Mel Foody Photography: Blog en-us (C) Mel Foody Photography (Mel Foody Photography) Sat, 17 Apr 2021 08:12:00 GMT Sat, 17 Apr 2021 08:12:00 GMT Mel Foody Photography: Blog 120 80 What's in my camera bag? I often get asked, "what camera do you use?" and while I'm happy to answer the question, it feels like a bit of a cheat just to say "I use a Canon 5D4".  Of course I do use a 5D4, but my set up for any given picture might be a bit more complicated than that.  The choice of lens is at least as important as the choice of camera and different lenses can make both for different photographic outcomes and a different experience in making the picture.  I definitely own too many lenses but I've (mostly) loved all of them in their own way.  Here's the lowdown on the various lenses I'm currently using in my photography and some other things you might see in my photography bag.


Canon 24-70 f2.8 II 

I really love this lens, and it pretty much goes wherever my 5D4 goes.  The zoom range is convenient for both landscape and tighter compositions, and the image quality is superb.  The f2.8 is aperture is reasonably wide for lower light situations, though I do wish it had image stabilization.  It's very, very hard to justify bringing along any primes in the 24-70 range when you have this lens.

Canon 16-35mm f4 L IS

This is my go-to wide angle lens and one I use a lot.   If you're a canon shooter into landscape, you really need this in your kit. There are lenses which go wider but this lens accepts filters which is really essential for landscape.  It's also a beautifully sharp lens, which gives me incredible results.  You can take this from my cold dead hands.  There's an f2.8 version of this lens, but I can't understand the value of a single extra stop of aperture vs an extra 4 stops of image stabilization.


Canon 70-200 F2.8

I like this lens good enough but it's big and it's heavy. It's hard to bring anywhere unless you are traveling by car.  It also looks enormous attached to the camera - intimidating for anyone on the other side.  I've used this lens for portraits and action shots (e.g. my son's baseball) but I've actually mostly used it for landscape shots.

Irish Beach, Mendocino, 2020Irish Beach, Mendocino, 2020


Canon 85mm f1.2

85mm is a perfect focal length for portraits on a full frame camera. This is a really beautiful lens, one which makes for incredible portraits.  You will never see more beautiful bokeh and it's reasonably sharp wide open.  Focus is definitely slow, so it leads itself to more intentional portraits.  You're not going to capture fast action with this - though I've certainly tried.  I love it, but it's big. Very big. And heavy.  

Canon 50mm f1.2

Surprisingly, I don't love this nearly as much as the 85mm, and as a result it's rarely on my camera.  It's a big heavy lens, and while the bokeh is fine, I don't feel it gives me much that the 24-70 doesn't give me at 50mm, though of course its a much brighter lens.  For portraits, I prefer 85mm. I should probably sell this to make space on my shelves.

Canon 135mm f2.0

This is another lens I've used, very, very little. The 135mm focal length is good for portraits, but I find this fixed focal length to be not particularly convenient. My 85mm lens gives more flexibility if I need an aperture this wide and the 70-200 gives me much more compositional flexibility.  The one place this lens IS convenient is for travel - it gives a long focal length in a pretty compact package and you can pair it with a 1.4X extender to get to a ~190mm focal length. 

Chrysler Building, 2018Chrysler Building, 2018


Sigma 35mm f1.4 

This is a really beautiful lens with excellent build quality. 35mm is a great focal length - to my mind more of a natural field of view than a 50mm.  The wide aperture on this is also excellent when taking night sky shots - and in fact, that's what I've primarily used this lens for (even though 35mm is not as wide as I would like).  I've made other photos I love with this lens, but I no longer use it extensively.  The reason is that I have 35mm covered with my X100V which is far more convenient.  This is frankly another lens I should now sell.

Kauai, 2019Kauai, 2019



Rokinon 12 mm f2.8

At about $400 new this lens is an incredible bargain.  I basically purchased it because it was so cheap but I've ended up using it a ton.  I'm fascinated by the possibilities of ultra wide angle composition. This is not a rectilinear lens, but rather somewhat "fisheye" so photos will have an inherent distortion, which must be accounted for when composing, or things might look goofy.  I've bought a much more expensive (and even wider) lens to replace this as I've been firmly bitten by the UWA bug. 

6th Avenue, 20186th Avenue, 2018

Canon 11-24 f4

I got a great bargain on a secondhand copy of this $3000 lens.  I haven't tried it in real world settings yet, but will update here when I do.


Samyang 14mm f2.4

This is the lens I bought to replace the above Rokinon for astrophotography.  It's got a 1/3 stop wide aperture and it's not fish eye, which should help make much better night sky compositions. The reviews are great so I am looking forward to putting it through it's paces.


Other Stuff

If I'm going to shoot landscapes, I'll almost always bring a tripod. My go-to tripod for many years has been a Gitzo Mountaineer paired with an Acratech GV2 ballhead.  This is a really robust tripod and a good balance between weight and stability.  But it is heavy enough if you're planning to lug it around all day, and it's not compacted folded.  I've recently purchased the Peak Design travel tripod  - this solves the size problem - it's an absolute genius of design.  However, the jury's still out with respect to stability.

Filter sets are also important. I have a set of 100mm Lee filters, a filter holder and adapter rings for my various lenses. I much prefer 100mm filters over screw on filters.  They provide far more flexibility to move the graduation in line with whatever you're shooting and you can stack filters easily, which I find myself doing a lot.

Last, but not least, I also like to keep a rocket blower handy to remove any dust from my lenses and sensor.

(Mel Foody Photography) Thu, 18 Mar 2021 06:07:20 GMT
Photographing the Beyond As long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with cemeteries.  Photographers are ultimately story tellers.  We tell the stories of a moment in time, or a place, or of other human beings.  Burial places are full of stories (even if those stories serve as a big full stop).

I am fascinated by the ways in which humans memorialize their dead, from elaborate granite tombs built in a futile attempt to withstand the ravages of time... to simple uniform headstones. You can learn a lot about people from their final resting places. 

In the area I grew up, there are burial structures that are almost as old as civilization itself. The passage tombs of Carrowkeel have stood on a windy Irish hillside for five thousand years. Visitors can still climb into the interior burial chambers, now long since empty of human remains. The Dolmen of the Four Maols has stood sentinal on a hill outside my home town for thousands of years before that town ever existed.  Visiting these places allows us a connection, a real, physical connection, to people long forgotten.  But they were here.  They were alive.  They existed.    

Carrowkeel, Ireland, 2016Carrowkeel, Ireland, 2016These majestic tombs have looked out from the side of this Irish mountain for four thousand years. Dolmen of the Four Maols, Ballina, 2016Dolmen of the Four Maols, Ballina, 2016

I live in California now, where even old graves tend to be measured in decades not even centuries, never mind millennia.  Still, the stories are there. In Mendocino, there is the grave of Dennis Nolan, age 28, "a Native of Ireland" who died in 1887.  Denis would have been born in the aftermath of the Great Hunger, to a devastated Ireland still wracked by unimaginable poverty.  When he left Ireland, he was never going to return - and he died in a place so far away it may as well have been another planet.  Still, he got a pretty impressive grave marker, so death aside, it seems he did pretty well.

