Here artists are welcome to paint using the alley building elevations as their canvas.  The artwork changes as the artists see fit.  Here are some shots from my visit to Rapid City, South Dakota in early September, 2013.


Painting on brick guilding.

Art work from Art Alley, Rapid City, SD.


Eagle painting on back of building.

Imagine the work to complete a display of this complexity.


Alley art on everything.

Everything is a canvas in Art Alley.


Colorful graffiti shows local talent.

Art Alley is one block long and has become the canvas for the city.


Building art

Looking like a 60s album cover.


It’s great to see people stroll the alley to stop and study the art work.  While my wife Diane and I strolled the alley, we felt quite comfortable and secure in the alley.  We didn’t feel threatened in any way.  Hellos are easily exchanged amongst the art aficionados also enjoying their stroll.

Can you guess the Painesville spot I have picked out for an art display?

To Flash Or To Not-Flash, That is the question!


After spend what might be way-to-much time on social media and watching people use camera phones and I-pads for photography, I’ve decided that I’m a “Camera-Snob”.  Yep that’s right, a Camera-Snob.  Watching the general public take pictures makes me cringe and crazy or crazier.

Let me explain.  In early September, 2013 my wife and I took a trip to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and the Black Hills.  Both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial have wonderful night time ceremonies.  Being a photographer, I had my camera and tripod with me for the night time light shows.

We’re sitting in the outdoor theatre, the sun has set and the show begins.  I’m looking around watching people take pictures of the ceremony with their camera (point-n-shoot, I-pad or camera phone).  Now my guess is we’re seated – oh, a half mile or more from the 4 faces carved in the mountain.  I found this humorous, people raise their camera, trip the shutter, they look down at the results and shake their head in disappointment.   Then without making any camera adjustments, the person raises the camera again, trips the shutter, looks down at the results and again shakes their head in disappointment.  Didn’t Albert Einstein say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?


Mount Rushmore photographed at night

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota shot in the dark. There was enough light at 8:30 P.M. after the sun went down to record this image.


So what do you do in this situation?  First of all turn off the flash.  The typical on-camera flash will effectively reach to about 20 feet.  So in the case of Mount Rushmore, you’ll see the 20 feet of the scene reasonably exposed and the rest of the scene will be BLACK.  Its physics folks, you can’t change it.  With your flash set to OFF and the rest of the camera in “auto”, you stand the best chance of getting a picture.  The way to get a good image under this lighting will depend on your maximum ISO speed available and if you have something to steady the camera for a long exposure, like a tripod.  Since its digital photography, you can make changes to the exposure to dial in the correct setting(s).


Mount Rushmore Light Show

This image was shot during the Mount Rushmore Light Show.


Oh yeah, you’ll need to understand something about photography to understand how to shoot in the dark using existing light.  Sometimes, you just have to be smarter than the camera.  Sorry the snob in me is coming out.

You Only Like Me In The Western Pacific!

Scuba divers spend large sums of money traveling to the western Pacific Ocean in search of the beautiful but venomous Lionfish.  Returning divers are eager to share even mediocre images of these creatures to amaze divers and non-divers alike.  They are indeed a beautiful creature.

Lionfish in Vieques, PR

But move those same adventurous divers to the western Atlantic and the situation changes drastically.  Lionfish in the Atlantic are the basis for fear, concern, studies and hunting.  What’s makes the Atlantic different from the Pacific?  Lionfish are not native to the western Atlantic.  They feed on small reef fish, commercial fish, shrimp and crabs.  Since these invaders are not native, their prey have not been able to develop a defense mechanism.  So their population now grows unchecked.

On a recent trip to Vieques, PR I had the opportunity to see firsthand the extent of their invasion.  I would not be uncommon to spot 6 to 12 Lionfish of various sizes on a single dive.  Many of the divers working for local dive shops would plan their own recreational dives to hunt the invaders.  Hunting would certainly provide a tasty change in their meals and help with population control.

Lionfish dorsal, pectoral and anal fins have hypodermic like spines that carry venom to their prey.  This same venom can be very painful to humans and requires medical attention.  In addition Lionfish have no western Atlantic predators to help control or overtake the current population.  So their numbers are on the rise with no limit in sight. 

A Thomas Image Vieques 11 057
Lionfish have hypodermic like venomous spines.

It has not been confirmed yet as to how this graceful creature was introduced to these waters.  But experts suspect aquarium owners of dumping unwanted specimens into the ocean and they may have been released from large aquarium facilities as the result of hurricane activity.

Lion fish have been spotted, photographed or documented from Miami north to North Carolina, The Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panamá, Columbia and Venezuela.  At this time it is not known how well they tolerate cooler water temperatures.  As a result predicting the limits of their potential territory is difficult.

There does appear to be one containment method on the horizon – eat them.  They are reported to be quite tasty.  A Lionfish cookbook has been published and can be found at:


A Thomas Image Vieques 11 062

Eat ‘em to get rid of ‘em!

Although it much more convenient to see these beauties in the Atlantic/Caribbean, Most would rather people have to travel to the western Pacific for the view.  Only time will tell what the future hold for this beautiful invader.

All images and content are Copyright, Tom Szabo, (c) 2011

Tobermory Ontario

Western Reserve Photographic Society, a local camera camera club recently announced a photography travel trip to the Bruce Peninsula near Tobermory, Ontario.  The trip is designed to allow nature photographers to shoot till their hearts content!

I had the opportunity to travel to Tobermory on two separate occasion and dive the wrecks.  And, yes there a lot of them.  The cold fresh water has preserved wrecks that went down 100 years ago or more.  I hope you enjoy this short tour above and below the water.