The worst family photo you never took?

Here we are in the 2017 Holiday Season, and I’m thinking about the oft-dreaded family photos and family photography again.

This is the fourth time around for the main points of this post. I’m posting it early this year so you’ve got some time to let it sink in, or perhaps share it with “that” person.

I think that family photography relevant every holiday season, and you’ll probably see it every holiday season as long as this site is up.  It will change as I change throughout the years, no doubt.

Hopefully, maybe, possibly, it may inspire someone out there.

The topic of family photos is relevant not just during the holidays, but every day…  I’m reminded of that as Papa Frog is not here this Christmas.

It’s a bit of a history lesson, and a life lesson.  Enjoy.  Ponder.  Reflect…


What’s the worst family photo you never took?

If you’re thinking about the worst family photos you ever took, go back and reread that last line and think about it.

It’s probably the time of year, besides wondering what to write about, that led me to this topic.  We have a “family photo wall” that’s set up something like a family tree.  All of the family photos are in black and white – as most of the originals were.  I have yet to find a good photo of my Great-Grandmother to put on our family photo wall.  That still bugs me.

And then, there’s a song I haven’t heard in a while that always puts me in one of those melancholy, reflective, contemplative moods – “Time Passages” by Al Stewart.  Take a ride on the Wayback Machine and check out this video on YouTube of Al and Shot in the Dark performing the song back in 1978 when it hit the radio waves:

So, where am I going with this?  Isn’t the topic family photos?

Well, way back when, some families were great with taking family photos during the holidays – or any time for that matter- and some weren’t.  Some stored their family pictures well, and some didn’t.

All things considered, if you go back let’s say 50 years ago – family photography was a lot more complicated than it is today.  There were flashbulbs to load in the flash gun, and then exposures to calculate and settings to set on the camera.  Fast forward to the Instamatic camera that took 126 roll film and flash cubes!  An absolutely (well, almost) people-proof system that while easy to use, unfortunately didn’t necessarily take great pictures – but preserved memories to stimulate the mental hard drive nonetheless.  And then the 110 roll film cameras became a brief rage because they were small.  Never mind that so were their negatives, which meant that their practical use was limited.

Fast forward a bit to 1976 and Canon’s AE-1 35mm film camera.  It was the first “camera with a brain” (a microprocessor) and it forever changed amateur photography.  Load it with film, put the lens on the automatic setting, put the flash on and set it to automatic, set the shutter speed to 1/60 of a second – and indoor family photography changed again.  (My AE-1, passed down from my Father, is a few feet away as I rewrite this.)

41 years later, we have digital cameras in our phones as well as DSLR cameras that represent the great-great grandchildren of the AE-1.  Most people are using digital instead of film these days.  The cameras have great metering systems, automatic flashes, flashes that adjust their brightness for the scene, red-eye reduction settings.  It’s actually pretty easy these days to take a good (great?) picture.  Maybe it’s not so good for professional portrait photographers, though.

In the old days, you had to wait days or hours to see if the pictures were good or not.  More often than not, if you weren’t happy with your results, you didn’t get a chance for a “do-over” until the next family gathering.  Even then, you may not have been able to catch the picture again.

Perhaps the best thing about digital photography is that you can look at your picture seconds later and see who had their eyes closed, or mouth open, or who was making a funny face or obscene gesture.  If you don’t like what you got – yell at everyone (politely, of course, because it is the holidays) and take the picture again.  And, repeat as necessary…

Filum is practically free in the form of memory cards.  No – that’s not a typo.  It’s film as my maternal Grandfather called it.  It’s Pittsburghese.  Don’t believe me?  Look it up!

And – no more having to spend $3.00 extra per roll for 1-Hour processing of your 4×6 prints.

So, where am I going with this?  Well, I’m almost there now.  Thanks for bearing with me.

OK, I’m there now.

Here goes:

Take pictures this family season.

Lots of them.

Get ‘em with their eyes closed, or with that glob of gravy on their chin.

