You Never Know
I went on a little Winter Escape here a month or so ago ...
Down to Florida to visit my brother, place new sunflowers on my sister's grave, photograph in The Everglades, and
Yeah, Cuba. That one place I could never
That said, what do you pack? You know, camera
wise? Wildlife, landscapes, and EVERYTHING in between.
As a travel photographer for the past thirty something
years, I have a pretty good idea on what I want, and how I "see" ...
I have a "style".
What that really means is
that I shoot the same thing over and over in the same style.
That's how it works.
I packed a lot.
From 10mm to 900mm (with the use of the 2X converter).
That covers a lot of territory.
And space in my Honda Element.
Plus my two Pelican
cases for my extra gear, you know, like my GOAL ZERO solar-powered panels and battery ... Good stuff for camping in The Swamp
for two weeks.
And one item that I don't really use that much, but when, and
where, you need it, it is a must.
Or strobe, if you really want to sound like you know what you're talking about ...
I have the old, trusty, Nikon SB-600 in my bag at all times.
of it as Magic.
I needed its magic to capture this image ...
OK, there I was at Fort Jefferson, in Dry Tortugas National Park , getting
my National Park Passport stamped ... My goal is to visit them all ... I have five or six I need to get to ...
Anyway ... In the little bookstore/Ranger Office and there it was ...
A fish tank.
these cool Zebra Fish (or whatever) in there floating around like little angels ... Very graceful.
and White graphic movement ... Right in front of me.
yes, I walked back out into the other room and asked if it was alright to take pictures inside ...
See, I would have loved to have gone snorkeling while I was there, but, you
know ... January in Florida is still January in Florida.
wimped out and grabbed the SB-600.
Underwater photography above the water. I like it.
Slapped on the 40mm macro lens, held the strobe in my left hand up and to the side of the fish tank and ...
Waited for the magic to happen.
Oh, yeah ...
I set the camera to COMMAND MODE,
made sure the flash was set up on the same Channel, and fired away to make sure the camera and strobe were both "speaking
They were: Same Group (A), same Channel (1).
Then ... Shoot, look, adjust, repeat.
Fish, Two Fish ... White Fish, Black Fish.
Couldn't help myself there ...
I had a riot.
Angle the flash up high, down low, 45 degrees, 90 degrees, whatever degrees
... Shoot, shoot, shoot.
Adjust my shutter-speeds ...
Slower to bring up the "background" lights, or faster, to darken the background light ...
As you can see here, I liked the black background better ... The room was full of books, posters, etc ... A bit busy.
Get rid of it!
if you go back and look at my WINTER ESCAPE page, you will see I used a slower shutter-speed to highlight the colorful rocks
on the bottom of the tank.
Fast shutter-speeds kill the ambient light, and gives you that nice, clean, studio looking background.
And, hey, a black and white fish with a black background ...
That is what the fish, itself is, so why fight it? Black and white on black.
Works for me.
Fast shutter speed ... But, slow enough to give me that slight "Notion of Motion"
as it moves its whatever it is you call those "wing" things ...
He came right up to me and gave me this "intimidation look" ... Showing me who was boss. Kind of like puffing up
its chest to show its not afraid of some strange little Nikon thing ...
BAM! Got it.
The shot of the day ... Because
I was ready. I carried my backpack, I had the flash/strobe, and I had the right lens ... My macro, or what Nikon refers to
as Micro, lens.
Small. Light. Powerful.
there you have it.
Walk Quietly and Carry a Macro
Be ready for wildlife images wherever you
happen to be, out in the wilds, or inside a Park bookstore.
yes, once you get the hang of it (I read about the Nikon CLS system on YouTube), it really does make your life easier.
"It does all the math for you". And trust me, as a retired EC Math Teacher,
I'll take, and need, all the help I can get.
and White on black and white.
Just like this BLOG.
Two Birds with One Lens
You all know I test every lens I get with a walk around Hudson, NC, my Home
Why, you ask?
In case I see a Rosette Spoonbill flying overhead when I actually make it out of Hudson, NC.
500mm (ahh, that is equivalent to 750mm back in the old days ...), and following the flight of the bird.
Did I mention hand-held? Yes I did.
Usually, I use a tripod. In fact, I did have the lens mounted on a tripod while photographing an osprey nest ...
But, once I see a pink dot in the sky headed my way, I take the camera off the tripod, turn on the VR (Vibration-Reduction),
and pan like a mad-man ... Following the bird as it flies across the sky.
Ten frames per second ... Fire at will.
I have my focus locked onto
the middle of the frame and just aim and shoot ... Wing flap by wing flap.
lens is large, but well balanced with the battery grip ... I am pleased with the results.
The bird was well off in the distance, but by zooming out while shooting, and zooming in while re-sizing for the
computer, I came up with this image.
Now true, all this technical stuff is
fine, if you are a tech-geek, but what I REALLY like about this image is the ...
do you think?
I mean, it is a pretty simple image, right?
Subject/Background. BAM, you're done.
Can't get much simpler
than that, right?
Well, that is pretty simple, but it is not what I really, really like about this image.
Or more specific, the color combination.
Warm and cool colors.
Baby Blue, or Baby Pink.
They work together ...
Simple concept for a simple image.
the second image ...
I turned around, saw the osprey off in the distance, slapped the camera/lens back onto the tripod, and yes, I remembered
to turn off the VR ... Whew.
Zoomed back out ...
Wait for it.
is what I was there for ...
A "new" nest that I haven't
photographed before ... I counted seven osprey nests within a one-mile radius (or, you know, something like that) of the campground.
BamBamBam, just like that.
I love this tree.
THAT is the image. That MAKES the image.
tree is my canvas, the osprey is my subject, and the branch, well, that is just what makes me do what I do. It is why I return
to The Everglades every chance I get.
Call it what you may, it is why I enjoy
looking through a viewfinder.
One camera. One lens. One
spot. Two birds. One happy photographer.
types of wildlife images.
"Regular" and "Environmental" portraits.
It works for animals, just as it does for humans ... And why not?
A portrait is a portrait ... That simple.
like both of these "simple" portraits ...
Keep it simple,
even if the graphics allow for a wider view. It is something that I am always looking to do while out shooting.
Come on, I mean, I sit out there for hours watching these birds ... I shoot
LOTS of images ... I have a LOT of in-your-face close-ups, and I am always looking for a "different" view ...
those "graphic elements" to give the viewer a different perspective.
One lens, two perspectives, two subjects.
is why I bought the lens in the first place ... Range and flexibility.
Glad I took the time to "practice" with the lens before I actually used it for real.
I knew I could hand-hold it, I put in the time ...
I don't think I've ever used this word in a real, you know, official sentence before ...
I like the word.
Even better, I like the meaning of the word.
There I was, sitting in my little camping chair, near an osprey nest at Eco Pond, down in the Everglades.
One of my favorite places to sit, and one of my favorite things to do.
first photographed birds down there in 1988. Been back several times since.
But, boy has it changed! This last hurricane really hit Flamingo hard. The store is closed, no gas, half of the campground
was flooded out, THE OSPREY TREE is gone ... Nothing there but a circle of dirt.
MY Osprey Tree. Are you kidding me?
That is the bad news ...
The good news is that
osprey are pretty good at building new nests ...
no problem there.
I counted them, well, you know, the
ones I could find, anyways ...
In a one mile radius of
Flamingo Campgrounds, I came across seven osprey nests.
Same osprey (I think), different nests. Different trees. They are something
There I was,
just enjoying my time with the birds ...
And this couple stopped,
and we started talking about, what else? Osprey. Birds.
cameras ... Yeah, of course.
He asked me if I've ever
photographed the Burrowing Owls up in Coral ...?
Owls? In Florida?
Ahhh, no, I didn't even know there
were Burrowing Owls in Florida.
Coral Gables? Cape Coral?
Something Coral ...
Crap. I should pay more
attention, I just heard "owls" and off I went ... My mind tends to wonder ...
I love owls.
I don't have any images of owls
My sister loved owls ...
Something Coral, no worries ...
now own a Smart phone ...
Burrowing Owls, Florida.
BAM, there it is ...
Near Fort Myers.
Which just so happens to be, close to, or, kind of close to, on the way to,
Clewiston, Florida. My "Headquarters in Florida". My Base Camp.
Where my younger sister is buried. The place I always stay when in Florida. They have a nice Wal-Mart ...
Guess where I headed once my two weeks in the Everglades was
Off I went ... With a short stop in Big Cypress National Preserve.
What? It's on the way ...
OK, I drove all the way there and ...
Where are the owls? Is there a right way to do this? A place
to begin? A park? I drove around ...
OK, a CVS, perfect.
Yes, I asked the girl at the register ... Reminded me of asking an 8th grader to explain slope ...
Yeah, I heard there were some owls around here somewhere ...
Oh yeah, you just drive around and look for them ...
She knew about
them ... They are famous.
Ahh, there are more Burrowing Owls in the town than
anywhere else in the United States.
And ... Yes, you just drive around and look for them in
the empty lots.
Are you for real?
I drove around ...
see some little, white, wooden stakes out in empty fields ...
no birds. None that I could see anyways ...
And the light
was getting good ...
But, I didn't see any owls.
Typed in Clewiston on my fancy, dancy, little GPS thingy on my phone, and off
There, in an empty lot, a couple
of white stakes in the ground, and, sitting on top of some man-made little perch thing, an owl.
A cute little Burrowing Owl.
In a field next to a doctor's office. Thirty yards from my Element.
Grabbed my camera with the 70-200mm f2.8 lens, and off I went ...
Shoot. Move closer. Shoot.
Careful ... Don't spook him.
No place to hide.
For either of us.
An empty lot.
Got my shots.
Backed off, went back to the Element.
Oh wait ... My 200-500mm wang-zoomer!!
The owl is still there, starring at me, the sun is getting lower, better, sweeter ...
I grabbed the 200-500mm lens and off
I went ...
Oops! One shot and it hopped down, and then hopped over, to its burrow ...
What's more perfect, than perfect?
No "Human Touch" fake perch in my image.
A Burrowing Owl at its burrow.
I couldn't believe my wish came true.
Yes, I really did wish it would hop down and go over to its burrow, but, you know, that never really works out that often
in real life ...
But, there it was. Just standing there,
staring at me. In nice light, with its big yellow eyes ... Just starring back at me.
Then looking around.
Then back at me ...
Shoot, shoot, shoot ...
Are you kidding me?
What? A ten, maybe twelve
inch, cute, little owl, with huge yellow eyes, just starring back at me ...
Next to its burrow.
Got it. Zoom in, and shoot
... And yes, at ten-frames per second.
Off I went. Well, after thanking the cute little bugger, that is ...
Back to Clewiston. Back to "my" Wal-Mart Parking Lot.
is why I do what I do.
Just sitting there, like, for
hours, watching osprey come and go ...
Talk about serendipity
... The fact that I would meet a man that knew about owls in Florida, while watching osprey, in The Everglades, and then,
showing up at the right "Coral" place, and, actually finding a Burrowing Owl sitting out in an empty field, marked off with
white stakes, just sitting on a post ...
One, CUTE, image, that is ...
Glad I actually talk to people every once in awhile.
You know, if I have to.
I like rocks.
Have for a LONG time. I have no
idea how I got into this ...
I have them in my apartment.
I had them in my classroom.
I like 'em.
I collect them.
I photograph them.
I like their design, their shapes, their colors.
While on a three
week expedition in one of the wildest places on earth, these are the shots I tend to overlook.
I mean, come on ... South Georgia. Thousands of penguins, thousands of seals ...
Antarctica? The Falkland Islands?
Ice. Birds. Penguins. Seals.
This image is just the opposite. I must
have walked over thousands of these images every time we landed; usually twice a day, except when crossing The Drake
Animals. Wildlife. Birds. Icebergs. Mountains.
That is The Southern Ocean. That is what I
went there for.
I mean, really, I have rocks in Hudson, NC.
said, this is one of my favorite images from the trip ... My "quiet" image.
And yes, I stole that phrase, that concept ... I will give NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC photographer, Sam Abel, credit
for that one. He is the master of it.
I just do
my best to tag-along in his wake ...
I steal from them all ... I steal
their vision. Their style.
That is what we (I) do.
I have watched their DVDs, read their books, watched their TV shows, surfed
the internet, you name it ...
Actually walked into their
Galleries (well, most of them anyways) ...
I go to museums
Like, all over the world. London. Paris. Berlin.
Athens. Moscow. Cairo. Copenhagen. Hickory. Lenoir.
look at art.
Granite Falls Middle School art classes.
at art is the key to growing as an artist.
a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TV show as I'm typing this ... Polar Bears up in Franz Joseph Land.
Set your camera up. Leave it. Hop in a raft, and trigger the camera from a safe distance as the bear comes up and
tries to eat it ...
not so simple.
Try something new.
Capture the obvious,
then begin to really look ...
See the graphic design in whatever it is that is
around you ...
The big things are easy.
It is the little things that are hard to find, hard to see ... Hard to photograph.
Again, the key is to S-L-O-W-D-O-W-N ...
Yeah, I know ... Time.
On some of these trips
I take, it is, an hour here, two hours there ... Move, move, move ...
A new place every day ...
Even on a trip like that, I try to shoot like a mad-man, check everything out,
Take a closer look.
If I have an hour ... I go, go, go for forty-five minutes ... Then, slow down.
I know what is around me, what is what, and go from there.
off on my own ...
This is how this image came about.
We landed, we had an hour, or whatever, I can't remember ... They gave us some
time frame, I used every minute of it ...
Go, go, go.
Shoot, shoot, shoot.
Then head back, get close to where
I needed to be, then S-L-O-W-D-O-W-N ...
And then look
The image I had in my head, was actually
at my feet.
Funny how that works out sometimes ...
Now, remember, there are MILLIONS of stones on the beach ... Millions.
Where to begin?
Design elements: Lines, shapes, colors, patterns, repetition, and texture, to name a few ...
What caught my eye in this image?
Take a wild guess ...
Yeah, scroll back up and
look at it. Or, better yet, can you remember?
The lines. The contrast. The shapes.
But yeah ... The Lines.
I had it. That simple.
Then, I just framed it up, tried to keep the lens parallel to the rocks (for
better focus AND better depth-of-field coverage), and fired away.
And yes, I checked my exposure ... Lot of dark rocks, want to make sure my Blacks were black, and my Grays were gray,
and my Whites were, well, you know, white.
And with time not on my side, what do you think
Yeah ... Shoot, adjust, shoot, adjust. Bam. Bam.
Remember ... Shoot first, "chimp" later ... The zodiacs are waiting!
"Be quick, but don't hurry".
Yeah, I actually
thing of these things while I'm shooting ... They pop into my head.
I kid you not.
You know, after watching those
darn Art Wolfe DVDs all those years, I would be walking along, and BAM, there it was ...
An image in my head. A scene I had seen before ... Deja-Vu all over again ...
Now, true, it was NOT the same place, the SAME subject, the SAME anything, but it was, sort of, kinda ...
I stopped, slowed down, and tried to put the
puzzle together in my head, and then in my viewfinder ...
is how I "see" images.
They start in my head.
They end up in my viewfinder.
BAM. Got it.
Then I try a different angle, a
different perspective. An inch here, an inch there ... A DIFFERENT image.
A different image of the same thing.
That is what we do.
The same subject, different views.
Look for it. Hunt for it. Take your time with it. And then move, and start all
But don't miss your ride out of there!
Shoot, shoot, shoot.
Make the most of what you have.
And giggle all
the way back to where ever it is you came from.
This animal is a seal.
It is a large animal.
It has a LOOOONG nose.
Someone, way smarter than I am,
named it The Elephant Seal.
It doesn't actually look like an elephant, but I can see where this person came
up with the name ...
I saw several of them on my trip
to The Southern Ocean. South Georgia and Antarctica ... Can't remember if I saw one on The Falkland Islands, or not.
Nope, can't remember. I don't think I did. I remember
the sand ... Penguins nesting in the sand, the wind, standing among the albatross, holding my camera to within a foot
or so of one albatross sitting on its nest ...
But no Elephant Seals
I believe I photographed this one on South Georgia.
And yes, this image is cropped. I did not get this close. You don't want
to get this close.
To me, this image shows you all you need to know about an Elephant Seal.
The "trunk", or nose ...
It LOOKS like an elephant's
The way it is curled up ... That was what
I was missing on my first thirty, fifty, whatever the number, of images of an Elephant Seal.
It is a BIG nose, yes, but it never actually looked like a "trunk", until he lifted his head and curled that trunk
up like this ...
I think it is a male anyways ...
And the teeth ...
Never really saw them before either. I just knew we were told not to mess with them. Period.
Did I mention that they are quite large?
Although, this one, was actually one of the smaller ones ... A young one, trying to show off, telling
me to keep my distance.
They don't like photographers. Or maybe it is just people in general, I don't
As you can tell, I'm no expert.
True, I did sit in on a lecture given by one of the ship's Naturalists that
studies them all over the world, but, that was after I took this image ...
But what I do know about them, is all right there in this one image.
And they fight a lot ...
Yes, you can see proof of this in the image ... Those cute little "dots" all over its neck are not spots, or freckles
No, they fight. Their teeth are sharp. They bite
each other. Those marks are scars ...
They "stand up" (the adults can get their heads up to about eight feet), smash into each other, and bite away
at their adversary's neck ...
Sumo style ... Well, except
for the whole biting thing ...
And yes, they start their
training at a very young age, always trying to 'one up" their siblings, friends, neighbors, etc ...
Strange animals. Strange looking animals ... And their nose does look like an
elephant's trunk, if you can get them to lift their heads off the ground and yell at you ...
They are pretty cool, in a special (different) kind of way.
In fact, I hope to drive out to California this winter, and see the North American version of them wintering along
the Pacific Coast.
That is, if it ever stops burning
out there ... I'll have to wait and see.
But I am now
a "big fan" of the Elephant Seal, which, to tell you the truth, even to me, is a bit weird.
I mean ... Of all the animals I photographed on the trip ... The Elephant Seal?
I guess so.
March of the Penguins
I learned to march at Parris Island in March of 1976.
It is hard to explain how it felt when a "herd" of "slimy civilians" learned how to move as a unit ... One platoon,
one mind, one command, one move, together, as one ...
can hear it now ... Forty something years later: "FOR-WARD (pause), HUGUH!!" ... And no, I can't really spell it the way it
sounded ... It was NOT "March"!
It's a Marine thing
... I love it.
We knew what it meant ... And no, we didn't
ask the Drill Instructor to translate it for us ... We moved as one (after a while) ... Perfect.
You had to be there ...
On the first day of training, Marines always line up by height ... Tallest to shortest. I started out towards
the back end. By the second week, I was moved to the front.
became a Squad Leader. For good, or bad, I was given just enough power to get myself in trouble (I managed to make it all
the way to the end -- Three months ... Whew!).
should see the pictures ... There I am, up front, with three other guys, six-foot something, on each side ... And behind me
... Surrounded by giants ... Marching away (I'm 5'7.5 at best - In my boots!).
It was a trip!
One day, a month later,
when we were out at the rifle range, and I had just turned 21, I was ordered to march the platoon (PLT 225) from the range,
back to the barracks ...
"Sir, yes sir".
Are you kidding me? I was stoked ...
Oh yeah ... We felt like we were pretty good, at that point in our training, and I had a blast ... I will never forget
We marched in four columns ... But we had
just learned this new move ... To go from four columns to two ... It was pretty cool ...
"Column of Dittles, From the Middle" ...
swear, I didn't come up with the name, but it was cool ...
command, the two outer columns of recruits (1 and 4) would peel off and circle back behind the two middle
columns (2 and 3) and continue on like nothing happened.
We had just learned it, and it was something we didn't practice every day ...
But there I was ... Marching the platoon back to the barracks ...
And I came up with this wild command, just as we were headed towards the stairs ...
"Column of Dittles, From the Middle, AARCH! And in we marched ...
Unreal. They curled around and marched right up the stairs ... In perfect step!
Never missed a beat!
I believe the Drill Instructors
were even in awe. I knew I was! It was something.
"Oohh-Rahhh". "Get Some".
Anywho ... Forty-one years later ...
Here I was, on South Georgia, getting ready to get back in the zodiac, and head back to the ship ... And right along
the beach, here they came ...
The March of the Penguins
"LLLEEFT ... LLEFFTT ... LEFFTT RIGHT ... LEFFTT"
... Or whatever penguins say ...
I swear I could hear
'em shouting as they approached us ... They were good.
right up to us ... "EYEES RIGHT" ... They looked at us, paused just a bit, and on they went ...
I felt I was on back on Parris Island, instead of South Georgia Island ...
As I took this photo, I swear, that was what I was thinking about ... In fact, I believe I even counted cadence
as they walke-- I mean, MARCHED, right through my lens ...
how that happens ... You see something in your lens, and it takes you back to somewhere, or something, else ...
That is why I do what I do, and go where I go ...
One thing I wanted to bring up here is the fact that I took this image with one of my favorite cameras - EVER.
You know which one ...
The weather-proof, water-proof, do everything camera ... The one I ALWAYS carry with me.
Yeah ... Antarctica, South Georgia, The Falklands.
See, you don't just get up, open the door, and walk out to these places ...
No. No. No.
have to get into a moving zodiac while carrying your camera gear ...
Did you pick-up on the whole "moving" thing?
Up and down ... Like, three, four, feet at times ... Water. Ocean.
Waves. Saltwater. COLD
saltwater ... Up and down, up and down ...
are trying to step into a moving rubber raft thingy ... Up and down. UP and DOWN. Big time.
I don't think you can come up with a worst-case scenario than that, when dealing with camera gear ...
