Help Me Write Stories!

Okay. So I want to write stories. I want people to read my stories. But for that to happen I actually have to sit down and write the stories. This is a ridiculously difficult thing to do. I’ve been working, on and off, for the past two years on a novel. Also, I’m finishing up a couple different short stories.

This is what I need. I need a way to be held accountable and also a way to share these stories with others, to share these stories with you.

Enter Patreon

Patreon is a wonderful platform. It’s based after an old Medieval practice of families of power and money paying artists to produce their art for them. These medieval patrons gained prestige for seeking out the best artists for their personal court.

Fast foward to now, and Patreon has found a way to put this same system into place. But in this case you don’t have to house and clothe me to help me produce my art. So, you only have to pay me the amount of a coffee each month. And when you become a paying patron I will give you one short story or one chapter from my novel every month. For only $3 a month you would be pressuring me (in a good way) to get my butt in the chair and write!

And, once I finish a novel or write enough short stories for a collection, I will find someway to reward my loyal patrons. This may be a free digital copy of the text, or a steep discount on the physical copy. I may even toy with some other possible rewards. If you’re interested, please let me know what sort of things you would like.

What Sort of Stories?

What kind of stories should you expect from me? Well, if you like a nice and spooky story you’ll most likely like my writing. I tend to enjoy reading H. P. Lovecraft, Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson, Mark Z. Danielewski, etc. Consequently, I imagine that anything I write may be along the lines of those writers. So be sure to watch for the first chapter of my novel on August 1st. So, become a Patron, help to encourage my writing.

Posted by Joe in Writing, 2 comments
PNW Photo of the Week July 10, 2017 – Forest View

PNW Photo of the Week July 10, 2017 – Forest View

It’s time for the third installment of my Pacific North West Photo of the Week! Not every shot needs to be of a sweeping landscape with a forest, mountains, and grandiose vistas. Sometimes we need to look up close at the things around us in order to fully appreciate our setting.

This week I present an image to you that is not a full forest. It is, instead only a tiny detail of one tree. This shot I call Forest View.

The Details

After finishing up a little photo walk through a local park I noticed how the light was catching just a tiny bit of some branches. I love how the colors interacted with the center of the scene and how the light pulls your eye to each of the little bright points at the ends of the branches.

This image shows how even at the lowest level the leaves of a tree are a forest in itself. On each level deeper and closer you get to a subject, the more the subject will reveal to you. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this when I feel that I’ve exhausted all possible ways to capture a setting.

So remember, don’t forget to get down and look closely at the most mundane things. You never know what will be revealed to you.

Of course, you can see evergreen trees anywhere, but this image is representative of the area I live in. There are so many trees everywhere here, including many evergreens of different types. I am sure that, in the future, I will post some pictures of other local trees.

Next week I’ll post something a bit different though.

A closeup look of scaley pine leaves.

If you like this image be sure to go back and check out past installments of the PNW Photo of the Week.

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My PNW Photo of the Week – July 3, 2017

My PNW Photo of the Week – July 3, 2017

It is time for my second entry to my Pacific North West photo of the week!

I call this one Mt Baker from the San Juan Islands.

This week I am sharing a shot from a recent boat outing to the San Juan Islands. We were heading west between a couple of the islands and directly behind the boat was this amazing view of Mt. Baker. I loved how the waves behind the boat led my eye up to the mountain.

I hope you like the shot as well.

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New Website!

Hello Internet!

It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything to my website. (By this point it seems like an internet cliche, but it’s true.) But recently the itch to create and put out content has been growing, and that, along with a major address change has spurred me to action.

So, first big news is that I’ve moved back to the Pacific North West! My wife, son, and I really missed the weather up here. My wife loves the beaches, I love all of the beautiful landscape and hikes. The 20 degree temperature difference between here and back in Oklahoma is very nice as well.

The other news is I’m going to start posting on here weekly.

To shake things up a bit I’ve done a complete overhaul to my website and I’ve combined my photography website ( and my writing/blog site into one true source of total awesomeness.

My first regular series is going to be the Pacific North West photo of the Week. Each week on Monday I will post a favorite image of my new surroundings for you to enjoy.

