Capturing the Surf: an Interview with Photographer Seth Migdail

Capturing the Surf: an Interview with Photographer Seth Migdail

Seth Migdail is a surf photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A regular at Mavericks, his work has been featured in a number of outlets, including Surfline.com and theinertia.com. I sat down with Seth to talk about his work, his process, and what it takes to break into the insular surfing community. How did you get started in photography? I grew up as an artist, doing drawing and painting. I found photography in college, and ended up dumping two years worth of art school and pursued that. I have a fine art background, a BFA in photography, so I came up in the analog world. I shot a lot of large format, medium format – that’s how I got started. Back then, in fine-art school, you take a lot of time to try and find your identity. It took me a while, but I eventually did. I did a lot of documentary photography, what I’d call “social landscapes.” I got a solid foundation in the craft that way. I also did a lot of work in the studio. What is your favorite subject, and why? Definitely surfing. I found surfing when I moved out to California. Growing up in New York, I hadn’t surfed at all, and I only discovered it when I moved up to San Luis Obispo. I’d actually put photography aside for a few years and kinda became a surf bum down there. When I moved up to the Bay Area, I suffered an injury that kept me out of the water, and I started shooting again. At the time, Mavericks was just re-forming...
What It’s Like to Win a Canon 5D Mark III

What It’s Like to Win a Canon 5D Mark III

On the eve of our big camera giveaway winner announcement (update: giveaway is over, see latest promotions on our Facebook page) we reached out to a prior year’s winner to see how she has faired since winning a brand new Canon 5D Mark III from BorrowLenses.com. Rachel Coward is a photographer and editor at TulsaKids Magazine, an award-winning parenting publication in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Previously she was a staff photographer and editor at the Columbia Missourian and a photographer for the University of Missouri’s alumni magazine. BL: You had your choice of a Nikon D800 or the Canon 5D Mark III. The prior year’s winner chose the Nikon. What made you choose the Canon? Rachel: Tomayto, tomahto. My very first camera was my parent’s Canon AE-1 film camera, so Canon is what I learned on from the beginning. It really just comes down to personal preference. If I didn’t have brand loyalty, I’d still probably choose the Mark III because of the video capabilities. BL: Where was your photography business at this time last year versus where it is now? Rachel: A year ago I had just graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where I studied photojournalism and loved every minute of it. Go Tigers! This time last year, I had just begun working as a full-time freelance photographer and my main gig was making pictures for Mizzou Magazine, the alumni magazine for the University of Missouri. I’m continuing to work as a freelancer now and my business has certainly grown. I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make it as a professional photographer in a very competitive market. There’s a lot...
Photographing Your Dinner: Restaurant Dos and Don’ts

Photographing Your Dinner: Restaurant Dos and Don’ts

Are you a food-for-pleasure type of person?  If the answer is yes, then I can say with confidence that we may all be guilty of snapping a few pics of our meals from time to time. Some of us seek out new and exciting restaurants that offer avant-garde food and interior design.  Others rejoice in old school pleasures of down home diners and off-the-beaten-path food attractions. Whatever your guilty pleasure is, here are a few tips and tricks to heighten your “foodie” photography. 1) Ask Your Server if Photography is OK Chefs tend to be fun and playful characters with creativity in the kitchen that at times can inspire more than just an appetite. Food has long been photographed but taking pictures when your food arrives to the table is a newer fad. According to the New York Times, there has been a growing backlash of taking pictures of your meals while dining out. Restaurants and Chefs have been “burned” by disruptive behavior that interrupts the dining experience and have discovered less-than-appetizing images of their dishes online. This has become a big enough problem that there is an upswing in restaurants who have put restrictions on the photography allowed to be taken – even stealthily on your phone. This movement has gone as far as banning people from taking pictures inside the restaurant all together! The best way to avoid any embarrassment, as well as increase your level of comfort if you are moved to photograph your meal, would be to ask your server first.  The establishment will appreciate your consideration and will most often give you the thumbs up....
Fuji X-T1: First Impressions