I packed in all into my Lowe-Pro, with the All-Weather cover wrapped around
it, and handed that to the "helpers" that are there to help us ...
Yeah, we needed help, trust me.
found out that it is not always a given ... She slipped. Yes, they "caught" her, but , meanwhile, the raft was rammin'
up against her, as the waves came and went ...
I put my cameras away.
said ... YES! The Nikon AW100 was always within reach ...
this image, I had just packed up my camera gear ...
here they come. Crap.
Set the backpack down ... Brought
out The Secret Weapon.
Got my image ... Like ... Lefft,
Rightt, Lefttt ... That fast.
Bam. Bam. Bam.
OK, not "perfect" ... This camera is not a DSLR; what you see is not what you
get ... There is a little "wiggle room" in there, and you sometimes have little odds-n-ins in the final image that you don't
There was a
person way off on the left ... He had just placed his Go-Pro camera on the beach, to record the same little "Marching Penguins" parade that I saw coming ...
have been a Marine as well.
But, even if he was ... CROP!
Just "cleaned it up" a bit ...
Yes, if you look closely, you can still see the Go-Pro. I left it in ...
Ahh, you know ... "Reality". Photo reality. Real life.
Plus ... I just might look into a Go-Pro for myself. No. Stop. Stop it ...
anyways ... I got my image in about two minutes. I grabbed my bag, and was ready to go ... You don't want to hold up the production
of getting into the zodiacs ... It is not as bad as it is on the ship ... You actually just walk up, rinse off the boots
in the water, and "feet towards the ocean", you swivel on your butt, and get in, and slide down (NO WALKING!) ...
Little camera around my neck!
where was I?
Oh yeah, Parris Island.
Forty-one years later ... From one island to another ...
"Column of Dittles, From the Middle" ...
The Power of Photography.
The power of memories
1,000 and Counting ...
Took a few years, but I finally reached over 1,000 "Likes" on National Geographic's YOUR SHOT, with this image of
two Northern Gannets taken in Quebec, Canada, way back in the Summer of 2014.
It is my one and only (out of 2,970) image to make it to THE DAILY DOZEN.
Every day, Monday through Friday, a National Geographic photo editor goes through the thousands of images and picks
a dozen to post on one page.
If you do not post any of
your images on National Geographic's YOUR SHOT, you should.
is free, and you can upload 15 every week, Sunday to Sunday. Besides being free, it is easy -- Even I manage to do it every
People from around the world take part in it, and
it is great to see other people's vision.
There is some
great work being shown that is worth looking at. That said, no matter what your skill level is, you will get something out
That is the main reason I taught photography all
those years ... Being around other photographers, seeing their work, their take on life, made me a better photographer.
I called it SHARED VISION.
Check out YOUR SHOT ... Add some images, you never know what you will come across among the MILLIONS of
images on the site.
While I'm at it, I will also mention
FLICKR, another site on which I download images. Once I finish downloading my 15 for the week on YOUR SHOT, I turn around
and download them to FLICKR.
I like it. It makes me feel
good that I'm not the only bad speller in the world ...
easy, and almost, that quick.
You shoot 'em, you might
as well show 'em ...
And yes, I'm sure you can tell me
ten other sites that you can download your images to ... I'm sure there are hundreds.
And that is a good thing.
I like YOUR SHOT,
and I hope to see your shots on there soon. My last few years at the college, I made it part of curriculum ... 15 images
by the end of the 16 week class ...
I know, I know ...
But hey, I did see some nice images added
to the site, and it showed the college that I actually did give them some work to accomplish during the semester ...
You know, like a real college class.
I was having so much fun, sometimes I forgot about the whole "college thing".
Go to the site and download some images today!
shot, on YOUR SHOT.
When is the Best Time to Shoot a Vertical Image?
As you know, I never really come up with any real good photographic tid-bits
on my own ...
No, I steal 'em.
All that I am about to write, I have stolen. Plain and simple (yeah, even the
whole "plain and simple" thing).
I can't help myself.
In this case, I actually do know who I stole it from, and want to give him a
Bryan Peterson (Oh crap. I don't think
that is how he spells Bryan, I'll have to check. And while I'm at it, I'll check the whole Peterson thing too).
He is the "You Keep Shooting" guy from Adorama TV, that writes books,
leads workshops, and posts You-Tube videos from around the world with great tips for becoming a better photographer. Period.
A great teacher.
I came across him years ago, and have been checking up on his videos ever since.
Known for his great knowledge, his
many photo books, his sense of humor, and his wild hair ... Not necessarily in that order.
Check him out ... "Google Him".
He is the one
that taught me this great line, about when is the best time to take a vertical image?
Think about it.
How many horizontal images do you have, compared to vertical ones?
See, I know ...
I have shot for years ...
And more importantly,
I taught college photography for years ...
I have seen
all my images (of course), and I see a lot of my students' images ... From slides and prints, all the way to digital images,
both projected on the screen, and made into prints (plus, on computer and phone screens).
Lots of images.
And MOST OF THEM are what? Go
ahead, take a guess ...
human, it makes sense.
When we look out over a landscape,
we see the "horizon" ...
Left to right. Or, for
some, right to left.
That is how most of us hold
the camera, again, MOST OF THE TIME.
So, yes, we shoot
most of our images in the horizontal format.
That's what we do.
So, to answer the question about vertical,
again, take a guess ...
When is the best time to take
a vertical picture?
Wait for it ...
after the horizontal one".
And yes ... I follow my own advise, which I
stole, and actually think of that line, and say it, when I am out there shooting ...
Not out loud (most of the time), but,
you know, in my head ...
I think it.
"When is the best time to take a vertical shot"?
"Right after the horizontal shot".
I mean, how
cool is that? How easy is that?
So, there I was ... Out
behind City Hall in Hudson, talking to myself as usual ...
to be honest, I "see" this shot as a horizontal image ... I shot it that way. The way I "saw it in my head". The "right way".
The "correct way".
The set of trees, the windmill ...
Shoot, shoot, shoot (you know I never just take just one ...).
Then, after asking myself the question, about when is it the best time to take a vertical image? I flipped my
camera and took a few vertical images ... You know, just for fun.
Because I could.
Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.
Now, yes, I did this a LONG time before I ever even heard of Bryan Peterson
... Let's be honest here.
I worked for newspapers and
magazines back in the day ...
To an editor, it was like,
the "best image" is the image that best fits the space on the page ... Be it a newspaper, or a magazine.
I was reminded to give the editor several choices so that they could work the
image in any where they could.
And of course, the best
reason was, yes, you guessed it ...
If you wanted any chance at all to make the cover of OUR STATE magazine, for
example, you better slip a few vertical images in there somewhere ...
The cover needed to be a vertical image.
truck" image on the inside (double page), needed to be horizontal ... It was that simple.
Shoot both, let the editor pick and choose.
paid well, but the cover paid more.
Not that I would
ever fall into that greedy way of thinking ... No way!
I learned fast, that the best time to take a vertical, is right after the horizontal ... More options for the editor.
And to some ... More chances to make more money.
Whatever works on the page.
The Art of the
Shoot it both ways, let the editor decide.
even though I don't shoot for OUR STATE magazine any more, I still ask myself "THE QUESTION" every time I'm out there shooting
"When is the best time to shoot a vertical"?
And now, you too, can talk to yourself every time you are out shooting ...
And thank me later.
You know, after I thank Bryan Peterson, and all the newspaper and magazine editors I stole it from in the first place.
That is photography. That is how to become a better photographer.
Steal advise and shoot like crazy.
Just don't forget to flip that camera up every once in a while. You know, just to give you more options later on
... For whatever reasons.
And if you ever get caught
talking out loud with a camera in your hand ... Don't blame me, I stole it from Bryan Peterson.
When it snows in Hudson, North Carolina before Christmas, you know you are in for a treat.
when it started snowing on a Friday afternoon, I knew I had to get out there fast, before it all disappeared ... Which it
does very quickly.
So, Saturday morning I was out there
I have photographed there a lot over the past twenty something years ... Every semester with my college class, and
... Just about every time I obtained a new piece of photographic equipment ...
Which, if you know me, happens way too often.
So yes, I have made images in Windmill Park many,
many, times ...
After all, it is in the neighborhood
Dressed in white ... Now, I must say, I can't remember
seeing it like this ... White on white on white.
the new 200-500mm f5.6 VR lens, I couldn't wait.
did I mention it snowed?
I walked around out back of
the City Hall and knew I had something ... I mean, it doesn't look like this very often. In fact, I can't remember seeing
it like this before.
Especially in December.
Yeah. December 8th I think ... EARLY. I mean, I always joke and say winter
doesn't come to Hudson until mid-February ... Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.
As a former school teacher, it always seemed to come right around our three-day weekend in order to give us a few
But this year ... Early.
I got my image. White
And yes, all I had to think about was ...
Gray on Gray is not the same as White
Plus One (+1).
Easy. Plus one, and start from there.
you can't get more white than this ... Well, no ... There is a bit of brown ...
So, what? +0.7? +0.3? 0.0?
Don't worry about
it ... Shoot 'em all, ask questions later! Shoot, shoot, shoot ... It's easy.
Compensation and ... Composition.
not all rocket-science ... There is that whole aspect of ART we can't forget about.
Two-thirds trees, one-third windmill.
white, one-third sort-of-white.
Where do you place that
windmill to make a pleasing composition?
like crazy, mix it up, and answer silly questions later ...
It doesn't happen often ... Shoot, shoot, shoot ... You never know when your next chance will be.
Well, not until the next "snow storm" in Hudson, NC. Three or four inches overnight
And gone the next day.
Can't wait until the next time ...
Little Points of Color
I'm not an expert on art history, but I did live near Chicago, went to an "Art School", and walked through The Art
Institute many, many, times (It was free on Tuesdays).
I even taught "ART 261" at the college for over twenty years ...
I'm an artist. My art is photography ...
I take pictures.
And I had fun today walking around Hudson,
North Carolina in the snow ... More snow than I actually saw falling at any one time in Antarctica.
you know, at times like this, I sometimes, get into this whole, frame filling, abstract, edge to edge, snow and color
I knew I had seen this "look" before (Lord
knows I have never came up with anything artsy on my own), but I was really clueless as to who I stole it from ...
Then I figured it out ...
A couple of years ago, I bought another (one of many) Art Wolfe book: The Art of the Photograph, and ...
I ran upstairs and found the book.
Points of Color" ...
That's what I saw when I was walking
down the street in the snow.
A tree covered in snow ...
With most of the leaves gone.
A few just hanging on for dear life ... That's when I knew I was on to something:
"Little points of color"
I knew I had an image in there somewhere ... Once I knew that, I started looking closer, trying to isolate my "canvas"
and fill it in with, yeah, you guessed it:
And thanks to Art Wolfe, I now know who to give the credit to ...
And, it was just driving me nuts.
it really boiled down to ... I had to find out who I was thinking of.
My new, all-time favorite, abstract image of ...
Little Points of
As simple as that ...
You know you have an early winter in the Foothills of North Carolina, if
snow interrupts The Fall Colors.
These Bradford Pear trees are just outside my front door ... I have lived here
since 2004. This is the ONLY time I could have ever captured this image (Yeah, the bottom one) ... 8 Dec 2017.
many Bradford Pear trees have lost their leaves, or most of them anyways ... There is one up the hill that is just about empty.
I believe (and I'm really going out on a limb here ... Tee-hee) that the trees
in my front yard still have 93.748% of their leaves because I live at the bottom of a small hill ...
Works for me.
But, just as the Fall Colors are in
full swing ... BAM!
All that color covered in white
I knew I had an image before I even parked the Element ... I saw the image in my head.
And yes, I just happen to have a camera,
mounted on a tripod, ten feet from my door as I walk in ...
And another one on top of my desk where I'm
sitting right now ... Like three feet from the first one.
like to take pictures ... Be prepared. Be ready ...
when it snows, for example.
You never know ...
True, I had heard it was going to get cold this weekend ... But snow? The first
week in December? No way. Not a chance, well, no, maybe up on the mountain ... Maybe.
Yeah, but even that is still early.
And it is
still snowing ...
And it is supposed to snow tomorrow
I just got done telling my sister that ...
My sister! And my brother-in-law!
For the first time ever, they moved down to North Carolina, from Up-State New
York (Richland), for the winter ... "Snow Birds".
Snow-Belt. Like I told my middle school students for years ... They get REAL SNOW.
It is because of them ... I know it!
I love this new image ...
Lake-Effect Snow (Lake Ontario) in Hudson, NC.
Works for me ... Let it snow.
Makes for some
great images, and it will be gone before I can get enough images ...
That's why I live where I live. See, as a kid, I shoveled snow ... Every year. Every year, for five months out of
the year ... And no, no snow-blower for me ... We're talking Old School, dinky little, snow shovel. For like what?
Ten years ... 1966 (6th grade) to 1976 (Joined the Marines). Ten years of shoveling snow ... Sometimes three or four feet
per shot ... Big time New York Lake Effect snow ...
I haven't shoveled it since. Oh, wait, yes I have ... GFMS in 1994 ... No, that was more like chopping up the layer of
ice on the sidewalks and stairs ... You can still see the marks I made in the cement. Really, I kid you not ...
Where was I?
yeah ... My newest Bradford Pear Tree image ...
Colors with a touch of snow ...
And more coming tomorrow ...
And no, I haven't owned a snow
shovel since ... Yeah, 1976.
Snow day tomorrow. And yes,
I know it will be a Saturday ...
But I just enjoy saying
"Snow Day" ... Brings back those fond memories of teaching ... Being a teacher ... I love it.
Snow Day Update
24-Hours later ... The Snow is gone.
The trees are, once again, bare ... That is why I live where I live. Period.
The first snow of the year ... Not counting Antarctica.
And for Hudson, North Carolina ... Wow! Are you kidding me?
8 Dec 17
No way ...
Snow in December? Crazy. Very weird if you ask me ...
But, yeah ... And of course I had no idea it was coming. I mean, I was even at the middle school today, and the kids
were acting ... Well, you know, normal.
For middle school
On a Friday.
I was clueless (nothing new there).
watch the news.
I don't listen to the radio.
I don't check the weather on my computer.
I don't have a "smart phone" ...
But I did have
my cell phone with me (I don't wear a watch, so I never know what time it is when I'm helping the students).
And, so there I was, reading about some wizard, and the phone rings ...
I jumped ... What? Oh, that's my phone.
My phone ringing?
Now that is weird.
My sister called and was the one that told me about the snow in the mountains
... What? Already?
Yes way. We cancelled our family dinner planned for the night ...
It wasn't snowing ...
Then, later on, I got
home, looked out the window ...
Grabbed my camera.
Then grabbed the other one ...
First, the one with the 200-500mm lens (fun), then other with the 18-200mm lens.
This image was taken five feet from my door, with the 18-200mm lens set at 200mm. f5.6. 1/320th of a second.
ISO 200. +0.7 compensation (helps keep the whites white).
dogwood tree wrapped in white ...
Gray lines. Black spaces. And more lines, lines, lines ...
art of twisted, white, gray, and black lines, edge to edge ...
The Abstract Art of Snow Lines.
winter line drawing held within a rectangular frame.
is the trouble with photography ...
Even if I wanted
to, and I do, I can not draw outside the lines ... Outside of that rectangle. Darn.
But, I do what I can ...
And it is all right
outside my door, which just so happens to be a rectangle, which is also the shape of a box, so ...
I did all this by drawing with light, outside my box, but within my lines ...
like that ...
The 8th of December.
In North Carolina.
Let it snow, let it snow,
let it snow ... We'll figure it all out later.
still snowing ...
More lines, more shapes, more cold,
more snow, more ...
Ice cold images.
Kids and Pets ...
There is a saying in photography, and I used to say it to my students in class, that if you want to start a studio
business, start with photographing kids and pets ...
and pets, you can't go wrong". I mean, really, what parent doesn't want images of their kids ... And their pets?
Yeah, I know, a sure bet.
Well, I don't have a studio to worry about (and I don't want one), but I did think of this when I was on South
Georgia, and this group of penguin chicks were all lined up in front of me just looking ...
Ahh, looking cute!
That was what I thought of
... My own advise.
"Kids and pets, you can't go wrong".
I started shooting ... Ahh, I mean, taking pictures.
Little brown fur balls that look nothing like what they are going to look like
when they grow up. Kind of like me in the second, or third, grade. Or for that matter, sixth or seventh grade ... Or,
ninth, ten ... Well, you know, you get the picture (Well, no, I got rid of all of them - I hope).
I taught middle school for over twenty years, and then had a few of them take my college photography class ...
Yeah, some, I had no clue who they were ...
But anyways ...
Once I got down at their level - which is a good thing to do - And got that
first, "regular" shot, I started really looking around ...
I could SEE them, ah, they were right in front of me, maybe four, five feet ... But that is only the first step ...
I started looking for shapes, details, something graphic, that would catch my
attention, so that I could "hone in" on it, whatever that "it" may be ...
I don't know what it is, until I see it ...
I know they are penguin chicks, and yes, I know they are photographic, all on their own, and once I get "that shot" (the obvious),
that is when I really start looking ... Visual Diggin'.
so much what "the subject" is, but what is taking form in my viewfinder ... What shapes, lines, patterns, contrast ... Anything
that enhances the main subject of the image.
I saw the shapes ...
The triangles, when the two chicks lined up, sort of back to back ... One looking right, the other facing left ...
That's it ... Triangles. I fired away ...
Shapes. Texture. Light. That was what I photographed ... What I saw in my viewfinder.
Look at the upper right corner ... Remember, it is not always the shape of just the "subject" ... But
what shapes are formed within the rectangle of the viewfinder?
Your "canvas" on which you "paint with light"?
the subject (penguin) can have shapes as well, such as the triangle formed by its beak, and that is nice, but look at your
over-all "canvas" you have to work with ... The rectangular viewfinder.
Look for shapes there as well. They are, after all, part of "The Image" ... The whole photograph. How do they work
with the subject, or subjects?
The "Inter-Play" of space
within the viewfinder ... That is the key. How do they "play off one another"? That is the question you, the artist,
should be asking yourself before pushing that button ...
Art of the (Penguin) Chicks.
Seeing these shapes,
textures, lines, forms, light, whatever, and how well they work together, is the key ...
Then, capturing "your vision" is the next thing, the technical stuff:
The focal length of the lens.
The distance to the subject.
The shapes within the viewfinder
while you are in there, "diggin' around visually" ...
is what I do, or in this case, did ...
Find my subject
("Kids and pets, you can't go wrong"), find my light (what kind of light? How will it effect my subject?), find my angle of
view (What lens? Where do you put that lens?), and find my shapes ... My textures ... My lines, my art ...
That is what I'm really photographing ... Not "just" the cute little fuzz balls
that are in the viewfinder ... To become a better photographer, and artist (same thing), you have to take it one
step farther ...
How are they placed in that viewfinder?
Work on the composition of "your masterpiece" ...
Look for the design elements within the frame.
I knew I "couldn't go wrong", just because ... Duh? I was there, with my subjects, and my camera in my hands
... And the "right lens", the "right aperture", the "right ISO", the right light (backlighting), at the "right distance",
and at the "right height", to get the "right image".
The camera: Nikon D7000.
The lens: Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR, set at 200mm.
The aperture: f2.8.
ISO: 400 (Yeah, I know ...
But remember, I was hand-holding this, movin' around ...).
distance: Close, real close (they walk up to you).
height: As short, or as tall, as the subject ... In this case, short. Get down there!
The light: PERFECT. Backlighting, to bring out that "rim lighting", or "halo effect", on the fuzzy brown fur.
And speaking of the light ... Notice how important that
"rim light" is in giving the two baby chicks "separation" between them. Very important to the overall image.
"Penguin chicks and triangles, can't go wrong".
Every Picture Tells a Story ...
Gentoo penguin with a stone in its mouth.
why only half of him? Or her?
Kind of a neat picture; snow, bird, stone. Period.
A color image of a black and white (and orange) bird in white snow, with a black stone in its beak ...
I mean, come on, just the fact that it's a penguin is kind of cool ...
Half buried in snow? Again, kind of cool ...
And no, I'm not trying to come up with this cool pun thing ... Although, that too, would be kind of cool ...
This image tells a story ... One I learned about watching Art Wolfe
DVDs in my college photography class at the college (See? Even the instructor learns something at college).
Over and over again ...
Penguins live in Antarctica, among other places, in The Southern Hemisphere. Yes, they are found in at the southern
tip of South Africa and South America, even on the South Island of New Zealand, and, believe it or not, as far north
as The Galapagos Islands, which, being on the equator, still pretty much places them in the Southern Hemisphere ...
But, if you want to get picky, I'll give you the Northern Hemisphere as well
But you know what I mean ... They DO NOT live at
the North Pole, Alaska, Canada, Finland, Siberia, etc ... Anywhere north of The Galapagos Islands.
It's a Southern thang ...
But, they do like snow (a Northern thing).
if you check out my images, you will see they manage somehow in blowing sand on The Falkland Islands.
Blowing sand? Say what?
Now that is just crazy ...
But I digress ...
This image ... Walking in snow up to its waist ... With a stone in its mouth.
The Rest of the Story:
See, they walk in paths
cut into the snow. Same path every day. Up to the chicks, back to the water, up to the chicks, back down to the water ...
Over and over again ...
They cut a path. That is why you only see half a penguin.
And now, what about that stone
in it's mouth?
This penguin is a stone thief. Plain and
simple. Guilty. No question.
In fact, every penguin on
Antarctica is pretty much a stone thief ... They steal stones from other stone thieves ... To build their nests.
Over and over again.
There are no trees.
There are no branches.
There is no grass.
There are stones.
Penguin build their nests
out of stones. Period.
