Category: writing

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning, Part 1

November 14th, 2015 Permalink

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s often difficult to define why something is beautiful for one person and not for another. However, I have found a few general principles that should help you build a better photo…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s often difficult to define why something is beautiful for one person and not for another.  However, I have found a few general principles that should help you build a better photo:

1.  Pick 1 object to focus on.  Find a single point of interest, and build your photo around that Subject.  If possible, frame your photo so that no other object competes with your chosen Subject.

2.  Place that Subject on one of the points described in the Rule of Thirds.  There are many fantastic descriptions of the Rule of Thirds, and it’s likely the more pervasive rule in photography.

3.  Use leading lines to point to the Subject, or to show motion for the Subject.  Leading lines help draw the viewer into the image and center their gaze on the Subject of your image.

4.  Fill the frame of your photo with the Subject and objects that compliment the Subject (like leading lines).  

Using the suggestions above won’t automatically produce a better image, and there are many times when you can ignore each of the suggestions.  Your photograph is an extension of your artistic taste, express yourself and don’t let someone else and their suggestions or rules define your art.

• Joshua L. Smith • November 2015 •

Tips for Getting (Re)Started

November 7th, 2015 Permalink

You’re stuck. You like photography, and enjoy capturing the world around you, but you’re not sure how to get started or restarted.
Here’s a few tips that might help…

You’re stuck.  You like photography, and enjoy capturing the world around you, but you’re not sure how to get started or restarted.  Here’s a few tips that might help:

1. Go to a familiar place (town, park, or public building) and take photos that remind you of memories at that location.

2. Collect small objects (shells from the riverside, dry leaves, crayons or marbles) and arrange them.  I have quite a few interesting photos on my iPhone of a collection of seashells that I collected from the shore of the Fox River. My daughters enjoy photographing those shells as well.

3. Challenge yourself to take a photo each day that relates to a subject; black & white, bumpy, or ball – it doesn’t matter.  Get your creative juices flowing.

4. Choose a subject, location or object and photograph it repeatedly.  You could change the scenery, technique, perspective or style for each photo.  One of my friends took a photo  each month of a particular location in the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  Another takes photos of glow bracelets in different scenes.  I have a collection of photos of staircases that I’m working on, and with each photo of staircases that I take I learn just a little bit more.

5. Choose an area of personal interest (windmills, sports, children) and build a portfolio.  Here’s how I would build a portfolio:
a. Print your 3 best or favorite images from each photography activity.
b. Add them to your portfolio.
c. When your portfolio reaches 15-25 images, remove the weakest images, keeping your portfolio below 15-25 images.
d. Mentally note why those removed images are weaker; perhaps even write that reason down.
If you shoot one activity each month, in 6 months you’ll have a portfolio of your best images; and if you keep up this process, in a year or two, you can look back at the rejected images and see how much you’ve learned and grown.

6. Join a photography club.  A few years back, there were very few options for photography clubs, but now that excellent digital cameras are inexpensive and with the popularity of smartphones and Instagram, there are many options photography groups:
– a local Photographic Society of America chapter
– CACCA in the Chicago area (free to attend, pay to compete)
– Join a photography Meetup (most are free)
– Instameets (Instagram gatherings)
– your local library might have a photography club
– even national/state/county parks will often have a photo club
Some groups will focus on meetings and instructional information, some on competition and judging images, while other groups will focus on activities.  Try a few out and meet some local friendly photographers.

Photography involves picking up your camera and capturing the world around you; you don’t need to make it more complex than that.  So pick up your smartphone, pocket camera, or SLR and capture your world!

• Joshua L. Smith • November 2015 •

What’s in my bag?

April 14th, 2012 Permalink

Lowepro CompuDaypack, MacBook Pro 15in, Nikon D7000, etc.