Mendocino, 2014Mendocino, 2014

In the ghost town of Bodie, a small lonely graveyard on the edge of the town tells the stories of the gritty pioneers who risked everything to seek their fortune in a beautiful but desolate place.  For most of them, the risk never paid off. BI & LM Barlow lost their son Arthur (aged 3 months and 18 days) just weeks before the dawn of a new century. His headstone, with its single marble rose, still stands - a symbol of grief that has outlived baby Arthur's short life, many, many times over.

Bodie, California, 2017Bodie, California, 2017

In Hollywood, the graves have exactly the level of showmanship one might expect, whether it's Johnny Ramone's life size effigy, or Cecil B De Mille's grandiose marble sarcophagus, though I admit to being disappointed by Jayne Mansfield's surprisingly flat final marker.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 2017Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 2017 Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 2017Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 2017 Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 2017Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 2017


Some graves quite literally tell a story - Edward Duffy's in Dublin's Glasnevin cemetery being a prime example.

Others markers tell more about those left behind.  The Bayeux War Cemetery in France contains the graves of mostly British soldiers who died on D-Day.  It's a somber place, but the simple inscription "our lad at rest" on the headstone of a young RA Allen, somehow spoke more to the human cost of WWII in a way that the volume of headstones alone could not.


Of course, no one does military cemeteries better than the Americans.  I've taken some of my favorite shots among the resting places of America's patriots.

Golden Gate National Cemetery, 2016Golden Gate National Cemetery, 2016

I've never passed a cemetery I haven't wanted to visit, or photograph.  As photographic subjects go, it could be considered pretty trite, and that's certainly a valid criticism.  Still, I come back for the stories.  As photographers, we can give new life to those old stories.  We can see - and show - something of those people who went before us - and perhaps in that we can contextualize our own brief existence. 

If not that, then we can at least just agree that headless angels are cool.

Sacramento, 2018Sacramento, 2018





(Mel Foody Photography) Wed, 10 Mar 2021 07:18:19 GMT
Best of 2019 2019 was an interesting year for my photography.  I just didn't pick up my camera much.   For most of the last decade, whenever I'd travel anywhere, I'd always bring my big DSLR with me, and probably a tripod too.  I was pretty religious about getting up early and making some shots whenever I was in a new city (or in a familiar but vibrant city such as New York).  I stopped doing that so much this year.  Work is busy and I've been traveling a lot.  I find that the DSLR is just too damn heavy to carry on a flight and, for whatever reason, I don't have the same desire to spend time staking out great photo locations like I once did.  It was similar on the portrait front.  I dusted off my home studio in January to take some photos for friends and then... nothing.  This is a bit of a shame because I love portraiture, but it's a major time investment.  It also requires a lot of space, which I just don't have.  So, it's not that I don't still love photography, it's just that I don't have the time to devote to it that I once did.  Or maybe the interest, I don't know.  Maybe it will change in 2020, or not.

That said, I did take some trips this year which gave me amazing opportunities to photograph the wonder that is America.  On those trips, photography came secondary to family, but I still made some shots that I'm proud of.  Anyway, in no particular order, here's my favorite images of 2019...


Steam Pipe, NYC

I didn't take my DSLR to NYC at all this year, but I did take my X100T and I made this photo on the way to the office one morning.  I'd long wanted to capture a photo with one of these steam pipes, as they're so quintessentially NYC, but had never gotten round to it.  The morning sun was shining at just the right angle to light the plume, and the delivery worker added some nice scale to the scene.

New York, 2019New York, 2019



I didn't take many portraits this year, in fact, I only broke out my studio equipment twice (and both times were for this family).  I love the shot I made of these three great kids.  Their parents seem to like it too, because they got a large print made to hang on their wall.


Desert Watchtower, Grand Canyon.

This was a great location and I took quite a few photos of the Grand Canyon that I'm proud of here.  We visited in the afternoon, and the light wasn't perfect for photographs, but I made do.  I think the composition is pretty strong here, with the tower, the tree and the canyon on the left (the canyon is much more visible in the full res version).


Spider Rock, Canyon De Chelly

Honesty, by the time we arrived at Canyon De Chelly, we were somewhat canyoned out having already visited the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley.  We didn't tour the valley floor, but instead opted just do to the rim drive.  It worked out well because we arrived at the last stop - the Spider Rock look out, at the perfect time for me to get this photo.  Only 10 minutes later, the shadow was already half way up the spire.  To me, there's something iconically "American West" about this photo, which is as much as I could hope for.

Canyon de Chelly, AZ, 2019Canyon de Chelly, AZ, 2019


Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, AZ

If Spider Rock is iconic of the American west landscape, the this motel is iconic of the areas recent human heritage.  It was such a joy to photograph this spot, where people can still stay in the Wigwams.  Presumably, however, patrons need to park their cars somewhere else, because the lot in front is full of classic American Automobiles.

Holbrook, AZ, 2019Holbrook, AZ, 2019



I like the silly joy that this shot captures.


Moon over Monument Valley

A single exposure of the most recognizable landscape in the America, perhaps the world. This was easily one of my favorite places I have ever visited. Most of my photos of Monument Valley didn't come close to doing it justice, and tbh I really messed up on a lot of my exposures for some reason, but I came close enough to redeeming myself with this shot.

Monument Valley, AZ, 2019Monument Valley, AZ, 2019


Lower Antelope Canyon, AZ

I was excited to visit Antelope Canyon since I first heard of it about 10 years ago.  It's a super fun experience, but probably not as beautiful in person as it looks in photos.  That said, the combination of composition and textures makes for stunning photos, and I got a lot of shots here that I'm proud of (even without a tripod).  This was my favorite.


Milky Way over Kauai

Hawaii must be one of the best places on the planet to photograph the Milky Way.   It's an island, sparcely populated (especially Kauai) and is close to the equator (so the Milky Way is always above the horizon).  I went out late a couple of nights to get some shots.  It was challenging, because there was a constant cloud cover coming in off of the ocean.  I had to compose the shot I wanted, and then... wait... until a suitable opening in the clouds came along.  It was worth it.


Napali Coast, Kauai

Another iconic location I've long wanted to shoot.  I think the preferred photographic approach here is generally a helicopter tour, and they look awesome, but I'm not a fan of the safety record of Hawaiian helicopter tours and the chances of getting a good seat on a helitour felt too random.  Instead, we took what turned out to be an amazing bout tour up the coast and I made some photos which I think capture the ancient majesty of the landscape pretty well. 

Napali Coast, Kauai, HINapali Coast, Kauai, HI


(Mel Foody Photography) Mon, 30 Dec 2019 01:15:43 GMT
Photographing Kauai I've just come back from a trip to Kauai.  As a destination for photography, it was pretty magical, and I made some pictures that I'm very happy with.  As is mostly the case when I'm traveling, its either for work or with my family, and photography comes secondary to both of those. Opportunities are going to be limited, so I need to have an idea of what I want to capture in advance and have a rough plan on how to make shots.  I also need to say flexible because I tend to not have a lot of time.