Get ‘em when they’re groaning or while they’re sleeping.

You could even get ‘em when their smiling. (Hopefully that’s with an image you got from Laughing Frog Images 2017 holiday sale!)

Just get ‘em.

That way, you can always talk about the worst family photo you took.

It’s better than lamenting about the photo you never took.

That could well be the worst one…

Oh – I almost forgot – this post could be a great pre-holiday gift for someone you know.  Don’t be afraid to share it.


It’s Mine! All Mine!

Did you ever wonder what goes on in a hummingbird’s mind when it approaches a full feeder and there’s no one else around?

This little one paused for a couple of seconds on approach to lunch and seemed to be pondering a nearly full feeder with no one else around when I made this image.

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Which caused me to think why it paused there and just what might be going through its’ mind…

Was it an It’s mine! All mine! moment?

Was it “gee – there’s no one else here – I wonder if the food in this joint is any good?”

Or, “Wow – I finally beat the crowd?”

Maybe it was “good, there’s no one else here – I can have seconds!”

Perhaps it was “he/she’s not here to see it, so I’ll just have one more for the road”

I think we all have those moments when we think It’s mine! All mine!

For me, it’s a brownie and about a quart of whole milk.

Did you know that since a batch of brownies is really just one big brownie before it’s cut into pieces, it’s technically just one brownie? 

Mrs. Frog doesn’t buy that logic – but think about it. Really think about it.

How can you argue against that logic? 

If they’re supposed to be called brownies, then they should be baked as brownies, not as a brownie.  But,

I digress….

It seems that the only time It’s Mine! All Mine really happens is when Mrs Frog just needs an anchovy or two out of a whole can…

The image can be found in the little winged things gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

For the photographers out there reading this, here’s a tech tip: 1/320 second shutter speed is not fast enough to freeze the wings of a hummingbird in flight.  It does, however, freeze the body and expression of the hummingbird while preserving the motion of the wings.  Which, in itself, can make for an interesting image as it did here.  Tamron 18-270mm VR zoom at 270mm, ISO 320 at 1/320 second, f6.3.


Fall foliage is coming

Fall foliage is coming.  To some of us anyway.

For me, this fall means I get to watch my leaf turn!  Well, it’s not quite that.  There’s more than one leaf!

But it’s not like Pennsylvania where I’m from, or fall in New England.

One of my favorite places to visit in the fall is New Hampshire.  If you haven’t had the pleasure, put it on your bucket list.

Great food, real maple syrup, and color.  Lots of color.

Glen Junction Restaurant just posted on Facebook that their pumpkin pancakes start this Saturday.  With maple cream…

That’s really what got me going about fall foliage…

Colors can be different from valley to valley, and from the bottom of the valley to the top of the mountains.  It’s a good thing digital film is cheap!

There’s a gallery on Laughing Frog Images devoted to fall foliage in New Hampshire.  Coincidentally, it’s called fall foliage in New Hampshire.  There’s more to be added to that gallery, and maybe this will get me going on that.

The image below is of Silver Cascade in Crawford Notch along Route 302 in New Hampshire.

I’d love to tell you how hard I worked to hike in for this shot, and what it took to haul my camera bag and tripod in.  But, I’d be lying.  You can park along Route 302 and take this shot from the safe side of the guardrail.

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This image was made with a Fuji S9000, 1/80s @ f7.1, ISO 80, in Fuji’s raw file format.  Yes, I used my tripod and a cable release!

Processing was done in Perfect Photo Suite 9.5, and it was cropped to a 1:2 format to remove the gray sky and rocks in the foreground.  It’s amazing what a simple crop can do!

There’s another image of Silver Cascade taken at about the same location in the gallery, but I left that in its’ original format so you can crop it yourself.

If all of this makes you think about a last minute trip to New England to check out the foliage, here are two posts from 2014 to check out:

A Week in New Hampshire

A Weekend in New Hampshire

And, if you can’t make it, do the next best thing and shop Laughing Frog Images.


