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Wyatt
On twitter: @bwyatt
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Near Indianapolis
 
2009-10-23, 17:58

I thought it might be fun if we had a thread where lame photographers like me could ask how to capture a certain shot. I know lots of you here are more experienced than me, but I don't want to close this off to just my one question. I'll have plenty more in the future, and I'm sure others do too. So let's learn and get better together.

My first question: I have a beautiful view of the sunrise from my back door. There's a farm across the street, and off in the distance there are trees and a water tower. I'd like to capture that beautiful sunrise, but all my pictures have been pretty bad so far. I don't mind a long shutter speed, since I do have a tripod available. I'm wondering what ISO and aperture might be best for this situation. I'm shooting with Canon Rebel XS and a kit lens, so I'm somewhat limited in my options.

So, how do I shoot that?

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stevegong
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2009-10-23, 18:06

If you can show us what you have so far, we'd have a better idea of pointing you in the right direction.
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Wyatt
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2009-10-23, 18:11

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevegong View Post
If you can show us what you have so far, we'd have a better idea of pointing you in the right direction.
Heh. I knew I should have kept the ones I took this morning. I'll go back out tomorrow morning, with a tripod this time, and I'll post my results here.

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PB PM
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2009-10-23, 18:16

First thing to do, is set your ISO to the lowest value (ISO200 on the XS, IIRC) to start with. Make sure auto ISO is turned off, or it will just bump it back up. A tripod is a must for good results. at least most of the time. You also have to make some choices as to what part of the scene you want exposed. Meaning, are you wanting to capture the colour of the sky, the foreground or a little of both? You might want to experiment with full manual settings, or aperture priority (TV on Canon models I believe) for the type of photo you want.

If you want to capture the colours in the sky, and don't care if the foreground is dark, switch to spot metering and set your exposure based on that. Meaning point that active auto focus point at the part of the scene that you want the exposure to be based upon. That is why I suggested using one of the more manual controls. First focus on what you want in the scene, then disable auto focus. Next aperture, I find anything between F5.6 and F10 works best for the type of shot you are describing, take several shots if you can to see which you like best. I will often take 5-10 shots of the same scene before I'm happy with it.

I used that set of options to take this shot.


If you want to expose differently, that is when things get complicated. Maybe you could show us some examples of what you have taken so far, then we can give you more tips.
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Swox
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Join Date: Oct 2006
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2009-10-23, 19:01

How about some tips for shooting some highly reflective objects, like violins or reflective plastic? I've got 2 big flashes at my disposal, but I keep getting unsightly reflections somewhere on the object (i.e. not evenly lit). My strategy right now is to just keep moving the lights up and down, wider or closer together, and/or closer to the object. Is it all guess work, or is there something I'm missing here?

Do not be oppressed by the forces of ignorance and delusion! But rise up now with resolve and courage! Entranced by ignorance, from beginningless time until now, You have had more than enough time to sleep. So do not slumber any longer, but strive after virtue with body, speech, and mind!
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PB PM
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2009-10-23, 19:35

One of the best parts of having external flashes is using bounce flash. Bounce light of the ceiling when you can. The effectiveness of a flash depends on how the light is able to spread. If you are too close it cannot spread and creates a washed out look, as if you had been staring at the sun and then tried to look at something else right after. I have spent hours playing around with flash and I've learned a few things. For subjects that are close, avoid directly pointing the flash at the subject, unless the ceiling is too high. If you have the ability to use your flash off camera that is even better. You are lucky since you have two flash guns, which gives you a lot of light power to counter shadows.

If possible use some kind of diffusion device. I'm not sure if Canon flashes come with a diffuser or not, but if you don't have one they are not very expensive to buy. Using a flash with reflective objects is tricky, but can be done. Also use flash exposure compensation as needed, the camera doesn't always get it right. When using a flash remember that lower ISOs work great for some things, while not so much for others. If you want some natural light in your shot, shoot at ISO400.