Fuji X-T1: First Impressions

One of the most eagerly awaited cameras of the year arrived earlier this month, and I took some time to put it through its paces. A more detailed review will follow, but I’ve worked with it long enough to put forth a few first impressions. The tl;dr version of it is this: the Fuji X-T1 is the best camera Fuji has ever made, and is the best mirrorless camera on the market. In my personal opinion, anyway. I’ve been a Fuji fan since the X100s came out, and eventually started using the X-E1 and X-E2 as my primary stills cameras (with a D800E for specific projects requiring high megapixel images and the Canon 5D MKIII for video). When the X-T1 was first announced, I looked at the images leaking onto the web and my first impression was, “WTF??” Looking at it, you can see that it kind of harkens back to retro SLR cameras. To me, it looks a bit like a blunt-top version of the Fuji STX series of film SLRs, and at least at first, it wasn’t something that caught my attention the way the rangefinder aesthetic of the previous X cameras did. Then I got one in my hands and my first thought was, “uhhh… what…?” On the one hand, this is most definitely a Fuji camera. It has loads of dials means you rarely have to drop into a menu once you set it up right. There’s a nice, firm heft to it that we’re used to with the X-E and X-Pro series. It’s small and light despite feeling dense. It is, in other words,...
Get a Gear Education from Pro Photographers at SmugMug Academy

Get a Gear Education from Pro Photographers at SmugMug Academy

Knowing what to expect from a camera or lens is tricky, which is why renting is so invaluable to photographers big and small. However, it’s still hard to know what you’re getting even when renting, which is why we’re stoked about SmugMug Academy – a simple and personal review site put together by people who are passionate about photography. It maintains the core values of SmugMug by providing a resource maintained by folks who actually shoot from subjects ranging from landscapes to kids sports. You do not have to have a SmugMug account to take advantage of the reviews. The page is designed to inform and is open to everyone. Each review is equipped with a bio about the reviewer so that you can get a sense for who they are and what they like to shoot. This can help you divine if a piece of gear is right for your style of shooting. SmugMug Academy is more than just reviews. You can get business tips, shooting guidelines, and video tutorials there, too. Think of SmugMug Academy as the site equivalent of just being able to ask your photography friend, “Should I rent this lens?” BorrowLenses.com has not asked these photographers to write in any particular way, rent certain items over others, or to boast certain gear as being favorable. They are photographers writing about our gear as they see it from their own shooting experiences in a simple and honest way and they review items as they use them for real events like vacations, hockey games, or candids. Keep this page handy for future reference. It is being...
7 Tips for Better Compositions

7 Tips for Better Compositions

John Cooper specializes in corporate, industrial, and commercial photography for various business communities in Texas and teaches basic skills to other burgeoning photographers. If you are just starting out, or looking for a refresher, check out his advice below. 7 Tips for Better Compositions by John Cooper What makes one photo better than another?  Good photographs have compositions comprised of visual elements that abide by certain design principles.  Photography, it is said, is the subjective application of objective tools. Here is a cheat sheet on how to get better photographs. It is not an analysis of art theory or physics.  However, I urge you to research those topics if your passion is photography. In the meantime, here are 7 quick ways to make better photos.  You “make” photos, by the way – you do not merely “take” them. You Can’t Fix Blur Yes, we can put a man on the moon but we still cannot focus a blurred image.  The rule of thumb for hand-held shots is to use a shutter speed that is faster than the reciprocal of the lens’ focal length.  Using a 200mm telephoto, for example, would require you to use faster than a 1/200th second shutter speed.  A 50mm would require faster than 1/50th and so on.  Image stabilization has changed this up to 2 stops but it’s not worth the risk, in my opinion.  Remember, you can’t fix blur no matter what version of Photoshop you may have.  Increase your ISO and/or open you aperture or use a tripod.  Do whatever it takes to get tack sharp focus every time the shutter actuates. Understand...
Staying Inspired as a Photographer

Staying Inspired as a Photographer

Being a photographer is so much bigger than practicing lighting techniques, being up-to-date on the newest and most powerful gear, or knowing what post-production actions are best for you. All those things are wonderful parts of the puzzle but being a photographer is so much more. We all have similar hurdles to clear before we feel comfortable calling ourselves “photographers”. Here is some advice of how conquer those hurdles.

