Something isn’t quite right here.

At first glance this might seem like a picture of a frozen river at the bottom of a canyon, but then you might notice the trees lining the rim on the left side of the picture. If it were a river those trees would be a lot smaller, which stands to reason since the withered branches and grasses on the right side would need to be much smaller too. You might also, upon further inspection, notice the prominence of trash in the picture–wrappers, bags, cardboard, and other sundry items that show evidence of a much more mundane and, I might say, boring scene.

What you’re looking at is actually just a ditch that flows from a culvert beneath the road I take to get to work each day. Here’s the same location a few days later on my way home on a much warmer day:

Weird how much of a difference there is, isn’t it? What’s actually just a lowly ditch becomes something else entirely when photographed at the right time, from the right angle, with the right exposure settings, and even when it’s processed in such a way so as to highlight different things based on what the photographer intended. And for me, all this just goes to show that you can take something entirely ordinary and make an interesting photo with a little creativity.

As I often do I initially disregarded the very idea of taking a picture at this location because I literally go past it almost every single day either in my car or on my bike. It’s just not interesting at all, and yet, when I saw the frozen water I thought I could maybe, possibly, hopefully get a picture that was worth looking at. The sun was just starting to come up so I didn’t have much light to work with, but I set my aperture to f/1.8 and let my camera calculate a shutter of 1/90 and ISO of 2500, which almost made the whole scene feel like it’s in mid-afternoon. I shot a couple images at smaller apertures but I liked the depth of field at f/1.8 and I think it lends the scene a bit more of a majestic feel than it otherwise might have–if majestic is even a word that can be applied to a tiny frozen runoff stream.

I also removed a couple bits of garbage in Lightroom just because…well, because it’s my picture and I can do what I want :) I thought they detracted from the rest of the image, though what I really should have done is actually remove them when I was taking the picture. It would have made for a more pleasing image and helped clean things up a bit too. Hmm. Now I think I’m going to do just that the next time I bike past here.

Weekly Fifty: Five Years Later

Good morning everyone,

I wanted to do something a bit different today and fill you in on a couple of things that have been on my mind regarding this blog. But first, lest you think otherwise, know that Weekly Fifty is not going anywhere. I have no plans to stop doing the blog any time soon but I do have a couple of changes that I will be making and as a result I wanted to let you know what might be different in the coming weeks, months, and years.

When I started Weekly Fifty on March 8, 2013, I had been interested in digital photography for about a year and I realized that unless I used my camera regularly I wouldn’t exercise the creative muscles I needed to in order to improve. I tried a couple online forums with challenges, daily/weekly image posts, and other such avenues for accountability but none of them really fit my style. I settled on the idea of doing a weekly photo blog because it was just the right amount of commitment I could handle given that my wife and I had a toddler running around at home along with work and school commitments. (I was getting my Master’s degree at the time as well, which means I didn’t have a lot of spare time!)

I also only had one lens at the time, a 50mm f/1.8, which I still use to this day. Because of these constraints, Weekly Fifty was born and continues mostly unchanged to this day. And oh my goodness what a fun journey it has been, thanks in no small part to the incredible community of commenters who take time to leave thoughts, feedback, questions, and other input every single week. I don’t know if I can quite convey how much I appreciate the thoughts of all of you who choose to share them, but just know that it’s your input that really does keep this blog going. I don’t know if I would have the personal sense of drive to do it otherwise, and your comments mean so, so much.

Thank you. Thank you. And thank you :)

So what’s with the changes? Well, the original goal of Weekly Fifty was to help me improve my photography and I can say, without doubt or hesitation, that it has absolutely done just that. I’m kind of horrified to look back on some of those early posts and see how bad I was at creating compelling compositions, using light and framing to showcase subjects, and even just simple things like manipulating aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to get the pictures I was looking for.

I hope it doesn’t sound conceited to say that I’m a much better photographer now than I was five years ago, though along with that is also a realization of just how much I don’t yet know and understand about photography. The more I learn the more I figure out that I don’t know, and I hope to continue improving until either my fingers or my cameras finally give out. Which hopefully won’t be for a very, very long time.