Before going to Kauai, I had a vague idea that I wanted to capture Waimea Canyon, the Napali Coast, Hanalei Bay, maybe some coastal landscapes.  I also knew that there would be no moon, and was excited to capture some Milky Way shots. 



We stayed in Poipu, which is one of the two main tourist areas on the island.  It's in the south, which tends to be drier and more reliably sunny than the north, but also consequently less lush. The location was convenient for Waimea Canyon and for boat tours of Napali coast.  There's also plenty of tourist amenities but it does not feel in any way busy. The beaches are beautiful, but relatively few.  In hindsight, if I were to travel to Kauai in summer again, I would stay in Princeville, the other major tourist area on the north side of the island.  Why?  The beaches up north are more beautiful and more suitable for swimming during the summer months.  The landscape is much more dramatic and you get sunsets, which are non-existent on the south shore during summer.  Finally, Hanalei bay is just one of the most beautiful locations I've ever been to.  I could hang out there for months.


Waimea Canyon

This is billed as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific."  The drive to the various viewing points is easy.  I followed some advice to go early in the morning, but wasn't too impressed with the photos I made.  They were all taken before about 10am, which in retrospect, may have already been too late.  A local later advised me to do it in the afternoon, as the evening light shines from behind the lookouts and creates some beautiful shadows.  That said, the canyon is impressive enough, but I don't know that it's really as grand as described and I don't know that it's really that great of a photo spot (Google some images and decide for yourself).  The photo I was most happy with was this one, taken from the final look-out, which shows the canyon floor descending towards the town of Waimea.

Pu’u O Kila Lookout

Much more impressive (for my money) is the Pu'u O Kila Lookout, which is at the end of the Waimea Canyon road, and the furthest point you can drive to on the west side of Kauai.  From a height of 4000 feet, you can see the landscape fall off towards the bluest sea below.  I was excited to make some pictures here - so imagine my disappointment when the view was completely obscured by clouds.  I'd heard that things can change quickly, so to pass the time, I photographed the lush jungle through gaps in the clouds.  After an hour or so, for the briefest of moments (perhaps only one minute) the clouds parted, and we got the view I'd been waiting for.  I like the extra depth that the clouds add to the shot, but I find the overall saturation of the images I made to be quite unrealistic, even though they're a pretty faithful depiction of the scene.  It really is that remarkable.


I knew that for the first few days of my trip, the Milky Way should be visible to the south of where I was staying (i.e. over the ocean) as there would be no moon.  I went out to make some night sky shots on three out of my first four evenings there.  I had a combination of lenses - a Sigma Art 35 1.4, which is super fast, but doesn't have a particularly wide field of view to capture the Milky Way; a Rokinon 12mm, which is SUPER wide, but has quite a bit of fish-eye distortion and only opens to f2.8 and finally my Canon 24-70 which is also only f2.8 but just an amazing all round lens.  I ended up using all three.

The biggest problem was clouds.  There are LOTS of clouds on Kauai.  My routine pretty much consisted of setting up and waiting (sometimes for an hour or longer) for just the right break in the clouds.  I found a lot of good compositions along the coast and was able to use nearby light sources to illuminate foreground objects such as lifeguard stations and palm trees to add interest to the images.

Kauai, 2019Kauai, 2019

Hanalei Bay

My favourite location, by far, in all of Hawaii.  This incredible bay stretches for miles, and when we were there the waters were calm and inviting and the beach was almost empty.  The jungle covered cliffs rise to incredible heights all around, making this place feel like something from a movie (which of course it has been).  I knew that I wanted to get at least one sunset shot from Kauai, and was able to time our visit to Hanalei to coincide with sunset.  It did not disappoint.  I stood to the right of the famous pier, because I wanted that illuminated by the setting sun, as opposed to silhouetted by it, though either composition would work.  If I had stayed on the north of the island, I expect I would have returned here many times.  It is a photographers dream.`

Hanalei Bay, Kauai, HIHanalei Bay, Kauai, HI


Napali Coast

Top of my list to see in Kauai was the Napali coast.  I've seen many spectacular photos of this incredible landscape and couldn't wait to experience it for myself.  I had considered doing a helicopter tour but decided not to.  The best option for photographers is a "doors off" tour with Jack Harter helicopters but there's a chance you'd get stuck in the front middle seat, which would be useless.  The only way to guarantee a window seat is to book a chopper all to yourself and to be honest I just wasn't feeling that spendy. Instead, we took a sunset cruise out of Port Allen, which proved a great decision. The views of the cliffs from the ocean are incredible and the evening light created some beautifully dramatic compositions.  We were on the boat for 5 hours and even the non-photographers really enjoyed it.  I used a combination of my 16-35 and 24-70 lenses here.  The biggest challenge was keeping them dry from sea spray and controlling highlights in the clouds.  I also used a CPL to bring out color in the cliffs and the blues in the water.

Napali Coast, Kauai, HINapali Coast, Kauai, HI


(Mel Foody Photography) Astrophotography Hawaii Landscape Photography Hawaii Photography Kauai Milky Way Photography Kauai Photography Milky Way Photography Napali Coast Photography Sat, 13 Jul 2019 08:53:10 GMT
Best of 2018 - Places I did more traveling in 2018 than ever before, but the vast majority of that travel was to New York, for work.  I brought my camera along a few times, but it can be difficult to find time to shoot on work trips.  That said, I did make quite a few NY shots that I'm proud of, and they make the majority of this set.  I got much fewer shots of any other location, which partially reflects the fact that we did much less traveling as a family in 2018.  I hope to change this in 2019.  I'm also spending much more time in San Francisco, so I do plan to use that opportunity to make some new shots there, something I have not done in many years.


"Central Park, Snowstorm"

I spent hours roaming around Central Park in the aftermath of a snowstorm.  It was glorious, and I got some nice shots, including this one.
Central Park, NY, 2018Central Park, NY, 2018


"Lick Observatory"

My friend took me along to a photography night at the Lick Observatory.  The Milky Way was a no-show, but the evening was still super enjoyable.  I was photographing the main telescope dome when a car rounded the building.  The other photographers were annoyed, but I was pretty happy with the resulting light trails in my shot.

Lick ObservatoryLick Observatory


"New York"

A classic view of Manhattan from Brooklyn.  I love this location but the lighting can pose a challenge. I had a color version of this shot but then reprocessed it in black and white some time later, and I think it resulted in a much stronger shot.


"Sand Dunes, Enniscrone"

I made this shot shortly after seeing Roma and being super inspired by the amazing black and white cinematography in that movie.  I suspect this will make an excellent print.

Enniscrone, Ireland, 2018Enniscrone, Ireland, 2018


"Bust of MLK, Capitol Dome, Washington"

I took a lot of photos in Washington, but my favorite was this ultra wide shot of MLK under the Capitol Dome. I like the symbolism of the Civil Rights leader under the of America's slave owning founder, George Washington.

