Year in Review

I think we can all agree, what a crazy year it’s been! As we entered 2021 there was hope that we would be over the whole COVID pandemic thing, but here we are closing out the year and we’ll start a new year still dealing with this virus. For us at DS Visual Art we hope that all of our readers and their families continue to be safe during this time.

In addition to all of the other challenges that we’ve faced throughout the year, engaging in our photography business has been a major obstacle. In previous posts I have made mention of a weekly photography challenge, 52Frames, that I’ve been participating in. Not only has this helped maintain my sanity since joining, it’s pushed me in trying new things in photography.

The wonderful thing about this site is that its purpose is give each participant with a weekly challenge to help them develop their photography skills. I didn’t start the challenge until April of this year but have successfully submitted every week. In addition to the weekly challenge they have an “Extra Challenge”. If you love photography but find it difficult to stay motivated I highly encourage you to check it out.

More on cropping

I know that this post is only a couple days after my last one but during the current 52Frames challenge “Fabric” the idea of a good crop applies. Here is the image that I submitted for this week’s challenge.

Scarves shot in studio, 60s @ f20

For this image I took two of my wife’s scarves. My first challenge was how to display the scarves in a way that would provide a good photo. After some digging around in the studio I decided that a studio light with a beauty dish would make a good hanger.

After I had them hung I had to decide the best way to light them. I decided to use the beauty dish light at the absolute lowest power output. Then to help light the front of the scarves I used another studio light with a 30 degree grid.

Because of the amount of light that was still being put out by the lights I had to go with a much higher f-stop. To get a tight shot on the fabric I used an 80-200mm lens at 100mm setting.

Ok, so by now you’re probably asking yourself “So what does all that have to do with cropping?”. Well during the post processing I decided that an 8″x10″ crop ratio gave me the area and detail that I wanted but the lines of the scarves were straight up and down. That is when I decided to rotate the image along with the crop.

With a bit of a vignette to help draw attention to the center of the image I’m very happy with the shot. Hope you found this article of use. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see in the future.

Cropping for effect

After last week’s challenge for 52Frames it got me thinking about how cropping can make or break a photo (in my humble opinion). I think most people, at least those not familiar with the art of photography, tend to think of image sizes in the most common sizes (4″x6″, 5″x7″, 8″x10″ and so on). I suspect that this is primarily driven by the availability at the local merchandise store of these common frame sizes.

Let’s start this discussion with a look at the original image that I submitted for the challenge.

Original image – uncrossed

The basic proportions of the image from the camera are 8″x12″. As you can see from this image the main subject, Pikes Peak, seems lost in-between the foreground prairie and the sky. Bearing in mind that the mountain is our primary subject let’s start looking at the more common crops.

Cropped to 6″x4″

In the image above we begin to bring more focus on our subject, however there still seems to be a disproportionate amount of foreground and sky to our subject.

Cropped to 7″x5″

In comparing the first crop to this one you can see that all we’ve done is add one inch to both the width and the height. This is obviously going the wrong direction for what we’re trying to achieve. Cropping to the next common size, 8″x10″, only makes the issue worse

Cropped to 10″x8″

For a sweeping landscape such as this I lean towards crops that are twice as wide as they are tall. For the final image I used a 20″x10″.

Cropped to 20″x10″

Here the subject has a very nice mix of foreground and sky compared to the subject. You’ll also notice that the mountains are not directly center in the image (think Rule of Thirds).

Final thoughts

As you can see the way that your crop your images can have a dramatic impact on the final image. One could say that maybe I should have used a longer lens. While that is true, the fact still remains that any cropping would have given the same effect.

When I first started in photography I was taught to crop the image in the view finder. Experience has taught me that this is not always the best practice. For as you see, if you crop in the view finder you’re likely to limit your options for cropping during post processing. Because of this and the fact that today’s cameras produce such high resolution images I shoot a bit wider. That said be careful not to lose focus on your main subject.

“America’s Mountain”

For this week’s challenge on the subject was nature. The added twist of this week’s challenge was that in order to be eligible for extra credit the photographer must use a tripod. With the unpredictable weather here in Colorado this challenge was going to be just that…a challenge.

Because of the extreme cold April has snow not Spring showers the flowers certainly aren’t blooming. So my next thought was to try my hand at astrophotography. Well, conditions certainly weren’t optimal for that either. We had a great deal of cloud cover and I really didn’t feel like freezing just to try this technique.

Later in the week during a trip down to Colorado Springs I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the snow-capped Pikes Peak, often referred to as “America’s mountain”. Even though I was over 30 miles away it’s grandeur made it appear as if I was right next to it. I decided that because I was running out of time that I would get up early and try to get sunrise shot.

The alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning and it was all I could do to get out of bed. Thankfully I had prepared my equipment the night before. I had to travel about 20 minutes to the area that I planned to take the shot. With sunrise occurring at 6:00 a.m. I needed to be out of the house by no later than 5:30.

My initial thought was to stop where Russellville Rd meets Highway 83. The closer I got to the location I decided that going South on South Cherry Creek Rd would give me a better vantage point as it’s higher than the original spot. As it turns out my assumption was correct.

Overlooking the highway down below I had a perfect vantage point of Pikes Peak. It was shortly after the scheduled sunrise that the sun rose above the horizon and cast it’s rays across the fields and on the snowy peak of Pikes Peak. Here is the image that was submitted for the weekly challenge.

Giving up control

When it comes to photography, control is the nature of the game. From the initial creation of the photo to post processing and final print most photographers will tell you that they want to maintain every aspect of their work.

As I indicated in a post earlier this week I recently joined a challenge called 52Frames. This week’s challenge pushed participants to a new level of discomfort, letting someone else edit your photo submission. For this challenge I was a participant as well as an editor for other photographers.

For my photo I decided to photograph an abandoned farm house located near the town where I live. I ended up with three photos that I provided to be edited by a fellow 52Framer and high school classmate. The final images are shown here.

Shallow depth of field to focus on barbed wire fencing
Moody effect
Panoramic World

I was please with the final results, especially the third image. I think that it really took the dreary day and turned this photo into a very interesting image.


Well as for most everyone this pandemic has proven to be a challenge on many levels. We as a society were forced to limit our activities and large gatherings quickly became a thing of the past. This isolation not only directly impacted my ability to get out and do much photography, it severely impacted my desire to do any photography.

As the weather has been warming in Colorado it seemed to light the fire to begin doing more photography, but the big question “What to photograph?”. With restrictions still in place this has proven to be an even bigger issue.

The answer came from following one of my high school classmates on Facebook who had joined a weekly challenge called 52Frames. After looking at the website I’ll admit I was intrigued but wasn’t sure if it was something that I wanted to participate in.

After about a month of contemplation, I couldn’t stand the idea of my camera equipment just sitting storage so I decided to take the plunge and join the challenge starting in Week 15. The challenge was titled “Trapped” and the intent was for the photographer to capture the emotion of being isolated or trapped. How appropriate is that for the times we’re living in?

Creative ideas can be a challenge and this one certainly had me scratching my head as to what I’d shoot. So to start off this adventure the image of our dog Bandit popped in my head. He loves hanging out in my office while I work and looks out the window. I thought if I could capture that it would certainly fit the challenge. Here is the image I submitted for the weekly challenge.

While it’s not the easiest task to get him to go outside the look on his face makes it looks like he’s sad because he’s not in the yard.

So now it’s onto the next challenge, “Edited By Someone Else!“. The subject is pretty open so hopefully I’m come up with something interesting. Once I have the image I will provide it to another “Framer” (the term used for people participating in the challenges) to edit.

If you’re like me, at a loss on what to shoot, I highly encourage you to check out the site. After all everyone needs a nudge now and then.

Check back next week to see the challenge update.

I’ve been framed!!!

When it comes to photography there are so many techniques and tips to remember that it can be overwhelming at least initially. As with most things the more you practice these techniques the more they become second nature. Today I’d like to discuss using secondary subjects to “frame” your primary subject.

For this article I will be using some images that I took of an abandoned gold mine located near Victor, CO.

Uncropped image of mine

Looking at this image there are a few things that can easily be identified. First thing that pops out to me is the fact that it was shot straight on from a standing position. Even though the mine is clearly uphill from where I shot the photo, it’s clear that the camera is several feet above the ground.

Another thing that doesn’t really work for me on this image is the lack of depth-of-field (DOF). Without DOF the weeds in the foreground are distracting and take away some of the attention from the main subject. One saving grace is the fact that the road provides a bit of a leading line that helps draw attention to the mine.

So outside of cropping this photo and maybe some vignette, there’s not a lot that would make this photo one that I’d consider to be be interesting. So let’s take a look at shot of the same mine but “framed”.

Mine framed using door opening

There are various buildings located at the site. As I walked around I found one building that provided a unique view of the same mine. As you can see in the photo using the door opening I was able to “frame” the mine which provides a much more interesting look. While I was able to do some post-processing to help bring out some of the interior of the shack, I always wished that I had used a flash.

The next photo, while not the same mine, provides a perfect example of the benefit of a fill flash.