I struggled for a title for this post.

Beam me up.  E.T., phone home.  We’ll leave the light on for you.  I was all over the board with phrases from pop culture.

And then, simplicity hit me.


Sometimes, simple is better.

I suspect that each of you that looks at this image will see something different, and perhaps feel something different.

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Yes, this is in fact light from the moon.

It’s just after 11PM on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  It’s cloudy, but the moon is out there, fighting for a chance to be seen.

And I’m out there with a tripod and cable release seeing what I can make of it.


This isn’t something you see every day.

Apart from the occasional laughter of revelers on the beach, all you could hear were the rolling waves hitting the sand.

I wonder if the revelers saw what I saw?  All I can say is that I wasn’t fighting for space to set up my tripod…

I made over 20 images of varying durations in my attempt to capture the moment.

(Good thing digital film is essentially free!)

You can see pleasure boats far out on the horizon.  How can I say that they were far out?

Well, the exposures ranged from 10 to 60 seconds, and their light trails are not that long.  They were out there…

You can see the moonbeams coming through the clouds much like the rays of the sun poke through on a cloudy, rainy day.

You can see where the cloud layer was thinner or broken – that’s where you can in fact see the clouds back lit by the moon somewhere up there.

The water looks like anything but water.  That’s the result of the long exposures.  It’s probably not how you’d envision the Atlantic Ocean looking.

But after all, it’s getting towards midnight and these are long exposures to capture the moonbeams.

There came a time when it occurred to me that there was no one else out, and that it might be time to head in.

Hoping that the images captured the moonbeams as I saw them, it was time…

So, I packed up, folded up, and picked up and called it a night.

You can find the rest of the moonbeam images here in the moon gallery on Laughing Frog Images.


If you’re so inclined, leave a comment as to which one is your favorite and why.

Technical details: Tripod, cable release, Nikon D7100, Tamron 18-270mm zoom, ISO 800, exposures from 10 to 60 seconds, f8.

Little Green Bucket.

When I was working on Stories at the Princeville Pier (the previous post), I couldn’t get my mind off of the little green bucket.

The original color image was simply washed out as I was deliberately shooting into the sun to be able to work with silhouettes in the final image.

I was fine with that.

But the little green bucket was calling me.

DSC_6943 lgb 600hI had to do something with that little green bucket…

So, it was back to the digital darkroom.

This time, I opened the image in ACDsee Pro 8 and did something I’ve never done before.

I’d read about it many times, but this was the Frog’s first time removing color from an image.

Using the Advanced Color Feature, I removed all of the color from the image except the greens.

The only evident color in this image is the little green bucket.

Yes, there’s a little left in the water.

But your eye is drawn to the little green bucket.

Depending on how you’re viewing this post, you might be doubting me right now.  If you’re doubting me, click here.

Both images – Little Green Bucket and Stories – are in the coastal and beach scenes gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

Thanks for visiting.

Princeville Pier

When I saw this shot of Princeville Pier, I didn’t see it in color.

I took it in color, but I didn’t see it in color.

Not that there was much color in it.  They say you’re not supposed to shoot into the sun for a reason…

Lost yet?

I saw a some stories at Princeville Pier that could be told in shadow.

I saw a man pondering the rough surf in the harbor.

I saw two children.  Little boys testing mommy’s mettle.

One brave and adventurous – that’s the one on the left that wanted to help the small rocks get back into the water.  He’s deep in his follow-through after one such effort.

One has his bucket and shovel, but slightly more timid.  He wanted to play in the sand, but was not so sure that the cold water was worth it…

I’m not so sure that males ever grow out of testing females, how we do it and who we test just changes throughout lift.  But I digress…

Stories.  In silhouette.  In black and white. At Princeville Pier.

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I saw this as being a black and white, with the people silhouetted against the water.