Along the way I have picked up a lot of new gear as well, and the more I use it the more I feel like I want to showcase some of the images here on the blog. But since I’ve limited Weekly Fifty to just the 50mm lens, I have to go out of my way just to use that one piece of gear in order to meet the constraints of the blog. I’ve taken images I really like with my other lenses such as my 70-200, my 85, and even my new Fuji X100f with its fixed 23mm lens, but I can’t share them here because they’re not 50mm focal lengths.

Therefore I have decided to shift gears a little bit and post images here on the blog that I take with any of the cameras and lenses I own. I’ll still use the 50mm lens of course, but I have found that I enjoy using other focal lengths too and I’d like to showcase those pictures here as well. I’m not changing the name of the blog but it will become kind of irrelevant since it won’t be limited to just a 50mm lens, but the idea will still be the same: one picture each week, posted at 1am CST on Wednesday morning, along with audio commentary.

So here’s to many more weeks, months, and years of Weekly Fifty. The name and format won’t change, but the pictures might look a little different, and I hope that’s OK with you. I’m excited for the future, and I’m so glad to have you along for the ride.




My kids have a habit of calling rodents and squirrels by the name “Peanut” ever since reading the Magic Tree House books where the two protagonists, Jack and Annie, adopt a mouse by that name. (Turns out the mouse is much more than meets the eye, but you’d have to read the books to find out why.) Hence the name of this week’s picture which is really just a quick snapshot I happened to fire off before this squirrel scampered off to find food, shelter, or maybe just a playmate elsewhere on campus.

I often talk about the benefits of having your camera with you and here’s a prime example of why it matters so much. In the four and a half years I’ve been at my current position at OSU I’ve seen squirrels wander outside on the ledge of my third-floor office maybe a half-dozen times. It’s just not something that happens very often, and when it does I always like to pause what I’m doing and just sort of watch the little creatures do what they do. It’s a fun little distraction to see them up close, and they usually just stick around for ten or 15 seconds before going back to whatever it was that they were doing.

When I took this I had my D7100 + 50mm lens with me and even though there are two panes of glass between me and the squirrel (with about four inches of space between the panes) I was able to get a fairly decent image. I didn’t have time to do much in the way of composition but I knew I wanted to get his (her?) eye in the shot so I crouched down low, put my aperture at f/2.8, and focused right on the eye with the hope of getting a nice sharp shot. There was a ton of glare from the window in the original RAW file but nothing that a little Lightroom editing couldn’t fix–mostly by adjusting the Highlights/Shadows/Lights/Darks sliders.

Original photo. Thank goodness for shooting in RAW!

It might be a while before this opportunity presents itself again and if so, I’m happy to have gotten this shot while I was able to. It’s fun to try things like this (I almost didn’t even reach for my camera, thinking there’s no way I could get a good picture) but I’m glad I went for it anyway.

I also want to note that this picture marks five years of doing this Weekly Fifty blog. Five years. I must admit that when I set out to do this blog so long ago I had no idea what was in store at all, and the entire time my goal has been simple: I wanted to use this blog as a way of holding myself accountable for taking pictures on a regular basis. Has it done that? Absolutely. But it’s turned in to so much more, with a fantastic group of followers and commenters who have such nice things to say both here and on other social media platforms. (Mostly Instagram, though I try to keep the Facebook page updated too.) I can say with certainty that I am a better photographer now than when I started, and I appreciate all the comments, tips, kind words, and helpful suggestions so many of you have left for me over the past five years. I’m excited for the next five years and I’m so thankful to have all of you along for the ride :)

Remember the Four

Remember the Four

On November 17, 2011, a small four-person airplane carrying Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke along with his assistant Miranda Serna crashed in Perry County, Arkansas, killing the two individuals along with the pilot, Olin Branstetter and his wife Paula. I remember the incident mostly because I was taking a graduate class here at OSU at the time and one of my fellow students was on the basketball team, which gave the tragedy a more personal connotation than it otherwise might have. The days and weeks after the crash were difficult for many people on campus especially since it was almost exactly ten years after another plane crash took the lives of ten individuals on the men’s basketball team, whose lives are celebrated each year at OSU’s annual Remember the Ten Run.