By using a fill flash for this photo there were a couple of benefits. Notice how the light helped to accentuate the wood of the door frame. Because it as situated close to the middle of the door frame it creates somewhat of a natural vignette. Another benefit of the the fill light is that it allows proper exposure in the shack as well as outside of the shack.

Admittedly, framing is not option for every shot, however it’s another tool to keep in your bag of tricks. It can take an ordinary shot and make it a nice shot.

Somethings are worth a second look

I don’t know about you but I’m notorious for just doing a shoot, processing the images and never revisiting them again. For those of you who follow DS Visual Art on Facebook, you know that I’ve been trying to break that cycle.

With the whole pandemic thing and the recent snow storms here in Colorado there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to get out and do much new photography. This is very frustrating and had me looking for ways to refine my skills.

As I was spending time looking at some photos that I had taken years ago I came across some that in the end were worth a second look. Some required some post processing while others were more about looking at the subject from a different perspective. All that said, let’s take a closer look.

During the first snow storm I found an image that I took back in 2005.

Original (unedited) photo

This was a shot of a bridge that I took out in the greater Boston area. When I first took this photo I thought there was a lot of potential, however when I started looking at it on the computer I began to think that it wasn’t worth saving, so I just moved on.

When I revisited this photo the potential presented itself again. Admittedly, it was going to take some work but what the heck I have nothing better to do.

Obviously, the first thing to fix was the spot created by the dust on my sensor. Then it was time to work on removing those lovely power lines. From there I began working on post processing to include adjusting exposure, highlights and shadows.

Here is the end result.

Another photography technique that has always fascinated me is “tilt-shift”. Tilt-shift photography is a unique type of photography in which the camera is manipulated so that a life-sized subject looks like a miniature-scale model.

Generally this involves special equipment, particularly a tilt-shift lens. Fortunately for me Adobe Photoshop provides the ability to do this type of photo manipulation. After doing some research on how to achieve this using software it was time to look for a suitable image to work with.

For this process I needed a photo where I was shooting from a location above the subject. Knowing that there weren’t times when i’ve shot from a high vantage point the one time that came to mind was when I took some photos looking down a convention center catwalk during the event setup.

The unedited image:

This photo didn’t require much in the way of post processing, which meant that I could get to trying the tilt-shift process. Rather than trying to explain the process I feel it best to give credit to the article at that helped me.

The author of the article does a very good job of explaining how to create this look. Here is the image after working through the steps.

With the second snow storm my mind began searching again for something to do, so back to my photo collection I went. Not sure what I was looking for I just began browsing folder after folder of photos.

During one of my photography adventures I spent some time near Victor, CO. For those readers unfamiliar with the significance of Victor, this is a historic gold mining community located SW of Colorado Springs. During this trip I saw several abandoned train cars, gold mine equipment and buildings.

This was another photo that when i first took it 10 years ago I thought it would be a nice image, but when I got home I just wasn’t feeling it. When I revisited it I thought I would give it another chance.

There were several things about the original image that I really didn’t like, and honestly wasn’t sure how to correct. The first thing that I felt needed to be resolved was the sky. On the day that I took this photo it was a very grey, overcast day.

While a neutral density filter would have helped a bit with the exposure it would have had a negatively affected the exposure on the building itself. Another thing about the image that didn’t work for me was it seemed too busy and distracted from the main subject, the building

This brought to light one of my biggest blunders when it comes to photography. I tend to look at things with a wide view often overlooking finer details. While I say this is a blunder it’s not all bad. This image is a perfect example of why taking photos from a wider angle is helpful.

Sepia tone with a tighter crop

The more I studied the photograph my eye was drawn to the window and the rustic wood-grains of the weathered boards. Along with these factors the idea of a sepia tone for the image seemed more appropriate in order to give it more of an old-time look.

Final thoughts

While the pandemic and snow storms have certainly proven to be a challenge for my sanity it has proven to have some benefits. For me it reaffirms not to be too quick to delete an image just because you think it’s not worth keeping.

Admittedly, if an image is clearly not salvageable for whatever reason (out of focus, way over/underexposed, etc) then yes it’s probably safe to delete. For any that don’t fall into those categories you might want to consider holding onto them, because who knows you might find yourself in the middle of a pandemic or a snowstorm looking for something to occupy your time.

Thanks for reading and until next time, keep sharpening your skills.

REVIEW – RFN-4s Wireless Remote Shutter Release for Nikon DSLR with MC30 – Transmitter and Receiver Set

If you’ve been following our blog for any length of time you’re already aware that we’ve been doing some experimenting with light painting. For this type of photography there are a few tools that you’ll want to have in your tool kit.

  • Camera & lens
  • Tripod
  • Continuous light source
  • Shutter release

Today we’re going to be reviewing the RFN-4s transmitter/receiver set ( Since we primarily shoot Nikon (D200, D700 and D810) this particular set fits the bill nicely because they all have the MC30 connector.

