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Welcome! I don't know about you guys, but I plan on having a good time. It's a lot of work putting together each episode, but photography has been in my life — work and play — since I was a strapping sapling simpleton. And that's saying something (especially if you try to say it through thrice).

Connect or comment, please. Each episode will have a conversation, and I'll be glad to strike one up with you, too!

- Mark

Jan 7, 2018

Have you ever had the feeling that you've been some place before, or seen something before? Maybe heard a sound or felt a feeling? That's what déjà vu is and that's not at all what I'm feeling. I'm feeling like this sweet episode is completely new. Though, now that you mention it, it is just like all the other episodes, except this episode is nothing like the other episodes, except for, well, except for where it's different it is the same and, if a different same is why you're here, well, you've come to the right place. Again.

Shutter To Think About It

Open. Close. There you go — that is the very short version of what a shutter does. If you want the longer version, and you don't mind learning something, get your listenin' on and find out how open/close has come and, for some cameras, has gone.

Compur Synchro

The brushed steel blades you see overlapping inside this lens are the outwardly visible components of a leaf shutter, this one on a circa 1955 Zeiss Ikon Contessa camera.

Yashica shutter

This focal plane shutter, from a Yashica 35 mm film camera, has two curtains that slide up and down to do the open/close thing. Photo via Wikipedia by contributor Hustvedt.

It Filters UV and Pie!

Ultraviolet radiation used to appear as visible light in photos, via film and early digital sensors that were sensitive to what our eyes couldn't see. Film has been mostly reformulated and digital sensors reengineered so UV light makes little or zero appearance in modern-tech photography. Still, the filters that were created to combat ultraviolet light pollution served another purpose, one that you can't get in a computer program — a physical shield for the front element of your lens. (The "front element" is the piece of glass you can tap with your carbide-tipped emergency glass breaking tool at the very front of the lens. Don't know why you'd do that, but…)

So you make a filter that shields the image-making-thingie (film or sensor) from the dread UV rays, though they are no longer dread, but at least it shields the glass on your lens from sand and surf and turf and a pair o' dice. What more could you ask for?

Well, it would be nice if the filter were made of good materials. Oh, and if it repelled dirt. And scratches. And were designed to be easy to use. Plus, while keeping the non-dread UV out, and the sand and surf and turf out, make it easy to clean. That'd be nice.

Oh, oh, oh! And don't let it make itself known in the photos. Don't let it damage the otherwise pristine imagery I am sure to put before it. No blurring, no color cast, no color fringing, no added reflections or flare. And, if you don't mind, give it a killer guarantee and don't price it out of reach.

Can you do all of that?

Breakthrough Photography did that. Put the audio in your ear to learn how I tested and what I discovered, but know without listening that it takes all of the challenges I laid out, above, and delivers solid performance in their X4 UV filter. Quality materials, innovative design, 25-year guarantee. Learn more from them at

X4 UV filter square

One of the innovative design elements of the X4 series of filters are the nubs around the periphery — they make it easy to attach and easy to detach, and I've not seen any other brand with them. Also, notice how you see through the area where the glass should be? Well, there is glass there — that's how clear and un-photo-damaging this filter is. Good stuff!

A Convo Comprising Composition

You may know Peter Ensenberger as the photo editor of Arizona Highways magazine. He held that post for 25 years during which he upheld the quality and expanded the reach of that iconic representative of the American West. More importantly (at least I think so), he was my conversation guest in episode seven. Post-convo I approached Peter about helping us all learn the goals and techniques of good composition. He said yes and, so, we start today with the very basics of composition, just laying out some of the why, plus we dip our toes into equipment as they relate to making good images.

Ensenberger cow

This image, which incorporates several elements of good composition, is on page 8 of Peter's book Focus on Composing Photos from Focal Press, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets. Photo by Peter Ensenberger.

Six Shooter

Speaking of composing photos, examining our own is a good start in understanding why a composition works — and why it doesn't. So instead of looking at a single image and evaluating it, which is certainly fine, my tip this time is to shoot six frames of the same basic composition, re-composing slightly each time. Do it mechanically, as you see in the examples below, then evaluate the six to see what elements of the composition, whether the placement of the subject in the frame, the textures or shadows or whatever, make each a better or lesser image. Thus you will become more sensitive to what catches your eye at the time, what escaped your eye at the time, and hopefully how you'll do better each time you put your camera up to your eye.

flower pot six

More or less pot, more or less sand, more or less brick and flagstone? Shadows in frame or not? None, some, or all might be good photos.

radio shelf six

More wall or more shelf? More objects or fewer? And why isn't the radio plugged in? For the answers to those questions, and others, um, well, make up your own answers, that's what this exercise is about (and, no, I don't know why the radio is not plugged in).

whiskey slide six

Show the bottle and the slide? Show the bottle and the ladder? The bottle the ladder and the slide? No matter which is chosen, I say cut the slide out because kids should not be drinking — it's only 2 p.m. for goodness sake!

These Women Have Something to Say

Ruth Orkin said, "Being a photographer is making people look at what I want them to look at." She was a an American photojournalist and filmmaker, working for nearly five decades across the middle of the last century, and this quote succinctly explains the point of composition. Hmm, maybe we don't need Peter Ensenberger after all… Nah. We need more than the point of composition (which Peter already said anyway, if you've listened to the audio), we need to know how to make it the point.

Ellen von Unwerth

I also share quotes from the German fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth (seen above, photo by Filip Naudts), American writer Jayne Anne Phillips, and Australian photographer Anne Geddes. They all have important insights into their, and our, worlds. Strap on some headphones and grab some wisdom, won'tcha?

And I Have Nothing More to Say

Sixteen down and just 4,293 to go! Whew! Let's see, that'll take us to… I dunno. Past next year, that's for sure.

If you don't want to wait until episode 4,309 to submit some comments, why don't you go ahead and do it now? Avoid the crowds! Click down below, type in a question or comment, and start a dialog with me. I'd have to check the previous episodes' web pages, but maybe I haven't mentioned that before? Well, yes or no, did or didn't, I would love to hear from you. And if you can swing by iTunes to leave a rating, that'd be sweet too.