Bust of MLK JR, Capitol Dome, WashingtonBust of MLK JR, Capitol Dome, Washington


"Midtown, Manhattan"

I took this with my ultra wide lens while I was running with my family to catch a train from Grand Central. I looked up, saw these huge skyscrapers, shot with my camera for about 30 seconds and moved on.  It was worth the pause.

6th Avenue, 20186th Avenue, 2018


"Lady Liberty"

One of those rare instances where I got a shot I'd been hoping for.  We were lucky when we visited Liberty Island that the day was overcast, with these incredibly dramatic cloud formations. I was hoping for clouds to make an interesting photo.  My only regret was that I did not get to visit the pedestal, which I think would have provided some much more interesting perspectives.


"New York Public Library"

I had a wonderful visit to the NY Public Library, which I had not visited before.  It's an amazing building.  I returned after the library had closed and was able to make this shot by standing right at the front doors.  I think the view of 41st street through the beautiful baroque arch is pretty unique.

41st Street, from the NY Public Library, 201841st Street, from the NY Public Library, 2018


"Bethesda Terrace Arcade"

This is such a beautiful public space, and one that I've wanted to get a good photo of for some time.  Jet leg assisted with getting up early and I finally made a photo I'm happy with.

Central Park, 2018Central Park, 2018

"Pismo Beach"

We made a return trip to this classic California beach town.  I love the blue and gold tones in this shot.

Pismo Pier, 2018Pismo Pier, 2018

(Mel Foody Photography) Tue, 15 Jan 2019 07:57:33 GMT
Best of 2018 - People 2018 was not a great year for my photography, which is ironic, as I'm now working for biggest photo sharing platform that has ever existed.  I did a small number of portrait shoots for friends and I continue to take photos of my children, but I notice I am photographing them much less now.  This is not a deliberate decision - thankfully they are still very willing models - but time, slowly diverging and ever busier schedules, along with my increasing reluctance to bring my big camera equipment everywhere, are working against us.  Still, I love portrait photography more than ever.  I think there is something very moving in making a photo which captures something of the essence of another human being.  In a world of prolific photography, truly meaningful and beautiful portraits are still surprisingly rare.



I did a maternity shoot for some good friends, and used one of my new canvas backdrops for the first time.  We got a few great shots, but this one was my  favorite.  The lighting executed exactly as I had hoped.


"O, Jumping"

We made quite a few more formal shots with this girl, bu she really just wanted to jump, and so we made this shot in the process.


"Ricardo's Parents"

I love this photo of two lovely people.


"Baby T"

It's a baby.  What else is there to say?


"Enniscrone, Winter"

We played on this beach so much as kids and I still love to visit it today.  When the tide recedes you get these wonderful glassy reflections on the sand.  

Enniscrone, Ireland, 2018Enniscrone, Ireland, 2018


"The Day She Became An American"

I insisted on making portraits of my son and daughter on the day we became American citizens.  It was a bit chaotic making it happen at the time, but I'm super glad we did and that they'll always have this memento of what I consider to be one of the best days in our collective lives.


"St Patricks Day"

One from a silly shoot we did when they dressed up for St Patricks day.  I love the lighting and my son's expression here.


"Boy, California, 2018"


"Instagram, New York"

My kids could not resist posing in the photo booth at Instagram's New York office. I think the photo captures their personalities pretty well, which, in the end, is all we can ask from a photo.

(Mel Foody Photography) Tue, 15 Jan 2019 07:31:33 GMT
Best of 2017 - Places I did quite a bit of traveling this year, but I don't feel like it was a vintage year for my travel and landscape photography. Good landscape photography takes a lot of time and quite a bit of equipment, neither of which lends itself to traveling with a family or traveling on business.  I'm also finding that I'm often now revisiting locations, so finding something new to photograph becomes more of a challenge.  That said, as I look back at the collection here, there were more than a few shots I was really proud of in 2017, and, ironically, some locations I really want to get back to...



This was taken from the newly opened 14th floor terrace of the Google NYC office.  I'm glad I took this one when I had the chance as I've since moved to a new company.  The sunset didn't really perform for me that evening, but I think the photo works well regardless.



I had an idea that the contrast between the gothic St Patrick's and the modernist Atlas statue / Rockefeller Center opposite might make for an interesting composition.  It took two visits and many attempts for me to make this work.  I like the resulting shot, even if the blown highlights on Atlas's leg still annoy me (I tried a HDR version but it was not good).

"The Old Gods and the New""The Old Gods and the New"



This location is about an hour north of Las Vegas.  We arrived too late in the day to really make the most of it, but still managed to pass an enjoyable few hours.  This place looks like an alien landscape, which is probably why its been featured in numerous movies, including being the scene of Captain Kirk's rather ignominious death in Star Trek Generations.



I've been to Tahoe a lot, but normally end up staying in Truckee, near the north side of the lake, which means its not too handy to get to Emerald Bay.  This time however, we were staying with friends in South Lake Tahoe, so I was determined to get a sunrise shot of Emerald Bay.  I arrived at 6am and had the location to myself.  It looked as though the sunrise would be a bust, but for about two minutes there was a spectacular glow just as the sun peaked above the hills opposite.  I have a very large print of this and it looks great.



My visit to Dublin in June will probably be my last for quite a while, as I no longer have a business reason to visit.  I'm happy then, that I got this last shot of the city that I called home for many years.  As I was walking along the Grand Canal I noticed the lovely sunset glow on the Georgian row houses opposite and thought that the reflection in the still canal water would make for a nice - and uniquely Dublin - composition.



You have to be determined to get to Bodie.  Miles and miles from anywhere, with the last ten or so of those on a winding dirt road, its not the kind of place one just stumbles upon.  I'd been wanting to visit this well preserved ghost town since I first arrived in California six years ago, and it did not disappoint.  There's loads of glorious decay to photograph, but this landscape shot, taken from the town's cemetery, proved to be my favorite.  There was a thunderstorm while we were there and as it cleared, the clouds cast some wonderful shadows over the hills behind the town.



These Bristlecone Pine trees, high in California's White Mountains, are up to 5000 years old.  Some have been standing silent on this bleak mountainside throughout all of recorded human history.  It is a truly awe-inspiring place to visit (in fact, the only place that I can compare it to is Australia's Uluru).  The gnarled beauty of the oldest trees is particularly photographic.



The Eastern Sierras have to be California's best kept secret. Its a stunning place.  I still can't quite believe it took me six years to get here.  I got up about 6am to take this sunrise shot of a nearby alpine lake.  The shoot was almost ruined by the sole other photographer there who decided to set up position on these rocks. Thankfully, he soon decamped to another spot, and all was well.

Convict Lake, SunriseConvict Lake, Sunrise



Our trip to Mexico this year was a photographic bust.  There's not much of interest to see in and around Pureto Vallarta without a car (which we didn't have).  We did however, have a beach, so I headed down a couple of evenings to see if the sunset would deliver, and it did... once.