Example,

If I had taken the above shot with direct flash the glass would have reflected a lot of the light and been washed out. To overcome that I took an old box that I had lying around the house, and glued white paper into it, placed the subject in the box and took a number of shots, using my SB-800 in remote mode, off camera. A light box allows you to use the light of your flash without having to directly point the flash at your subject.
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torifile
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2009-10-23, 19:39

Aperture priority is Av on the Canons. Shutter priority is Tv.
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torifile
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2009-10-23, 19:40

You know what would be a good idea for a thread is a theme of the week/month or whatever and just take and post unprocessed photos of that theme. We could have some rules. That would be a fun game. Any takers?

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PB PM
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2009-10-23, 19:45

Sounds good to me. It would be interesting to see how different people would process the same image. At the end the original poster could post their own idea what they think it should be like, after all they were the ones who saw it in person.
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torifile
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2009-10-23, 21:25

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
Sounds good to me. It would be interesting to see how different people would process the same image. At the end the original poster could post their own idea what they think it should be like, after all they were the ones who saw it in person.
The wording in my post was very confusing. Sorry about that. I meant:

We would have a theme and we would shoot photos of that theme (however we interpret it). The photos would not be post-processed except for cropping, but posted for viewing here. Is that clearer?

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Wrao
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2009-10-23, 21:34

So funny. I just came back from an hour's worth of sitting, perched on a hill with a tripod and a Sony A100 experimenting with various options to capture a sunset as well as its progressive effects on the hill behind me. I took about 50 pictures, I may have gotten a good one or two, but I'll have to review them. Thanks for the information PB Mac.
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PB PM
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2009-10-23, 22:22

Quote:
Originally Posted by torifile View Post
The wording in my post was very confusing. Sorry about that. I meant:

We would have a theme and we would shoot photos of that theme (however we interpret it). The photos would not be post-processed except for cropping, but posted for viewing here. Is that clearer?
Hmm, no post processing, that takes half the fun out of photography though. If you are going to have rules like that, I'd say no cropping as well, after all anyone can crop a photo to make it look better, lets push ourselves to get the best results right out of the camera.
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torifile
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2009-10-23, 22:40

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
Hmm, no post processing, that takes half the fun out of photography though. If you are going to have rules like that, I'd say no cropping as well, after all anyone can crop a photo to make it look better, lets push ourselves to get the best results right out of the camera.
We can run 2 "contests" then. One straight out the camera and one with post-processing.
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PB PM
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2009-10-23, 22:51

We could just keep processed images in the colour/black & white threads. It would be interesting to see people's post processed images there, and see the untweaked versions in the "contest." So much for this being a tips thread.
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GSpotter
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2009-10-24, 01:57

I like the contest idea.

Getting back to the original question: If I understand that right, you want to have a nice looking sunset and a fore- / middlground that is more than a silhouette. I assume, this scene has a higher dynamic range than you can capture with one picture. You might take a tripod and do some shots where you expose one for the foreground and one for the sunset (and probably some more in between) and use a HDR program to combine the pictures...

The result might look like that:

My photos @ flickr
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Wyatt
On twitter: @bwyatt
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Near Indianapolis
 
2009-10-24, 06:16

GSpotter, that's pretty much what I want. The sun's not up here yet, but if it's not too cloudy when it comes up, I'll take a crack at it. I have a feeling this will take me a few days to get just right.

Twitter: bwyatt | Minecraft: bwyatt_IN
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GSpotter
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2009-10-24, 15:20

With the right programs, it's rather simple. You just have to make a series of pictures with different exposures. The above pictures is based on a HDR shot which was created from 5 pictures (-2, -1, 0, 1, 2 aperture stops under/overexposed). I used Photomatix for the HDR editing process, but there are other programs, too.

An alternative technique to HDR is DRI (dynamic range increase): You need a program that supports layers. Then you load the different pictures in separate layers to blend the correctly exposed parts together.

