Some shots of the 2015 fireworks in Attleboro, MA. No decent background to expose, so just shot up against the sky. Sadly my battery died halfway through the show, so I wasn’t able to shoot the big finale.









Glow in the Dice Photography

One of the funnest things I get to photograph for my dice store (other than stop-motion) is glow in the dark dice. I photograph these in the same white lightbox as the rest of the product photography, but with all the lights out you would never know that this is shot on a white backdrop.

Glow in the dark Call of Cthulhu Dice
15 sec at f11, 90mm, ISO 400

The glow in the dark shots always come out super cool, and there really isn’t much to it. The real secret is putting the lights just a few inches from the dice (remembering the inverse square law) to charge up the glow factor as much as possible for a couple minutes, then firing away.

I just toss the camera on the tripod and frame up the shot with the lights still on, then kill the lights, wait a second for all the light to fade, and trigger the shutter. I jumped up to ISO 400 for these so that I could get the shot in a reasonable time at a smaller aperture to boost the depth of field a little bit (ISO 200 usually gives me an exposure over 30 seconds, at which point I would have to use the bulb setting — if possible I just want to let the camera do the counting).

Basically every glow in the dark shot comes out looking about a hundred times better than the same shot in the light. And these products tend to get the most likes and social shares of all the dice on the site, just because the pictures are so cool looking.

Doane Falls, Lake Tully, MA

Fiance and I went camping at Lake Tully in north central Massachusetts, and we took a walk down a trail to see Doane Falls. While there I climbed down to grab this shot of the lower Doane Falls. It took longer than usual, because the sun was coming in and out of the clouds, and I had to wait for the sun to be behind the clouds to avoid getting half the shot blasted out.

Doane Falls near Lake Tully, MA
.3 sec at f11, 18mm, ISO 100

It rained the entire first day and night of camping, which sucked for setting up the tent and kept us tent-bound the first day, but I suppose the happy result is that the creek was running really high the next day, making this shot much nicer!

New England Aquarium

When we moved to Boston in June, the New England Aquarium was one place that I was most looking forward to visiting, because I had been told great things about it. However, we had so many things that we wanted to see, we decided to set aside all of the indoor activities for the winter.


1/60th at f5.0, 35mm, 400ISO with flash

So we finally made it to the aquarium. As far as aquariums go, I was pretty disappointed that they actual viewing glass into the tanks was comparatively small — particularly when they had a massive 4-story tank in the center, but the viewing glass was smaller than my outstretched arms.


1/60th at f5, 34mm, 400ISO with flash

Don’t get me wrong, the variety of species they had was truly impressive and I enjoyed the trip. But compared to the Mall of America Underwater Adventure (in which you walk in clear tunnels on the bottom of massive tanks with sharks and manta rays swimming overhead) and even the Minnesota Zoo tanks, it just didn’t have the wow factor.


1/60th at f5, 27mm, ISO400 with flash

And of course, the smaller glass and prevalence of curved glass made photography much more difficult. Without a fancy flash extender, you have to use a pretty sharp angle to prevent flash reflection, and in many tanks I wasn’t really able to get a decent angle.


1/60th at f5.3, 90mm, ISO800 with flash.

Still, it was a fun trip and I’m glad I made it, and I was particularly fond of the one jellyfish shot that I managed to get out of it!

Holiday Photos

As the holidays approach my girlfriend is busy decorating for Thanksgiving and looking through possible new Christmas Decorations, we started talking about holiday photos. Our decor plan is that we have a handful of picture frames in which we swap out the photos every season for something seasonally appropriate.

Unfortunately, this made me realize that I basically have no holiday photos. No shots from Christmas past, or pretty harvest photos to use for Thanksgiving time, not even shots of cool jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. The closest thing I have is some Fireworks shots from years and years ago.


With a lack of Christmas shots, I’m digging up generic winter photos to put in the frames, but also trying to think about what kind of photos I would want for Christmas… I mean, do you really want a photo of a Christmas tree, or the neighbor’s awesome light display hanging up on your wall? Not really. Pretty much anything that screams “Christmas” is more appropriate for a greeting card than a decoration for your house.