I had a lot of fun with my wide angle lens in NYC, and took a number of photos in Grand Central.  I like this composition, because it captures the majority of the incredibly artistic ceiling and architecture while still capturing a little of the life that flows through the station.

Evening Commuter, Grand CentralEvening Commuter, Grand Central


(Mel Foody Photography) amateur photography best of 2017 landscape mel foody photography photography urban Sun, 31 Dec 2017 20:36:10 GMT
Best of 2017 - People I've decided to split my "Best of" into two this year - people and places.  These are really two entirely different types of photography, so its near impossible to evaluate them as a whole.

About two years ago, I made an effort to spend more time on my people photography.  I realised that its photographs of people that I'm personally most drawn to.  I have a large photo book collection and its almost entirely comprised of street and portrait photographers - Elliott Erwitt, Dan Winters, Irving Penn, Annie Leibovitz, etc.   Capturing something of another human being that goes beyond a mere snapshot is really hard, but its also an opportunity to create something that can never again be replicated.  Its much, much harder than capturing a landscape in a nice light.  I definitely would not claim to be a good portraitist by any means, but as time goes on, I think am improving, and that's really all anyone can ask for.

Here are my favourite people pictures from 2017



This was the second time I tried a studio maternity shoot.  I was delighted with the results, but I had two amazing parents to be (and good friends) to work with.  This is a rare example of a shot which worked out exactly as I had previsualized, though I had to do a bit of photoshop work on the dress trail. 




I made this photo during a workshop with the great Elena Shumilova, here in California.  It was an amazing two days.  To get this shot, I had to wade into the stream in my bare feet - it was cold and rocky!  The girl seemed to barely notice we were there and she made this pose for literally two seconds - I have no idea what she was doing.  I was the only one in the workshop to capture it.



My second maternity shoot of the year was an outdoor shoot in a local park.  This couple are always wonderful to work with, and have tons of ideas for the photos, which made it a super collaborative experience.  We made quite a few shots I was happy with, but I think this is my favorite.  I really like the connection between the two parents to be here. 



This was taken with studio lighting in our back yard.  I love my daughters pose here.  It captures her personality nicely.




I made this shot of my son while on vacation in Mexico.  This wasn't really posed - though I had an idea in advance of what I wanted to capture. 



When my parents came to visit this year I wanted to make sure that I took time to bring them into the studio for some shots.  I'm really glad I did - now that I've moved jobs, I no longer have access to this wonderful facility.   They were great subjects, and we got a lot of nice shots.  The reason they are laughing here is because I had to have my mom stand on an apple crate to be roughly level with my dad - and it was the first time I ever realised she was so much  shorter than him!



Another one from the Elena Shumilova workshop.  This was actually totally unplanned.  The boy was sitting on the bench, away from the photographers (sitting out this particular location) when one sharp eyed shooter spotted him and asked him to rest against the bench.



This girls parents asked me to take some shots for her 10th birthday.  We went to a redwood grove close by in Los Altos.  It was a great location and she was a wonderful model.  Once again, serendipity contributed to the shot.  We were walking by a party which was wrapping up and someone gave these balloons to the girl.  I love how the colors of the balloons complimented the colors of her dress.




Its difficult to believe this photo was made under a year ago.  Our boy looks so much older now.  I'm really happy that I've captured so much of his childhood through photography.



Another photo of my daughter.  This might be my favorite portrait I've ever made.



(Mel Foody Photography) amateur photography best of 2017 mel foody photography people photography portraits Sat, 30 Dec 2017 19:54:11 GMT
Ultra Wide New York Sometime last year, I got the Rokinon 12mm for Canon. This is an ultra wide / Fisheye lens with a 180 degree corner to corner field of view, and manual focus.  I primarily got the lens because my Canon 16-35 wasn't cutting it for star field photography - it gave me the wide angle to get much of the milky way in but the apperture was too small, requiring longer exposures.  Since then, I've discovered you can have a lot of fun with such a wide lens - even if you can't use filters (because of the protruding front element), and even with manual focus.

On my most recent trip to New York, I took this lens, expecting to get some interesting city scapes.  It delivered on that, but where it really excelled (to my mind) was in interior shots of some new and old NYC landmarks.


"Rainy Times Square"

Rainy Times SquareRainy Times Square


"View from Hotel Window"

View from Hotel WindowView from Hotel Window


"Grand Central Station"

Grand CentralGrand Central


"Ceiling, Grand Central"

Ceiling, Grand CentralCeiling, Grand Central


"The Old Gods and the New"

"The Old Gods and the New""The Old Gods and the New"


"St Patrick's Cathedral"


"Evening Commuter, Grand Central"

Evening Commuter, Grand CentralEvening Commuter, Grand Central


"Transportation Hub, World Trade Center"


"Brave New World"





(Mel Foody Photography) Amateur Photography City Fisheye Mel Foody Photography NYC New York City Photography Street Urban Wide Angle Sat, 04 Feb 2017 02:01:33 GMT
Best of 2016 Its that time of year when I like to take stock of what I've accomplished with my photography over the past 12 months.  Its been a frustrating year on the photographic front.  While I've taken a lot of photos (as usual), there were very few resulting images which I found particularly compelling.  None the less, here are the best from a rum year.


Roman Pool, Hearst Castle

I bought a Rokinon 12mm f 2.8 for shooting starscapes, but I was surprised how many other uses I found for it.  I'd wanted to visit Hearst Castle since seeing it on a travel program many, many years ago.  More recently, I also developed a specific desire to photograph the Roman pool.  I knew that the Ultra Wide Angle would allow me to get a relatively unique view of this amazing room.  I was very pleased with how this turned out.

Roman Pool WideRoman Pool Wide


Under Pismo Pier

I've visited a lot of the Northern California coast, but 2016 marked my first visit to the central coast. I wanted to take some long exposures from under the long wooden pier in Pismo, but was delighted to find the sun shining right through the timbers at sunset, giving me the opportunity to take a completley different photo than the one I'd planned.  I have three different versions of this shot, but this one is my personal favourite.

Under Pismo Pier IIIUnder Pismo Pier III


Leinster House

The meeting place of the Irish parliament.  Its not a particularly photogenic building (especially from the rear view, here), but I like how the elements come together in this frame.  I love the long shadow of the tree branches on the grass, the gentle morning sunlight on the building and how the top of the obelisk perfectly aligns with the branch directly above it.   I shot this with my X100T during my morning walk to work while on a business trip in Dublin.

Leinster HouseLeinster HouseSeat of the Irish houses of parliament - Dail and Seanad Eireann. This is the view from the rear. The view of the front of the building is ruined by a butt ugly car park.



Not a perfect shot - would have preferred a much more dramatic sunset, but I do think it captures the bleak ruggedness of the high Sierras rather nicely.  I had a lovely couple of hours with my dad crawling over rocks for this shoot.