6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now

6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now

Our friends over at SmugMug.com help photographers from all walks of life put their best memories into beautiful and safe photography websites. They have seen every kind of website, from breathtaking portfolios to always-under-construction blunders. To kick off a new blog series of photography website tips and tricks, SmugMug lists the most commonly made mistakes of the website world. Avoid these and you’ll be on the right track toward making a good first impression! 6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now by Schmoo Theune So you’ve put your photos online? Great! At SmugMug we believe photos are best when shared, even if it’s only with a few people you really trust. Many of us love to make new connections by building a fully public website but to throw open your door to opportunity (or profit), you’ve got to have the right combination of personality and presentation. Your personality is ultimately up to you but as website builders we’ve got a few tips to help you get the most presentable, functional, online home possible. We’ve seen thousands of websites by photographers who shoot all kinds of stuff so we’ve compiled a few of the most common website bloopers we help customers eradicate every single day. 1) The Dead-End Hello: Zero Contact Information This is one of the most common mistakes we see. You may have done everything right and created a beautiful website but what happens if your visitors love your work and want to hire you? So many websites have great photos on them but zero personality, such as an email address, a personal photo, or even a brief bio....
Serene Travel Photography with the Canon EOS-M

Serene Travel Photography with the Canon EOS-M

The Canon 5D Mark II has long been Tristan Pott’s go-to camera for capturing snippets of Japan and Taiwan, where he has been living for the past several years. To save a little space while still getting to use his normal lenses, Pott picked up a Canon EOS-M, Canon’s first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Pott’s serene photographs of scenes from his day trips around both countries shows that a little camera can produce some beautiful visual keepsakes. If you’re trying to save on weight, especially if you are a Canon shooter with some lenses already available to you, the Canon EOS-M with the EF to EF-M adapter just may be the ticket! Find out below why Pott chooses the EOS-M. BL: You already have some larger glass, such as the Canon 100mm f/2.8L and the Canon 24-105mm f/4L. What made you want to start using them on the Canon EOS-M? Pott: To be honest, I didn’t think I’d use my L lenses as much as I actually do when I received my EOS-M. I was initially perfectly content with the kit lens, which is a little 22mm prime, but I decided to give the adapter a try. When I actually tried out my 24-105mm f/4L for its zoom capabilities with the EOS-M, I was really happy with a few of the shots I got that day. From there, I realized that an EOS-M plus good glass equals better shots. BL: What are the EOS-M’s greatest weaknesses and what are its greatest strengths? Pott: I consider the greatest strength to be the image sensor. For the price and the form factor, it’s great in terms of image...
Microadjustment for Lens and Camera Front/Back Focusing Issues

Microadjustment for Lens and Camera Front/Back Focusing Issues

All lenses and cameras that return to one of our two headquarters are tested and cleaned by our Receiving Team. Sometimes a lens, in particular, will go out on a rental and need to be replaced by another one from our stock because of focusing issues. The majority of these re-tested lenses end up having nothing wrong with them. Here is an explanation for why this happens and how you can dig deeper into the settings of your camera so that you get the most out of not only rental lenses but your own stock of glass as well. Mass Manufacturing and Range of Accuracy All cameras and lenses are manufactured within certain tolerances. This means that a camera or lens is considered in spec if it falls within a certain range of accuracy. Every manufacturer is different. Sometimes a lens that is front or back focusing +/-3 is considered within normal operating quality. Other manufacturers are more stringent. What Is Front/Back Focusing? Front focusing is when the focus falls in front of your intended subject and back focusing is when the focus falls behind your intended subject. Most of the time this is caused by the user. Barring user error, a lens could be tested at -2 and back focusing slightly or tested at +1 and front focusing slightly. Both are considered within the range of normalcy. Cameras compound the issue. Sometimes, a lens can be back focusing slightly and that is not a problem. But if it is mounted on a camera that is also back focusing slightly then you are now shooting outside the range of spec....