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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

Feb 2, 2018

Episode 19, which is this one, should not be confused with either Episode 18 or with Dvorak's "New World" symphony, even though the former has many words in common with this one (why, even the word "episode" is shared right off the bat!) and the latter also has some probably very fine musical notes, but Episode 19 stands alone.

But "what does it stand for?" is a perfectly valid question, and the answer, for your amusement, is that it stands four-feet eleven-inches high. In thick socks. And four-inch heels. So there are plenty of fors and fours to go around.

Do the French Even Have a Word for Entrepreneur?

If you crank the aperture down to its tiniest, a couple of effects emerge. In the sense that the aperture functions to throttle the volume of photons streaming through the lens, it works just fine. It'll throttle the *@_#*$# out of those photons. But as the aperture shrinks and shrinks, at your or your camera's command, the waves of light passing through it begin to bump into each other. The result is a loss of sharpness right when you figured the sharpness would be at its least not sharp.

If you need proof, look no farther… um, no further…? Don't look beyond here, for here is the where you'll see said proof!

tire gauge full

Above, a pair of images which, at this full-scene showing, I figured might show none of the defects that a too-tiny aperture can impinge on an image, but even at this much-reduced size, the f/43 specimen, on the right, already appears softer in its text. And below, a zoomed and cropped section of each very clearly demonstrates the effect. Do note that some scratches in the clear plastic front of the gauge are, indeed, in better focus at f/43 due to greater depth of focus, but overall the sharpness is much reduced at such a tiny aperture. This was shot with a close-up, "macro," lens which is capable of that high f-number.

tire gauge detail

saguaro full

In the above pair, while these both look sharp in full frame, we see that even at f/22 the depth of focus could not reach very deep. (Frankly, putting the background as in focus as it is at f/22 (which isn't very much), that busy background is more distracting than enhancing). In the close-ups, below, the softness due to diffraction is evident in the details at the base of the needles captured with the high f-number. This was a different lens, for which f/22 was the mostest it could be.

saguaro detail

Sometimes You Need a Surgeon, Sometimes a Mechanic

I deal with hundreds of photos on a regular basis, thousands of photos in a month. Usually. For a seven-year project I created some 120,000 images. For handling these myriad files, and the files they spawn when converted to other sizes and file types, I found several applications that lured me with their sexy features, but they all fell down in one major facet — performance. (And falling down is not sexy, as I well know… by my viewing the world from a very low vantage point on many occasions.) They were slow to load and to search and to preview. But then I learned of a program with the very unsexy name of Photo Mechanic and, once used, twice smitten!

I was smited first by its speed, then it smote me again with it fulsome bounty of tools for manipulating features of the photos that, actually, seldom affect the pixels. Usually, in the latter case, pixels are different from the original only when the file, itself, is different — a new file is created from an old. The point is, Photo Mechanic blasts the competitors (those I've tried) to smithereens in the utility department. Listen to my review for the more-than-enough-but-not-nearly-all-of-the-details of what it can do and why I care. And why you might also care.

Photo Mechanic

A BTS image (that's, behind the scenes, for those of us in the biz) of images for this episode. This was, of course, before this image was added to this window, so it is necessarily incomplete. But if I were to include a screen shot of this screen shot in the screen shot, then I'd have to include that image and then things would just spiral to infinity, so you'll just have to imagine infinity and leave it at that.

You can learn more right from the publisher's web site where you'll also learn they produce — and thus support — no other product. This is their thing and they do it well. The company is Camera Bits, the web site is

All Lined Up and Everywhere to Go

Peter Ensenberger continues to share his vast store of knowledge and experience in service of teaching us about composition. He was photo editor of Arizona Highways magazine for a quarter century, where he also lead, and still leads, custom photographic tours.

In this episode the topic is leading lines and how to see them — they might be purely optical alignments, not physical — then how to use them. And don't forget, though I haven't yet told you, they can also work against you, so keep your eyes peeled for the good and bad of leading lines. Peter is drawing from his book Focus on Composing Photos, by Focal Press, and if you don't already have it, look for it at your local bookstore, or you can find it on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

Pink umbrella

You might think this image, being full of lines, was a slam-dunk for seeing lines, but Peter explains how he actually tilted the camera a bit to put the lines into a more active, diagonal angle in the frame. Straight on, as it first seemed to him, was boring. Listen in for more about this image and other insights and tips. Photo by Peter Ensenberger.

The Forgotten Orientation

I mentioned that I've shot a few photos in my time, right? As many as that is and for as many clients and publications as they were for, I still have to remind myself, occasionally, to twist the camera in my hands to see and shoot tall rather than wide. My tip this time is to do that on purpose, either every single frame on your next outing, or alternate landscape (wide) and portrait (tall) compositions. Each technique helps you see and value what tall shots have to offer.


Situated in picturesque (huh?) Jerome, Arizona, what's left of this building certainly grabbed my attention and, though the gray, concrete façade would have fit fine into a landscape-oriented composition, this one cried out for portrait orientation. For one thing, including more of the adjacent buildings would have been distracting since they, obviously, display wider ranges of textures and colors. Those would have drawn our eye, I think, more than they would have contributed to emphasizing this central building's simpler appearance. Going tall also emphasized its current lack of higher stories, though the red bricks, especially when linked, visually, to the building on the right might suggest a story was lost. Maybe not, but maybe… Anyway, vertical was definitely the way to go with this one.

Three Mouths, One Doesn't Make Sense

I brought in quotes from three people to relate to segments of this episode:


Édouard Manet addresses lines in nature: they don't exist. I understand. Portrait by Fantin Latour, 1867. This image of the portrait was provided to Wikimedia by the Art Institute of Chicago.


Ren Ng developed a very portable camera that not only avoids diffraction effects when seeking maximum depth of focus, it allows potentially unlimited depth of focus and — sit down for this one — the ability to refocus after the shot is in your computer — nearer, farther, more depth of focus or less. I don't know how it does it, but it does. This was the first such camera, called Lytro. Photo by Dcoetzee via Wikimedia.


Josef Albers worked boldly in colors, geometric and thoughtfully. His quote, however, is a head-scratcher for me and I ask that you scratch your head and tell me what you think he was thinking. Photo by Hannes Beckmann courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

The End of the Line

Well, it's been a good run, and I don't know about you but I think I've covered every single thing there is to see and say about photography. It's been 19 glorious episodes and I think everything in the past is past and the future shouldn't have any surprises either. So, why don't I just call it a show?

What's that? I haven't explained how lenses work? Or what the nodal point is? Scheimpflug Principle? Nothing? Hmmm. How about forensic photography? No? What's it like to be a model? A casting director? An art director? Why do 35mm film cameras make images twice as large as 35mm movie cameras?

Wow! So much to still share! Okay, you talked me into it. Next time, I'll, well, I don't know yet, but I'll something and we'll all be something for it.

So, something you next time!

(Have you read the latest comments on-line? Or on iTunes? Me neither — because there aren't any! You know the phrase, "I can't ask you enough?" Yeah, that's apparently the case — I haven't asked you enough. So I'm asking again that you, and you over there, yes, you, pose a query, post a comment, pore you heart out, port in a storm — ask, tell, seek, show. Something! Anything! Hello? Is this thing on?)

Thanks for listening and reading. I wonder if episode 20 will be something special…?