And, as you can probably tell
from this image, most of those stones, rocks, or pebbles, are under a foot of snow - Or more.
What stones are not covered in snow, are free game ... First come, first serve.
Until it is stolen by the next penguin that walks by ...
It is a game they play ... And not quietly, I must add. No, it can get quite loud actually ... Like crazy loud.
Every penguin stealing from other penguins ... Like, right next door. Next nest,
whatever ... One foot away.
Maybe eighteen inches, something
Every day, every hour ... Back and forth ...
Back and forth.
I learned about it in college watching
TRAVELS TO THE EDGE. I saw it first-hand six years ago on my first trip to Antarctica. And, this time around, when I saw this
cute little bird waddling past, half buried in the snow, I knew ...
Stone Thief ... Stone thief ...
And, due to
the fact that this time around, I was there in the Spring, before the official nest building season even started ... Every
other Gentoo was just hanging around a big brown circle of poop, looking for a mate, I thought this one must be pretty
It must of picked its mate already, and have a jump on the others,
or it was busy stealing stones at the get-go to impress the opposite sex.
way, this bird had it going on ...
Or, it just likes to steal stones ...
I just kind of smiled when I saw it walking past ...
Thought it would make for a cool image. And yes, this time, the pun was intended ...
Now, here is a question for you ...
If you were
in this cool place (sorry), and this scene was in your viewfinder, what would be your first thought on getting the right exposure?
You know, after thinking about how cool it was being
there, seeing this unfold in front of you ...
thought about exposure ... And, by the way, that SHOULD be your first thought when you see all that snow (hint, hint) ...
Yes, this is a test.
No, you can not "Google It" ...
OK, I know,
but not for the first three (two) minutes anyways ...
Think of my THREE BUTTONS ...
You'll get it, if you haven't already.
Enjoy ... I know I enjoyed taking it.
I passed the test! I didn't need no stinkin' Photoshop!
You Never Know
You never know where your next image will pop up.
had just spend four hours walking around the North Carolina Zoo looking for close-ups of animals with a new lens.
I had several hundred (plus, I deleted over two hundred more) images of the
few animals that were out and about.
It was a good day
at the zoo.
But, that said, one of my favorite animals
to photograph did not make its way in front of my lens ...
True, I did see a few of them ... Far, far away ... Even for my 750mm (equivalent) lens I had with me that day.
So, I didn't photograph them.
Not even one image.
Then, as I was walking out
the zoo towards the parking lot, there it was.
Well, a big BLUE sticker type thing in the window of the store ... A ZEBRA sticker
See, when I said I liked to photograph zebras, I was sort of, kind of, skirting around the truth ...
Well, no, I do like to photograph zebras, but it is really their stripes that
I enjoy photographing ...
The lines. The shapes. The
They are a graphic element, alive and well,
in the wild, or at the zoo.
Or not alive and well, but still at the zoo. Or
just as you enter or leave the zoo, in this case, I missed this shot on the way in.
Yeah, but it is not really a zebra, so I can't really say I missed it ...
But I did. I mean, yes, I missed the shot on the way in.
And I missed photographing them once I was in the zoo, you know, the real zebras ...
In fact, that is why I took the image of the poster/sticker thing on the way out of the zoo ...
I wanted the graphic shot of a zebra! I missed the real thing, so I took this
one just to satisfy my need for a graphic zebra shot that I had in my head the whole way over to the zoo, in the zoo, and
on my way out of the zoo ...
Those darn images in my
In one regard, they are a bad thing. A pre-determined
image that you have before you ever step out of your house, car ... Or airplane. Ship. Whatever ...
But on the other-hand, they are a good thing. A goal. A plan ...
As a retired middle school teacher, I would call it a "rough draft", or an "outline".
And yes, as a student, I never really felt I had to
write it down first ... Come on! I have it in my head ...
to be completely honest, and as you well know, I never write down anything, make an outline, or, really, plan anything when
I pick an image to write about here on my Blog thingy ... But we won't go into that.
And as a photographer, I still do the same thing ...
I didn't write down that I needed an elephant's ear, or ostrich feathers, or the lines of a giraffe ... No, but I
did have them in the back of my mind.
And flamingo feathers
... Nope. None. Never saw 'em ...
Tiger stripes. Nope.
Oh, I had many images in my head ...
As soon as I knew I was driving to the zoo with a LONG lens ... The images just kept a poppin' in my mind ... Not
the animals per say, no ... Just the images of the lines, shapes, patterns, colors, texture, contrast, and design ...
Art first, animals second.
Oh, my middle school, and high school, art teachers would flip if they ever read that ... Or even the head of the
art department in Graduate School.
In fact, I almost
choked writing it, myself ...
But, that is what I have
I blame Art Wolfe.
Too many TRAVEL TO THE EDGE videos at the college, the middle school (you would
not believe how I could sneak them into the middle school curriculum, you know, here and there), and at home.
His parents were both artists. Ahh, they named him, Art. He went to college
to become a painter, an artist.
He did. Well, except
for the whole painter thing ...
No, actually, he is a
pretty good painter as well ... But you know what I mean.
so that is why, when leaving the zoo, I looked, stopped, and took one, just one, mind you, image of a blue zebra sticker in
Hey, it was big and colorful, what can I
And then I forgot about it. I mean, it was kind
of weird ... I hope nobody actually saw me photographing a store window with this large lens on the way to the parking lot
Then I got home ...
Going through the images ...
A blue zebra? Say
Then it hit me ... Lines, shapes ... You know,
black and white ...
A click of a button ... Another button, I already clicked the shutter button
back at the store.
Black and white zebra. Magic.
Yeah, OK, a black and white zebra looking thing, but come on, it's close
I got my image I was looking for.
Kinda' sorta' ...
This is an image that surprised me. Taken in Antarctica, it is one of many thousand.
As you can see, it is an image of gentoo penguins standing around flirting with other gentoo penguins.
Well, maybe you can't see THAT, but you can see that it is a group of penguins
standing around ...
Mingling. And if you look real close,
screaming their lungs out.
One group in the foreground,
one group in the background.
Layered penguins, if you
I used the power of a Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens
to achieve this look.
First, I was not close.
This is an early Spring, a pre-nesting site, where the birds hook-up with
a mate in order to get busy doing what penguins do in The Spring ...
There are no nests ... Yet. Guests are not invited. We were back a safe distance ...
There is a lot of noise, a lot of fighting, running around, and, well, a lot of what penguins do when trying to find
(impress) a mate.
And that is discounting the smell. The image leaves that minor (major) detail
out for you ...
And the noise ...
No, what this image does is gives you layering ...
Shot at 200mm, it draws the background right up to the foreground. Yeah, the optics did all the work ...
Then, the f2.8 throws the background out of focus, especially, when used at
the longer, 200mm, focal length.
Sort of like magic,
Remember, shallow depth of field is dictated
* Lens choice - Long (200mm)
* Aperture - Small number (f2.8)
Distance to subject - Get Close
Two out of three worked for me here ... Of course, I
would have liked to have been closer ...
the lens does all the heavy work. I just take credit for being the genius to have the lens mounted to the camera in the first
"A simple shot" ...
f2.8 "and be there" ... And, "Carry a big" lens ... To borrow, and butcher, from a couple
of famous quotes.
That's my limits of pure genius
Oh, and up-loading the image to National Geographic's
YOUR SHOT website (as an after-thought) ...
to notice the genius of it all when picking images for my website though...
Yeah, real genius, alright.
a few days of being on YOUR SHOT, as the numbers ("Likes") kept climbing ...
took another look.
A wee-bit dark for my taste ... So, with another stroke
of genius ...
Ahh, a stroke of a button.
Lightened it up ... Perfect!
True, too late
for YOUR SHOT, but just in time to add it to my website.
late than never.
But, if you are looking at my website for the first
time, and are reading this with no prior knowledge of this image ...
Forget this last part, stick
with the whole genius thing ...
Cool Warm Tones
The longer I looked at this image, the more I liked it. I didn't really know why ...
Then it hit me ... The color combination.
Yeah, the cool, blue tones of the foreboding sky, and the warm, brown/orange, tones
of the ...
Well, how do I put this?
that was easy.
Art Class 101. Complementary colors. The
whole color wheel thing, that I paid no attention to, in middle school (I think) art class.
Of course, when I took this image, in Antarctica a month ago, I did not "see" it ... Ah, it's poop.
I did see the dark clouds, in fact, that was what caught my attention in the
But remember, there were dark, cloudy skies
every day of this three week cruise. After awhile, they become just another aspect of the journey (adventure).
I remember seeing the penguins, the snow, and the clouds ... And that, well,
I shot away ...
Then, when I got home, I went
through all the images, picked out, like, A LOT of them, and got my website all set up.
This image did not crack the Top 40 ... Lost among the masses.
Then, I took a second look ...
A little dark
... You know, the dark clouds and all ...
Pressed a button
(Instant Fix) ... Oh yeah, that looks good. Much better.
I would have seen "it" sooner.
Funny how that works ...
Funny how poop makes an image pop!
So now, it is my all-time favorite image from the trip ... Yes, beating out the Red Blood, White Eye Bird, and the
Blue Ice images.
True, I didn't see it at first ... Well,
yes I did, I am the one that pushed the shutter button ... But you know what I mean ...
Thousands of images, three weeks, three islands ...
image of penguin poop and dark storm clouds comes out the winner ...
See, I took this in early Spring, in
Antarctica, before the penguins pair up and begin building their nests by stealing pebbles from other nests ...
This is the pre-nesting get together, where the birds begin to pair-up ... The
noise and the smell is what I remember from all this.
had to keep our distance, you know, it is like with your kids at the middle school dance ... "Yes, please come and pick me
up, but please don't come inside looking for me before it is all over" type of deal ...
I used my 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens and zoomed up to compress the scene and bring those clouds right up into the scene
... Yes, the lens did all the work.
Zoom out, draw the
background in ... That is how it works.
Just a slice
of the total scene, but it tells the story of Antarctica, penguins, and "The Dance".
Well, a silent version of it, anyway.
I cleaned up the smell for you as well ...
But, I did
leave the poop ...
I do what I can.
You really can't talk about Antarctica without mentioning ice. I mean, it is ice, period.
Yes, I know ...
There is land there. It is not like the North Pole. Antarctica is land surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
And no, it is not a country. Sorry.
The North Pole, on the other hand, is a frozen ocean, surrounded by land.
The same, only different.
This was my second trip to Antarctica. I hope it is not my last.
But really, if I was going to honest, this trip was about South Georgia.
Yes, The Falkland Islands were very nice. Excellent, really ... I wanted to walk among the Albatross. And yes, I
mean among them ... VERY close. Like, unreal close.
was a highlight of the trip.
Then there was South Georgia.
And yes, I have mentioned the word "wild" before when talking about this
That is South Georgia. A speck of land
in the middle of the wildest, roughest ocean in the world ...
So many animals and birds. Thousands. No, really, like, THOUSANDS ...
At your feet.
Nature at its best.
I loved it.
Antarctica is different.
Not as many animals ...
But the ice makes it an unreal environment. Surreal. Different.
Antarctica is black and
white and blue. Black mountains ... White snow ... And blue ice.
The blue ice is the old ice, compressed by the weight of the snow over hundreds of years ...
The Northern Peninsula, where I've been, and where most tourists visit,
is very different than the mainland of Antarctica.
of the island continent, is a desert.
In fact, it is
the earth's largest desert. A cold desert, but never the less, a desert.
The peninsula might get twenty feet of snow a year ... But it melts.
The interior of Antarctica gets very little snow, maybe two inches a year.
Yeah, Hudson, NC got more than that last year ...
difference is that it NEVER melts. Well, until it finally makes its way out to the coast, in the form of a glacier, and moves
north to warmer water.
Hundreds of years ... Yes, even
in this time of global warming, it takes a LONG time.
and snow from the interior that is.
This trip, I
was there in Spring (Late October, early November). There was a lot of ice still floating around ... And we were just playing
around the Northern edge ... We did not get as far south as I did last time during their summer (December).
No, the ice was still there ...
And yes, we saw some HUGE icebergs floating around. Much larger than our ship ... Lots of them.
This image is one of my favorite from the trip. Not the largest ...
But perhaps, it was the bluest.
I was drawn to the U-shape section in the middle of the iceberg ... The blue caught my eye.
Bluer than blue.
Like any subject, I found the one aspect that drew me to it, and fired away ... Working my exposure compensation
in order to give me several options later on.
Shoot fast, and ask questions later ...
Find what you are looking for and shoot it like a mad man (or woman) ... Ahh, the ship is moving and vibrating.
The iceberg is moving.
"Be quick, but don't hurry".
logic, stolen from the late, great, UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.
Works for me.
Once you find what you are looking
for ... Trust me, I saw plenty of icebergs over the three weeks on the ship ... This is the one that captures the essence
of the continent, for me.
Know what you want, and know how to get it.
If you don't know what you are looking for, and you don't know how to get it, don't worry about it.
You won't know you missed it (Not-so-sound advice from the former track coach
at GFMS, David H. Hessell).
For this image, I used my Nikkor 70-200mm
f2.8 lens, with the VR on, and set to "Active", due to the fact that, yes, I was on a moving ship,
and needed all the help I could get in order to get a sharp image.
My ISO was set at 400, again, to help with keeping my shutter speeds up there, while hand-holding the camera and
lens on the deck of a ship.
I worked fast.
The ice did its thing, I did mine.
True, the ice took hundreds of years to be where it was, and be in the shape that it was, but I didn't have that
Basically, I shot like a madman. A controlled
I knew what I wanted, and went to work.
hardest part was just being there in the first place. I mean, really ...
It took me sixty-two (and a half) years to be at that spot, and hundreds of years for the iceberg
to be there ...
What is an extra 1/500th of a second?
Or two? ... Or three? ... Dare I say four?
Or the odds
that I ever get back down there again (I said that the first time too)?
Yeah, I shot like a madman.
Works for me.
Two @ the Zoo
Yes, I can take regular pictures too. You know, where you can actually see the animal's face ...
That's the easy part.
I ALWAYS take a "regular" picture and then, once I am happy with that, I begin to look deeper ...
times I am locked into a TELEPHOTO mode, or a WIDE-ANGLE mode, or an ABSTRACT mode ... or a SINGLE LENS mode ...
You know ... I have a plan on what I am going to photograph before I even get
there and take a photograph.
That is a good thing.
it is just ... Oh, just go and see what is in front of you and react to that.
Planning works (or so I've heard),
and not planning works.
Works for me.
When you turn up to The NC Zoo with one lens, most of my "planning" was done
once I put the camera and lens in the car.
Long telephoto lens. Not much wiggle room there.
That was planning the day's shots before I pulled out of the driveway.
Your camera gear dictates how you are going to "see" that day.
True, it is easier if you have lots of lenses ... Even better if you have lots of zoom lenses. One zoom lens can
give you many, many different angles of view ... You can try ten shots without moving.
That's a good thing.
Try not zooming.
Use a zoom lens but don't zoom. Yeah, it is possible.
Remember, you can zoom with your feet, you know, like back in the old days ...
Have another lens? Good.
Have a "prime lens"? Really good.
Macro lens? Ha! Even more funner!
You better use it!
Whatever lens you have ... Yes, use it.
But use it in different ways.
Macro lens? Don't
shoot close-up shots.
Zoom lens? Don't zoom.
Telephoto lens? Get closer ... Or just shoot landscapes ...
Wide-angle lens? Photograph wildlife. Use it as a portrait lens.
Have the "regular" 18-55mm lens?
Just zoom it out half way and don't touch it again. Shoot EVERYTHING at whatever focal length you ended up at ...
Say ... 31mm.
Use whatever lens you have and don't worry about getting a new one until you know what, and what you can not do with
whatever lens it is you happen to have.
At the college,
students always asked me, "What lens should I get next"?
I always asked them, "what do you want to
I can't tell you what you want to shoot.
Yes, there are some "special" lenses that you need if you are going to photograph
certain subjects ...
But, that said ... Use whatever
lens you have and shoot everything you can think of and see what you can and can not do with that certain lens.
In fact ... And as a teacher (with RULES), I hate to admit it, but the best
way to learn is to break every rule any teacher has ever told you ... Ahhh, I talking about photography here ... Slow down.
If I say, GET CLOSER, don't.
If I say the best light is at sunrise and sunset, sleep in ... Shoot at noon.
If I say you need a macro lens to get great close-up shots ... Grab your wide-angle lens and get out there and fire
You can't really "prove me wrong", you can only
show me another way of doing something that I have always done ...
Know the rules ... Then break 'em.
It is your art, do it any way you want.
Come on, it is not like this is math class or anything.
Who says higher ISO noise is a bad
thing? It isn't, if that is "THE LOOK" you are going for ...
is the beauty of photography ... 2+4 does not ALWAYS have to add up to 6.
You don't have to worry about not staying within the lines when "painting with light" ...
Yes, know the rules, understand the rules, and
actually follow the rules, so that one day you can break all the rules and come up with your own set of "Art Rules".
Your own "style" ...
This helped me achieve this "studio" shot of the elephant.
I knew that the trees behind the elephant would go black in the shadows ... I exposed for the elephant in the bright
light. Well, I say that as if I actually did something special ... No, that is what our camera sensors do ...
They "read the light" and try to balance it all out to give you a "medium" tone ... You know, a little of this and
a little of that.
I know that.
I broke the rule, and set my camera compensation button to MINUS ONE, MINUS ONE AND ONE THIRD, so that the shadows would
stay black and the highlights would not be blown out.
I know the rules ... And broke them to make my image look the way I want it to look, not the way the camera manufacturer
wanted it to look.
They build the camera, you run the show ... You "make the
And come on ... Really? How can they be "My Rules" if the buttons
I use are actually part of the camera to begin with?
am not the only genius in this world ... It is NOT Rocket Science here people.
There is a button for it.
Know the rules (and your camera) and then break those rules (and not your camera)
I've been doing it for over thirty years ... True,
I actually did break all the rules when in school (and got kicked out of art class many, many times, but shhhh ... Don't tell
my middle school students - or my mother - for that matter).
No, I did not "get into art" until YEARS later ... I graduated from high school in 1973, graduated from college with
my B.S. Degree (ahh, yeah, I was good at that) in 1983, and got my M.A. Degree in Photography in 1993.
And you thought I wasn't very good at math ... I think I did not plan that out,
pretty darn good.
So ... Grab a camera, and a lens, get
out there (or stay inside) and shoot something with a plan ... A challenge ... A hope.
And then, once you have that down pat (whatever it is you are doing) ... Forget about it!
At the zoo, I wanted the TIGHT shot, the abstract texture shot of the animal,
but, as you see here, I also photographed the animal as an animal ... A portrait of an elephant. The face of a baboon.
Yes, I got close ... Well, my lens got me close, there was a fence ... And I
got rid of everything but what I wanted in the image.
face of the baboon ... Yeah, you can't get the "face of a baboon" if you also have the neck of a baboon, the arms of a baboon,
and I'm not even going to mention parts of a baboon that he was showing me ...
rid of 'em ... Or it.
Zoom. Crop. Move. Do whatever it takes.
Again ... Do something.
Your art. Your choice. Your move.
Same for me.
I've taught the rules since 1984 ... I know THE RULES.
every time I break them, yes, I giggle.
That's what I
Today was a good day ...
First off, I am now
"working again". Yeah, I was asked if I could help this 6th grader at GFMS with his reading ... And math. So, three days of
the week I pretend to work ...
I can't say no to Nicole,
who started working at GFMS the same year I did. We worked together for twenty-four years. She actually knew what she
was doing, and I just handed out "Jolly Rogers" and ran around in the woods with the kids ...
She did the paperwork - ALL THE PAPERWORK, that was needed over those twenty-four years.
Let me say that again ...
And trust me, if you know anything about being a Special Education teacher in America today, you know there is a
ridiculous amount of paperwork that MUST be completed on every student, every year in the Exceptional Children's program.
Every school, every child in the program, every year.
She did it all.
Well no, the last few years I pretended to do one part of it, can't even remember which part it was ...
Present Level of Achievement, or some such thing. I just wrote how goofy middle school kids are and that was that.
One page out of twenty ... Or so it seemed.
She did all the real stuff.
So, without going on
(and on)about what I really think about all this, let me just say, if Nicole asks me to do something, I say yes.
yes, even after I retired!
I feel bad about me being
able to retire, when she still has five more years before she can ... Even though we both started teaching the same year.
See, I'm old, she's not. That simple. Trust me, I would trade in those years
any day, any time ...
This getting old thing is a trip!
Lucky her ...
helping the student today, my next stop was the chiropractor.
Yeah, that tells you where I'm at.
I went in and "worked" for an hour ... A
Magic Tree House book and a deck of cards ... Can't get any better than that.
Until I got home, and went through my images from the zoo and Old Salem that I shot yesterday ...
And worked on my BLOG, and some of the new images I shot ...
That was good.
I went out and got the mail.
USAA sent me a check for
my broken lens. True, it was only for the amount that it would of taken to repair it, but, it is better than nothing.
I bought a new one anyways, got it last week. I'm good. I was thinking of getting
a new one anyways ... It was time.
I spent the $200 already
In fact, the very same day, the UPS man stopped
by and dropped off a new camera bag. My "new" photo backpack. Well, you know me ... My "new" used camera backpack. It
was an Adorama "DEMO" bag. Good deal.
And get this
... Another first for me: It is a THINK TANK bag.
Lowe Pro bags. I have a BUNCH of them, all different types and sizes ...
And yes, I have a couple other brand name bags as well ... But I've never owned a THINK TANK bag.
Pretty nice bag. Bigger than my other "main" bag, but still made to fit inside
the airplane over-head bins. Always a good thing. A must really. I don't check my camera bag at the airport ... No way. It
goes where I go.