There are lots of how-to's and tips on both techniques on the net.

My photos @ flickr
The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. -- Benjamin Franklin
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PB PM
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2009-10-24, 15:43

Yup, it can be rather easy, I have used Photomatix, but cannot justify paying for it considering how little I do HDR, so I just use Gimp, because free is good. Of course the disadvantage of Gimp (if you are working with RAW images) is that it only works with 8bit images.
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BuonRotto
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2009-10-26, 14:57

I have an appeal to make: please do not over-do your HDR images. I feel like this technique is positively abused. Its original intention was only to better approximate the human eye's dynamic range, now you see all sorts of gaudy images that would make Thomas Kincaid, King of Kitsch blush. Please use it responsibly.

Also, if you have a tripod the best way to shoot landscapes are:

1. Always shoot ISO 100 (with some exceptions -- sometimes ISO 200 on some cameras actually had greater dynamic range) so you have the least film gain/noise and greatest dynamic range of light to dark tones.

2. If you have or the scene allows for a gradient neutral density filter, go for it. It underexposes the sky and allows the ground to be properly exposed for a more dramatic look without blowing out the sky or underexposing the ground. This doesn't work if you have mountains or something popping above the horizon line.

3. never let the horizon split the frame in half. It should always be higher or lower than the midway line of the image.

4. Set the camera to manual exposure if you can. The landscape scene mode on some cameras will substitute for the next series of steps if you do not have manual controls...

5. Stop down your aperture to maximize depth of field.

6. Get as wide as possible with the zoom.

7. Find the hyperfocal distance for the scene, or set your focus to infinity if you don't have any foreground objects (though it helps the composition tremendously). The hyperfocal distance is where everything beyond that plane is in focus. More here.

8. check your white balance. You probably can't set this manually in the field, but warmer is generally better unless it's *too* warm of course!

9. Meter your scene avoiding highlight and lowlight clipping, I often spot-meter for this, but good ESP metering might handle this adequately (I just don't trust them as much). If you have a histogram display, keep the exposure to the right without blowing highlights (meaning they don't stack up on the right edge of the histogram). This helps keep noise out of shadows. Try using a separate AEL lock/toggle once you have the exposure you like.

10. Go with a bulb exposure if possible -- meaning ideally you use a remote to trigger the shutter to avoid shaking. If you don't have a remote, use the 2 second or 10 timer and possibly use mirror lock if you have a DSLR. You need to void shaking the camera, even with the shutter for long exposures.

11. bracket all of your photos. Try different lengths of shutter exposure both over and under what you think are the right settings. This helps to superimpose images later for HDR work (better than highlight and lowlight recovery if you can frame the image consistently without moving the camera), and if you're wrong you'll probably get the right exposure in there somewhere.

12. Shoot BEFORE the actual sunrise and AFTER the actual sunset. Colors are more brilliant at these times. The difference between a few seconds at these times makes a noticable difference in your images too. You generally never shoot at mid-day (with exceptions of course).

13. Please also don't over-saturate the images afterwards. You lose detail, depth and any sense that it really might have looked like that and you actually saw it that way.

OK, that kind of mixed composition and technique together. In terms of simply getting the correct exposure, check your white balance, watch our for blown out detail, get everything in focus and don't shake the camera.
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Wrao
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2009-10-27, 15:30

As I mentioned above, I was sitting up on a hill the other day trying to figure out how to get a good shot of a sunset, and after about 100 shots of experimentation, this was about the best I got. I'll try again soon and see if I can get something better:

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PB PM
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2009-10-27, 15:40

Technically there is nothing wrong with that shot. Sometimes it is a matter of the atmospheric conditions, which have the biggest impact on colour. You could go out every evening of the year and come out with only one or two really good shots.
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Wrao
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2009-10-27, 15:51