In any tragedy such as this we have to figure out a way of going forwards with our lives while also memorializing those who were lost, and learn to hold on to the past while not letting ourselves become crippled by it. Easy words to type, certainly, but a lot more difficult in practice, and I don’t know that there’s ever going to be an easy or simple answer for how to move on after the loss of loved ones. And if there is, I’m not sure I even want to know it.

In the wake of the plane crash in November 2011, OSU sought a way to pay respect to the fallen and honor their memories and the memorial you see pictured above is the final result. Construction was finished a few months ago and I have biked past many times while also stopping to look at the pictures and read about each one of the individuals via the epitaphs engraved on each of the markers. It’s a somber scene, but serves as a way for me to think back on these lives while also serving as a reminder to hug my wife and my two kids a little closer each day when I get home from work.

On the morning I took this picture I had just biked past the memorial when I noticed the buildings in front of me, as I faced west, turn a deep orange almost like the Lord pushed the saturation slider all the way to the right. I stopped, turned around, and saw one of the most stunning sunrises I can recall in recent memory which I quickly attempted to capture with my D7100 and 50mm lens. I reversed course and crouched down in the parking lot just to the west of the memorial, moving myself around a bit so as to position the slabs of granite between two trees while also getting a good view of the sky behind them.

If this picture looks photoshopped, I promise you it’s not. Well, not very much anyway. I adjusted the black levels just a bit but otherwise what you see here is pretty much exactly what I got to see on this chilly January morning. The memorial is bathed in a perpetual white thanks to the light fixtures installed around it, which highlights them in stark relief next to the brilliant orange and purple sky.

As I got back on my bike and continued my ride around the stadium I was struck by how quickly the scene changed, and in less than two minutes the sun was over the horizon and the richness of the morning colors had faded away. It was a quick reminder of how fleeting so many things in life are, and also how important it can be to pause for a minute and spend time to appreciate what we have right in front of us before it’s gone.

Two Degrees

Two Degrees

This was a picture that I had in mind from the moment I grabbed my camera on a chilly January morning earlier this year, and I think the end result is just about what I hoped it would be. The mercury bottomed out at nearly zero overnight and before I left work work (in the car, not on my bike!) I grabbed my D750, attached my 50mm lens, and tossed my Gorillapod in the front seat for good measure. I knew that Theta Pond would have a nice coat of ice when I arrived on campus and would hopefully give me an interesting photo opportunity as a result. I also knew that if I got there before the sun came up I could get some nice motion trails on the fountain by stopping my lens way down and shooting at ISO 100.

Most of the time when I shoot photos at Theta Pond I can’t get motion trails like this since I don’t have an ND filter for my 50mm lens and the light is so bright that exposures of longer than 1/30 of a second are kind of impossible. This was one of the big reasons I was excited about taking this particular photo–I knew the dim daylight would permit a longer exposure and I also knew that the ice would add an interesting element that you don’t normally see at this particular location.

Even though I was born in Minnesota and spent five years living there in my 20’s I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to cold weather, and I was certainly eager to get this shot and put my camera away as quickly as possible to warm my fingers up. I walked to the edge of the pond, set down my tripod with camera attached, and took two pictures at about 1.5 seconds each (I used the self timer to eliminate any vibration from my jittery fingers as I pressed the shutter button) before packing up and heading to my building at work. I like this picture but I do think it would be fun to revisit with an ND filter which would let me get similar results at wider apertures, thus giving the scene a shallower depth of field as opposed to this which was shot at f/16.

All in good time, I suppose, and if I ever do get myself some proper ND filters it would be fun to revisit this scene and see what I could get. But hopefully on a warmer day!