The transmitter is a small remote control device that uses two AAA batteries and a series of dip switches to sync to the receiver. The receiver itself uses power from the camera for operation.


  • Compact Wireless Remote Control Shutter Release for Professional Nikon Cameras.
  • 16 channels in 2.4GHz frequency.
  • Maximum range of 320 ft (100 meters).
  • Fully supports Bulb shooting mode.
  • Transmitter conveniently uses AAA battery (not included).
  • Receiver unit is powered by the camera.
  • 3rd generation RFN-4s (available starting in July 2018) features an even smaller receiver unit.
  • 3rd generation receiver unit also features more robust pinsand more flexible antenna (compared to the 1st generation).
  • For Nikon MC30 type connection.  Replaces Nikon ML-3.
  • Compatible with Nikon D850, D810, D800E, D800, D700, D500, D300s, D300, D200, D6, D5, D4S, D4, D3S, D3X, D3, D2Xs, D2Hs, D2X, D2H, D1.


  • Small lightweight devices
  • Connects nicely to camera with not additional cords or hotshoe mount
  • Excellent range


  • As with any electronic device that you’re not using often you’ll want to remove the batteries from the transmitter


We couldn’t be happier with this set. At a mere $58 on Amazon this is a quality device that you’ll want to keep handy in your camera bag. Whether you’re doing light painting, shooting with a 10-stop filter, or you want to be in that group shot this is the tool you need.


Here is a shot of a little cabin, “The Love Shack” that was too hard to pass up for doing some light painting.

The LOVE SHACK, yeah baby! 🙂

Using a tripod mounted camera along with the RFN-4s and the YOUKOYI light wand, we were able to light different areas and remotely trigger the camera. This provided us with instant shutter activation without any induced camera movement. When doing light painting any camera shake will make image alignment more challenging.

Thanks for checking out this article and keep checking back to keep up with our adventures.

Sharon & Doug

Review – YOUKOYI Handheld Light Photography Portable LED Video Light Wand

When it comes to light painting for photography you’ll find yourself looking for light sources that make the job easier. Such was the case when I was approached about photographing the interior of a car.

Because of the limited space in a car I had to assess how I would light it correctly. The look that I planned on was not just a simple shot of the interior but something more classy like a light painted imaged.

My first thoughts were to grab a with a continuous light source with a small soft box or some means of defusing the light. Not wanting to deal with cords or since I really don’t have a soft box that lends itself well to this environment my next option was a flashlight.

While the flashlight form factor would be more conducive to the environment it would very difficult to control the light beam and intensity. After doing some research I started reading about light painting with a light wand.

A quick search gave me a myriad of options many ranging from $100+ up to the premium Wescott Ice Light 2 which cost $379 at B&H Photo. While I’m sure that these are all fine lights I just wasn’t quite prepared to lay out that kind of money at the time. Continuing my research I found the YOUKOYI Handheld Light Photography Portable LED Video Light Wand which is what I’ll be reviewing today.



  • Memory function and Dimmable
  • 2 colors temperature and 6 brightness modes
  • Emit 36 different levels total, 1000LM(max).
  • USB rechargable and can work up to 4 hours continuously after full charge.
  • Remote Control allowing you to control the light easily at the distance of 7 meters
  • 1/4″ thread in handle base to allow mounting to light stand or tripod

First impressions:

Coming in under the $100 mark I wasn’t expecting much in the way of quality, however I was pleasantly surprised. While not extremely heavy it definitely has a solid feel to it. The light itself has a soft diffused cover over it that 1″ wide x 15″ long and has a brushed aluminum cover on the sides/back.

Switching between the two color temperatures (3000k and 5700k) is as simple as a double press of the power button. Just below it are two arrow buttons where you can adjust the light intensity.

The ability to attach to a light stand is a nice bonus, but for my intended purposes not sure how much it will be used.


$59 on Amazon


  • Lightweight yet sturdy
  • Good light temperature range and color
  • Long battery life
  • Light stand mountable
  • Carrying strap
  • Remote control
  • Storage bag
  • Cost


  • Only 2 colors of light


Well that pretty much wraps up this review. All in all I’m extremely happy with this light. While the addition of additional colors for the light might have been nice, honestly I’m not sure how much I would have used them. My primary purpose for this light is to light painting of car interiors. If I was hard pressed and needed to add color I could always add a gel to the diffuser. I would rate this light a good buy for someone looking to do light painting or want a nice portable portrait light.


This is a car interior that I light painted with the YOUKOYI.

Thanks for checking out our blog.