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Photo Tips by Mike Rosen

JULY 2012


Hi <<First Name>>,

Lately I'd been feeling anxious because I hadn't been taking many creative new pictures--just deleting crummy ones, working on old ones, teaching photography courses and writing newsletters. I had the photographer's equivalent of writer's block. While I was ruminating on that around 10:00 on the evening of the Fourth of July, my wife mentioned that the fireworks were about to start. 

We live near downtown Minneapolis and have a pretty good view from our bedroom of the fireworks along the Mississippi. But it was amazingly hot out (for a change) and I knew that these are usually not the greatest of fireworks shows (Aquatennial fireworks are better). So I paid no attention and started watching the news.

At about 10:10, I glanced out our small side window to see what was happening and was amazed to see a huge orange ball rising behind the fireworks. I jumped up, walked out to a small balcony off our bedroom, and realized what I saw was a full, beautiful "harvest moon" in July. I thought, "Here's a great photo op if I've ever seen one."

So I ran downstairs, grabbed my camera and ran back to the balcony. I knew the fireworks would last only a few more minutes and the moon was rising rapidly. That meant I had no time to set up my tripod, but I felt I could steady the camera by using the balcony ledge for support. I also placed a book under the lens to help frame the scene I wanted (excluding houses and trees below).

For camera settings, I used:

  • manual focus set to infinity (easier than re-focusing each shot)
  • low ISO of 200 (to limit noise in the solid dark sky)
  • aperture at f/11 (depth of field not an issue with no foreground and everything at infinity)
  • maximum focal length (200mm on my zoom lens)
  • shutter set to "bulb" which allowed me to hold the shutter open for any length of time; I varied each shot between one and two seconds
How did that all work? Well, I took about forty pictures in six minutes. I think the images would have been a bit sharper had my camera been mounted on a tripod with a remote shutter release (no hands). And the vividly bright fireworks made getting a correct exposure difficult, especially with virtually no time to experiment. My shutter speed "guesstimates" over-exposed many of the pictures, though I could partly correct for this in the editing process.

On the upside, I think I got some dramatic and unique results. Here are two of my favorites:

In the editing process, I brightened up most of the images because I felt they looked rather dull compared to what I remembered. And I also cropped them to, in effect, zoom in closer to the primary subject while eliminating unneccessary black sky. 

This image looks like a scene out of Star Wars. I liked it enough to send it to National Geographic, and was amazed when two days later they chose to put it on their website. I dream about being a National Geographic photographer in my next life, but now I've gotten a head start! If you're interested in looking, here's a link to the the correct web page:

When you get there, choose "July--Week 2" in the window on the left and scroll across the thumbnails until you come to mine.  

So, just as I was feeling a little down due to my "photographer's block," an opportunity presented itself right in my home. Fortunately the camera was handy and I had a few minutes to work. Like a golfer hitting a great shot on the last hole, that's all I needed to get excited about my creative side again. 

Thanks for reading my story. It feels good to write it.

All the best,




Other Stuff


You can view and purchase any of my photographs at my website (click HERE). Better yet, just email me (click HERE), or feel free to phone me at 612-374-2766.


Consumer Reports is out with its updated review of all the latest cameras. It includes an easy to understand buying guide, covering types of cameras, features of each, costs and many buying tips. The ratings in each category are available only to subscribers, but you can also find them in the July issue of the magazine. This is an independent, unbiased source which does exhaustive research to develop its recommended cameras. It's a worthwhile reference for anyone in the market for an upgrade.


I'll be teaching my photo tips course again this fall. It will cover subjects like composition, exposure, light, photo editing and more. Included is a field trip and critiquing of your work. The course is part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) program at the University of Minnesota. Dates are Sept. 19 through Nov. 7 on Wednesday mornings from 10 - 11:30. Venue expected to be in south Minneapolis. I'll have more details in the next newsletter.


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512 River St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

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