Donner SummitDonner Summit


Cinder Cones

Haleakala crater is a photographers dream.  I have no shortage of photos from this location that I would be happy to put on my wall.

Cinder Cones, Haleakala CalderaCinder Cones, Haleakala Caldera


Sunset Portrait

The best frame from my first ever model shoot.


Milky Way over Haleakala

This type of shot was the reason I bought the Rokinon 12mm.  The top of Haleakala on Maui has some of the best views of the stars of anywhere on the planet. This shot was underexposed (for the Milky Way) compared to others, but the lights of the car below the cinder cone makes for a more complete frame than the others.  I need to get back to this mountain.


Hafencity Red

A little bit of interior urban photography from Hamburg.  I was here with some work colleagues, so didn't exactly have a whole lot of time to think about how to make this photo.  It was a amazing interior space.  The color of the station light changes continuously.  I was lucky to catch it in a red phase, complementing the red doors of the train on the platform.


Early Morning Hamburg

I took two different shots of the Hamburg waterfront, offering quite different perspectives.  I like them both, but the column of industrial steam visible in this adds a nice touch to this shot, while also speaking to the character of Hamburg as a city.


Trinity College

Trinity College, DublinTrinity College, Dublin


Irish Pastoral

The beautiful evening light on an Irish mountainside in winter.  What's not to love?

Irish PastoralIrish Pastoral

Christmas Card

This shot came out exactly how I wanted, but my children's serene faces belie the chaos that went into making the shot.


Winter Storm, Downpatrick Head.

I remember visiting this location as a child, but never really appreciating the majesty of it.  I thought there were cliffs like this everywhere.  I went with the intention of taking some long exposures towards sunset but the weather hd other plans.  The wind was so strong, I couldn't go anywhere near the cliff edge near the building on the left of this shot, for fear of being blown off.  Additionally, there was no hope of my rather flimsy travel tripod standing up to the raging wind.  Instead, I got some great shots of the pounding storm waves on the cliff face.  I also like how the building adds a nice sense of scale.

Winter Storm, Downpatrick Head.Winter Storm, Downpatrick Head.

Communion Day

A fun shot of a friends daughter on her Communion day with my own cheeky pup playing up behind her.

(Mel Foody Photography) Mon, 09 Jan 2017 05:43:37 GMT
Best of 2015 At the beginning of 2015, I made a decision that I wanted to build my portraiture skills.  I love taking landscape shots, but whenever I'm looking at other people's photos, its always the ones with humans that stand out - and this is the area I've been historically very weak in.   To get exposure, I took on some opportunities I might previously have passed on, and I put shout out on Facebook to see if there were any friends willing to be a portrait subject.  It proved surprisingly fruitful.    At any rate, for the first time, there's a heavy weighting towards people shots in my "best of" list. 


"Erika and Tommy"

Tommy's sister put a shout-out in work for a photographer to take some "save the date" shots for Tommy and Erika, his wife to be. This was a new experience for me - taking photos of people I had never met before.  They were a joy to work with, and we got what (I think) were some pretty nice shots, but this is the one I'm most happy with.


"Any Day Now"

Maternity shoot - another first for me!  We approached this session with no pre-conceived notions of what shots we wanted (from either side of the camera).  Mom-to-be had a wonderful selection of outfits and sarongs but as we worked on this pose, it soon became clear that less would be more.  I absolutely love how this turned out.



One of the few landscape shots taken this year that I'm genuinely happy with.  While in Mendocino, I ran down to Irish Beach late in the evening with my dad to grab some long exposure shots.  I like how this shot conveys the motion of the water, set off nicely by the smattering of the clouds in the sky.  I have a large print of this and it looks amazing.

Irish Beach, CA, 2015Irish Beach, CA, 2015


"Sleepy Sleepy"

Baby photography is hard.  Much respect to Anne Geddes.


"The Gap"

This is the landscape near to where I grew up.  Its got a stark beauty that's hard to capture on camera, but I think I did ok.

The GapThe GapThe R294 road winds its way through "the gap" between the Ox Mountains in County Mayo.


"New and Old"

I spotted this scene outside Dublin's Trinity College and couldn't resist grabbing a few shots.


"Insert Caption Here"

I told the story of this shot in an earlier blog post.  I think the shot stands up enough to be included in this list.



This is probably one of those shots that appeals to me and no one else.  I like the expansiveness of it, and the way the scene is almost still, with the exception of a handful of folks at the bottom of the frame. I see a lot of airports.

T5T5Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport


"College Green, Early Morning"

A little bit of Dublin, early in the morning.

College Green, DublinCollege Green, Dublin



Possibly my favorite adult portrait, ever.  This is a rare instance of me having a very clear idea for a shot and then executing on it perfectly.  The set-up for this is difficult and it takes multiple shots, quick fingers, and a bit of luck to get the focus right.   I was very happy with the outcome.


(Mel Foody Photography) 2015 Amateur Photography Best of Landscape Mel Foody Photography Photography Portraits Fri, 18 Dec 2015 08:06:04 GMT
Anatomy of a street shot I'm not much of a street photographer - for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, I don't live in a big city, or somewhere where one has access to large numbers of interesting people on a regular basis.  More importantly however, street photography is hard.  For my money, its the hardest form of photography.  Making something beautiful or interesting out of the randomness of the streets is really, really difficult, and requires a special kind of patience, seeing and dedication, which to be frank, I don't really have.  Of course, street photography done well can be exquisite - you only have to see the photos of Cartier-Bresson,  Garry Winogrand or Vivian Maier to see this.

Now and again, I do try my hand at street shots, when the opportunity presents itself.  One recent opportunity was during the Sacramento Gold Rush Days festival.  I left my family relaxing in the hotel room while I headed out for a stroll as the day wound down.  

One thing which becomes quickly apparent when trying to capture an interesting scene on the street is how critical timing is. 


Frame #1

I spotted "Barrel Man" just as he was having a photo taken with two with two security officers.  Of course, he looks like an interesting character, so I anticipated there might be a shot here somewhere.  My first press of the shutter was jus ta little bit too late. The symmetry of the pose between the man and woman is interesting, as is the focus of the man's expression, but Ice Cream Girl in the background is just too distracting to make this shot work.


Frame #2 & #3

Now the woman is out of frame, but  Little Girl is approaching (bigger sister Ice Cream Girl is now to right of frame).   There's no interaction between subjects in the frame #2 above, but at frame #3, things start to get interesting as Barrel Man notices little girl approaching.


Frame #4 & #5

Frame 4 is a complete washout.  We cant see Barrel Man's face at all and he's looking directly away from Little Girl.  Boo.  Frame 5 looks a little more interesting as Barrel Man turns to face towards the camera is is now interacting with Little Girl's family (though his attention is focused on Ice Cream girl, who remains largely out of shot.


Frame #6 

At last!  We have interaction between our two subjects.  Frame #6 is almost good enough.  There's a nice sense of trepidation in Little Girl's stance as she regards Barrel Man, and he's entirely focused on her.  But notice that she's still slightly too far to the right of frame.  Also, as a viewer, we are still slightly removed from things - both subjects are sideways to the camera.