I’m also planning on the occasional other photo posts, photography tutorials, and other random collections of my thoughts. (I welcome suggestions if there is any specific content you’d like to see.)

This is not just going to be a home for my photography though. This will also be the home for updates in my adventures in writing. I’m still working out what sort of content I will be posting along those lines. I will keep you updated.

I have one more big bit of news that I will share with you next time, so be sure to stay tuned…

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My PNW Photo of the Week – June 26, 2017

My PNW Photo of the Week – June 26, 2017

After a few weeks of moving to Bellingham, WA from western Oklahoma we are finally starting to settle in. We’ve gotten all of the important official stuff done, like license plates and new driver’s licenses, and now have time to truly explore the area.

There is a small park fairly close to me with a small trail loop through a bit of forest. It’s called Cordatta Park. It’s not a giant park as compared to many of the other parks in the Bellingham area, but it is still a nice walk through a natural setting.

Here is the image I’ve chose for this new series called my Pacific North West Photo of the Week. Each Monday I will share with you one of my recent shots taken somewhere up here in #UpperLeftUSA.

I call this image ‘Old Forest Stump’. One thing that Washington has that Western Oklahoma really doesn’t is large trees. And, even when these trees die, they are still a fountain of new life. If left, old stumps of fallen or cut trees become the base for other plants and trees to sprout.

Old Forest Stump

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USAO Iron Pour

USAO Iron Pour

Last November I was lucky enough to experience an iron pouring event. It was amazing seeing all of the work that goes into preparing the crucible and melting down the iron before pouring the molten metal into the molds. Here are a couple shots from the event.

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Shots from a recent portrait session

Yesterday I had a little portrait session with a very talented little girl. Let me know what you think of these highlights from the shoot.

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3 Essential Items Needed For Night Photography

3 Essential Items Needed For Night Photography

I love to get out and shoot images after dark. The world is a different place after the sun goes down. There are new colors hiding just beneath our visual perception which a camera can pick up using long exposures. It is a surreal world of naturally over-saturated tones caused by unnatural industrial lights of many different types. It is a world most people don’t take notice of. No one thinks about what the local library looks like illuminated by the full moon. Few know that the orange sodium street lamps cause the slight dew coated pavement on main street to glisten at one in the morning.

This post is the start of a series in which I will teach you the techniques needed to capture the night. I will cover the many different techniques you need to know. If you are already a seasoned daytime photographer, good, but much of what you’ve learned does not apply at night. Night photography pushed well beyond what even modern camera systems can handle. You can no longer trust what your camera thinks is correctly exposed. In truth, you can’t even trust your own eyes, at least not at first.

The empty streets and lots of a major city’s downtown area surrounds the ornate building, which feels stranded in the modern city.

With this post I will cover the essential equipment you must have in order to attempt night photography. These are things you need to have. They are not optional.

1. A Camera

Let’s start with a camera. You must have a camera, no ifs, ands, or buts. Without a camera you will not be taking pictures.

Also, you must have a camera that has a ‘Manual’ mode. This means that you will have to control all of the settings yourself. In auto mode your camera will figure out everything for you. In shutter speed mode your camera let’s you choose your shutter speed but adjusts all of the other settings to get a correctly exposed image. Aperture mode let’s you choose your aperture, how wide open your lens is, and adjusts all of the other settings for a correct exposure. There is also a program mode, which is somewhere between Aperture(or Shutter) mode and manual.

I shoot with a Nikon d610. By no means should you run out and buy one though. You don’t need the top of the line pro level camera to do night photography. I would love to get a hold of the recent Nikon D5, it has ridiculously high ISO capabilities, but I’m not ready to drop over six grand for a camera.  Really, even a point and shoot camera that gives you a full manual mode will work. You could even shoot with a pinhole camera that uses 35mm film, though I wouldn’t suggest it until you master all of the techniques I will go over in the coming posts with a digital camera. Just be sure you can attach it to the next essential piece of gear…

2. A Tripod

I cannot say this enough times for both night and day photography, but especially night photography:

Use A Tripod! Use A Tripod! Use A Tripod!