And it is new. Like really NEW. Little
tags on it and everything. Yeah, that new.
So, the check
I used to buy the bag with arrived ten minutes after I got the bag.
Funny how that works ...
But that is not the
end of the story ... Oh no.
Once I cash the check, there
will actually be money left over, to buy something else ...
That is how it
See, I needed a new bag to carry that new,
monster of a lens that I now have. Again, that is how it works.
Round and round it goes ... Save money on one deal, spend it on another.
Works for me.
Sounds good anyways ...
I love deals.
I have told you about my new lens ... The Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 VR lens.
It is a beast.
Basically, I am walking around
with a 300-750mm f5.6 lens on any DX "cropped sensor" camera I own.
I won't go into how many DX sensor cameras I actually own, but trust me, I have a few.
So, with just about any DSLR camera I have, with this lens I have some REACH.
And yes, you know I like to test out my new stuff ...
I already have. You know, when I took it out in the parking lot and photographed my neighbor's shiny chrome wheels
But, you know ... Wheels are nice, but ...
Yeah, I checked the weather report,
and it was on ...
Up before 6am (I didn't need to wait
for any stinkin' alarm).
haven't been in years ... Since the old Weekend College days ... I don't know, eight, ten years? Something like that.
Zero dark-thirty. Easy ride ...
Got to the zoo early ...
I believe the lady,
who sold me my ticket, mentioned something like I was the fourth, or fifth, person there that morning ... "Had the place
to myself" she told me ...
I told her that is why I was
The whole zoo to myself (sort of).
One lens. One camera.
See, that's the game I play ...
750mm f5.6 VR lens, and no tripod.
How good is this lens anyways?
How good am I?
Can I hand-hold a 750mm lens and get sharp images? How good is that VR anyways?
Yes. And good, real good. In that order.
It is a GREAT lens.
I sort of, kind of, knew
it was, but I had to put myself through the test. The "Walk Around an Empty Zoo" test, and see what kind of images I
could come up with.
True, it is a zoom lens, but yeah,
I don't think I bothered zooming anything, or anytime ...
you have 750mm, use 750mm.
That simple. That easy.
Walk ... And walk ... And learn.
First thing I wanted to know, you know, besides that whole "sharpness" thing, was, how close can I get to my subject?
Again, too easy.
NOT VERY. Not very close at all.
Wow ... It
is wild, I had to back up more than I have ever had to back up before ...
Makes sense, I'm just so used to my other lenses, that I found myself WAY TOO CLOSE, most of the time.
It takes me awhile to adapt to all this new, fancy equipment. I have shot with
the same gear (Nikon D90 with the 18-200mm lens, or even the old 80-400mm antique lens) for so long, I just know where I should
be to get the shot I want.
Not with this little (big)
But hey, I was at the zoo ... The animals that were out there, were, well, for the most part, out there!
But everything else ... Cactus. Trees. Leaves ... Anything not behind a fence
... I had to back up.
I had a blast.
And no, I won't mention the whole TEN FRAMES PER SECOND thing ...
I mean, come on, the animals weren't going anywhere, and, anyway, the ones I
did photograph, are not the fastest things in the world ... But, man, it is fun ...
What did I shoot (photograph)?
One word: Patterns,
textures, lines, shapes, repetition ...
Oh, yeah, I forgot,
How is that?
I shot everything tight. Like I
have always wanted to shoot ... Like I always try to shoot.
tight as I can ... As close as I could ... With the longest focal length lens I could.
All day ... Every animal I saw. Always. 750mm.
some of the animals were inside, hidden from view ... They think it is winter.
But I'm not a flamingo, so go figure.
And all that those lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) were doing was ...
You guessed it ...
But there were a few animals out and about ...
bet you have no idea what animals I photographed, do you?
I can't remember them all, but take a wild guess ...
had a great time, filled my 4GB card up about half way through, deleted over 200 images, and walked around for four hours
trying to fill it up again ...
Well, at least I thought it was perfect ...
Then I got home and saw the images ...
But yes, I'll admit it ...
I did crop in even tighter on these images, you know, to "clean 'em up a bit", but man, I was CLOSE. Closer than
I ever have been before.
And, like I have said a thousand
times before ...
"You can never be too close".
You just buy a longer lens. And continue to crop as much as you can ...
Old School Phun
You know, I used to do some pretty cool abstract stuff before PhotoShop came around ...
You know, double-exposures with slide film ... You would actually take one slide and slip it into a slide mount with
another slide already in it.
And reflections ...
And then there was the whole car reflection thing, with all the curves,
and lines ...
And get this ... It was all done in-camera.
You take reality, and twist it, curve it, reflect
it, whatever ...
It is all about light.
Drawing, or sketching, with light. You have to love those Greeks ...
And you have to love shiny cars, out in the sun, in Old Salem. Right there in front of the church ...
light ... Sketching with light.
Photoshop before Photoshop.
Oh, and after Photoshop, too.
What worked ten, twenty, dare I say, thirty years ago, seems to work just as well today ... Funny how that works.
It is all about "Seeing".
It is there.
The cars, trucks, whatever, do
all the work. All the bending, all the sketching. All you have to do is stop, look, compose, and shoot.
Of course, seeing it in the first place, is the hardest thing.
It is so common, that we walk right past it. We look at it, but we don't "see"
it, as art, or as an image.
The church was behind
me ... Yes, I had stopped to photograph the clock earlier, to zoom in, on time.
No, wait ... Yes, the church was behind me, but I'm sure these are reflections of the college, which is right next
to the church.
Old Salem College. Big brick building
with the large white columns across the front porch ...
I was in Old Salem with my new Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 lens to, well, to see Old Salem in a new light.
Well, no ... Same great afternoon light, just with a different view. A new angle
Like, up close! Tight.
Remember, just to remind you, that 500mm "Wang-Zoomer" lens I was luggin' around,
has the equivalent focal length of 750mm, when attached to the Nikon D500, which it was, at the time.
The DX sensor.
Old Salem with a new lens was fun ... Old and New.
reflections among the curves of the shiny, new car, was way too much fun.
Zoom-in, and see something old, in a new way. Tight. Close. Abstract.
I don't know what the Greek word for
perfect is, but I do know what it looks like ...
I know is, that whatever it is, photographing it was phun.
I forgot about this little gem ...
super-duper adaptor thing that lets you connect a LONG (or any lens really) lens to the crazy Nikon 1 V-1 camera.
A small Nikon CX format camera that has a small sensor ...
But ... Slap on the special FT-1 adaptor, and then mount it to my new Nikkor
200-500mm wang-zoomer lens, and HOLD ON! That set-up is crazy ...
And even crazier looking ... I'll have to go out and take a photo of this set-up, it is almost (well, no, it is)
But ... It works.
I took the big tripod, with the big lens, with the dinky little camera outside in the parking lot, pointed it towards
the moon, pressed the shutter button down half-way, you know, to get focus ...
And it worked.
I must admit I was a wee-bit
surprised, no ... pleased, would be a better word ...
a hint of a giggle, if I were to be completely honest ...
Are you kidding me?
OK, and now the good news.
Remember that 2.7X thing?
Do the math ...
Multiplied by, you guessed it, 2.7 ...
And you get ...
I kid you not.
the image you see at the top of this article, is what I saw on the back of the camera ...
Full-frame, as it comes out of the camera.
and yes ... Shooting the Moon.
Self-timer. At first I was using my standard 2-second timer ... But then, in
a flash of pure genius, I went with a safer 5-second timer just so everything settles down more ... That lens is REALLY, REALLY
long, with everything magnified big time. Every little vibration ... Magnified, yeah, 2.7X.
I took maybe eight shots, you know, just playing ... Got the exposure where I wanted it ... I changed the aperture
once I got the shutter speed up there where I wanted it (250th of a second, or was it 200th?).
If I remember correctly, it was 200th of a second. I can remember thinking, 200th, what is that all about?
Dinky camera ... Go figure.
Auto-focus (I'm still amazed).
BIG tripod. BIG
I love it.
Now, with the second image, you
will see my cropped version of the original moon shot.
Like, REAL BIG.
Now, as I'm typing this, I'm thinkin' ...
I have a 2X converter up-stairs ...
the 1.4X, too wimpy.
for it, baby!
2X it is ... I'll try it tonight.
Will it work?
fixed 5.6 lens. With the 2X, that would jump up to f11.
... I will HAVE to focus it myself, no biggy.
Easy. Two easy ... Get it? TWO easy? 2X converter ...
Oh, man, that is clever.
I'll see how clever I really am later on tonight ...
And yes, I'll use my calculator to figure out all this 500x2.7x2 = F stuff.
Man, when I retired, I thought I was done with all this math stuff ...
The things I do for photography ...
I told you ... Big lens, small camera.
Yes! It worked. I can't believe it.
Yes, I HAD
to manual focus, but hey, no worries ...
I have NEVER
had a moon full-frame in any lens, EVER!
Focus was a
trip - Just like I thought.
Actually, I had the most
trouble keeping the moon in the frame ... It moves FAST! And it jiggles around so much ... It is CRAZY!
So, there I was, out in the driveway, with this BIG tripod, LONG lens, manually
focusing, shootin' away - STOP.
I forgot to set the
self-timer. Crap. No way will an image be sharp without the self-timer.
Come on, the way my heart was beating ... No way!
But, I got it.
"Fill the frame".
I had trouble keeping it in the frame, but yeah, it was FULL.
I mean, I don't even crop it that close on the computer ...
It was FULL. Period.
Did I mention 2700mm?
Crazy. Right out of the camera.
No croppin' this one.
Yes, I photographed this on South Georgia. No, caribou are not supposed to be on South Georgia.
South Georgia is an island in The Southern Ocean, and is as remote of a place
as there is on this planet.
They were brought to this
part of the world by sailors that worked their way down south to hunt whales and fur seals.
I guess they got tired of penguins, seals,
and whale blubber, or whatever else whalers ate in the early 20th century ...
I have no clue.
So yes, caribou are on South
Georgia, although I didn't see any myself.
But ... I
would think that they must be pretty thinned out by now. The whalers are gone, the fur seal hunters are gone, no one lives
on the islands ...
But, as you can see, they were here,
and I did see them on my Art Wolfe DVDs, TRAVELS TO THE EDGE, which were shot about ten years ago.
In fact, that was one thing that struck me while watching them in my college
classes over the years ...
Caribou. They were in a couple
of the scenes ... Weird.
I mean, come on, Caribou, or
reindeer, live at the North Pole, you know, Santa Claus and all that ... Rudolf, Comet, Donner, Vixen, etc ... We all know
This is all I found, or saw, of them ...
Green antlers on green grass.
The only proof I saw at any of the landings we made on the island. But hey, that's just me ...
It is a big island (sort of), it was still Spring, maybe I just missed them.
I just liked the way the green played off the green ...
I didn't want to eat them.
Just photograph them.
Or what remains of them ...
And penguin feathers ...
Caribou on South Georgia.
Just what I wasn't looking for, or expecting.
King Penguin Chick(s)
In all its glory ...
How can you not love that face? That hair-do? Those eyes?
I was on South Georgia in Spring, our Fall.
for that area ... We were the first GAdventure trip down their this season ...
The chicks were born a few months ago ... And they all group together and wait for their parents to come back and
It is wild ...
Thousands of brown fur-balls all lined up just standing there waiting ... They all look the same.
Their parents all look the same ...
About the same height, after awhile, but VERY different looking.
The adults are beautiful ... A black tuxedo, white shirt, highlighted with a touch of gold bling.
The chicks? Not so much ...
Brown fuzz balls.
Cute, yes, but only as cute
as a brown fuzz-ball can be ...
And fearless ...
They will walk right up to you ... And stare.
Just stand there ...
THOUSANDS of them ...
Just standing there.
How each one can locate their parent's voice, out of the THOUSANDS of parents returning from the sea, is beyond me.
But they do ...
And how "The Ugly Ducklings" turn into the beautiful adult penguins is beyond me too ...
But they do.
That said, I must say the brown
little fuzz-balls do have a charm all their own.
of like middle-school kids ...
Now that I think about
Cool white bird ... With the black head and red beak.
It sort of floats over the water, up and down, almost in slow motion.
OK, here we were, in Antarctica, in a zodiac, "The Photo Boat" to be exact, with "The Bird Man" as our driver ...
Which, could be a good thing ...
He knows his birds, and he is funny ... In a very British sort of way.
Think Monty Python ... In a rubber raft.
Paul, the ship's photographer, was in the raft as
well, along with ten other photographers ... Remember, we were NOT the "regular" landing groups ... They went straight to
We were not the "Wildlife Boat" ... They went
out looking for, you know, wildlife, before heading towards land ... Kind of like the "Photo Boat", but you know, we go back
and forth, over and around, this way and that way, to get "THE SHOT" ... We "work it".
The Photo. Period!
So, back to the tern ... The Photo. This photo.
There just so happened to be another family of birds in the area ... Up on the
cliff. I can't even remember what they were called ...
boy ... Off we went, you know, Kevin was driving ...
UP on the cliff ... A brown cliff face ...
Ahh, Kevin ... There is this white bird floating right past the zodiac, hunting for food ...
Like, RIGHT BEHIND YOU!
Now, true, I didn't say anything at first ... Either did Paul, or anyone else.
But then I did mention it to him ...
he says ... "Look at this rare ... Something or other over here" ...
I turned around and photographed this tern
dippin' down into the water catching lunch ...
are great, don't get me wrong ... But, come on, an Antarctic Tern, right in front of us, or a brown bird thing nesting on
a brown cliff, WAY UP THERE (he had binoculars) ...
church, wrong pew" ...
We were there, in the PHOTO BOAT,
and Kevin was off in his own little world, chasing something he was interested in ...
I believe I did take one ... No, I don't think I ever did take a photo of the brown bird thing ...
I was chasing a white bird thing dippin' for food ... MUCH CLOSER to us!
Oh, those crazy bird people ...
Well, you know, crazier that those crazy photographers shooting those crazy little white bird things dippin' down
catchin' little fish things ...
What a trip.
Got my shot ... I had my Nikon D7000 with the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens zoomed
That is equal to 300mm f2.8 when mounted on a
camera with the smaller DX (cropped) sensor ...
lens to have in this situation ... Equal to 300mm f2.8. Long, and fast ... Perfect.
See ... Nikon has two types of camera sensors ... FX (full-frame), which is equal to the old 35mm film cameras ...
If I was using my Nikon D700, and had the same lens, it would have a field-of-view of 70mm to 200mm, just like in the old
And, just like what is printed on the lens ...
70-200mm. Perfect. Nice and easy.
Because the digital sensor in a DX,"cropped" camera, is smaller, it is like
taking a photo and then "cropping in" by 1.5 times.
the image by 1.5 times ... Just take the center part of the image.
Works great for wildlife, sports, whatever ... Far-away stuff.
Now, for wide angle stuff ...
Forget about it!
That is why they had to make 18mm stuff ... For example, my favorite 18-200mm
That 18mm is REALLY equal to 27mm
- Or as close to what we used to have with a 28mm lens (my favorite).
It is crazy ... You know, math stuff.
half of what is on the lens ... say, 200mm, and add that to the first number.
Half of 200 is 100. Easy.
200 plus 100 equals
1.5 times longer (200x1.5 equals 300).
Really. Use your cell phone if you don't believe me ...
Half of 18 is 9. Add 9 to 18 and you get 27. The 18mm lens comes as close to the old 28mm wide-angle lens as you
can get ... 27mm.
So, my trusty 18-200mm DX lens gives
me about the same angle-of-view as a 28-300mm lens used to give me (that is, if they actually made one back then)
... Wide-angle to telephoto. Perfect.
And yes, just to
confuse you even more ... There is a new Nikkor 28-300mm lens for the FX, full-frame, cameras ...
So, after all that being said ...
I had the
right lens for the situation.
Kevin going one way,
me, and the tern, going the other ...
Like I said ...
Perfect ride in the Photo Boat.
With Kevin ...
Paul and I laughed about it later
And I thought I was the only one that noticed it
Now, as you might have guessed, I did not go to The Southern Ocean to photograph people.
Sorry, that is just how it works.
all types). Whales. Albatross. Seals (of all types). Petrels. Orcas. White bird things ... You know, animals. Wild things.
And landscapes. Icescapes. Seascapes. Cloudscapes (yes, that is a word - I just
wrote it). Weather (of all types). Even architecture, ships, reflections, etc ...
You get the point.
I did not go to the far end
of the earth to photograph ... People.
But I did.
Not as often as animals and other wild things, but yes, people did make their
way into my viewfinder.
This image is a portrait of one
of the people that make trips like this possible ... At this particular moment, a zodiac driver.
Bismarck, or Bismark, I'm not sure how he spells his name.
I believe he mentioned that he is from Argentina ... I think.
He was great.
drove us around several times while we were out on our "Photo Boat".
G Adventures had a photographer on ship - Paul, from Canada, that would get a group together to explore the area
in the zodiac first before landing with the rest of the groups ...
Usually, we looked for wildlife and icebergs ... Not necessarily in that order.
Nothing special ... He would go over a few basic concepts, then we drove around looking ... And yes, I signed up
for every one they offered.
images of, say, Elephant Seals, from the water (the direction they usually face) is very different than photographing
the back end of an Elephant Seal on shore.
Worth waiting to be the last ones called to "The Mud Room" (where we got our
boots, jackets, gloves, etc ...) to board our zodiacs ...
speaking of which ...
Getting into a moving, big, black
rubber raft can be tricky while boppin' around in the "roughest ocean in the world" ...
The raft would move up and down, often five or six feet per dip, while we were trying to take our seats ... Trust
me, I am glad I never had to make a "Beach Landing" , under fire, while in the Marine Corps ...
They had to climb down rope ladders ...
metal stairs ...
Plus, we had three people helping us ...
Yes, even in Antarctica,
and the "Antarctic Iles", in The Southern Ocean.
Just what I went for ...
That "lucky" pink
hat of his (he swore it brought the wild things out of the woodwork ... Or ocean, whatever).
And since I mentioned Paul earlier ... Here he is:
The photographer ...
Another person ...
And yes, like
Paul, GAdventures is Canadian ...
That is why all the
zodiacs are named after Canadian Providences, you know, in case you were wondering ...
That's it. You all know that ...
I have rules for a reason.
They work. Period.
That simple. That easy.
this image is just to remind you.
The Falkland Islands,
a British Territory, in The Southern Ocean. I first heard about it back in 1982 (or something like that) when they had a battle
over it with Argentina. Now I know why ...
They nest there ... Like, big time. Thousands
of them. And get this, you can get close to them.
getting yelled at.
Or, better yet, not bothering the
birds ... They are not bothered by humans in bright red jackets and long white (or black) lenses stuck in their faces.
Yes, to be sure, there are some sticks set up, forming an "X", that are there
to remind people in bright red jackets, that yes, these are wild animals, and they do need their space, but, that said, you
can get close.
somewhere on The Falkland Islands, knows my rules.
Now, I was a bit surprised ...
See, I have been on a GAdventure (actually, I think they were still known as GAP Adventures back then,
can't remember ...) before to Antarctica, and I can remember quite clearly that THEIR rules are a wee bit different than
Or, to be fair, that their definition of "close" is very different
In fact, I can remember being there, respecting the little wooden
sticks in the tall grass, even staying on the "trail" while shooting, and thinking, "Cool, they are allowing
us to get close, REAL close".
Closer than even I
thought we should be ... I mean, really, we were right on top of them.
Among them ...
Then, when back on the ship
and going over the day's activities, they mentioned that we were on a Private Reserve when photographing the birds ...
Ha! I knew something seemed different. Different definitions (and
means of measurements) of Rule #2.
Maybe it is
that whole metric thing ... No worries.
Works for me.
I got close.
Oh, and so did some other people in
By the way, we got to keep those jackets
Now, I can't wait for the four, or five, hours
of "winter" that we get here in Hudson, NC every winter (mid-February) to arrive ...
I'm ready. Let it snow!
Plus, I've been on "Snow
Days" since June ... So, again, no worries!
This image sums up what it was like to be on The Southern Ocean for three weeks ...
The name of the ship is Expedition. It lived up to it's name.
And the crew made it very clear that this was NOT a cruise ...
Each day, they had a plan, but the plan was based on the weather. And the weather at the End of the World can be
very tricky, to say the least.
It was like ... Plan A, no. Plan B, no. Plan
C, OK, looks good, lets check it out ... No. Plan D?
That was how it works ... Sometimes Plan A worked, sometimes it didn't.
was the first trip if the year ... Remember, Fall here (Northern Hemisphere) is Spring there ... The sun had just returned
after about six months of darkness ... Ice was everywhere, things could get tricky real fast.
It was warming up, you know, like 35 degrees or so ... Spring!
Captains (there were three of them) kind of, sort of, knew where they were going but ...
It was all dictated by the weather.
And that is tricky.
It was cloudy - ALOT.
It was sunny.
the wind would kick up (there is a fancy name that I heard about every other day, but, yeah, I can't remember ... Cat-something
winds ...) at any time, and yeah, it was unreal.
But, that said, we only missed
one landing ... Three weeks, one missed landing. On the first trip of the season.
Those Captains were good.
Sure, there were some
places we couldn't get into, but, like I said, they just changed plans and went somewhere else ...
I mean, great is great ... We had no idea what the "real" place was like anyway,
so, no big deal. Amazing is still amazing, no matter what letter of the alphabet they gave it ...
Bam. They got us in there ...
Now, as far as this image goes ...
This is Antarctica. This is "Getting Out There". This is adventure ...
sand beach, snow, snowing, waves, and a beach landing ... Stern (Navy term, means "the back") first.
zodiac drivers are good ...