Frame #7

And the moment is almost gone again!   Barrel Man's greeting to Little Girl looks a bit awkward and thanks to my not-fast-enough reflexes, she's now unceremoniously sliced in half by the frame.  Ugh.


Frame #8: The Money Shot!

But wait... the final shot, and we finally have something which (I think) works.   For a split second Barrel Man turns so that he is largely facing the camera, while still being very focused on Little Girl - and his expression is the most animated we've seen. Little Girl, for her part, is clearly observing Barrel Man with something approaching trepidation, and she is well inside frame.  The rather comical juxtaposition between the very earthy Barrel Man and the sweetly innocent Little Girl makes for a rather humorous capture.   What you can't see, is that, to the right of shot, Ice Cream girl and parents and just about to step into frame.  This moment literally lasted a split second and then it was gone.  The whole sequence from Frame 1 above to this frame took about 8 to 10 seconds.

Its all about timing.

(Mel Foody Photography) Amateur Photography Mel Foody Photography Shot Composition Street Photography Timing Thu, 17 Sep 2015 05:03:01 GMT
Best of Ireland 2015  I spent a few weeks in Ireland this summer.  What follows are the photo highlights of that trip.  I'm much more into photography now than when I lived in Ireland, so its a lot of fun to revisit it with a camera.

"The Gap"

This was taken in a pass through the Ox Mountains in north Mayo.  I love the barrenness of the landscape here, and the ominous clouds.  Weirdly, I had to step through a field of dead mackerel fish to get this.

The GapThe GapThe R294 road winds its way through "the gap" between the Ox Mountains in County Mayo.


A little bit of people watching on Dublin's south quays.


"ARM Cuauhtémoc"

This Mexican naval boat docked in Dublin during my stay there.  It was very hard to get this shot.  I had to balance a very narrow aperture (to get those star points on the lights), requiring a relatively long exposure, with the fact that the boat was moving ever so slightly in the river.  It took a lot of attempts.

ARM CuauhtémocARM CuauhtémocI was fortunate to grab some shots of this vessel while it was docked in Dublin recently, just a few short steps away from my hotel. It was very difficult to time the exposure for this just right, as I needed a small aperture to capture the lights as pointed stars, but inconveniently, the boat was moving ever so slightly, even as it was tied up to the dock.

"Bonfire Night"

There is a rather odd tradition in the west of Ireland, whereby on the 23rd of each June, everyone takes the opportunity to build and light giant bonfires.  This was HUGE when I was a kid.  We would spend weeks gathering stuff to burn - and there was huge rivalry between groups of kids in different neighborhoods to see who would have the best bonfire.  I've no idea if that sort of thing still goes on, but based on the evidence, the bonfires are certainly still burning.


"Granuaile's Tower"

Standing guard on the Achill Island coast, this place is like a reverse Tardis... huge on the outside, absolutely tiny on the inside. 

Granuaile's TowerGranuaile's TowerThis place is like a reverse Tardis... huge on the outside, absolutely tiny on the inside.
"The Tower at Kildavnet, in the south-east corner of Achill Island, is a perfect example of a 15th century Irish tower house. The Gaelic Chiefs of the time copied a Norman design and constructed many such tower houses. The tower at Kildavnet is thought to have been constructed by the Clan O'Malley in about 1429, but is associated locally with a descendant of the original builders, Grace O'Malley or Granuaile. This legendary pirate queen is thought to have been born around 1530 and died in about 1603. The Tower at Kildavnet is one of a series of such strongholds that Granuaile established along the western seaboard (she is said to be buried in a similar tower on Clare Island) as she dominated the waters during the 16th century.
Granuaile's Tower, Kildavnet, Achill IslandThe Tower House at Kildavnet, known locally as Grace O'Malley's Castle, is some 40ft (12m) in height and has three storeys. The strategic importance of its location, at the mouth of Achill Sound and protecting the passage that connects Clew Bay with Blacksod Bay, is underlined by the fact that the present-day Achill lifeboat station is situated close by." (From <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>)

"Rosserk Friary"

When I come back and visit from America, one thing which really strikes me is how much history we have in Ireland, and how accessible it is.  This is a 600 year old ruin of a Friary right beside my home town.  Its extremely well preserved - you can still climb stairs to the upper levels.


An interior view of the crazy Achillhenge on Mayo's Achill Island.

MonumentMonumentAnother view of County Mayo's "Achill Henge" - this time from the inside.

"Keel Beach"

So many beautiful beaches in Mayo.  This is Keel Beach, on the coast of Achill island.


(Mel Foody Photography) Amateur Photography County Mayo Dublin Ireland Photography Travel Sat, 11 Jul 2015 07:02:11 GMT
Best of 2014 "Ghost"

Monterey Bay Aquarium

GhostGhostMonterey Bay Aquarium, California


Grand Canal Dock, Dublin, Ireland.

"Theatre By Night""Theatre By Night"The Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin's Grand Canal Dock

"Night Run"

A 10k night-time charity run streams past as a police officer looks on.  Dublin, Ireland.

Night RunNight Run


"Lonely Phonebox"

London, England.

Lonely PhoneboxLonely PhoneboxLondon, England.


"Midtown / Sundown"

New York, New York.

Midtown / SundownMidtown / SundownNew York, New York


"Great Court"

British Museum, London, England.

Great Court IIGreat Court II


"Manhattan Gold"

New York, USA.

Manhattan GoldManhattan Gold



New York, USA

SubwaySubwayWaiting for a downtown train. New York, New York.


"Night Ride"

Truckee, California, USA

Night RideNight RideCars streak through a country road near Truckee, California


Lake Tahoe, California, USA

Milky Way & WaterMilky Way & WaterThe Milky Way over Lake Tahoe


London, England.

Big BenBig BenLondon, England


Sandy, Oregon ,USA

Mount Hood, OR, 2015Mount Hood, OR, 2015

(Mel Foody Photography) 2014 Best of 2014 Highlights Photography Recap Year in Review Mon, 05 Jan 2015 07:52:48 GMT
My Hardware Journey  


When I was 9 years old, I was given a Halina 110 film camera for Christmas.  It was probably the most influential gift I’ve ever been given.  At the time, I was very excited.  It was better than older sister #1, whose camera required one of those disposable cube flashes like this and sister #2, whose camera was only slightly better in that it took a larger disposable flash, like this.  My camera had an INTEGRATED FLASH that could be used AGAIN AND AGAIN!!!  THE FUTURE WAS HERE!  I got a lot of use out of that camera.  It stayed with me for years, through many family vacations around Europe.  Much later, when I went to college, I “acquired” my mom’s 1970’s Olympus Trip 35, the first 35mm camera I used.  I loved that camera, and indeed part of the reason I love my Fuji X100s today is that it looks just a little like that Olympus.  I didn’t realise how iconic a camera the Oly was back when I used it, but even then I did recognise that the photo quality blew other 35mm point and shoots out of the water.  I wonder if mom still has that camera.  I should ask her…