You don’t need a high dollar carbon fiber Manfrotto tripod. You just need something sturdy. If you don’t have one and your budget is limited just get a cheap Targus tripod. You can get one at Wal-Mart for under $20. This tripod is a little unstable, but it will work. It will hold much more still than you will be able to with your hands.

If you have more of a budget to spend opt for something more heavy and not made of plastic. Also stay away from tripods that advertise as compact or portable. I have two tripods. One is a heavier think metal one that doesn’t fold down particularly small. The other is a thinner one that folds small enough to fit in my backpack. They are both great tripods, but the heavier one has much less shake and is less likely to be affected by the wind. The smaller one has more joints and has thinner legs, and thus has a little shake to it when a gust of wind comes through.

One way you can reduce any tripod movement is to weight it down. Some more pricey tripods have hooks on the bottom of the central shaft. These are great for hanging your camera bag on. Some even bring a small bag to fill with rocks on site and then hang on the bottom of their tripod. If your tripod does not have this hook, do not fret. There are inexpensive solutions that add a hanging pouch that attaches to the three legs or your tripod. The one I use attaches with Velcro and easily holds my camera bag for me, thus weighing down my tripod and making it much more sturdy.

There are also super small table top tripods and gorilla pods. These are great as well and super easy on the wallet. The gorilla pod is a lot of fun. It can be morphed to hold your camera on any surface. It can even wrap around smaller poles to hold your camera as long as your camera isn’t too heavy.

You can also do some night photography without a tripod, but you will be extremely limited without one. One way to keep your camera steady without a tripod is to set it on a surface. You can set it on top of a backpack on top of your car or even on the ground.

You can also do abstract night photographs by moving your camera during the exposure. This will let you draw shapes with the bright lights in the picture.

‘Tidal Wave of Light’ by Alan Levine (

Another piece of gear that helps reduce shake in your images is…

3. A Remote Trigger

There are a large range of options when it comes to remote triggers. You can get something super affordable and reliable (like a little infrared off-brand trigger from Target), or you can go all out and get professional level wireless remote triggers that are guaranteed to work all of the time(like Pocket Wizards).

The soul purpose of using a remote trigger for night photography is the same is as using a tripod: to reduce every bit of shake possible.

This is needed, in especially modern DSLR cameras, because even the act of taking a picture causes shake. Your finger pressing the button or even touching the camera will cause shake for a good five seconds, and DSLR cameras have a mirror that needs to move up and out of the way in order for the sensor to record light.

You can get away without using a remote trigger if your camera has a couple features.

1. Mirror up

When this is turned on you will need to press the shutter button twice in order the take a picture. The first press moves the mirror up and the second actually exposes the sensor. This is beneficial because it gives your camera the chance to stop shaking from the mirror movement before exposing the sensor.

Even with mirror up turned on you still will get shake from pressing the shutter button. To get around this use your camera’s…

2. Delay

Delay is usually used by photographers when they want to jump into their own pictures. In this case it is used to allow time to pass, and shake to stop, after the shutter button is pressed and before the sensor is exposed.

With these two features combined you really don’t need a remote trigger at all. But the down side is there is a large delay between pressing the button and taking the picture.

There are cheap options to alleviate this issue though. The solution is to move the shutter button off from the camera. (Be sure to leave the mirror up feature on even with a remote trigger)

One option is to purchase an inexpensive infrared trigger. Make sure that your camera supports these before buying one. I have a cheap one from target that works for Nikon, Canon, and a few other brands of camera. I think it cost me less than $20 and it works great.

Most of the time I prefer to use wired triggers. I really hate having to keep up with batteries, so anything that I can do to reduce the number of powered doohickeys I have to keep batteries for the better. For a long time I used a single button wired trigger. It worked wonders. The trick is to do your best to not pull in the wire when using it and to make sure it isn’t swinging around during the exposure. I usually wrap it around one of my tripod’s legs before I press the button.

Currently I use a programmable trigger. It has a button that you can push, just like the single button trigger, but it can also be set up to take a series of exposures. You just tell it how many you want, how long each exposure should be, how long it should wait between exposures, and how long it should wait before starting the first exposure. Once you have all of this set you just press go and sit in the folding chair you conveniently brought along with you.