• Lowepro CompuDaypack • MacBook Pro 15in HD LCD, Core i5 2.4, 8gb RAM, 120gb SSD, 1tb HDD, 1tb FW800 HDD & accessories •

• Nikon D7000, 18-135mm f3.5-5.6, 70-300mm f4-5.6, 55mm f2.8 macro, 50mm f1.8, 20-35 f2.8 & 80-200mm f2.8 •

• iPhone 4s 32gb white, Olloclip, Glif, Belkin AAA charger, SD connection kit, etc. •

• M-Audio ProTools box • Verizon 4G MiFi •

• Bible, Moleskins, pens, 20gb of flash drives, LED flashlight, screwdrivers, steel snips, etc.•

about expressions, pt. 2

November 17th, 2011 Permalink


A special thanks to Olloclip for mentioning my website on Twitter.  I’m thrilled to share my hobby, if you like the site or the photos please leave me a message @fourpointedstar

about expressions

November 12th, 2011 Permalink


Welcome to all of the visitors from The Loop. I’m thrilled to share my hobby with you, leave a comment on my Twitter if you like: @fourpointedstar

To answer a few questions: I shoot merely for fun & relaxation, but I have sold a few large prints.  With the exception of the 5 family photos, each photo that is on this site is my own: capture, edit, & post. I claim no expertise, in fact I feel that this applies to my photography “If you can’t be proficient, be prolific.”

I post a photo each day, everything from Chicago skylines to insects in flight; come back in a week and there will be 7 more photos to enjoy.  Be sure to check out the archives too.  Enjoy.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

October 5th, 2011 Permalink

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Think Different

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Stanford 2005, Commencement

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Steve Jobs added that personal touch to most of electronics that I use. He was a genius, able to see the world differently. But sadly all of that talent, intellect, drive and wealth could not buy life – here or in eternity.

My Mac

August 17th, 2009 Permalink

the software on my Mac

I posted what goes in my bag; I think that my Mac’s apps are much more interesting:

Of course the usual culprits are on my Mac:

::  from Apple
Mac OS 10.5 Leopard
• Photobooth gets a workout – great fun with Cynthia
• Automator launches my chat apps on startup
• Font Book gets used often enough
• Image Capture – because I catalog my photos with Finder, then import into Aperture.
• – for work’s Exchange
• Time Machine, iCal, QuickTime, Activity Monitor – obviously
iLife ’09
• iPhoto – for our iPhones
• iWeb –
• don’t really use any of the other iLife apps
iWork ’09 – only really use Keynote
Aperture – Oh how I love this software!
Final Cut Express – like Final Cut … for notebooks

:: paid apps
• Adobe Photoshop CS3 – Aperture has replaced most of it’s use with my photo editing, but I tried to use Acorn, and I found that I still love PS because of its actions and familiarity.
• Microsoft Office 2008 – I only use Excel to create documents, I use Word and PowerPoint only when I need to read a document, and I refuse to use Entourage.
• I bought both NetNewsWire and OmniWeb before they were free; and I still use NNW for all of my RSS needs.

:: free apps
• Adium – it’s all in one client, even FaceBook (which I disabled)
• Chicken of the VNC – for all (1) of the Win2000 PCs on my network
• CoRD – all of my remote Windows connections in one window
• Cyberduck – free and easy to setup for FTP
• Google Notifier

• FireFox with VertTabbar – only use FFX because I can put my tabs on the right side, ala OmniWeb
• OmniWeb – no longer use because it would lock up RAM and wasn’t likely to get the “remember session” feature
• Camino, Flock, Opera, Safari – all for logging into multiple accounts at once
• Stainless – because I have to use a crashy browser every once in a while

• Disk Inventory X – it’s like SpaceMonger, but slower and uglier
• FileWrangler – for all my renaming needs
• Flip4Mac – .wmv on my Mac
• Google Earth – way too cool
• MacTracker – because I am a Mac nerd
• Picasa – because I am a photography nerd
• Quicksilver – my app launcher
• FLV player
• TextWrangler – editing html and css
• TinkerTool
• TwitterPod

my favorite photos

January 1st, 2004 Permalink

animalsbeeblack & whitebutterfly

ChicagoChicago selectsChicago skyline



silhouettestar trailsstunning


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