I didn’t really know what to expect when I shot this, and I guess that kind of makes sense because I didn’t even plan on taking this picture at all in the first place. This was on a Sunday afternoon in January when, oddly, we were caught in a bit of a spring rain as opposed to winter snow. My wife was running a few errands and I had just returned home from the hardware store with our kids when they asked if they could ride their bikes around in the rain. Even though it was a bit chilly I told them to go right ahead since, let’s be honest, there’s few things more fun when you’re a kid than tearing through puddles on a bike :)

I did some work in the garage as they were zooming around and soon noticed a steady drip-drip-drip near the corner of the driveway where a bit of water was falling from the gutters overhead. I ran in to get my camera to see if I could capture one of the drops as it hit the tiny pool of water gathered below the gutter, and ended up with what you see here. It’s an interesting image but has some technical issues that are difficult for me to overlook, mainly the prominent back-focusing and the fact that I ended up using a slightly higher ISO than I’m normally comfortable with on my D7100. But it served as an interesting proof-of-concept and is something I’d like to explore a bit more in the future.

To get this shot on my D7100 I held it low to the ground and flipped over to Live View in order to get it focused properly. I could have used the optical viewfinder but didn’t feel like laying down on the soaking ground, and Live View turned out to work just fine especially considering that I’m a back-button focuser anyway :) I put my camera in Continuous High Speed mode and held the shutter down every time a drop was about to hit, which fired off a half-dozen pictures before filling the painfully small buffer on the camera. Doing all this in Live View was painfully slow so eventually I just used Live View to nail focus and then switched it off to fire off my bursts of shots. That’s probably what caused the focusing on this particular picture to be off by just a bit, and even though I wish I could have gotten a slightly clearer image I guess I don’t mind all that much and it’ll help me to work just a bit harder next time to make sure I really get things right.



Any idea what’s going on here? Go ahead, take a minute to think about it.

If you’re like me you might have drawn a rather violent conclusion–an explosion of some kind, or perhaps an earthquake or other such disaster. The relatively intact nature of the tree in the foreground as well as the structural integrity of the building in the background seem to point to an isolated incident that only affected a portion of the building, and the sheer level of debris and rubble makes one think of a scene that might have been played out on World News Tonight with an on-location reporter telling stories of conflict from deep inside a war zone.

Or, perhaps, the truth could be something else entirely. Watch what happens when I go back and reverse two key editing choices that I made during postproduction.

Aside from some color adjustments, the key things to note here are the fence in the foreground with the “Danger: Construction Zone” sign as well as one other notable difference: the Permit Parking Only notice affixed to the post. What you’re actually looking at here is the planned demolition of Cordell Hall, a building on the OSU campus that has been slated for removal for quite some time now. I first heard news that this building was going to come down several years ago but it wasn’t until January of 2018 that the process actually began, and from what I’ve heard it will be replaced with a lush green lawn adorned with perhaps a statue or other such ornament to honor one of OSU’s big donors, T. Boone Pickens.

The reason I posted it here on Weekly Fifty is partly because it’s not often I get the chance to take a picture of a building in mid-demolition, but also to demonstrate the power of photography and visual storytelling and the effect that a few simple edits can have on how a viewer interprets an image. I know I’m guilty of drawing conclusions almost immediately when I see pictures posted on social media and even in print, but if I take a little more time to investigate the story behind the image it might not be as strange or shocking as I might think. Some would say that the act of cropping a picture just a bit, or removing an unsightly blemish such as a metered parking sign, is merely an artistic choice and doesn’t impact the image as a whole. I would say that, as photographers, we just need to be careful and be aware of how our edits (and even our initial compositions, as I could have easily just moved to a different position when I shot this instead of cropping it and ended up with the same result) can change how our images are seen and interpreted.

That being said, it sure was fun to see this demolition as it progressed. My wife and I even drove our kids over, parked the car, and just watched as excavators and dump trucks laid waste to this building. It was like the world’s biggest IMAX screen, and I would be lying if I said the kids were the only ones who were enjoying watching it come down :)



Sometimes it’s fun to let your kids take the lead and see what happens.

I shot this when I was downtown with my wife and kids one warm November afternoon (a phrase that you wouldn’t hear too often back in Minnesota where I was born) on a fact-finding mission to the bike shop to see how much it would cost to repair my bicycle that had developed a pretty bad wobble in the rear wheel. After we dropped the two-wheeler off my wife went to another shop to look at clothes while I took the boys on a short walk just because it was nice out. We were thinking about going to a winter display that the city had set up a few blocks away but with kids it’s more about the journey than the destination, so when they asked if they could take a detour and explore a long space between two buildings I figured…well why not?