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
Technically there is nothing wrong with that shot. Sometimes it is a matter of the atmospheric conditions, which have the biggest impact on colour. You could go out every evening of the year and come out with only one or two really good shots.
This is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately and it's kind of exciting actually. It adds a really interesting angle to the art of photography that I think many arts don't quite have. Not even day-to-day atmospheric conditions but even minute to minute, it's amazing just how different your shooting conditions can and will change after just a few minutes of watching a sunset. But yeah, it's really interesting how the art of landscape photography also promotes active participation in meteorology.
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PB PM
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2009-10-27, 16:31

I agree. In many ways, photography makes me more aware of my surroundings. Anything that helps people better understand and enjoy the world around them is a worth while endeavor in my mind.
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GSpotter
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2009-10-27, 16:32

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrao View Post
I'll try again soon and see if I can get something better:
I played a few seconds with you shot in Photoshop. Even the PNG has some more details hidden in the shadows:


Esp. if you shoot in RAW format, you have some headroom for editing the shadows and highlight.

My photos @ flickr
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GSpotter
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2009-10-27, 17:02

Quote:
Originally Posted by BuonRotto View Post
I have an appeal to make: please do not over-do your HDR images. I feel like this technique is positively abused. Its original intention was only to better approximate the human eye's dynamic range, now you see all sorts of gaudy images that would make Thomas Kincaid, King of Kitsch blush. Please use it responsibly.
Absolutely! I've seen too many HDRs where the settings were probably maxed out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BuonRotto View Post
... some good advice snipped ...

5. Stop down your aperture to maximize depth of field.

6. Get as wide as possible with the zoom.
Your points are mostly right and a good starting point, but take them as a guideline, not a dogma.

Some additional advice:
- regarding point 5: You have to take diffraction into account, so the best aperture is in most cases somewhere between f11 and f16.

- regarding point 6: Old landscape photographer's rule: "If you don't know how to take a picture of a boring landscape scene: Take a super wide angle and it will suddenly look interesting..." On the other hand, you can also make nice landscape shots with longer focal lengths. The following picture was shot with a 400mm lens:

My photos @ flickr
The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. -- Benjamin Franklin
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Wrao
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2009-10-27, 19:39

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSpotter View Post
I played a few seconds with you shot in Photoshop. Even the PNG has some more details hidden in the shadows:


Esp. if you shoot in RAW format, you have some headroom for editing the shadows and highlight.
Yeah, I don't have photoshop, so I was only tinkering with the iPhoto settings, which are noticeably inferior.
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PB PM
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2009-10-28, 01:59

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSpotter View Post
Absolutely! I've seen too many HDRs where the settings were probably maxed out.

Your points are mostly right and a good starting point, but take them as a guideline, not a dogma.

Some additional advice:
- regarding point 5: You have to take diffraction into account, so the best aperture is in most cases somewhere between f11 and f16.

- regarding point 6: Old landscape photographer's rule: "If you don't know how to take a picture of a boring landscape scene: Take a super wide angle and it will suddenly look interesting..." On the other hand, you can also make nice landscape shots with longer focal lengths. The following picture was shot with a 400mm lens:
I agree with GSpotter. With landscapes you need a point of focus, even for wide shots. Just shooting wide can work, but it depends on what the area of interest is. If the colour in the sky is the point of interest, don't worry so much about the rest. If the landscape itself is the point of interest, find foreground and background settings of interest.

As noted, diffraction is also an issue you need to keep in mind. Sometimes greater depth of field is worth having, and other times sharpness is more important. Diffraction is dependent on several factors, sensor size, and lens resolution. For crop (1.5x/1.6x) diffraction kicks in around F11-13, while for full frame it is closer to F16. On a 4/3 sensor, diffraction starts to kick in at F8-10. Another factor to landscapes is atmospheric conditions, including heat waves during the day. They are not noticeable with wide angel lenses, but if you are shooting a landscape with a 300mm or greater focal length lens you may start to see haze if you shoot at times between dawn and dusk. Haze becomes more of a factor if you are shooting long distances over water.
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BuonRotto
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2009-10-28, 12:04

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSpotter View Post
Some additional advice:
- regarding point 5: You have to take diffraction into account, so the best aperture is in most cases somewhere between f11 and f16.

