Understanding ISO Settings in Photography

ISO, like exposure and aperture, is one of the three fundamental components of the exposure triangle. Of the three, it tends to be the photography setting that most confuses people. This is a real shame since it’s really not a difficult concept to understand. In fact, the ISO effects two things:

  1. The amount of light in a scene that’s required to produce a given exposure.
  2. The image quality and amount of noise in the image.

By the end of this guide, you will have a solid understanding of what the ISO is and how to properly control it to obtain the best possible exposure for your images. Let’s jump right in!

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The sunset from Spruce Knob, West Virginia.

A Day Trip to Spruce Knob in West Virginia

It has been several years now since I've first laid eyes on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Ever since that first trip to Dolly Sods I have been in love with the area's scenery.

Here lately I've been getting a serious itch to head back out that way again, so I loaded up a cooler and threw my camera in my Jeep to make the 6-hour drive to the national forest. Here's a quick recap of the trip!

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The sunset from Auxier Ridge, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

A Few Recent Images from Auxier Ridge in the Red River Gorge

Over the past few months I have spent a fair bit of time out on Auxier Ridge in the Red River Gorge portion of Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest. Despite the area featuring some of the best views in the entire Bluegrass, I rarely spend this much time out there during the warmer months since it's quite the popular area. This year, however, has been an exception.

Over the course of these quick trips out onto the ridge I've captured a few new images. Let's take a look!

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The Milky Way over Half Moon Rock, Red River Gorge, Kentucky

How I Plan a Milky Way Shoot

There's a lot of work that goes into getting a successful Milky Way image, not the least of which is planning. There's a number of factors to take into account when planning your shoot. As such, it can be a daunting task for those that are just starting out, so I figured I'd write a guide on how I go about planning these late-night shoots.

Let's not waste any more time and dive right in!

The Milky Way over Half Moon Rock, Red River Gorge, Kentucky
The Milky Way over Half Moon Rock, Red River Gorge, Kentucky

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Sunrise at the John Oliver Cabin - Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

Sunrise at the John Oliver Cabin

Sunrise at the John Oliver Cabin - Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

Anyone that has been to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee knows that, despite its immense beauty, the area is often jam-packed with tourists. In fact, it can often be pretty difficult to find peace and tranquility in this mountain valley. When one does find some peace and quiet, however, it's a magnificent experience.

Peace and quiet is exactly what I found on this chilly March morning in the Cove though! I was delighted as I made the short walk out to the John Oliver cabin and saw that the sky was developing a bit of color from the sun that was just starting to peek above the mountains.

These were by far some of the most peaceful moments I've had in Cades Cove, with the exception being the time I walked the loop during a small snow storm.

An old Northern Kentucky residence left to rot away to nothing.

A Few Abandoned Places in Northern Kentucky

I really enjoy abandonment photography, though I don't practice it nearly as much as I do landscape photography. Every once in awhile, however, I like to throw my camera in the car and just drive around to see what I can find. Sometimes you come away with something and sometimes you get completely skunked, but that's just part of the fun.

I recently did one of these drives and came away with a a few locations that I thought I'd share. Enjoy!

Left Behind

The basement of an abandoned, decaying house in Northern Kentucky.

This property was an interesting one. It contained the abandoned remains of three residences. The first was a very old house that was barely left standing. To the left of this structure was an abandoned mobile home and behind these two was a much more modern, but largely collapsed house. This newer house had everything left behind in it. Because of the structural issues I only poked my head in the basement for a quick shot.

A long forgotten home in Northern Kentucky.
The oldest of the three homes on this property.

An Old, Forgotten Church

Unfortunately I don't have any information on this church, but it's pretty clear that it has been long abandoned. It was a rather cool, unexpected find. This is the perfect example of why I enjoy exploring the back roads!

Left To Decay

An old Northern Kentucky residence left to rot away to nothing.

The final property I found on this particular trip was this old residence. Once again, I wasn't able to find out much about this place. If you look closely at the second story, however, there's what appears to be an old sign post, suggesting that this place was perhaps used as a business at some point.

Lower Nada Twin Arch, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Lower Nada Twin Arch

Lower Nada Twin Arch, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Located on private property just outside the Red River Gorge is a lesser-visited set of Twin Arches: The Nada Twin Arches. This unique geological feature is composed of an upper and lower (pictured here) arch. What really struck me about the lower arch was the brilliance of the reds and oranges in the rock. I was completely awestruck by it!

Note: This arch is on private property owned by Red River Gorge Getaways.

Daylight West Arch, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

4 Tips for Shooting Natural Arches

By now, it's probably no secret that I have a love for natural arches. I even have a whole section of my portfolio dedicated to them!

Despite my love for these natural beauties, however, it can be really hard to get a photograph that makes them look like little more than big holes in even bigger rocks. As such, I find arches to be a challenging subject!

That's why I'd like to share with you 4 tips I've learned over the years for shooting natural arches.

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A Review of 2019 as a Photographer

It's time once again for a year in review post! As 2019 quickly winds down, and 2020 rolls its way in, it's helpful for photographers to sit down and reflect a bit on the past year.

As a side note, those of you interested in last year's reflection can check it out here, though I am changing up the format a bit this year.

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Exploring an Abandoned School

Exploring an Abandoned High School

Something I haven't done a whole lot of is exploring and photographing abandoned buildings, an activity often referred to as urban exploring or urbex. It's a subject that has always interested me, I just haven't had much chance to practice it myself. As such, I jumped on board when I was invited to go explore an abandoned high school with some friends.

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The Milky Way from Chimney Rock, Red River Gorge

The Milky Way as seen from Chimney Rock, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

This past Thursday I met up with my buddy Josh Lowe and headed out to Chimney Rock in Kentucky's Red River Gorge to shoot the Milky Way. Other than a few clouds along the horizon, conditions turned out pretty great!

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Photographing Ohio's Waterfalls

I have a really bad habit of discounting some of the natural beauty that can be found throughout Ohio. Despite having spent the majority of my early life in the state and still living quite close, I rarely ever venture up that way for photography.

So far this year, however, I have spent several weekends shooting some of the waterfalls throughout the Buckeye state. Here's just a small sampling of what I've seen so far.

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The Definitive Guide to Aperture and Depth of Field

One of the fundamental concepts of photography is that of aperture. Along with the shutter speed and ISO, aperture is part of the exposure triangle that controls the overall exposure of an image. In addition to this, aperture also affects the depth of field in an image. In short, the aperture (which is measured in f-stops) controls two factors:

  1. The amount of light that is able to reach the image sensor, which in turn controls the image’s overall exposure.
  2. The depth of field (DOF) of the image. The depth of field is simply how much of your image is in focus. Don't worry, there will be more of this later on :)

By completing this article, you'll understand what aperture is, how it affects an image's depth of field and how to select the correct f-stop settings to achieve the optimal depth of field for any given scenario. 

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