There are many more little gadgets that you can purchase to use for night photography, but a camera, tripod, and remote trigger will carry you a very long way before you need anything else. If you have these items already, get out there and take some amazing night photographs. Feel free to post your images in the comments, I would love to see what you capture.

A note on the cost of photography equipment.

Photography can be an expensive hobby, but this is true of many hobbies. Like golf or spelunking the equipment can quickly put a dent in your bank account. Here’s the thing though, most camera’s are pretty expensive, and I don’t trust my camera or lenses to equipment that may cause them damage. This is why I save up and get the more pricey tripod from a well known brand. This is also why I tend to watch reviews on Amazon even for things like wired triggers to make sure no one has had issues with it messing up a port on their camera. In most things, including photography, you get what you pay for. So save up and make sure you pay for something that will correctly safeguard your equipment.

Posted by Joe in Photography, 0 comments
The Effect of Lens Compression on Portraits

The Effect of Lens Compression on Portraits

Hello photographers!

Today I want to talk a bit about lens compression and how it affects portrait photography.

First of all let’s define lens compression:

Lens compression is the apparent compression of space between the foreground and background caused by a combination of changing the lens focal length and the distance from the photographer to the subject.

This sounds really complicated, but by the end of this post I will help you to wrap your head around the concept.

This effect can be used to your advantage in your images. With it you can control how close things in the background appear to be to your subject. By doing this you can isolate your subject against a less distracting background. I will show this effect later with a series of head shots taken with different focal lengths.

Before the photo examples I would like to show you a clip from the movie Goodfellas:

Notice how the scene outside the window seems to be moving closer and zooming in? This is lens compression in action! What is going on is the camera has a zoom lens, and through this clip the cinematographer is zooming in (increasing the focal length). The cinematographers is also moving back away from the subject as he/she is zooming in order to keep the subject the same size. If they hadn’t moved back while increasing the focal length, the camera would just be zooming in on the subject and the background would not appear to be moving closer. I can only imagine the complexity of planning a shot like this scene and the equipment needed to pull it off smoothly.

So how does this apply to portraiture?

Let me show you. Here is a series of head shots all taken of Sean at the park last week in the same spot.

I started with my wide angle lens and set it to 16mm.

I then moved to 35mm

Then 50mm



And 300mm

A couple things to notice in this set of shots. The first thing is the distortion caused by using a wide lens vs longer lenses. The wide lens actually makes the person’s head look a bit thinner. This could come in handy if you have a client that would like to appear to have a less round head. The other thing to notice is the change in the background. Do you see how the bridge behind Sean seems to move closer to him with each shot? (Also notice the increase of bokeh) To make this happen I had to back up from Sean as I increased my focal length. You can really see the bridge zooming in in this animation:

And that’s lens compression!

I hope that I’ve helped you understand how this optical effect can affect your photography. If you have any questions feel free to comment below.

Thanks for stopping by!

Your photographer friend,
Joe: The Photography Guy

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Fun at the County Fair

Fun at the County Fair

Last night I got to try out a new filter. It is called the Cinemorph filter. This is an amazing little filter that stretches your bokeh vertically a bit, making it seem more like something captured by a lens used for letter box cinema. It also has a bit of fishing line down the middle of it which causes a really intense lens flare (J. J. Abrams style). In the one night out at the fair I’ve learned a lot of it’s limitations and how to take advantages of it’s little quirks. In the future I will do a full review post on the Vid Atlantic Cinemorph filter.

But for now, here are my pictures from last night:

I love this shot. The exposure started with the boy on the swing starting on the right. Than as the exposure continued he whipped around the the red of the swing seat blurred as it sped by. Also notice the tasty lens flare at the top. It is a nice complement to the horizontal red streak.

And here is the obligatory ferris wheel shot. No carnival, nor photo walk in a carnival, is complete without the ferris wheel. I still find it interesting that the colors make up geometric shapes as the wheel twirls. This has something to do with how digital sensors record data. In a film capture of the same subject, the colors would just be streaks of light.

This trashcan was just creepy. I mean, murder you in your sleep, creepy.

This group of young folks wanted a candid shot.

And we will close out with the murderous trashcan.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

If you would like to see more please help out by purchasing some of my work here:

Thank you for stopping by,
Your Photographer Friend

Joe Donley

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