- regarding point 6: Old landscape photographer's rule: "If you don't know how to take a picture of a boring landscape scene: Take a super wide angle and it will suddenly look interesting..." On the other hand, you can also make nice landscape shots with longer focal lengths. The following picture was shot with a 400mm lens:
Absolutely. These were more, "use these settings to begin" since creative photography in any sub-discipline means not taking rules so strictly. For point 5, I wasn't thinking minimize your aperture in absolute terms as much as stop down a bit from what P or Auto might tell you to. Hyperfocal distance isn't always what you want either. Learning to control depth of field to contain what you want and what you don't want is a really important skill to learn but for landscape photos (unlike portrait or macro, etc.), you're safer getting more in focus at first than less. The point about getting wide is more to do with having plenty to crop down to if needed. Your goal with wide angle is to capture the breadth of what you see, not to distort things into more interesting/unexpected shapes like I think a lot of folks do, especially with architectural photography. One point I didn't write down but might be most important is to move your feet and try recomposing by using different vantage points than relying on your current position and your zoom to simply "capture" the thing. Zooms are notorious for making a lot of folks lazy about composition. I feel more free and creative playing with a 25mm (50mm equiv.) fixed lens and having to walk around to get a shot than with a zoom. Really, I still encourage anyone wanting to get into photography to get a fixed lens around this focal length if possible. It's pretty much what your eye sees and helps you think about what you're framing and how -- not too wide, not too telephoto either. I still think the best pics I ever took were with a 50mm f1.8 prime lens on an old film Nikon. not nearly the focal length flexibility, not nearly the flexibility of control with film back then but simply the best compositions and exposures.

Another you point out that's important is that you can't expect to take a picture and it always turns out great. Those amazing National Geographic photographers take literally thousands of pictures on a month-long assignment and they publish maybe 6 to 12 of them for the magazine. In photography, you don't want to be lazy and go simply for quantity and hope some turn out well, but you have tremendous freedom to take a ton of photos and your chances of that great shot are that much better so long as you are paying attention to what you're doing, trying to improve and get what you want out of them.
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GSpotter
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2009-10-28, 14:40

Quote:
Originally Posted by BuonRotto View Post
Really, I still encourage anyone wanting to get into photography to get a fixed lens around this focal length if possible. It's pretty much what your eye sees and helps you think about what you're framing and how
Definitely a good advice. I once attended a little fun workshop: It was called the "sneaker zoom workshop": You got a list of ten subjects, about 6 hours of time and you were only allowed to use only a 50mm (equivalent) focal length and an aperture from 5.6 on (in order to level the field, so owners of a fast prime had no advantage over the users of a kit zoom). For these ten subjects, you were only allowed to make ten pictures, so you had exactly one try per subject. You really had to think twice (or more) what would be the best shot.
Afterwards, we met in a bar and watched the results and everybodies interpretation of the subjects. It was really amazing to see the differences, even though everybody had basically the same basic photo equipment. It was definitely a fun experience.

Generally, for training my "subject awareness", I take the camera with one lens with me when I walk my dog. Then I look for 'matching' subjects. When I take the Fisheye, I see totally different things than on the occasions when I take the macro.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BuonRotto View Post
In photography, you don't want to be lazy and go simply for quantity and hope some turn out well, but you have tremendous freedom to take a ton of photos and your chances of that great shot are that much better so long as you are paying attention to what you're doing, trying to improve and get what you want out of them.
"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." – Henri Cartier-Bresson
"Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." – Ansel Adams

My photos @ flickr
The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. -- Benjamin Franklin
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PB PM
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2009-10-29, 00:14

Boy if that is true, I've only got to take 2000 more before I start taking non-sucky photos.
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