Plus (in their spare time)
they are Naturalists, Zoologists, with a PhD in this or that, you know, specialists in their field.
Many of them were on the ship six years
ago on my first trip down to this part of the world ...
They know the area, and they know their animals ...
was "The Bird Man", John was "The Whale Guy", and Brent was "The Elephant Seal Man" ...
And they can get people into places that are simply amazing, in unbelievable
Speaking of which, his image was taken
with my little Nikon AW100 while sitting in a zodiac waiting our turn of getting on the beach ... The perfect little camera
for conditions like this.
I know, I know, you have heard me go on, and on, and on, and on, about ...
I have dealt with them for over 25
years ... I've been to the actual store - Twice.
more quick story for you, on why I go on, and on, and on about Adorama.
I was in South Georgia, getting ready to make the big landing at one of the whaling stations there, you know, the
BIG one ...
Yeah, that's how you spell it.
station dating back to 1904, or something ... It is all gone now, well no, the WHALES were pretty much wiped out, and
the whalers are all gone, but all their junk is still there ... Rusting away.
The whaling industry died out about fifty years ago ...
Oh crap, here I go again ... Sorry.
It" and you can read all about what is so special about the station, and the one famous man that is buried there ... If you
happen to be British, you studied him in school. We Americans, on the other hand, are clueless ...
Well, most of us anyways ... My brother-in-law is the only person I
know who has heard of him. Unless, of course, you have taken my college class in the past ten years or so, and have seen the
Art Wolfe video, TRAVELS TO THE EDGE, when he photographed there ... And you weren't on your cell phone, checking out
Twitter, or some such thing ...
I know ...
Anyway ... South Georgia.
Unreal place. Wild. Dare I say ... "Out there, like, out there on the edge".
OK ... Back to Adorama.
As I was going up the stairs on the ship, the afternoon before we landed, I stepped through the sliding door, as
someone else was coming down the stairs ... We ran into each other.
My camera hit the floor.
really thought it had survived ... I have the Kirk L-Bracket on it and it acts as a bumper ...
For the camera.
That was fine.
... As I tried to zoom out minutes later ... The lens wouldn't move. Wouldn't zoom.
My 18-200mm VR lens
I soon heard little tingling sounds coming from it, as I tried to turn
the zoom ring.
My one, do-everything,
lens was toast. Done. Finished. Kaput.
was like, my third or fourth one ... Many, many years ... My favorite lens.
Glad I just happened to have my super-duper, fancy-spancy, Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens with me aboard ship.
I would have been sunk without it (get it?). Three weeks on a ship
... What can I say?
I made it through the rest of the trip with my 12-24mm and my 70-200mm. Oh, and my trusty Nikon Cool-Pix AW 100.
Can't forget that one. I love that camera ...
But what is even
greater, is that I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon ...
Ordered a new, and I mean a brand spankin' new one. A new Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, that very day ...
And I was just shooting with it today, Friday afternoon.
I kid you not. Two days.
it is because, like my good friend is always telling me ... "You're special".
But no ...
Adorama is special!
New York City to Hudson, North Carolina.
UPS. They are special.
did I mention FREE shipping?
talk about special.
Maybe it is because
I have bought stuff from them for over, what? Thirty years?
No, probably not.
is because I shoot Nikon?
48 hours? Are you kidding me?
Maybe, just maybe, I am special.
Hey, works for me ...
speaking of special ... I just got off the phone with my USAA insurance guy ...
Yes, I have insurance on some of my camera gear ($10,000 limit). And yes, you guessed it ... The Nikkor 18-200mm
VR lens is on the list.
because it happened out of the country, and we have to do this, talk to this person, e-mail back and forth, etc ...
It will be awhile.
No worries ...
I won't be
leaving for Florida until after Christmas and my mother's birthday (the 27th).
The clock is running ...
hey, I have my new lens ... Plus I got the Kirk replacement foot for the Nikkor 200-500mm lens ... I'm good.
Everglades. Key West. Dry Tortugas National Park. Clewiston. Big Cypress National Preserve. Sanibel Island. St. Petersburg.
Cedar Keys NWR. Pensacola. New Orleans. Dallas. Albuquerque. Bosque Del Apache NWR.
was the plan ...
Then I went to a talk on Elephant Seals while on the ship ...
Got to go ...
out where I'll go just yet, but I know I have to end up near San Simeon, California. That is where the seals are ...
That is the plan ... As of now.
Works for me.
just might get used to this whole retirement thing after all.
I'm working on it.
Well, you know, not really WORKING, but trying real hard.
Now that is special.
Red and White
I'm back ...
Three weeks on the Southern Ocean,
in and around, three islands:
The Falkland Islands
South Georgia Island
Three islands, three images ...
wild islands. Period.
They are not petting zoos.
It is all about life and death. Raw. In your face.
These are petrels, the "Hyena of the Southern Ocean" (my, non-scientific nick-name) ... They
strip everything down to the bones.
Life and death.
images were shot on South Georgia, THE place I wanted to go to on my "Retirement Trip".
Yes, Antarctica was, well,
you know ... Antarctica, and The Falkland Island had the Black Brow Albatross, but come on ...
It did live up to what I thought it would be like ... Wild. The amount of wildlife on the islands was impressive.
I can't say it enough ...
In this case, a fur seal was still-born,
and the petrels came in and "took care" of the body ... Fighting for every bite, every piece. It was a free-for-all with several
birds trying to get in and get their fill before "The Boss" would come in and demand his (well, sorry, I THINK it was a "he")
respect (It was BIG, and mean).
It was quite a scene.
One death provided
life for many. That is how it works.
Life and death.
Nature at it's rawest, wildest, bloodiest.
new for me, pretty much ...
These are the images
that sums up the whole trip for me ... Quite an experience.
Framed in red ...
Nature, in your face, in one of the most remote places on the planet.
Three flights, three days of rolling around in the ocean, with three,
or four, landings on each of the islands, THOUSANDS (and thousands) of seals and birds (both flying and non-flyers) ...
noise. The smell.
Raw, in your face ...
trip. I just need to get some rest ...
from my last hotel to Charlotte. I have now been up for ... Ahh, what? Thirty-nine ... Going on forty hours ...
But I had to get that eye out there ...
Red and White.
Oh wait ...
Speaking of THOUSANDS of penguins and birds
... I am now going through THOUSANDS of images ...
days at sea.
The Southern Ocean.
Blue and Gray
Ice and sky.
If you want blue ice and gray skies,
The Southern Ocean is your place.
Kind of like being
from the North and living in the South.
Southern Ocean is the roughest ocean in the world ... Look at a map, or better yet, a globe, and look at Antarctica.
OK, you don't have a map handy ... I understand.
Close your eyes ...
Picture the South Pole in your mind ...
No, really, go ahead ...
That big chunk of ice at "The
Bottom" of our planet.
Now, think about it ...
It is a continent surrounded by water ...
And no other continent blocking the winds that rip around the world unimpeded in any way ...
No land to break the wind ... The storms that turn the ocean into a roller coaster.
They supply you with foam wedges to keep you in your
bed at night ...
It is a wild ride.
That said, The "Dreaded Drake",
or what is really The Drake Passage, is considered the roughest crossing of any ocean on the planet.
That said, this trip was a piece of cake.
Going South this time around,
I flew into Montevideo, Uruguay, spent an extra night, then boarded the same ship I took to Antarctica
six years ago, and then sailed down the east coast of South America.
And yes, the continent of South
America blocked the winds and it was great ... But yes, I still took my little Bonine Tablets ... You know, I know what me
being on a ship does to me ...
Get this ... Yes, I had
to check the spelling, I knew it was spelled weird. Hey, but they work ... And here is why:
Meclizine Hydrochloride. Antiemetic.
Anyway ... Did I ever tell you the time, back in 1977, that I spent 45 days
on a Navy battleship bopping around The Southern Pacific?
... Marine of the Year.
Sitting in the bow (ah, that's the front of a ship), which just so happens to
also be where the brig (ah, that's the jail) is located.
terms ... Don't get me started ...
Yeah, anyways, Marines
are on Navy ships to sit in little rooms next to the "jail" and watch over some poor Navy "squid" (Marine vernacular) who
got caught with drugs he picked up in Thailand, or some other crazy country in WEST-PAC (that's Western Pacific).
Remember, I mentioned 1977.
Yeah, people got caught with drugs in every port we stopped in.
The bad thing was that their punishment, was the same as my punishment (I was probably the only person on that ship
that didn't do drugs) ...
My "reward" was getting caught
in a typhoon off the coast of The Philippines for three days and rockin" and a rollin' around in the worst location to be
aboard a large ship ... Or any ship, for that matter ... At one end or the other.
The middle of the ship is bad, don't get me wrong, but think about it ...
Up and down ... Up and down ...
The ends of the ship move the farthest ... Way up, then way down. Plain and
simple. Science at it's worst.
Anywho ... I digress ... It is just so ... You know, the memories ...
Forty years ago ...
And six years ago ... The Drake.
I know sea-sickness.
I chewed those tablets down, Baby ... I was ready.
I rocked in my hammock, back when I
actually did have a hammock that is, more than I did on this trip.
Remember, it was Spring in the Southern Hemisphere, maybe that helped, I don't know. All I do know is that crossing The Drake
on this trip was way too easy.
Even spooky ... I just
knew we would get slammed one of those nights ...
really. I mean, if I don't get sick on a ship, it ain't happening ...
"Too easy, Drill Instructor, too easy" (I picked up that one at Fort Jackson, while photographing Army Boot Camp,
years and years ago. Enough said.).
Which brings us (finally) to this
image ... Blue and Gray.
Ice and clouds.
Nature's tones. Nature's colors.
This was also a very large piece of tones and colors, I might add.
No, not one of the REALLY big chunks you read about, but ... Pretty darn big.
But that was not what drew me to it ... No, it was
the blue ice against that gray sky ... Color.
Old ice is blue ice.
The pressure of all the snow and ice above it
compress it and, ta-da, magic! White snow becomes blue ice.
Yeah, that's all
Science really isn't my thing ...
I just like the results.
Oh yeah, the gray are the clouds ... Lots of clouds.
Every day. Every night.
Yes, I did see some blue skies
every once in awhile, but ... In three weeks, I never saw the Southern Cross at night, let's put it that way.
Clouds. Every day. Every night. Twenty-one days. And twenty nights ... Something
Blue ice, gray skies ...
Nice color combination.
Did I mention my first Honda Element was Blue and Gray?
OK, I won't ...
But it is a nice color combination. And in The Southern Ocean, it is in-your-face, every day ... Blue ice, gray skies.
The Falkland Islands? Check.
South Georgia? Check.
Antarctica? Oh yeah, check.
And floating around in-between all these islands?
Blue and Gray. Check.
I photographed a LOT of
blue and gray.
And white ... But, you know, that's just
another shade of gray.
But I won't go there ...
Got it today!
UPS and Adorama teamed up to get
my new lens here right on time.
Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6
OK, lets get it out of the box and take it for
a test spin ...
I opened up the Kirk replacement foot
that I also ordered and tried to actually replace the original.
I goofed ... Again.
Wrong thingy ...
No worries ... I have a generic lens mount upstairs, a piece of cake ...
But, for a good 'ol hand-held image quality test, I don't even need one.
In fact, I am going to hand-hold the lens anyway ... You know, to see if this 5.5 stops of alleged "Vibration Reduction"
super-power stuff, actually works ...
You know how these
companies are ... Ahh, the lens was actually made in ...
don't tell anyone ...
A Nikkor lens, for a Nikon camera body, a NIKON camera body, and it is made where?
So, out I walk into my parking lot.
My neighbor's truck is sitting out there ... He is a neat freak, and is ALWAYS
polishing his wheels ... Something I want to do, but you know ...
Ahh, pictures to be made and all that ...
I walk out there, kneel down, you know, get on the same level as my subject ... And fire away.
Remember, hand-held. And yes, I was breathing ... But I did try to use good
lens technique ...
500mm. f5.6. ISO set at 200. 1/800
of a second shutter speed.
B.R.A.S.S. (You know, Marine
Corps rifle training skills, from 40, make that 41, years ago, and all that ...)
Nothing fancy. These are the settings, and skills, I would use to shoot wildlife, flowers, or, say, my neighbor's
shiny wheels in the parking lot.
Like I would ever
think of that ...
This is the first shot.
This is the very first shot with my new lens ... I shot 191 while on my "test
run" in my yard. And yes, I did nothing to it in Photoshop except re-size it for my website.
No SHARPEN (Although I usually do, because I can).
No NOTHING. ZERO compensation. Right out of the camera.
Look at the image. Look at it close.
Is it sharp? OK, OK, yes, it is upside down, but come on? Is that baby sharp, or what?
Tires, leaves, trees, clouds ... I shot anything and everything. Tripod, no tripod. Shoot, shoot, shoot. 191 images.
I could have shopped at one.
This first shot tells me all I need to know.
lens. It works. Game on ...
Really, that's it.
I don't need to do anything else. I don't need to calibrate it, or use some
fancy lens chart, or, Lord forbid, return it ...
I'm good. Finished.
Test over. Complete.
steak (Hey! I actually ate a steak last night down in Columbia, SC, but, you know, sorry, I digress) ...
good to go. No returning this lens. I think I'll keep it.
simple. That quick.
Yes, I could have stopped down the lens to f8, even f16, and shot a few more
Checked them out on the computer screen ...
But no. I got all the information I needed.
The lens is sharp.
And who hand-holds a five
pound, 200-500mm lens anyway?
The lens is heavy. I really
won't be hand-holding it all that much ... I did mount it to my Kirk side-kick and big Gitzo tripod and took a few more shots
I was right.
The lens is a keeper. It is SHARP.
her up" in a nice neoprene LensCoat digital military wrap, attached my 2X converter, and have her mounted on my big tripod
sitting here in the living room ...
Time to photograph
the moon ...
But before that, math time ... Yes, again ...
this: The 500mm f5.6 becomes 750mm f5.6 as soon as I mount it on my camera (1.5 crop factor of the DX sensor). Yes, the aperture
isn't affected - It remains f5.6.
That's nice ...
Take that, multiply it by two because of the converter ...
It gets nicer ...
That's right ... 1500mm f11 (there is a two-stop loss of light with the 2X converter).
No problem. I shoot the moon (photographically, that is) at f16 anyways.
Like, my longest focal length ever!
I don't know what phase the moon is in, I don't care what phase the moon is
in, I just know I'm ready.
gotta photograph the moon ...
I want to see if this set-up actually works ...
It pasted my test.
What else is there?
Just my luck ... New Moon. For those of you like me, that means ...
Blah, blah, blah, "can't be seen from earth" ... Start of a new cycle.
I tried ...
My Mind's Eye
Yeah, I see these flowers every time I walk up the hill ...
What is this? October? And they are
like, in full bloom ... What's up with that?
shows you how much I know about flowers ...
except I knew there was an image there ... And that I would get it one of these days ...
It has been about a week now, since I first saw them like this.
Where were they all summer?
I have no clue ...
They just "appeared".
I saw the image, as it would look on my computer screen, before I even had a camera in my hand.
My Mind's Eye.
I saw it in my head. My mind. I knew what the image looked like before I was even made it down the hill ...
So, I went upstairs, got out the tripod, grabbed a camera, and that new 70-300mm
lens I just bought, what? Two weeks ago? A month?
track, to tell you the truth.
OK, back up the hill ...
Nikon D7000. Nikkor 70-300mm. Gitzo tripod. Kirk BH-2 ball head.
saw the image as a "wall of flowers" ...
They are out
front of a house, like I said, half way up this hill in my neighborhood ... A couple hundred yards ... Maybe.
Placed the tripod on the edge of the road ... I didn't want to go onto the yard,
you know ... Private property and all that. That's why I wanted the 300mm reach ...
I knew I could "stack 'em up" with that longer focal length ... I had it all figured out in my head.
keep my trusty Nikkor 18-200mm VR on the camera all the time. Well, you know, unless I change lenses.
up, set my self-timer for two-seconds, lined up my "wall of flowers", and fired away ...
Tried again (like, what? I thought I didn't do
it right the first time, and now it will magically work? No problem).
Now the camera has my attention ...
I even tried manual focus ... Remember that? Yeah ... It took a second to dawn on me ...
The new 70-300mm lens ...
Yeah, got it. I remember
The lens has no built-in motor in it ... So ...
It needs a newer model camera body ...
D500. Oh brother ...
Back down the hill ...
Back into the living room ...
The D500 is set-up on my big Gitzo, with the "moon lens set-up", in the living room, ready for, you know ... What
I am ready.
I switched out cameras, back up
the hill ...
Got my shot.
That was the easy part.
D500. Tripod. 300mm
One-thousand two ...
Bam. That easy.
But you know me ...
Try this, try that, look at that wall, no, look at this wall ...
When is the best time to shoot a vertical?
got it. Right after the horizontal ... My Mind's Eye's view, in this case, was horizontal ... You know, "normal" ... A line
of flowers, a wall of flowers ... Left to right.
wait a minute ...
Walls can go up and down too ...
Vertical it is ... Simple enough.
I don't have an L-Bracket on the D500
... That is my "long lens expert" and I only use it with the big 300mm f2.8. You know, the "moon lens". The elk lens. The
... 300mm f2.8 lens (with, or without the converters).
L-bracket. No camera strap.
Nothing. A bare-naked camera
I just can't "flip it, and click it" into my Acura-Swiss
No worries ... I just had to go back to
the last century, and flop the camera over on its side ... Old School.
Are you kidding me?
For one image that I have
bouncin' around in my head? All this?
Whew, this is almost
like a curse, or something ...
up the hill ...
Shoot, shoot, shoot ...
Wall of flowers. Wall of flowers. Wall of flowers.
I'm a genius.
one more ... Wait a minute ...
Not a wall of flowers
Ah, there are more images in front of me ...
I just get so focused on that one shot. That "killer shot". That whole "Mind's
Eye" thing ...
Saw it. Got it. Done.
The lens works at f5.6 too ...
Break down that wall ...
Shallow depth of field.
A "different look" ...
Another image all together.
Now true, I am old, and my eyes aren't as good
as they used to be, but I don't see like my lens sees. Never have, never will (I hope).
Shallow depth-of-field is a trip.
It takes that "wall", and places
it anywhere you want it.
That "wall of focus" ...
At f16 I had a "great wall of focus".
At f5.6, not so much ...
So, I looked for an image that would work to my advantage ...
look, if I shot the same image at f5.6, that flat wall would not have changed very much ...
What? The depth of the flowers was only, what? Four inches? Six inches max?
Something like that.
Even at f5.6 (my "smallest number"), that flat
wall would have looked in focus ... You know, not that much depth within the image, to really show any big change ...
It would still look like a "wall of flowers".
So, I changed
my view, looking for a "gap" between the "front" flowers, and the "back" flowers.
Foreground and background.
Well, really, it is distance ... In the "real world" that is. The real, 3D world
in which we are a part of.
Except when we use a camera.
Or draw. Or paint.
Which I don't.
So, as a photographer, I looked
for distance between the foreground and the background subjects.
And went with my "smallest number" (f5.6 in this case), my longest lens, and got as close as I could ... Without
getting in their yard, that is.
300mm. f5.6. And what?
Six feet? Seven feet? from the flowers? Something like that.
It all equals up to shallow depth-of-field.
The look I was going for on this second image ... The one I didn't see in my head (at first).
Until I knew I had that one image I was looking for ... "The Shot".
Then, all of a sudden, another image popped into my head ...
Funny how that works. Again, magic.
I just let one image lead to another ...
I read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", many, many times over the past twenty-four years ...
Which led to the next image in my head, of course ... The "double-exposure special", one sharp, one out
of focus ... That dreamy look I have used for years ...
I can see it in my other Mind's Eye ...
The D500 works a little different ...
Or, at least, I haven't figured it out yet ...
takes one image right after the other ... Like, what is that all about?
I remember trying it once before ... I have to sit down and go over that one ... Or check out a video on YouTube
... Or "Goggle It" ...
Or, as an after thought, read
the manual (Duh?).
But until then, I will just have to
go back upstairs, and get my trusty D90 ... Or D80. Or D200. Or the D300. Or the D300S. Or the D700 ...
Oh wait ... Or the D7000.
the very camera I had in the first place.
OK, gotta run
Back up the hill.
And yes, I'm way ahead of
Back to the trusty, reliable, best-lens-ever,
the 18-200mm VR.
No, wait ... The 70-200mm f2.8.
what I need for that shallow depth-of- field (smaller number), dreamy effect I have in my head.
My Mind's Eye. You know, my third Mind's Eye.
And once I get that, speakin' of dreamy, I could breathe on the lens to fog it up ...
Oh yeah, and that would lead me back upstairs to see if I still have those little panty-hose pieces I used back in
the day ... You know, when there was someone in the house that actually wore such things ...
Nude. White. Blue. Red ...
No, I don't think I still have them ... That was another lifetime ago ... Like, a LONG time ago.
So, that has me ending up at Wal-Mart again ... Looking. Hunting.
Oh brother ... This will never end, will it?
It's All in the Details ...
I set this image as my Screen Saver last week ...
I see it when I am sitting there watching TV ... Nice and large.
I remember taking it ...
I was at the zoo a few years ago. Actually, I can't remember when I was there, but I was at the zoo ...
That I know.
A lady was holding
this hawk on her gloved hand and was telling us all about it, as she feed it chunks of meat ...
I remember I had my old Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens back then, the one I used for years.
It was a sharp lens. Slow, but, as you can see ... SHARP.
was an "old school" lens, dating back to the good 'ol film days. Like I said, I had it for years. I liked it.
Sold it to buy a used Nikkor 70-200mm VR f2.8. Ahh, an excellent lens. Very
I like it.
