Written  by:  Steve Evans

This month's Featured Photographer  is Allen Olson of Holdrege, Nebraska.

Allen and I sat down at 4th Avenue Coffee in Holdrege to visit about his photography and life in general. Allen considers himself an  amateur/hobbyist photographer whose  interest  in photography goes back to the 1980’s. Allen's experience started with a Canon SLR film camera which he used for a few years until the cost of film developing became prohibitive and he got tired of lugging around 40 pounds of camera, lenses and accessories.

Allen then started shooting video with a Canonvision 8mm VCR;  mostly shooting children’s sports, school plays and such.

Sometime during the 1990’s, Allen got back into shooting still frame photography using a Casio LCD QV 200 digital camera. Allen said the Casio left a lot to be desired when comparing quality of photos to the Canon AE1 film camera. Although, it was easier as there was no wait to get the photos developed, no cost for film, no cost to develop film and you could download the photo to a computer to view or print immediately. While he was using the Casio, he doesn’t remember there being any photo editing software at the time, so it was “straight out of the camera”.

Allen told me that he then left photography for a number of years. It was when bridge cameras started hitting the market that his enthusiasm for photography returned. Mainly due to the improved quality that the new cameras brought and the fact that he wouldn’t have to lug around 40 pounds of equipment as with his old Canon AE1. The new cameras had a fixed macro–zoom lens. Allen purchased a Fuji HS10 in 2010 but after a few years he outgrew its capabilities.

Allen says that he interest in HDR photography began to grow, so he shopped around and decided on a crop sensor camera, the Nikon D7100. Allen told me that he never intends to become a professional photographer and doesn’t need the full frame capability. He told me that full frame cameras were out of   the price range that he was willing to spend and the lenses were considerably more expensive than for crop sensor cameras. So now Allen is back to lugging around 40 pounds of equipment, and considering a pack dog to help get his equipment to and from his locations where he shoots his photos.

Allen said  that he has no formal education in photography. Never the less,  after spending a morning visiting with  Allen, I can tell you he is very educated about photography. I asked him about his knowledge and his reply was to read, reread and then read again the manual that comes with your camera. Put what you’ve read into  practice  and  then read the manual again. Then you need to repeat the cycle.  Allen told me  that  he  has  a  book  that  he  recommends for photographers:

Tony Northrop’s DSLR book “Stunning Digital Photography”

Allen also recommends the Darrell Young book “Mastering the D7100”.  Allen  has two photography magazine subscriptions that he received from his daughter and  watches YouTube videos on photography.

Allen enjoys the outdoors and can be found out and about in the Phelps County area before sunrise waiting for the opportunity to capture the perfect sunrise. In fact, Allen tells me that growing up around Alma, Nebraska helped develop his appreciation for the outdoors. His two favorite subjects are landscape and wildlife photography.

Allen has shared many of his photos on Nebraska Through the Lens but he also shares his photos with his wife, Marcia, who now resides in a care home, and is not able to get out and enjoy the flowers in her yard that she planted years ago. Allen says he also shares his photography with his family but really gets the most enjoyment from knowing that one of his photos has brightened someone else’s day after sharing it to our site. Allen also has some of his photography for sale on Fine Art America but he assured me this is just a hobby.

I had many questions for Allen about his photography so as I sat back and enjoyed my iced tea and cinnamon roll,  I listened intently as Allen shared his photography knowledge and experience.

Q: Why did you switch from Canon to Nikon?

A: “I did lots of research before buying and just found the Nikon was right for me” but he assured me
      that camera preference is a personal choice.

Q: How long have you been a member of Nebraska Through the Lens?

A: I believe I joined when there were about 4,000 members.

Q: You shoot a lot of moon photos, how do you do that?

A: I shoot at 1/500th Second, F-6.3 ISO of 100 in manual focus. I don’t use a tripod so  I prop myself against
    something to steady myself.

Q: You shoot some great sunrise photos, what settings do you use?

A: I use a variable neutral density filter (ND filter), F-22, ISO 100 with a 2 – 3 second exposure adjusted  with the  variable ND filter. This allows the color to get burned into the sensor. Use a tripod. Get to your location early.  I  use an electronic  shutter release.

Q: When shooting HDR, what advice do you have?

A: I use 3 exposures. I usually do -2, 0, +2, but adjust to conditions, you may need to go  up or down. Use your histogram.

Q: You shoot lots of bird photos in your yard and at the park, what advice do you have?

A: First of all, if you can’t see the bird’s eye, the photo isn’t worth taking, don’t waste your time. I use
     aperture priority for 90% of all my photos, F-8 to F-10, Auto ISO and shoot in burst mode.

Q: Do you have a single piece of advice for other photographers?

A: I have several, 1 – HAVE FUN – DON’T GET SERIOUS, ENJOY IT, AND TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES.  Study other people’s photos.  Get off the paved roads, find the back way, make time to enjoy your trip, build in time to stop and  take photos. Also, you don’t need all the bells and whistles.

Q: Do you sell any of your photos?

A: Yes, I have a site on Fine Art America but I don’t really make any money, not enough to cover gas money. I actually messaged Casey Mitchell about how he sells his photos and got lots of great advice.

Q: Do you post straight out of camera or do post processing?

A: 90% of my photos have some sort of post processing. If you don’t, you are relying on what
    the camera manufacturer decided your photos are supposed to look like. That being said, composition is very important.

What is in the photographer’s bag?

Nikon D7100, 24.1 mega pixel crop sensor body
AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8 G lens (portrait photography)
AF-S Nikkor 18 – 300mm 1:3.5 – 5.6 G ED lens (this is on the camera 90% of the time)
Tamron SP 150 – 600 1:5.0 – 6.3 lens (Used for timid wildlife and the moon)
Fuji Finepix HS10 (Bridge camera) with a fixed 24 – 720mm lens

Electronic shutter release

Circular polarizer filter
Variable ND filter (2 – 8 stops)

Software for Apple computer OS X
Apple photo (for management, storage and launch)

Affinity Photo
MacPhun Creative Kit 2016
MacPhun Aurora HDR
On1 Photo 10
DxO Optics Pro for Photos

Photo Lab: Nations Photo Lab

Website for purchasing Allen’s artwork: http://www.fineartamerica.com/profiles/allen-olson

Steve Evans is a fulltime EMS provider for the last 20 years and creator of the Nebraska Through the Lens group on Facebook and the  nebraskathroughthelens.com website. To contact Steve about this article or to suggest ideas for future articles, you can email him  at   [email protected] .
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