I was shooting dead into the sun, and I knew I wasn’t going to get any detail of the people in the foreground, but I knew (hoped) that the shot would work in black and white.

So… off to the digital darkroom I went.

The color raw file was opened in Perfect B&W within Perfect Photo Suite 9.5.

I darkened it a bit to bring out the detail in the sand in the foreground, and also to emphasize the silhouettes.

I wanted it to be a bit gritty, especially the tree and hill detail across the harbor, so I selected a film profile that mimic’s Kodak’s legendary Tri-X Pan film.

I adjusted the shadow detail to bring out the detail in the columns supporting the pier.

And here’s the finished product.


You can find this image in the coastal and beach scenes gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

The original image was made using a Tamron 18-270mm zoom on a Nikon D5100.  Exposure was 1/2500 second at f13, ISO 1000.

Power versus Persistence, Part 2

It has been said to the Frog that perhaps the image of Power versus Persistence was in fact a bit too ominous or haunting.

In looking at it, I can see that perspective.

Recognizing that a picture speaks to different people differently, I asked “what would be different in your ideal image of Power versus Persistence?”

The common answer was along the lines of the untold story in the shadows.

So, off to the digital darkroom I went.

This time, I went to ACDSee Pro 8.  Why, when the original was created using onOne Perfect Photo Suite 9.5?  Well, I really like the Light EQ feature in ACDSee Pro 8 – there are nine (9) separate channels available to adjust an image.  Sometimes, I use this feature to rescue an image from long ago, and sometimes I use this feature to fine-tune an image as I did in this case.

I worked on bringing out the detail in the roots and branches while not washing out the water and the waves.

DSC_6842 power vs persistence copy copy ALT 600 wmAs I was working on the image, I realized that I was telling a story that the original image left untold.  The gnarled roots are part of the story of Power versus Persistence.  You can see the tops of the roots – this is where the land once was.  Power, aided by the wind, has slowly gnawed away at the sand.  Persistence has dug deep and reached out to anything it can to resist power and stay alive.  Persistence isn’t giving up, but you can see that Power is slowly winning.  There will come a day, perhaps in my lifetime, and perhaps not, that Power will prevail.  I don’t know how long the battle of Power versus Persistence has been going on, but I hope to be able to check in on their status from time to time and see how Persistence is faring.

It’s another of nature’s stories playing out before mankind.

Both versions of Power versus Persistence are available in the coastal and beach scenes gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

It would be interesting to see your comments on which version of Power versus Persistence you prefer and why.


Power versus Persistence

You might notice an unusual use of capitalization in the title of this post.  Don’t worry, it’s intentional.

Power versus Persistence tells a story.

All the way at the end of the paved road in Kauai if you’re headed counterclockwise lies Ke’e, and Ke’e State Beach.

That’s where the story of Power versus Persistence plays out.

It’s rough water there, and going in for a swim isn’t advised.  There are six different signs with infographics about all of the bad things that can happen to you if you go in if the surf isn’t enough to intimidate you.

But, if you’re a photographer, it’s safe.

One of the first things you see as you enter the beach by the Lifeguard Station is a very prominent tree.  Persistence.

And when you look to your left, you see the pounding surf.  Power.

You feel the wind.  Occasionally, you feel the spray.  And you see the tree.

And you wonder how the battle is going, the battle of Power versus Persistence.

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Persistence wants to stay put and live out its life.

Power wants to control everything in its’ path.

And day by day, grain of sand by grain of sand, my bet is that Power will prevail over Persistence.

Persistence won’t let power win easily.  Persistence is fighting with every fiber in its’ roots.

Someday, when Power has moved enough sand, Persistence will fall prey to the laws of physics, specifically gravity and friction.  And Power will win.

It has been said that there is almost a haunting quality about this image.  Personally, I’d possibly make that association if Persistence were dead.

I see it as a reflection of a struggle among elements of nature.  If you want to go really deep, you could say that it is a visual metaphor of one’s struggle (Persistence) to hold course in what has become a complicated and fast moving world (Power).