And just to come around full circle,
just last week, I ordered the NEW Nikkor 200-500mm VR lens for my trip to South Georgia next week.
Yes, like the old 80-400mm, it is SLOW. Like f5.6 slow ... That is the bad news.
The good news is with the new lens, it is a constant f5.6. At 200mm and ...
All the way to 500mm. A constant aperture.
That is a
And with my new D500 camera, with good, high,
ISO noise control, it is a win-win.
I will just raise
the ISO to control my shutter speed, and forget about it.
And for those of you new to the game, think about it ...
1.5 crop factor.
do the math for you ... I taught Special Ed. for 24 years ... I know my multiplication tables.
That 200mm becomes 300mm.
That 500mm becomes 750mm.
And remember ... f5.6.
That all sounds good, but the real bad news (for me anyways), is that Adorama is closed for a Jewish Holiday at the
moment, and the lens won't ship until Monday.
I leave next
I'll get it just in time. I hope.
Oh wait, it is Adorama ...
Add the 1.7X converter (you know,
because I can), and ... Oh, I don't even want to go there. Not yet.
I won't be able to sleep ...
But here, you do
it for me ... Take 750 and multiply it by 1.7. Go ahead, use that cell phone calculator you have in your other hand ...
couldn't help myself ... Oh my.
That is CRAZY!
Yes, it is a LARGE lens. A heavy lens. But ...
Remember excellent high ISO results.
If this new 200-500mm 5.6 VR lens is as good as the old 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR
lens, I know I have a great lens.
I mean, that old lens
This image is all the proof I need. Look at
the hairs below the eye. The blood on its beak ... Sharp.
can see it from the couch. You know, while I sit here and look at this image on my computer screen ...
During the commercials that is.
One, Two, Three
Three is a charm.
I was, you know, checkin'
out ADORAMA the other day, and came across ... Oh wait!
was not Adorama ...
I was actually checkin' out KEH Camera (after Adorama), which is located down in Atlanta ...
The place I sold all my Minolta gear back in 1991, or 1992,
when I switched over to Nikon.
I got on their website and looked for, well, you know, old, used cameras.
"X" classification. They don't work.
Remember, I haven't
shot film in YEARS ... 2005.
These are for my collection.
Three more ...
Nikon F is a CLASSIC. It was what caught my eye. Old-School at its best. Metal. Like, heavy metal. A big, clunky, beast that
started it all ...
Think Korean War ...
No, the camera did not start the Korean War.
No, it started the whole Nikon thing ...
my Master's Thesis on combat photography, and David Douglas Duncan. He shot with a Leica rangefinder, like most photojournalists
of the time ... Well, you know, those that shot 35mm, that is.
35mm was new.
Many old-school photographers
thought of it as a "toy", a fad. It wouldn't stand up to the quality of medium-format film, or the king of them all, the large-format
sheets of film.
Come on, size matters.
Or so they thought.
Turns out, quality matters.
They took movie
film, cut it in strips, and there you go ... 35mm film.
had their rangefinders cameras ... Leica, Contax, and ... Well, like I said, they had their 35mm rangefinder cameras.
it was World War II that opened the idea of using a smaller, lighter, camera in photojournalism. Pretty simple really.
Dare I say, life or death?
David Douglas Duncan was in Japan at the start of the Korean War (he was a Marine photographer during WWII),
and came across this little, un-known company, that had some SHARP glass ... It was the lens that caught his attention.
He bought one for his Leica camera, and the rest, well, you know ... The rest
That was the power of LIFE magazine in the 1950s. The power of LIFE photographers.
That is the short story ...
The Nikon F.
And yes, next came the F2, F3,
F4, F5, and I believe that the last one was the F6.
D for digital.
This is the camera that started it all ...
And speaking of "F" (no, it's not a bad word), I have to mention the "F-mount".
This is classic Nikon ...
I could go upstairs
right now, grab one of my new digital cameras ... Like the D500, for example (the newest), and mount this lens on it, and
go out and shoot ...
Sure, I would have to remember how to focus manually, and all the communication between the body and the lens are
gone, but ...
I "could" shoot away, and actually get an image.
that with a Canon. Minolta (Sony). Pentax. Any other camera ...
Not that I would WANT to, but ... You know, if I HAD to, I could.
I have gone over this before with my (one and only) Canon camera.
It doesn't work.
that is the Nikon F.
The Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 521/16.
Germany quality in a "point-n-shoot" camera, before they actually made point-n-shoot cameras.
Older than I am. They stopped making them in 1953 (yeah, I "Goggled it"). It
is the most expensive camera of the three ...
Oh, I have
to mention, that this is the only camera that came with a lens. It is an old, "one piece" camera, that folds
back into itself.
Again, a classic.
Now, for the MOST IMPORTANT new addition.
The KONICA Autoreflex TC.
This was my first
"real" camera back in the day.
I bought mine in Japan,
in 1978, right before I came back to "The World" ... My first SLR. Period.
The 50mm f1.7 lens was the "kit lens" before they were called a "kit lens". It was just the "normal" lens
that was sold with the camera.
And, if I remember correctly, this was one of the first "automatic" cameras of the day ...
I picked the shutter speed, the camera matched it
with the correct aperture. Just the opposite of the way I shoot today!
Which was pretty hi-tech for its time. Which was good, because I was clueless. I knew nothing about cameras, or,
for that matter, photography in general. Well, except to point, and shoot, like I had done ever since I picked up a camera
1968 - 1978. Ten years ... Wow, I never
thought of it like that before.
Anyways ... A "new" camera
from 1978, not bad.
And, after I brought out my "magic
cleaning" gear ... I had it looking like new. Sweet.
had one years ago ... Now, I have another one. Even better.
I sold mine when I worked in a camera store (N&W Camera) in Augusta, GA back in ... Ahh, like, 1984.
That is when I switched to Minolta. I wanted a Nikon, but the store did not
sell Nikon (and I couldn't afford it anyways). With my employee's discount, I went with the Minolta X-570 first, and then
I actually worked for camera gear. I would get paid, and turn around and buy more camera gear. They couldn't afford
to fire me!
But, it all started with the Konica.
for the collection.
One ... My collection.
Two ... My passion.
Three ... My obsession.
best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" ...
Plan, go, adjust.
This was a trip over to Cataloochie to photograph the elk.
You know, The Rut.
Fall. A little cooler air
I was pumped.
And get this, I even tried to check the web to see if the elk were out playing ...
I got nothing.
I went for it.
I got nothing.
no ... I did get some images, just none of elk.
saw an elk. I did hear one elk call, but I think he was just teasing me ...
I got nothing.
I was there, drove all that way, so ... After sitting around, setting up the
"big lens" with my, you know, 10 frames per second, Nikon D500 camera, reading my photography magazine (for like, the tenth
Oh, I did photograph a turkey, way out there,
you know, making sure the camera still worked ...
after all that excitement, I packed everything up and drove back down to ... I guess you could say, the old farmstead.
Yes, I ALWAYS stop and take shots of the shadows up in the barn ... The slats
in the sides of the barn make great patterns ...
since I was there, I walked across the little bridge and went into the house ...
Because it was there.
And there it was ...
Just as you walk in, there is a set of stairs going upstairs ... And with the
front door open ...
Light hitting the staircase ...
I had to get
a few shots ...
Which, of course, leads to more, and
more shots ...
Kind of like when you give a mouse a cookie
... But that is from another time and place.
That is what I'm going with on this one.
Just add light.
The color was ... You know, unique. The lines ... And then there was light.
And guess what? I took more than one shot. Line 'em up. Line up the lines ... Shoot, shoot, shoot ...
And yes, you are right ...
I "tried a little tenderness" as far as the exposure goes ... How dark, or light, do you want your chocolate?
Milk chocolate is nice, yes, but, why try only one when you can have dark chocolate
And every variation in between?
True, it is all chocolate, but what a difference a little, or less, light makes.
You really can't go wrong ...
Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate?
It is all
I am just glad I packed a couple more cameras and
lenses ... This image was taken with my Canon 6D with the 18-135mm lens.
Yes, you read that right ...
I couldn't have gotten this one with "The Big Gun", that is for sure.
Make your plans, take the gear you need to get the image you are planning to
get, and then remember to take the gear for the images you aren't planning to get.
Funny how that works.
Elk? What elk?
Yes, this is another flower I met along the interstate ...
And yes, it is another Blog about LIGHT.
But what this is really about is BACKLIGHT.
Flowers and backlight ...
Color and light ...
Pretty simple really.
LOOK AT THE LIGHT
SHOOT LOTS OF IMAGES
OK, I was parked on an Off-Ramp, but come on, I see truckers doing it all the
And, for the most part anyways, I doubt most
of them are out there chasing the light ...
Joey Bowman is a former college student of mine, and he's a truck driver
You never know.
So, when you see the light, and stop on the off-ramp, you better get close, and shoot a lot of images ... Quick!
Or not ...
Shoot the whole field.
Shoot a close-up of a
bug on one of them, shoot, shoot, shoot ...
before you walk away ...
One more. There is always one
Look at the back of the flower ...
"The other side".
That is one of the key aspects of SHOOT LOTS OF IMAGES.
Different angles ...
See how the subject looks
from this, or that, angle ...
Study the light ...
The shadows ...
The glow of light passing through
the petals ...
The patterns, lines, shapes, texture ... They are all there.
Front, and/or back ...
Take the time to study the art, before shooting it like crazy.
And trust me ... There is more than one image for any one subject.
Get "your killer shot" first, than look for another one.
A better one.
Get the best image possible, and then keep looking ... Hunting. Or should I
Photography and fishing ... Catch one, and then cast for a bigger one.
A better one.
It is always the "next" cast
... The "next" image ...
SHOOT LOTS OF IMAGES
Oh, and just to make sure I am perfectly clear, I don't just stand in one place and cast for trout over and
over again ...
from here, I cast from there ... I try different angles.
It carries over into
my photography ...
Or, did it carry over into my fly-fishing? I don't know
Doesn't matter ...
is, don't just shoot the same image over and over ... Yes, a few times, no problem.
But then move, look, adjust ...
The best shot will always be
your next shot ...
Craters of the Moon
No, I did not go out and buy a new lens.
In fact, I don't think there is a lens that
could get me this close.
Not that I could afford, anyways.
But ever since I got a "big" lens, and got as close as I could, I always wanted
to get closer.
It becomes an obsession.
I do follow my own rules.
Well, no, that is why I have rules to begin with ...
Just for the record (whatever that
means), this image was shot with my Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens, mounted on my Nikon D500 (with the 1.5 crop factor), along
with the Nikon 2X converter.
All that boils down to me,
looking through a 900mm f5.6 lens (35mm equivalent), and seeing little craters of the moon.
Then, due to the fact that my Nikon D500 has around 20MP, I could go one step
further, and crop like I've never cropped before.
I cropped like a madman.
What you see here, is just a wee little bit of the original file ...
Yes, I did "Sharpen" the image (I can
click a button with the best of them).
for my website, I re-sized the image, and finally changed the resolution, from 300 dpi down to 72 dpi.
Computer screens only show 72 "dots-per-inch", so I make sure my images only have 72 dots-per-inch.
True, some newer TVs and monitors, do have 96 dpi, but ... You know me.
works for me ... Keeps the files small, so that I can use lots and lots of images on my website, plus, they load fast
... I do it for you!
All good stuff.
So, I used every tool I have and came away with an image I have seen in my head
for years, but, you know, could never quite get there ...
I have the lens, mounted on the tripod, set-up in the living-room, about four feet from me, as I write
this ... I am ready.
In fact, I am sitting here now,
listening to 60 Minutes talking about space and the Hubble Telescope ...
what a bummer ...
900mm. Ha. NOTHING.
But ... I am going out right now and shoot (photograph) the moon, one more time ...
My sister's garden.
Well, her and my brother-in-law's.
else I photograph, I ALWAYS walk around their yard and end up in front of a poppy.
Or two ... Always.
Color, I guess.
Illumination, I guess.
Contrast, I guess.
You know the drill ...
Find a subject, move in, and get rid of everything except the subject, have the light work for you ... Know your
camera and how it "reads light", and work it ...
the photography process to "make an image" ...
took this image, there was no BLACK background.
Yes, there was some shade, but, to my eyes,
they were greenish, you know, dark green.
green that the light green leaves in the light ...
dark green, and red ...
That was what I saw. What I had
to work with ... My palate, if you will.
A garden. Flowers
But I "saw" black ...
I knew I would have black
I used that knowledge to make this image.
I used the basic camera operations, and limitations, to "make an image".
Work it ...
Turn the meter's limitation into your artistic advantage.
Line the red flower up against the "black" background.
Make a background for the main subject ... The "pop" of red.
Well, after driving from Hudson, NC to Richland,
NY that is ...
The name of the game ... KEEP IT SIMPLE.
is not simple, for the most part.
Make it so.
The Rest of the Story ...
I was going through my card looking for my "Color as Subject" image, and came across some I shot earlier this summer
while up in New York.
But before we get into that (this
is how my mind works), I just thought of something while typing up that last paragraph ...
You know I never really know what I am going to write when I sit down and up-load an image, right?
"Color as Subject".
Like I planned that one ...
I liked the image
... That I did know.
That is what starts it all ... That
is what I want to share.
But I swear, I had no idea what
I was going to write, or how I would begin ...
how it came about ... And trust me, it is not just this one time ... Oh no.
But this time it is fresh on my mind ... Like, I just wrote it about five minutes ago ...
clueless until I had the image on my computer and put the white frame around it before writing up whatever it was I was going
That simple. That quick.
That color, framed in white, with that black background ...
When I saw it, the color "popped", and I had my hook ...
I didn't see it like this, I didn't take the picture against a black background, and, as best as I can remember,
there was no white border out there along I-40 in Valdese, NC ... You know, Exit 113, VALDESE!
Sorry ... There used to be a commercial on TV for a local Ford dealer ... You have to be a local to have any idea
what the crap I'm talking about ...
But I digress (as usual) ...
There it was ... COLOR. Framed in white, against a black background.
I took it from there ...
Which brings me to
Oh crap! I can't remember what image I am
writing about ...
Oh yeah ...
There I was in Pulaski, NY, in June.
Well, just outside the village limits. Route 13, right along the Salmon River.
You know, I have written about it
I have hundreds of images ...
But, it was cloudy, dull ... No light.
I sat there. You know the drill, no light, no images ...
Then it dawned on my to shoot a couple of "behind-the-scenes" images to give you, as Paul Harvey used to say, "The
Rest of the Story" ...
I hope at least one of you are
old enough to have listened to Paul Harvey on the radio ...
people still listen to the radio?
local power company built this platform just for the osprey pair that has been building a nest here for years ...
Yes, their first nest was on the power lines ...
So, the power company, Niagara Mohawk
(back in the day), they changed their name YEARS ago, but us old people still call them Niagara Mohawk ...
Something Grid, but I can't remember ... Northern Grid? National Grid? I don't know ...
I moved away in 1983, in case you were wondering ...
wanting to mess with Mother Nature (with talons), they set up one more pole ...
Like, MUCH taller ... But as close to the original location as possible.
Osprey, like me, are creatures of habit.
after year ... The same couple. The same pole. The same nest. Year after year.
I, for one, am very glad "The Power
Company" cared enough for these birds to build them a new "home" ... A new platform.
Somehow, the osprey got the message. I don't know if the workers just placed the "old" nest on the new platform,
and hoped for the best, or what ... You know what they say ...
"Build it, and they will come".
And they did.
I wasn't around for the big move ...
But, best of all, the new platform is high enough, so I don't have to contend with those stupid (well,
you know what I mean) power lines in my images.
I just had to wait for the clouds to leave ...
Wait for the light ...
And then for the birds to, you know, do something ...
They are pretty good at just sitting there.
Hope this gives you some idea as to ... Wait for
"The Rest of the Story" ...
What it really
looks like, sitting on my tail-gate, next to a hay field, just off Route 13, in Up-State New York, in the summer ...
Remember, photography is all about what you don't see in your images ...
Color as Subject
Yes, there is some kind of bug here, but don't kid yourself, it is not the subject of this image.
And no, it's not the flower either.
Both are nice, but come on, THE subject has to be the color. It shouts out as what is really going on here.
I stopped for the color. I got close because of the color. And I photographed color.
The rest is just, well, you know, fluff.
fluff, but fluff never-the-less.
Yes, color can be the subject. The main idea. The reason for the image in the
first place. The Big Kahuna. The Star of the Show.
First off, it is my image, so I can make-up anything
I want. Period.
Just like you.
like to believe that I came up with the notion of "Don't let reality, get in the way of your photography".
Same with rules, concepts, "the norm", or whatever else you have heard, read,
dreamed up, or whatever ...
That is the beauty of art.
At it's basic core, art is self-expression. Words, music,
painting, drawing, singing, you-name-it ...
The "subject" of an image doesn't have to be an actual subject at all; an actual thing,
an object, in the traditional sense of the word, anyways.
it can be fear. Beauty. Terror. Joy. Love. And yes, even color.
Like in this image.
Take your pick ... Yellow or orange.
Or orange or yellow.
Color, or color.
Flower? Flowers? Field? Green? Bug?
I'm going with color as the main subject.
It's not a rule or anything ... But it could be.
Color as subject.
You know, the subject of the
The MAIN subject.
Oh, I know, squint your eyes while looking
at the image ...
No, really, go ahead. Try it ...
I love it when I actually begin to believe what I am saying myself. I love it.
Color as subject.
Another Look: Twice.
I was going through some images and came across this one ... Or, I mean, two.
I thought they were worth another look.
taught "Three Rules" since 1984.
I lived "Three Rules"
since 1984. That was when I taught my first photography class.
A LONG time ago; another lifetime ago.
LOOK AT THE LIGHT
TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES
Two of those rules you can see in both of these images. I saw the
light, and I got close. Period.
Pretty clear. Pretty
And, due to the fact that you see two images
here, proves that I actually do follow my own advise.
To quote Bryan Peterson, "The best time to take
a vertical, is right after the horizontal".
Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.
Can't remember, it's been a few years (2009), but I do remember, clearly, taking
SEVERAL images as he worked away ...
To me, the light, was
He was sitting inside a little wooden
building where he sold his finished products, or I should say, his wife, or some women, sold his rugs, etc ... He had his
I was walking through, saw the light on the
man's face, and knew I had an image.
I knew I had to
"make" an image.
The light was excellent, the metering
was tricky. In fact, the more I think about it, the two usually go together.
True, even without the sidelight, I could have "made an image".
Ahh, you just have to push a button ...
I didn't "see" the image in my head, until I walked around, and saw the light on his face.
I knew I had something there ... I just
needed to work at it.
I "talked" to him, ah, the best
I could, and "asked" if I could take his picture ... You know, a smile, and hold up the camera, and say, "Photo"?
It's not brain surgery.
He gave a nod.
That was that.
Then, of course, he probably freaked out when I started clicking away ... I'll
say I took fifteen, twenty, images as he worked, clicking away ... Never said another word.
He worked. I worked like a madman. Quick.
what you want, and know how to get it. Very important.
Checked my exposure.
Checked my "highlights". Shot some more. Up close. Backed off a bit. Checked my edges. Shot again.
Quick, quick, quick ...
I had to control the
"hot spots", or the highlights.
Keep the highlights
under control and let the shadows go black. You know, like shadows.
The meter wants everything to be "medium". No highlights, no shadows.
As an artist, you don't.
You want, in this case
anyways, contrast. You want whites, you want blacks. You don't want everything gray, or mid-toned.
That is the secret.
The secret of photography. Or painting. The secret to art.
The secret to giving a 2-D image, that 3-D look.
I got it, I got out of there ... As I remember, I wasn't in there long.
I gave a nod, and said thank you. Yes, in Spanish. I
was in Peru. In fact, I was at the Equator, to be exact.
shop, and a few others, were in this little park that was on the Equator.
I do remember that.
He was used to having tourists
walk in, and I'm sure, take his picture.
At least I hope
they did. I mean, look at that light ... He was working in a perfect studio.
side lighting brings out the texture. Period.
Find side lighting, and you have an image.
It changes the image, makes the image. Simple as that.
Painters painted with it, photographers just took over, and continued the process ... Think Rembrandt.
I believe even he would have stopped, and asked if he could "take a picture."
That is, if he would have been at the Equator, and seen this before him.
Well, he would of, at least, asked him to stop by his studio one day maybe. Oh, and bring his whole loom, or whatever
it is you call this "thing" ... I don't know how good he was painting on location ...
But anyways, you get the idea ...
With light and texture, you have an image. Now, all
you have to do is go out and find it. Make it.
you don't have to go to the Equator.
That was just an extra bonus ...
Two On, Two Off
This is what it comes down to ...
Two days with
my mother, two different doctor appointments ...
to get away ...
Two days up in the woods.
Two different worlds.
What made it all work, was that I received my new Goal Zero Solar Panel via UPS early Thursday morning.
Not that I needed an excuse ...
I will say it out load.
Doctors drive me nuts. Period.
And I'll also admit I don't like going
to the doctor. Period.
And it really drove me nuts when I was called back to
the room where my mother was.
She is getting a shot. Why would they come and
They had a question for me ...
What medicine does my mother take?
Like I know ... I said, "A lot". They weren't pleased.
I just put
them in the little pill box thing and make sure they are gone the next time I fill it up.
I can pronounce one of them ... I told the doctor, and his two nurses ... I was pleased I could get one right
When I got the
solar panel, I knew what I would do.
Two days on, two days off ...
I packed up my Element and headed to the hills. True, I had to stop at FairValue and pick up my two cans of meat
-- Ahh, I bought Turkey! Well, one can anyways ...
And two cans of fruit. Plus a bag of dried apricots,
and some peanuts.