I had my D7100 with me and didn’t really plan on spending any significant time taking pictures, but it never hurts to be prepared. As the kids cautiously made their way into the narrow corridor I took out my camera and kind of crouched down close to the ground to follow them, almost like I was waddling like a duck. It only took a few seconds for them to throw caution to the wind and just run at full tilt down the passageway to the light on the other side, at which point they reversed course and came right back at me kicking leaves and debris up on all sides. It was a fun moment of serendipity and would have never happened had I insisted that they stay on the sidewalk :)

This photo also illustrates a big reason why I use auto-ISO in just about every shooting situation. The ISO performance of modern cameras is so good that, in my opinion, it’s just not worth worrying about anymore. I almost always use a minimum shutter speed of 1/160 (or faster) so I’m confident I will get as little motion blur as possible, which means all I need to do is set the aperture on my camera in order to get the right depth of field. As I pulled out my camera in is concrete-and-brick hallway I quickly dialed in an aperture of f/4 and let my camera take care of ISO and shutter speed, and the results speak for themselves. And for the record there are still instances when I like to take full manual control over my exposure settings, but honestly most of the time I just like to get on with my day, and get back to playing with my kids, rather than fiddling with buttons and dials on my camera.



This picture is kind of a cop-out, because it’s not exactly difficult to get. Sort of. I mean, it’s the Low Library on the OSU campus and anyone can walk by and snap a photo of it any time they want, so why bother using as this week’s photo here on Weekly Fifty? Because even though this is, by most accounts, a relatively common and simple picture there were some thing that made it unique such that I felt like it deserved a spot here on the blog.

I shot this on a foggy morning right before work when I had my camera with me and noticed the particular way in which the library and its well-lit interior stood in stark contrast to the dull gray sky and otherwise rather bland surroundings. I’d guess that in any given year we have maybe five to ten morning that are just thick with low-lying clouds, and often the light just doesn’t quite work out to get any type of interesting image before sunrise, so to get the library looking like this actually is somewhat different from the norm. Also there are no students present in the foreground, or really any people in the picture at all, which as anyone who has ever been to OSU will tell you is not all that common. Finally the uniform dull orange of the grass in the foreground, coupled with the gray overcast sky, gave the entire composition a feeling of cool melancholy that I found to be strangely compelling.

The editing was also a bit different for me, since I normally like a little more color and saturation in my images. Here I actually reduced the overall saturation just a bit and added a twinge more vignette than I usually do, because it really felt like it suited the mood of the photo. And maybe that’s the big takeaway for me here: this picture isn’t about creating art or a visually pleasing image per se, but more about capturing a mood. I’m not sure how well I actually succeeded, but if nothing else I hope it helps you the viewer think of an early morning with a bit of a slow pace–a hush or a held breath before the start of a busy day.

Cypress Squirrel


I gotta say, these little squirrels are tricky! They’re all over the place here at OSU and sometimes they literally let you walk right up to them without moving an inch. But then other times they scurry away at the first sign of a human! It’s like Forrest Gump said, you never know what you’re gonna get. That was certainly the case here, especially since I wasn’t actually trying to get a picture of a squirrel at all. I saw this little guy sitting on a cypress knee munching on some kind of nut or acorn, and had one of those “I can’t believe I might get this shot” moments. Every element was lining up perfectly: I had my camera, the light was good, the squirrel was kind of unaware of my presence, and…then I remembered I had my 50mm lens instead of something much better suited for this type of picture. But heeding Gump’s Words of Wisdom I went ahead and fired off a few shots (at f/1.8 to get a shallow depth of field even though I risked getting an out-of-focus rodent) and hoped for the best.

I wasn’t all that optimistic for the picture until I loaded it up into Lightroom and found that I could get away with cropping it quite a bit and still have a decent picture. That’s the problem with a 50mm lens: it’s just not that good for shooting long-distance shooting images of, say, a squirrel on a wooden stalagmite. But the nice thing about using it on a 24mp camera is that you can crop in quite a bit and still have plenty of sharpness and detail, provided you get your settings right and don’t miss focus. Such was the case here and even though a longer lens would have helped isolate the squirrel from the background I think I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.