It’s likely that each one of us sees something along the lines of just holding on and staying fast, and that’s fine.

If it’s true that a picture paints a thousand words, what would your words be?

Power versus Persistence is available in the coastal and beach scenes gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

Image made with a Nikon D5100 and a Tamron 18-270 zoom; RAW image file exposed at ISO 200 for 1/250 second at f8; processed in Perfect B&W / Perfect Photo Suite 9.5.

It’s the filter, stupid!

So, when I packed the camera bag for vacation, I grabbed an old polarizing filter.  By old, I mean “linear”.  But it’s also 30+ years old. (Does that make it old old?

(Hint: if you’re buying a filter, buy the best filter you can afford.  They don’t go bad.  Indeed, they usually meet their maker by being dropped.  Or being sat on and bent.  Not that I know anything about that – I’ve just heard…  Seriously though, if a filter’s price seems too good to be true, it probably is.)

Anyway, what’s the big deal about a linear polarizing filter?  Well, linear filters were just fine back in the days when autofocus cameras were a fantasy and Kodachrome ruled.  You rotated the filter to get your desired effect, pressed the shutter release, and went on about your business.

These days, with autofocus cameras, one needs to think and buy a circular polarizing filters  Why?  Your contemporary autofocus – autoexposure camera’s meter likes circular polarizers.  It’s all about physics, and I’m not a physicist, so I’m not even going to try to explain it here.  However, Bob Atkins does a pretty good job of explaining things, so if my word isn’t good enough, you can click here and read his article about linear and circular polarizing filters.

So why am I talking about this and why are you reading this?  Well, there’s one other problem that you can have besides the meter producing bad exposures, and I encountered it.

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If this image looks fuzzy, it’s not you.

On the other hand, if this image looks in focus, it’s you!  Please visit your eye care professional immediately.

So… what’s going on here?

A linear polarizer can confuse a multi-point autofocus system, and this is proof positive of that.

I was shooting using the linear polarizing filter to remove glare on the water without a problem, perhaps because the sun was behind me.  However, I found my camera not focusing on two subjects the next day in situations where the sun was at a 60-90 degree angle to me.  Being totally relaxed on vacation, I didn’t think about the filter being the problem.  Instead, I was annoyed / mad / worried thinking my lens had decided to break. I tuned the camera off, removed the lens, put the lens back on, turned the camera on, and same problem….!  After repeating that twice (which usually resets everything), I’d given up on the lens for the rest of the trip.

The Frog was not laughing.

And then, later in the day, I looked at the lens.  And saw the filter.  And realized that I’d had that filter since the early 1980’s…

I took the filter off.  I turned the camera on.  It focused.

And, I said to myself, “it’s the filter, stupid…!”

If you’re interested in learning more about what a polarizing filter can do for you, click here and here to visit two prior posts on the subject.

Don’t forget to visit your local camera store when you go to get your polarizing filter!

Photographing Fireworks

Last year, the Frog published four posts on photographing fireworks.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, we’re going to give you the links to the 2014 posts here so you can prepare yourself now, and then head out in a couple of weeks and make your own great images of fireworks.

Photographing fireworks is hard, but it’s not, and it’s actually been made easier by digital photography – you don’t have to wait a week to get your slides back to see how well you did, or didn’t do.  It’s also practically free these days.

Yes, I know, it’s counterproductive to teach people how to take their own fireworks pictures when you’re trying to sell your images, but, hey, I’m not that kind of Frog…

So, here the posts in order, from what you need to how to make your images to free processing software to processing your images and impressing yourself, your friends and your family.

All we ask is that you share Laughing Frog Images as the source of your guidance and inspiration!

If someone else is the photographer in your circle, and you want some images of this year’s fireworks – please share this with them and help us with a little publicity in the process.

DSC_7871 adjusted in Picasa fbLaughing Frog Images wishes you and yours have a safe and happy Independence Day holiday.