I bought my first “real” camera (i.e. SLR) in late 1999, right before I headed off on an 18 month trip to Australia and New Zealand.  It was a 15 year old Minolta Maxxum 7000 AF - a very revolutionary camera in its day.   This was when I really fell in love with photography. The camera felt so substantial. The click of the shutter when you pressed the button was… heavenly.  It just felt right.  I can’t remember what lens I paired the camera with, but I loved the photos I took.  I finally learned the basics of exposure.  How aperture related to depth of field, why shutter speed was important and how they all worked together to create properly exposed photographs.  Alas, the love affair was short lived.  The Minolta was stolen from my bedroom in Sydney only a couple of weeks after I arrived.  To the person who stole it - I still hate you, and I will have vengeance…


A couple of months later I replaced the 7000 with a new Minolta Dynax 404si.  This camera was a disappointment, I used it for the trip home through Asia, and got a couple of nice shots with it, but it never grabbed the way the 7000 did.  Primarily, it just felt…plastic.


For a long time, I got out of the habit of taking photographs.  I was busy starting my career in earnest and studying part-time.  That all changed when I went to New York for the first time in 2003.  Digital was still pretty new then but I was excited to try it, so I splashed out on a Fuji A210, an early 3mp point and shoot.  Looking back, it was a pretty cheap, unsophisticated camera, but it made me fall in love with taking photos all over again.  I loved the idea of taking a photo and seeing the results right there and then.  No more waiting weeks to bring the film to the developers before seeing the results of your shots. No hipster romanticising of film here. In the following years, I bought a succession of ever more sophisticated point and shoot digital cameras, all by Fuji.







In 2008, just after my son was born, I finally bought my first digital SLR, which were becoming more affordable by then.  Of course, I didn’t then have any idea of the potential costs of photography as a serious hobby.  I think if anyone did, they’d probably never embark on it.  After doing some cursory ebay research, I went with an entry level Canon model (the 450D) over the Nikon rival.  I had no idea how fateful that decision was at the time, but in retrospect I’m very happy I went with Canon - for the simple reason that the there is a lot more availability on the second hand market for lenses than with Nikon, and even new lenses are somewhat more affordable.  I spent about 18 months with the 450D, teaching myself the basics of photography all over again. I quickly realised that the kit lens wasn’t doing the business for me.  It was sharp, yes, but the resulting photos weren’t massively better than a point and shoot.  I quickly started investing in lenses…. first the Canon 50 1.8.  Let me say it here - that lens is the one essential thing everyone starting out in SLR photography should have.



After the 450D, I moved onto the 60D, still a “crop sensor” camera, but with more rugged build and better controls.  As my photography has progressed, I’ve found that more and more I don’t want to be trawling through menus to find the control I am looking for - I want it to be right at my fingertips, and indeed this is the main advantage (for me) that more expensive cameras generally bring.   



About two years back I took got an amazing deal on a second hand 5DIII from a photographer who had used it as a second body on a round the world trip and no longer needed it so I snapped it up.  I’m still using this camera today.  There’s an ongoing debate about image quality with full frame vs crop.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice a step up from the 60D to the 5DIII, especially in low light.  However, the main benefit to me was that I could finally use lenses as they were meant to be used.  Using any L series lenses on a crop camera was an exercise in frustration.  They worked, yes, but the focal length ranges, especially on zooms, were always odd.  For example, the 24-105 behaved as a 39-170mm.  That is useful to precisely nobody.  Over the past two years I’ve also acquired a nice collection of lenses.  I find that more and more I’m using prime (non zoom) lenses, to get the look I want.  The one exception is the Canon 70-200 f2.8, which is an absolute beast to carry around but takes exquisite photos wide open.



In terms of hardware, I think I’m set right now.  I just need to go out and take photos...

(Mel Foody Photography) Amateur Photography Camera Camera journey Hardware Photo Hardware Reflections Vintage cameras Sat, 06 Sep 2014 01:11:14 GMT
How Much is a Photo Worth? When you’ve been taking photos long enough, you’ll eventually have people asking for permission to use your photographs in their own work - perhaps for a blog post, brochure or just to make a print.


I’m always thrilled whenever anyone reaches out to me to use one of my photographs.  After all, we take photographs so that they can be seen and appreciated by others.  For me, photography is very much a shared experience.  It's a way to connect with others.   In order to allow people to use my photographs, I’ve applied an “Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives” license to most of my photographs on Flickr.  This means that anyone can use my photos for non-commercial purposes so long as (1) they don’t alter them in any meaningful way and (2) I am given appropriate credit as the photographer.  #2 is important because it allows people who admire the photo to find me on the internet and check out more of my work.


That desire to share, however, is not unlimited.  Specifically, I have little interest in allowing commercial entities to use my work without payment.  I’ve had a number of requests lately (generally from graphic designers) to use my work for commercial purposes.  These requests often include language to the effect of “unfortunately there isn’t much budget for photographs”  i.e. we’d like to use your shot for free.  


Let’s consider what it takes for me to capture my photographs.  Each of my photographs represents a significant investment in both time and equipment.



TheatreTheatreThe Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin, Ireland.

The above shot, which I took in Ireland recently (and which I received a commercial request for), was taken with a Canon 5D3 camera ($3,500), coupled with a Canon 17-40 L lens ($700) mounted on a Gitzo tripod (about $1000).  So that’s more than a $5000 investment in equipment alone.  The time investment is even more significant.  I took the shot during a business trip to Dublin.  I stood in spot for about two hours, as I waited for the light to change, so that I could get the perfect balance between the light of the sky, the lights from the theatre and the neon in the foreground - and I did this for two nights (the clouds were pretty disappointing the first night).  The photo then took about an hour of processing in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.  And of course, my photography skills themselves have been honed over many years and many thousands of shots.  I don’t claim to be an expert photographer (by any stretch) but I can say with confidence that I’m much, much better than I was when I first started out.  That experience is worth something.


You can understand then, that when a commercial entity asks me for permission to use my work for free, it's something of an insult, not just to me, but to the skill, art and dedication that all photographers exhibit in their determination to “get the shot.”   Art has value.  Time has value.  Experience has value.  



I’ve made some exceptions to this rule.  For example, my photos have been featured heavily on Google’s ChromeCast background and also on Yahoo’s Weather app.   In both of these instances, full attribution is given to me, and the wide reach of both products allow me to vastly increase my visibility as a photographer in ways that would otherwise have been impossible. For everyone else, however, I’ve set a price of $100/shot for royalty free commercial use of my work.  I think this this is very fair.  


I don’t ever expect to make much money from photography, but equally, I don’t want my labor to subsidise profits for people who wouldn’t themselves work for nothing.

(Mel Foody Photography) Amateur Photography Art Giving away photos How much is a photo worth? Payment Photography Should I give a way my photos for free? Value Value of photography Thu, 21 Aug 2014 03:54:33 GMT