For Thanksgiving I can imagine a bunch of harvest-type photos you could take, but for Christmas… I think for the time being I’m going to stick with the winter shots and call it a season.

Natural Bridge

While we were up in the Berkshires last weekend, some of the better shots I got were not of the fall colors I had gone up to collect. Instead we stopped at an area called the Natural Bridge, which is a park that was once a marble quarry. There was a stream that had cut incredibly deep channels through the natural marble & stone cliffs and photographing this stream turned out to give me generally better shots than the fall colors did.

I think this is mostly because the stream was in a wooded area, so I had the trees to filter and diffuse the bright sunlight that made photographing the trees sub-par for most of the day.


2 sec at f7, 18mm, ISO 200

This shot is looking almost straight down at one of the deep channels the stream cut into the rock. They had various bridges and walkways anchored to the stone to let you stand right over it, and my girlfriend generally felt this whole park was one of the highlights of the Berkshires.

I think this was probably the best shot I got during the trip. It was a pain in the ass too, because people kept tramping down the wooden bridge to look, and every footstep caused significant vibrations, screwing up shot after shot.


3 sec at f14, 65mm, ISO 100, 6xND


3 sec at f20, 75mm, ISO 100, 6xND

This shot was taken just beneath the main waterfall. Alas the waterfall itself was in a clearing and the sun was shining directly on it, so it wasn’t possible to get both the falls and the smaller ones directly beneath it (and there wasn’t enough of the main falls in the light to make a good shot). The mini-falls you see at the top of this shot are a smaller one beneath the main falls.

It was still bright enough in this area that I needed a x6 neutral density filter to get a long enough exposure.


4.5 sec at f22, 18mm, ISO 200

This is a shot of the creek beneath the falls and past the area where it gouged through the marble. Nothing terribly special about this, but I still like the shot. Probably would have been better if I actually went into the stream more to the left of where this was shot (I was standing on some rocks sticking up, with the tripod in the creek).

Looking at this now, I think I should also burn the rocks in the foreground and to the right a bit. The eye tends to go to the lightest part of the photo first, and these rocks are drawing the eye down from the water, rather than the eye following the water down to the bottom left.


Drove out to the Berkshires over the weekend, with the hopes of getting some cool shots of fall colors. The day was supposed to mostly cloudy with some sun, and it was great photography weekend when we left. Unfortunately by the time we got there the clouds went away and it was a clear bright day… unfortunately crummy photography weather.

Didn’t end up with any really good shots, but I did get some so-so shots at the end of the day as the sun was starting to set (alas, just as the sun went down to golden hour, the clouds came back in and hid everything).

Berkshires Mountains Good

1/250 at f5.0, 80mm, ISO 400K

Berkshires Mountains2

1/250 at f5.0, 65mm, ISO 400

berkshires cliff

1/250 at f4.0, 32mm, ISO 200

The last one there is definitely the best photo, I think. Despite the disappointing fall color shoot, I did get some cool shots of a creek at a park we stopped at, and I’ll toss those up once I process them.

Butterfly Photos Find a Home

Some time ago I talked about the link Butterfly Photos I took at the MN zoo butterfly garden, and how the problem with butterfly photos is that it’s just too easy to get a good-looking one, which means it’s incredibly hard to get a remarkable one.

Despite coming out of the zoo with a stack of perfectly average photos (well, and one nice one of a moth) I’m happy to have finally found a use for them!

Monarch Butterfly

My work was putting together a pretty neat butterfly garden resource, and along with it they included a butterfly garden guide. Naturally they needed some pictures of butterflies, and since I had a pile sitting around, it was easier to use mine than to search for creative commons ones.

In addition to the how-to guide, Wayfair also put together a really awesome, really comprehensive guide to what kinds of flowers and host plants you need depending on what region of the US you live in. Here is the list of all the butterfly plant guides:

Butterfly Flower & Plant Guides by Region

I’m particularly fond of this collection of info, because I haven’t been able to find it all in one place anywhere else online, and because our researchers got so darned much info — nearly 100 butterflies native to each region. I totally plan on using this one day to make my own butterfly garden.