I had water ... I was set.
took one camera ... My Nikon D500. And of course I had my little Nikon something ... SO1, or some such strange thing.
The tiny, white, camera I keep in my glove compartment for, well, for trips
to the woods, for one thing. Perfect.
The big tripod
with it's "sidekick".
My Goal Zero battery ...
And my I-Pod shuffle ...
My phone ...
And my fan ...
Got there much later than normal, but I'm anything but normal ...
Camp" was littered with beer bottles. Broken beer bottles.
And more crap.
I have extra trash bags in my
"cooler," that I don't use as a cooler. I have all "my stuff" in it ready to go ... Trash bags are just one of the many items
I needed them.
I filled up two of them.
Then I got my camera and tripod out ...
my Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens.
Got out the solar panel and
hooked it up to the Goal Zero Sherpa 50. Very simple. Plug the cable from the panel into the battery, and ... Well, sit there
and watch the sun do it's thing.
I have no-clue. It works, that's all I know.
I just have to "chase the sun" ... You know, kind of like being a photographer.
LOOK AT THE LIGHT. Chase it.
In the woods
it is a trip ...
I have one clearing, I just have to
play "Ring Around the Circle" ...
That's the bad news.
The good news is, with a panel this large, I don't have to run very long.
I like it.
charges my Goal Zero Sherpa 50 rather quickly, which in turn, charges my camera batteries, i-pod, and cell phone.
Works for me.
I have smaller, more portable panels, that I've used for years, but come on ...
Bigger is better. Right?
In this case, yes.
It comes with a stand that keeps it at 45 degrees to the sun ... Something about
that being a good thing.
Easy. Too easy ...
OK, that was one part of the trip ...
Playing with new toys.
The second thing was
that I got my tripod a new camo combination. The legs, and the "sidekick" that works as a gimbal head ...
I've written about it before. It works great.
Thing was, the lens is all wrapped up in a LensCoat, military digital cover, as are the legs.
But there was the whole black tripod head (Kirk BH-1), and the
"sidekick", sticking out like a sore thumb.
No longer ...
Wal-Mart to the rescue.
Official military digital camo duct
Yeah, really. I kid you not.
Duct tape. Digital camo duct tape. Perfect. Military approved. Works for me.
I wrapped everything up, and was set.
Great way to spend the weekend.
And yes, I actually
took some images ... You know, to test everything out. Nature photography, with a 450mm lens.
Yes, to some, it might be the "wrong" lens to be shooting landscapes, but, to a retired college photography instructor,
and a Marine, it was priceless.
I carried it all down to the road ... One of these days I'm going to weight
it, you know, just for fun ...
You know the drill: LOOK
AT THE LIGHT.
What is the light hitting? That's
it. Set up the tripod, look ...
Pan back and forth ...
Looking. wait for it ...
big, green, leaf thing, lit up by the sun.
Did I mention 450mm?
Yeah, it gets you close.
That close. That big.
That green. That shape ... Shapes.
Green Zen. Green and
Yeah, last week it was the dog's
face, this week , a green leaf.
Shapes. Green and black.
Or is it black and green?
I chose the image, and to tell you the truth, it makes no difference to me,
which way you see it.
Works both ways.
But, I know. Our human brain wants to make sense of such things, and tells you
that, yes, it is a leaf, so, that means green and black.
"subject" is green, the background is black. Green and black.
Funny how that works.
Funny how cameras work.
How exposure works.
In reality (if there is such a thing),
the background is NOT black.
The background is more green
leaves, some kind of vine, that runs amuck among the trees ...
Whatever it is called - Not Kudzu, but something like it ... It is, indeed, not black. It is green.
Just like the leaf in the image. Green to black ...
Magic, I tell you.
Light and shade.
You know ... The camera can only give you one.
What do you (the
You are in control.
Well, you should be, anyways, although we all know, that isn't always the case.
I wanted green shapes, which in turn, gave me black shapes.
Shapes to play with. Shapes to play off each other.
That whole Zen thing ... Art.
The "wrong" exposure, as far as
the camera is concerned, but the "right" exposure, as far as I'm concerned.
Minus. You know the drill ...
The one shot,
from that little adventure, that makes up the game I play when up in the woods, on a beautiful day, with a camera and lens,
any camera, any lens, in my hands.
leads me to my third image ...
Now, remember, I mentioned
one image ...
Yeah, we both know that's not going to
I take many, many, many, many images.
is tough on my batteries ...
Which brings me full-circle
to the need for solar power.
Funny how that works.
At least for this Blog, it seems to work.
But to tell you the truth (reality?), I really didn't need to charge my camera batteries ... I have two running things.
They last a LONG time.
About 300 per battery. I checked,
and I still had 16% on the one, plus the spare.
No, but I did need to charge my cell phone, you know, so I can be connected
to the "real world". You know how much I am on that thing ... Ha!
And my Goal Zero battery pack, which I had used the night before to charge up my camera batteries in the first place
I wanted a low Goal Zero battery so I could charge
I love it when my last minute plan actually works
I used the panel to charge my Goal Zero battery, my
phone, and my I-pod shuffle thing, and not in that order.
Gotta have my tunes ... Hey, it gets dark around 8pm ...
it all worked out great.
New solar panel. A new, BIG,
solar panel. Check.
Camo-tripod thingys. Check.
Two nights up in the woods. Two, COOL, nights, up in the woods.
didn't need my fan (battery powered).
Two bags of old beer bottles - GONE.
And yes ... I now have a list of all my mother's little pills in my wallet.
I still can't pronounce all but one of them ...
Now, they just better not ask which pill is for
Good luck with that one.
Now, that would be perfect.
I kid you not ...
Today I did two things: Wrote
about taking images of nothing, and went through my cameras, camera bags, and gear ...
One about nothing, the other about everything ...
while I was checking out my Nikon D40x with the 18-55mm lens, I took one picture.
Just checkin' ...
I took one image. I pointed
the camera up at the light, saw the color fade away to nothing, and ...
Took an image of nothing.
An image of the light
without the actual light. You know, the whole glass thing with the lightbulb behind it.
No, I didn't want the subject (the
light), I just wanted the light ...
You know, the light
from the light. That was my subject.
Not the ceiling.
Not the plaster with the little dot thingys ...
Light makes the image; is the image.
Light makes the plaster, the dots, the shadows ... Light MAKES the image.
Can you take an image of nothing?
Yes, you can click the button, and come up with a
An image of nothing. It is possible.
But you know what I mean ...
The above image is an image of something. Yeah, no kidding. Every image is an image of something. Even that black
rectangle is an image of, well, a black rectangle.
is the game. That is how it works.
You press the button,
and if your battery is juiced up, you will get something. You will get an image.
This is an image of a plaster ceiling. Period.
light ... It becomes art.
Light, color, texture, shadows.
Not plaster. Not a ceiling.
Look at it. Go ahead, look at this image again.
to dark, with every tone in between. From white to black, with orange and yellow thrown in for good measure.
The hardest part of teaching college photography, or photography in general, is vision.
You can go over all the aspects of the camera, The Three Buttons, my Three Rules, even the on/off switch, lenses,
tripods, cable releases, you-name-it, but getting anyone to "see images" is something that is not covered in the camera manual.
Seeing images goes beyond seeing subjects, seeing "things". That is the easy
part. Over the years my students took images of dogs, cats, kids, cars, trucks, trees, flowers, and even forks (when push
came to shove).
Well, no, I take that back ...
Back in the day,
I was up on Grandfather Mountain during their big ... Well, I can't think ... Oh wait, got it.
The Highland Games.
People, action, costumes,
food, drinks, animals, more people, people throwing things, people singing, people having fun ... You get the idea.
I was going crazy walking around, talking to people, photographing people, having
a great time ...
A gentleman walked up to me, and I swear,
while I was clicking away like crazy with all this stuff in front of me, he asked me what I was doing, and mentioned that
he was a photographer too, but he couldn't find anything to photograph.
I was like ... Well, I was kind, and said something nice, and walked away. Are you kidding me?
That next semester, guess who shows up for the class? I kid you not. I knew
I had my work cut out for me ...
Turns out, most of my
students were in the same boat ... Seeing images is hard for many people.
Now, remember, I'm not talking about
taking pictures. No, EVERYONE can take pictures. Ahh, you push a button ... Come on!
Seeing images is different. I always talk about taking (ahh, making) an image of NOTHING. Nothing but light, shape,
form, contrast, lines, color, and texture, just to name a few.
Not so much about what the subject is, but what it is made up of ...
Graphic design. Graphic elements.
up the subject ... That is harder to see.
It all starts
Without light, there is no image. Period.
Start with light, and see what it does to the subject. And yes, light can be
the subject. That easy.
With this image, I was up early
and at The Wright Brother's Memorial. That is key ...
Nice subject, been there many times ...
Nice light, pre-sunrise.
Put them together,
you have something. That is a given.
The Greek word, photography, means painting with light. Period.
was at the memorial making images as the sun rose ...
Light. Color. Heaven.
I shot like crazy ...
Then I noticed the light on the blocks. As the sun comes up ...
light hitting these blocks of rocks, which form lines, lines that curve. Again, lines, and graphic elements that make up the
walkway to the monument, that make this image.
we walk on.
Something we overlook.
Most people, me included, come to the monument to see the monument. Period.
We overlook the walkway to the monument.
The sidewalk. The path. The, I don't even know what else you could call it. It is not the monument.
It is NOT the subject.
That is, until the sun comes up and "paints" the path, "paints" the rocks ...
Paints them with light.
And where you have light,
and a subject, you also have shadows ... The absent of light.
Light/dark. The Ying/Yang of photography.
which forms lines ... Lines that curve. Lines which forms shapes ... Which make photographs.
it, and you have an image.
Anything. Light anything interestingly (key), and you have an image.
Now, in this case, I did nothing.
Well, except get up and out before the sun ...
that's all you have to do.
There is an old newspaper
photography quote about "f8 and be there".
photographers had to be there when something happened, and they just wanted the "event" to be sharp and in focus. As long
as you were there, any "middle of the road" aperture would be fine.
f8 and be there.
Now, to tell you the truth,
I don't remember if I was at f8 ... Wait. You know me, and I know I wasn't at f8. Without looking, but knowing me, I know
I was at f16, the camera mounted on a tripod, and most importantly, I was there!
f16 and be there.
Hey, I'm not a newspaper
I was shooting with a tripod. I wasn't
worried about camera shake, shutter-speeds, or anything else, except getting all those stones in focus:
Great Depth of Field.
I wanted EVERYTHING in focus.
I got everything
in focus. Wide-angle lens, f16.
"Big Number, Big
Depth of Field".
Stones lit by the sun. Sharp stones lit
up by the sun.
What is my subject? Rocks? Squares? Lines?
What is this an image of?
You tell me.
I hope I really don't have to explain this one to you ...
Ahhh, look at this face!
I was like, what? Really?
I couldn't believe that I was lucky enough to have this dog enter my viewfinder as I was photographing my little Labor day
Weekend Picnic out on the Outer Banks.
I had to take
a second look ...
Black and White.
Ying and Yang.
was like, zoom in, and get that face ...
Make that connection
of Ying Yang.
Graphic design doggy style. I zeroed in
on the graphic design of the face.
He loved to play fetch
... With his owner, and with my nephew's daughters after awhile ...
All right in front of me ...
In and out of the water ... On the shore, tennis ball, stick, whatever ...
and forth ... One of the girls, the younger one, would grab ahold of him and hitch a ride back to shore as he brought back
whatever it was he was fetching ...
We all had a great
Great dog. Great kids. Great day.
I shot and I shot ...
Like the good 'ol days. Black and White. Half black, half white ...
And the curved line ... Like, are you freakin' kiddin' me?
I love it.
I have no idea what his (or her) name was, but for me, easy:
is it White/Black?
Either way, perfect.
Black and white, and it is in color.
like taking pictures.
I like taking pictures of people.
I like light.
like graphic elements within my images, such as a nice S-curve ...
I like smiles.
I also enjoy smirks ...
Or the hint of a smirk. Or is that a hint of a smile? I'll leave that up to
Knowing her, I know what I think it is, but I won't
say it out loud, or in writing.
All I know is that I like these two images ... These faces. Portraits. Pictures.
Images. Whatever you want to call them.
Labor Day Weekend
at the OBX.
In fact, I think this was Labor Day. A picnic
on the Sound Side "out back" behind Jockey's Ridge. S-Curves, sun, sand, smirks, and smiles ...
hair ... No, the S-curve of the hair, that is what caught my eye, made me zoom in.
When I see a shape ... Any shape,
I tend to emphasize it within the image ... It caught my eye, I want it to catch your eye. Zoom in. Move in. Do something
that shows off what it is that made you take the image in the first place.
True, in this case, with this face, it could have been a couple of things, such as the smile, the glasses, that face,
and even my reflection in her glasses, but to me ... The S-Curve.
Not so much the hair ... I didn't notice the hair. No, I noticed the S-curve, which of course is the hair, but that
is not the point.
OK, and the smile ... Another form of a graphic
Even better. I'll take it.
And did I mention color?
I should have.
Both images are images of color.
Two girls, four colors.
Two smiles. Or two semi-smirks, or two semi-smiles ... I can't figure out which.
Two girls. Four colors. Two great faces.
Perfect portrait pictures.
Deva-Vu All Over Again
I spent the Labor Day Weekend on the Outer Banks with family and dogs.
For the first time, like ever, I
think I spent the first three or four days out there without lifting a camera.
But once I did get into the camera bag, things began to come into focus.
The first thing was a Labor Day Beach Picnic. Perfect. I just sat around, took pictures,
and got some sun.
My nephew has three children, one boy,
two girls. Models. They had a good time in front of the camera and I had a good time behind it. They played with mom,
dad, and grandma, and I took photos.
Then, I actually
did get up before the sun and got out to Avalon Pier for sunrise, like I have many times before ...
yes, of course, there was a sunrise, but I never saw the sun. Too many clouds. Nice blue/gray morning at the pier. Not bad.
Gave me a chance to get used to my new, used, Nikon D7000 cameras. Both of them.
The same, only different, than my old Nikon D90.
Everything was right were it always has been.
I got them set-up pretty good and it was like second
nature ... The buttons, the controls, the feel ...
I began to get up and out before dawn ... Bodie Island Lighthouse was next.
The closest lighthouse to me. Quick and easy. I ALWAYS make it out to this one lighthouse.
I have photographed it for years. Twenty years now, I think. 1997. OUR STATE
magazine runs an island issue every year - Or at least they did, and I made one trip every year during my Thanksgiving,
Christmas, or Easter Break from school.
Then I started
to take my college classes out there at Easter Break for a week. We rented a house and did nothing but photography for
a week. Twenty of us running around with cameras ...
is the first time I remember seeing Bodie Island Lighthouse's reflection in a little pond that forms in the
field when it rains ... You know, about three inches deep.
when pine trees were also across the street from the lighthouse ... Again, back in the old days.
It is a rare sight ...
And a great chance to
get a unique image of the lighthouse.
I also miss having the pine trees there, they were a nice "framing tool"
that I used for many years. I really don't know why they removed them, but they did.
I am glad to see that the little pond still forms, although I must say the mosquitoes are something else ... Bad
near the lighthouse, worst near, or in this case, in the "pond".
I got a few shots and got out of there. Fast.
Worth it though, always worth it.
Pre-sunrise color, top and bottom.
Like I said,
worth every little bite.
I knew the second I saw the
image on the LCD that I would crop it. Both the top and the bottom.
skinny, image of the lighthouses ... That is how I envisioned it. A long pan-o-rama of the lighthouse(s).
That is how I cropped
it, once I got back and got it into Photoshop.
I photographed it, I envisioned it, and I cropped it. That easy.
Not what I saw, but what I felt. What I wanted. What I envisioned.
First, I was just happy as a pig eatin' poop, to get the image in the first
place. I have only see this little "pond" once before. Can't remember when, but it had to be about ten years ago. Yeah,
something like that. I had the college classes out there and it rained ...
And second, when I first saw the image, for some reason, I "saw it" as a cropped image. I don't really know why,
I just did.
Funny how that works.
Ansel Adams referred to it as "pre-visualization" ... Seeing the final image
in your mind before you ever "print it".
I did teach B/W printing back in the day, but I haven't printed an images in many years. No, I don't print anything any more.
We switched to Digital Photography at the college around
2006, something like that. No more B/W enlargers, chemicals, and hangin' out in the girls bathroom loading up film canisters.
Oh, yeah, that was interesting.
Now, I just crop them the way I want them, and put them on my website.
If I want something printed, I take it to Wal-Mart. Period.
Yes, if I do want something printed, I "work on them" in Photoshop first, and then take the file with me to Wal-Mart and
let the machine do the rest.
Like I said, I don't print
But I love to crop. Too easy. Very easy.
Crop it the way you want it. The way you "saw it" ... Envisioned it.
Anyway you want. Whenever you want.
It is art.
Your vision, your way.
except for those darn mosquitoes ...
I got a new camera and lens today. Had to check them out, so I went for
Another Nikon D7000 with the battery pack. It
is in excellent shape, just like the first one I bought.
I retired, and wanted to up-date from my old, trusty, but somewhat outdated, classic, Nikon D90 (still love them though).
So now, I have two Nikon D7000, both with the battery packs (extra batteries).
much like the D90, but, you know, better.
lens I bought was a 70-300mm in great shape. One of the new "G" lenses, but ... Slow ... (f4.5-6.3) but hey, these new
cameras are so much better with the higher ISO settings, no problem ...
Nice sunny day, ISO 200, open up the aperture, fire away.
Won't fire ... What? Auto focus
turned on ... Oh, the lens doesn't have a button on it ... No VR button either ...
Oh wait. I don't think the lens has a motor built into it in order to focus ... The camera has to do it
OK ... Change to the D90. Nope.
D500. Yes. New lens, new camera, makes sense.
"Same generation" (my term, not Nikon).
Even better ... Instead of five,
or six, or whatever, frames per second with the D7000 (faster than the D90), I now have ten frames per second.
Time to play.
Hudson. City Hall.
The flag ...
I have this thing about photographing flags ...
Have for over thirty years. I believe it has something to do with being an American ... Being in charge of the Flag
Detail while in the Marines over in Japan, and being a photographer for the U.S. Army while in Germany ... You know,
something like that ...
And the colors ...
And when the wind blows, the ...
Ten shapes per second.
Blowing in the Wind.
Yeah, I like the song too ... You know (if you are old enough), Bob Dylan.
Now, with a camera that rips off ten frames per second, I had a riot.
Well, once the wind picked up that is ...
you know me ... I waited.
Wait for it. Wait. Wait ...
Then fire away ...
Two-hundred forty-five images of red,
white, and blue ...
And more blue.
Sky blue. The color of the sky and the shape of the sky within the image ... Magic. In fact, VERY important to the
I refer to something like this as:
That "little" something that "makes" the image. You know, that ... That little accent. That little "something"
Color. Curves. Triangles. Waves. Lines. Shapes.
The red, white, and blue(s) ...
Now, besides that, and what made it all special to me, is what you can't see
It is what I saw while shooting it ... What
I experienced in the viewfinder ...
Frame after frame,
ten frames per second, flashing in front of my eye ... It was like one of those little "flip books" you made as a kid ...
Or, in my case, tried to make.
Flip, flip, flip,
flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip ...
flips per second.
I can actually remember thinking that
it looked cool while taking the pictures ... A moving picture show within the viewfinder ...
Now, I have been doing this awhile, but I can't remember ever seeing this before; not quite like this ...
I guess there is a difference between, what? 4.5 frames per-second (D90), 5
or 6 frames per- second (D7000), and 10 frames per-seconds (D500) ... I won't even go into my other cameras ...
You get the picture (get it?).
A BIG difference.
Moving pictures ...
These are only two ... Two still images of a moving subject.
Funny how that works ...
That is why I take pictures. There is always much more than the end results - The image, or images.
In this case, two hundred and forty-two images ...
It is all about seeing the images,
taking the images, the moments clicking by ...
forty-two moments to be exact; two hundred forty-two images.
Moving shapes, still images.
The Space Between
Yes, The Dave Matthews Band. I stole it. No, really, I just borrowed the title
from one of their songs for this image.
I also stole (borrowed) it from one of the
articles from Outdoor Photographer ... You know, Columnist William Neill. He wrote about it, I am listening to the song as
I type, and, well ...
I shot this about a month ago at South Mountain State Park while waiting
for some former students to show up for a little get-together.
I have fished this stream for the past twenty something years ... This is "my" stream. My place.
This is also my image. My vision. My style. My art.
One of the first things I can remember learning about photography, art, whatever, was ... OK, let me think ...
I was working at N&W Camera in Augusta, Georgia ... So, it was 1984.
I learned this way back then ...
My photography students can tell you
... "Keep It Simple Stupid".
it simple ...
In doing what I do best, I kept it really
simple, and short, and dropped the "stupid" thing ...
know, to keep it even simpler.
Keep it Simple.
If I taught anything since 1984, that would be it. Not my THREE RULES. Not MY THREE BUTTONS. Just this ...
Keep it Simple.
That is art. That is photography.
That is this
A stream (with trout in it), and a tree (with
trout below it).
Yet look at how complex it is ...
Another one of my concepts
that I have talked about, like forever!
In fact, I THINK
I actually came up with this one all by myself. But I know, in actuality, I didn't.
True, I can't remember reading about
this term, hearing this term, this phrase, whatever ... No, I don't think I stole it from any European Neanderthal cave
painter, Renaissance artist, photography icon, or modern day artist of any sort ...
No, I think I came up with the term myself. The concept, on the other hand, I KNOW I stole from someone, everyone.
That is how you become a photographer, an artist.