And then, maybe, I’ll try butterfly photography again.

Providence Waterfire Festival

Shortly after moving to Boston, my girlfriend learned about a recurring festival in nearby Providence, the Waterfire. So we made a note on the calendar for the next time the festival was happening, and took the train on down. They basically have a ton of bonfires floating on the river going through downtown, along with food & crafts booths on streets a few blocks away, and live music at the ampitheater.

Providence Waterfire

1 sec at f3.5, 18mm, ISO 200

The Waterfire festival was pretty cool, but the most shocking thing to us was how amazingly packed the place was. It was a sea of humanity. Considering that they hold the festival every 3-4 weeks I didn’t expect the entire population of Rhode Island to come out for it, but that’s what seemed to happen.

floating bonfire

1/6th at f5.3, 105mm, ISO 200

The fire of the Waterfire is just a big metal brazier attached to 3 floats. The place was so packed that I had a hard time getting up to the rail of the river to get a shot, and ended up having to use the tripod more as a monopod leaning up against the railing.

St. Croix River Camping Photos

I’m a big fan of backpacking, but over the last couple of years I’ve found myself doing less backpacking and more camping. The one nice thing about simple camping over backpacking is that there is a much larger pool of people that are willing to accompany me into the woods. One of my favorite sites are some canoe campsites on the St. Croix river.

I of course always bring my camera camping, and while the campsites on the St. Croix are nice and secluded, a good 100 feet from the road and nestled snugly in the woods out of site of any other site… there isn’t much photogenic in the area. For all my efforts the only really decent pictures I ever get are of the river itself.

I was just looking through these and realized I now have a small collection of photos of the river, all from just about the same place (some looking up river, some down) — and all of these photos are incredibly different from each other. It’s a really good illustration of the difference that time makes — different times and different days result in radically different photos. Here’s the St. Croix River photos from the past half dozen or so camping trips.

St. Croix River foggy night

This shot, which I’ve posted before, was taken at 2am by moonlight. The river was still as glass and the fog was just starting to roll in when I set up the tripod for this shot. Within about 15 minutes the fog had gotten so thick that it was nothing but pure white — I got this shot at just the right time.

This shot was taken around midnight on a different night. I’m not sure what I was trying to do with this shot — possibly just passing time — but I clearly screwed something up because the shot is pretty grainy. I left the ISO at 400, but that shouldn’t account for this level of grain — it looks like I underexposed it (everything is manual with these night shots — this was likely around a half hour exposure — so it’s a lot of guesswork). My hunch is I was shooting at ISO 400 just so that the exposure didn’t have to take an hour.

St. Croix River with morning fog

Here’s looking downriver at around 5 or 6 in the morning. I woke up and realized that it was foggy, so I forced myself to leave the tent and get some shots as the fog was burning off in the sun. My big regret on this shot is that corner of blue sky on the upper left — it distracts from the rest of the shot, which is pretty cool. I particularly like the really sharp trees on the right, contrasting the fog-covered ones on the left.

St. Croix River sunset

Sunset on the river. I recall I was experimenting with trying to get the streaks of light effect from the setting sun, which clearly failed. Also you can see that there was some wind and a decent current, blurring the trees (this was around a 20-second exposure).

St. Croix River sunset

Another shot of the river at sunset, on a different day. This time the water was much calmer, and the shot was taken longer after the sun had set. I really like the way there’s almost no distinction between sky and water in this shot. Despite my philosophical opposition to sunset shots this is evidence that I do take them from time to time — and even occasionally like them.

Another late night shot of the river. The sky was perfectly clear with no moon so I was trying to get a picture of the star trails across the sky — I thought it would work particularly well with the glass-like calm water showing reflections of the streaks. Alas it turns out that after a one-hour exposure the little town some fifteen miles a way leaked enough light to blast out most of the sky. You can still see some faint streaks of the brightest stars, at least.

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PhotoBug Blog

Photo Bug is the home of Brian's very occasionally updated photography journal. Posts are sporadic, and I keep swearing that some day I'll dig through the archives and start filling things up. Some day...