Everything you have ever seen, done, experienced, or even thought about, is what makes you, YOU.
The person. The artist.
I am a photographer because I drove a motorcycle. Period.
I am a artist because I took pictures while on motorcycle trips. Period.
I received my first camera while on my first cross-country motorcycle trip.
It is that simple.
I knew nothing about cameras.
I knew nothing about art. Well, except about getting kicked out of art class,
and that you can't color outside the lines ... You know, all the art I learned in school (before getting kicked out, that
And about that whole Space Between thing ...
Look at the space between the green leaves in the image above ...
No really, go ahead, I'll wait ... Scroll back up ...
That space makes this image ...
The contrast in color. The contrast
in light and dark. The contrast in texture.
in the space between.
The difference in the space between.
Zen in the Space Between ...
Now that is art. That is a whole class, no, make that a whole semester, during
my graduate school days ...
My gosh, I am an artist!
If I can come up with the above paragraph, that nails it. Finished. Done.
The cycle is complete.
From my first day in
Grad school (1991, I think) when ... Oh, what was his name? The head of the department? Dr. Somebody ...
When he placed an African art piece thingy on the big table we were all
sitting at, and started in about something to do with art, and I was like, "Say what"? "What is he talking about"? ...
Blah, blah, blah ...
From then until now ...
That is art.
Seeing The Space Between ... The shapes, lines, colors, textures, contrast ...
That simple. That complex.
And the thing is, I knew that, but never really thought about it, once I actually learned it, that is.
That is art. That is becoming an artist. When you see, but don't think.
When you walk up by a stream that you have seen for years, and make an image,
without really thinking about all the space between, the contrasts, the art ...
just take a picture. Like you have thousands of times, hundreds of thousands of times, and never, ever, actually think about
all that you are seeing and doing.
It is what you do. Who you are. Why
you are there (NOT fishing).
Why you do what you do. Why you make (not just
take) the images that you do.
And it is NOT about
And it is NOT about the stream.
It is ALL ABOUT ...
it! Dr. Mulvaney. The Head of the Art Department.
Lord Help Me
I collect cameras. Have for years. About thirty years, something like that.
One or two here and there ...
$5.00 here ...
A gift there ...
Pretty low key.
Not so much ... I have written about it before. 8"x10" wooden view camera (not too low key), 4"x5" Speed Graphic, several
from my friend's
grandfather, dating back to WWII, and my uncle's donations, etc
The Polaroid SX-70 (a classic), from a yard sale while living in Germany
(or was it Korea?), the Lego Camera from, yeah ... Adorama, several cameras from my college students over the years, and
on and on ...
And me just hunting them down, all over the country, while driving
back and forth across the United States over the years.
stores, and yard sales, from across this great county of ours.
Oh, and Russia.
Can't forget St. Petersburg,
where I found the best rangefinder cameras I own ... German rip-offs like only the, then Soviets, could have come up
They are fake Leicas, called FED, in
The Mother Country. Those are the initials of the head of the Secret Police, back in the day.
Stolen from the Germans during WWII. Yeah, really ...
Sitting here typing, I can count eighty-three (not counting my cell phone; its
a phone), and that is just in the living room. And I might of missed one or two on the TV stand thing; they go way back
Then, there is up-stairs ... Ahh, maybe -- Wait,
I'll go up and actually count them.
It might take
OK. Fifty nine.
And remember, that does NOT include my "working cameras", the digital cameras I actually shoot with, day-to-day ...
No, those are not part of "The Collection". No, they are all in bags, and
put up on a wooden shelf, in a way that only makes sense to me.
I just cram them in there any way I can. Three shelves, stuffed full of LowePro (and a few other brands) bags of
various size and shapes.
Over twenty-five DSLR cameras, all but one ... Nikon.
One lone, Canon DSLR, you know, from when I taught college
classes, and some poor, lost, child showed up with "That Other Brand". I wanted to pretend I knew something about them ...
Then there are the non-DSLR type cameras ... The Point-n-Shoots, a couple of ... Well, I don't know what you call
them ... Mid-range, non-DSLR, types of cameras, and ...
-- The Nikon AW110, all-purpose, waterproof, camera that I don't leave home without.
Then, lets see ... Three or four other small, point-n-shoot cameras I kept at the middle school for years ...
All set, and ready to go.
Cameras. I have a bunch of them.
So, what does all this have to do with the above image?
Oh Lord, not
Yes, I was in one of the antique stores in downtown Lenoir, with
my mother, looking for a "new" reclining chair for her apartment, and ...
There it was, in the "Back Room" (used to be the "Discount Room", but not anymore) with no price tag on it ...
That drives me nuts. Because, of course, once you pick it up, and take it out front, they KNOW you want it, and so
No. They wouldn't do that.
asked. The lady at the desk then had to call the owner. Yeah ... She wasn't home.
asked me for my phone number, but I just said I would check back with her ... No worries.
I'm not a big "Phone Person", as most of you know.
took a week or so, but, once again, I found myself downtown Lenoir, with my mother, looking for that darn chair again (We
finally just went to BIG LOTS, and bought her one. And yes, it fit in my Element) ...
And so I stopped in to see what ridiculous price they put on this old, beat-up camera, that I had never heard of
No, that's the name of the camera ...
It is right on the front of the camera ... I have
no idea where it is made, or how old it is ...
I should of Googled it. Hold on ...
OK. "A lesser know
Japanese camera company dating back to the mid-fifties".
Mid-1950s. Like me.
Well, except for the whole Japan thing. Although, I did live there for two years, you know, back in the day ... Mid-1970s.
Twenty years after the fact.
Are you kidding me? Five bucks? I thought for sure they were going to lay it
on me, they had me just where they wanted me ... They knew I must be crazy to want a camera nobody had ever heard of before
Lord help me!
I got away with a ... Well, you know, an old camera from a company I had never heard of before.
Just what I wanted to pay for it ... Oh, yeah, I had to pay the taxes, but mom
was there, with her little coin purse thingy, you know, another artifact from the mid-1950s, that nobody has ever heard
of ... Gotta love it.
One more for the collection.
Headed over to Asheville tomorrow to pick-up another one ...
I was there last week picking up a few lenses for some other old cameras I have, and noticed they had an old
film camera that I used to have years ago ... The Minolta 202.
Now I just knew
I had one upstairs, or somewhere ... I had both the 101 and the 202 at one time. I mean, that I actually shot with back
in the 1990s ... While I lived in Fort Sheridan, near Chicago.
Nope. I checked when I got home, and found out I have two Minolta 101 cameras, no 202.
Two Minolta 101 cameras?
So now, back I go to make things right with the world.
See, I am buying all the camera models I have owned over the years, but sold
to buy newer models ...
Something I no longer do.
You know ... For the sake of My Collection.
Just one more ... I just gotta have it.
good is the Minolta 101 without the Minolta 202?
you understand, you get it ...
I knew I wasn't
the only one ...
Lord help me.
Slow it Down
I "always" keep my shutter speed up there when shooting wildlife.
Stop the Blur. Keep it Sharp. Stop the Motion. Freeze the Action. Open-Up the Lens. Use the Fastest Shutter Speed
Just do whatever it takes to keep the
main subject sharp.
OK. I can do that.
I have done it for years.
I follow orders. I'm
Until I wasn't.
In case you are not sure, I got out of the Marines in 1979.
2 Mar 79 (that's how we do things) to be exact.
like, last century ...
But I still follow orders. Most
of the time. You know what they say ...
Once a Marine,
Always a Marine.
Just older. And slower. And fatter.
Well, anyways ...
I was up in Pulaski, NY sitting in front of an osprey nest for a total
of about three days ... Give or take.
I shot hundreds
of images ... And no, I won't bring up the fact that my new camera shoots at ten frames per second again ...
But it does.
shot a lot.
And speaking of speed, with my new Nikon
D500, I also went with Lexar cards ... Yeah, something new for me.
I have used SanDisk since I first got into digital over twelve years ago. CF cards, then SD cards, then the newer
(at that time) SDHC cards.
Unless I bought something else.
Which I did.
But, you know, I like SanDisk.
But with the new camera, I bit the bullet, and went with the new 16 GB
... wait! No, the new 32 GB Lexar XQD card.
... 32 GB! Are you kidding me? I even surprise myself sometimes.
First off, what the heck is a XQD card? Never heard of it. Sounds weird to me. But this is 2017, what can I say?
I joined the 21st Century.
And get this ... The camera
also supports a SDHC card. Two different slots. One for the XQD card, and one for the SDHC card.
And yes, just to keep everything simple,
I went with the Lexar 32 GB SDHC card as well. You know, I didn't want to jinx anything.
Me? The 4 GB King, going big time.
32 GB? Crazy. Totally wild.
Do the math. Eight times
more data. I like this new math stuff ...
Now that I'm
How do they do that? The 32 GB SDHC card is
the exact same size as my old 4GB cards ... Magic, I guess.
this new XQD (I have to look at the card, which is right in front of me, every time I write down those three letters)
is a bit different ... Larger (and fatter, I mean, thicker) than the SDHC cards, but smaller, and thinner than the CF
cards. Again, weird.
Something about speed ... Sounds
good to me.
Write-Speed. All I know is that it is fast.
Faster than my D300, or the newer D300S, which this camera replaced (It took a LONG time!).
Glad I wasn't in any hurry.
Plus, a little faster than that, if that is possible.
OK, it is fast, we got that.
Faster, as in focus. Faster, as in write-speed, which to me, means getting all
that darn digital stuff, whatever it is, onto the card, and moving on to the next image ...
Move on. Keep shooting. Hold that sucker down ...
And I see the results in these new images ...
Combine that speed with continuous focus-tracking, and it is ... You know, FASTER.
Faster focus, faster write-speed, and sharper images. Magic.
I have used the older model cameras for so long, I am, and I'm not making this up ... As I'm writing this, Neil Young
is on my TV Music Choice singing "Like a Hurricane" ... Singing about "Being blown away"!
I'm blown away, alright, by how
well this new camera works ...
"Like a hurricane".
Look at this image.
After a few hundred images shot at wide-freakin'-open, I said to myself, "Self, close that puppy down, let's go for
the Notion of Motion effect."
Blur the subject. Well,
no ... Blur some aspect of the subject, like, the moving parts of the subject, but keep the rest of it sharp, you know, so
you can tell what it is.
Have SOMETHING sharp ...
Stop action/Blurred action.
There is a fine line between The Notion
of Motion, and being blurred. Or blurrrrrrred. Or, just plain, out of focus.
Or being a bad shot. Crap. Period.
fine line ...
Shoot. Close down your lens. Shoot again.
Go from f5.6 to f8. Or even f11 (bigger number, smaller opening). Yes, you can try f16, f22, whatever you got.
You got it, try it. That simple.
But, like most things in life (except owning cameras), use moderation.
Try it, you just might like it. If
not, delete it, and keep your mouth shut, no one will ever know how wild you really are.
I was just going to go, check the numbers, and give you all the data ... Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, lens length,
etc ... The Data for this image.
But, you know me, heck
with that crap, it means nothing, unless you were right there with me, in that light, with that lens, with that ISO, that
aperture, my tripod, etc ...
That's another reason I retired, but don't get me started ... Just let me teach.
Oh wait, we're talking about osprey ... And photography.
Just go out, use the gear you have (that
is ALWAYS the best gear), and shoot away.
Try different setting. Its cheap.
See what works for you, at that time, in that light, with that lens, that aperture, that tripod (or not), etc ...
That's how it works.
That's how you play. That's how you learn.
That's how I got
this shot, this image ...
Play with your aperture to get the shutter speed you want. The shutter speed
you think will give you the effect you want. Change it. Shoot. Check the results. Shoot again.
And yes, wait until the action is over until you "chimp", or review, your images!
Shoot now, look at results later.
just shoot. Be in the moment.
I didn't even know I had this shot, until I got home, and went through the images
on the computer.
Hey, I never saw my slides (that
is film, in case you were wondering) for a week or so, it won't kill you.
That said, yes, shoot, look, adjust, shoot some more ... No worries.
It's not like I'm there looking over your shoulder ... Shoot, shoot, shoot, worry about me later.
After awhile, you'll forget I'm even there ...
Motion in a still image ... After all these years, it is still magical to me.
Crazy really ... The osprey's eye is sharp, the body is sharp, the wing tips are not sharp, they're, like, MOVING
(but they're really not, it's a STILL image)!
Glad I thought about breaking all those weird rules ...
some magic the next time you are out shooting, just be sure to obey all the rules ... For a little while anyways.
Green and Black
Woods tend to be green.
The trees are green.
The ferns are green. The grass is green.
The woods surrounding
my Uncle's Camp are green.
Well, no. Really they are green and black.
Light and shadow.
Light hitting green plants,
and black shadows where the light does not hit the green plants.
Black and Green.
Green and Black.
My Uncle's Woods.
Up-State New York, just South East of Mannsville, NY, just inside Northern Oswego County. Up on Tug Hill, surrounded
by State Forests ... An island of manicured woods, within, you know, regular woods.
Nice place. Nice woods.
But you know that, well,
if you have read my BLOG before, you know that. I have been staying up there for a week, or so, during the summer, for years
I drive up Hessel (yes, one "L") Road, past my great-grandfather's,
then grandfather's, house, through the woods, go straight through an intersection (like in the middle of nowhere!), and
then turn right onto a no-name path, through some tall pine trees ...
Not a road really, but by now, a path ... A single lane path ... Two tire tracks through the woods, the tall pines
Drive past his original camp, The Red Camp (1970),
through a little gate, past a large clock, through a small little stream (when it rains every day), past his real camp (The
Blue Camp), past the large yellow, A-Frame, with the little metal fence and arched gate out front (Yes, you guessed it, The
Just past that, the next right, is where
I "camp". Park really. I just stop, and park. Then take a few minutes to transform my Honda Element (The Element Camp,
if it ever really did have a cool camp nick-name, which it doesn't) into my living quarters, and then I walk over to the next
building, across a nice mowed yard ...
"The Work Camp".
The one with the mailbox out front.
The place where everything
revolves around. The Work Bench. The Wood Stove (trash can for everything that burns), the small Gas-Refrigerator, and cupboards
after cupboards of tools, and more tools ...
And in one corner, the gas-generator.
Plus, a small, no, make that a not so small, gas-heater (Whoa, that works fast!). A weed-eater.
A chainsaw. A bow-saw. A pair of "nippers" ...
of beer. Bottles of water.
And several spare-parts, to
all the above mentioned tools ... And, most importantly, a table, with four chairs, smack-dab in the middle of the whole thing
Camp. The Work Camp.
Picture yourself there in July.
If you look
out the windows, you would see ... Green.
hitting green stuff, black shadows where the light is not hitting green stuff.
Oh, and quiet.
But you can't see quiet. Sorry, got carried away there.
And quiet. But again, you know what I mean ...
All you hear is quiet. Except for when my uncle and I are talking.
And if we aren't sitting there talking?
maybe a few birds ...
But all you would really hear
is the new, old looking, well used, weed-eater, just wailin' away, hour after hour ...
And an old, no, I mean, really, really, old lawn mower, transformed into just an old "tractor" (by
removing the whole mowing thing from underneath) just running around, hauling loads of brush to the
burning piles, up near the old burning cart thingy, which is set up, just off the "road", at
The Work Camp.
Those are the sounds of the woods, my Uncle's Woods, when he
is up there, and it is not raining.
Gas-powered power tools, for grown men, and his nephew (For a week anyways).
If I show up, and he is not in, or at, the Work Camp by some chance ... I just stop, and listen.
Oh, he's got to over there, by the old Phone Booth (Yeah, a real phone booth).
Or, he must be really out back, by the Road Sign, or no, he must be out by the bench on Bullshit Hill, weed-eatin' the
That is how it goes ...
"Past the South Jefferson Road Sign, turn left, past the Chinese Statues, over by the
Brass Kettle, next to the Gnome, and his little bridge" ...
on and so forth ...
Directions: From Point A to
wherever my uncle happens to be working at any given moment.
That is how you find my uncle.
Follow the sound
of the weed-eater.
When he leaves for the night, and I am not following him around the woods (I drive the "tractor", he walks), I follow
the light ...
I was going to write, "The sound of light",
but no, that's not right.
No, I just follow the light.
I look for light and shadows. Green and black.
I make images.
I look for images.
Green, and black, images.
Speaking of which:
First image (Top Image):
I saw these when I was looking out
the door, while listening to my uncle's stories ... They are lined right up with the door, and "my" chair.
Light and shadow. Green and black.
The teacher in me wants to write:
Green is to
Black, as Light is to _________?
But I'm retired
now, so I'll just go ahead and tell you.
to Black, as Light is to Shadow.
Which takes us to the
second image: The green, hostas plant thingy (Did I spell that right?) ...
This is just off the side of the back porch of The Work Camp.
The light was getting low in the sky, shining right onto the green plants ...
And their shadows ... The black.
"The Negative Space".
Never overlook what is
NOT in your image. Very important. In fact, it is often just as important as what actually is in the image.
A green plant (something) and the black shadow (nothing).
Green (and black) Zen.
Which brings us to the third image ...
showing my uncle my new Nikon D500 (and explaining that it is the first, real, new, brand new, camera that I have
bought in thirteen years), and he asked me, "What makes it different from the other, older, cameras you own"?
He knows I have LOTS of "old cameras".
Good question (He has LOTS of good questions).
"Speed" (I have lots of clever, one-word, answers).
And as I said this, I let 'er rip ...
The camera, that is ...
Ten frames per-second.
Just like that ...
And this is just one of the resulting
images (Ahh, there were more than ten, trust me).
just pointed the 900mm lens out the door (towards the light), and fired away ... You know, for the sound effects
... Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam ... For a few seconds ... Bam. Bam. Bam ...
Never looked to see what I was actually pointing at (the poach railing, with
the yard, and ferns, in the background) or cared.
sound, baby, the sound ..................................
Then I looked down, and saw the resulting images ...
Green, abstract, swirls of light thingys ... A bunch of 'em ... Green, green, green ... Swirls.
Abstract, Green, Light Swirls, Art.
I loved it. My uncle thought I was crazy ...
he knew that already. He knows me.
He knows my passion.
He understands my passion.
He gets me.
He is the one that helped me build my Camera Obscura a few years ago, and has
given me a few cameras for my collection over the years ... He was an antique dealer, and silver-plater for most of his
life, he knows passion ...
He's an artist.
Except he smokes cigars.
... After a week up in the woods with him, I must admit, I did begin to smell like one ...
But, it keeps the mosquitoes away.
But only if I stay inside the building ...
All bets are off. It is a War Zone up there
... All that rain. Standing water. Heat.
Look at the
Light. Get Closer. Shoot lots of Images.
Run like Hell.
to the "Work Camp" and its smell, its odor.
Ahhhhhhhhh ... The Work Camp.
I made it to New York!
My sister had to come
down to watch after her adorable grandchildren, so I had the chance to drive up to Richland, NY to photograph my osprey nest
just outside of town.
Did I say my? My nest?
Sorry ... Their osprey nest. I have been photographing this nest for the past,
what? Five years? Seven?
The past few years.
You know ... Time flies while you're having fun.
Oh, and I also spent a week in my Uncle's camp up in the State Forest just outside
of Mannsville, NY.
You know about that too ...
Same thing. I have been staying up there for a few years as well ... But, that
is another story ...
I believe I told you about my new
(like, BRAND SPANKIN' NEW) Nikon D500.
someone that mainly shoots with the Nikon D90, it is literally like night and day.
Ten-frames a second, fast.
Fast focus. Oh, and actuate. Fast, actuate, focus ... BAM!
I like it.
That is why I took it up there. The nest. The osprey. The
osprey landing in it's nest.
Did I mention ten-frames per second?
Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast.
Faster than you can read
get the point.
I was in New York ten days (yes, that fast!) ... It rained,
like, eight. Clouds. Rain. More rain. Clouds. Rain.
"Partly cloudy. Chance of rain."
EVERY day I
was up to camp.
But, before that ... First two days at my sister's house in Richland, no images.
I went to the nest ...
I, well ... I didn't
I found out that there was one chick. It was
BIG by the time I got up North this summer, but it wasn't flying yet.
Yes, another photographer stopped by ... Like, the first time ever! He brought me up to speed. He shot with a Canon
(white lens) with a camo lens cover from inside his truck ... The "regular" camo, I was in the Marine Corps, so I went
with the military digital camo that is all the rage (well, to me anyways) ...
I didn't even haul out the big gun ... The Nikkor 300mm f2.8 with the 2X converter, mounted on a big Gitzo
Naw ... Clouds. Like, covering the whole sky
type of clouds ... Gray skies.
I took a few shots with
my Canon D60, with its little bitty 18-135mm lens.
gun. Pistol really.
But it did give me a nice gray exposure ... Something like 18% gray, to be,
sort-of, kind-of correct.
Gray. No, I won't even go into
the details about the other 49 shades of gray that were in the sky that day ... That week.
So, after two nights on the couch at Nancy
and Dan's house, off to the woods I went.
And, like I
"Partly cloudy, chance of rain".
I spent six nights, seven days, up in "MY ELEMENT" and ... Well, worked
with the chain saw one day. One time.
Really. Too wet
when it rained, and too wet after it rained, to do any work in the wet woods.
I did take him to Watertown and Adams one day ... You know, to pick up his medicine. Just like with his sister, my
mom, down here in Hudson/Lenoir.
Now, I did burn a nice pile
of branches that my uncle had piled up for me, you know, to have a hot meal a couple of those nights, but that was about the
extent of work we got accomplished that week.
Oh, that, and, well ... Talk.
And ask questions that we couldn't answer ... (which Jennifer was so kind to reply to ...). Our
"Google It Girl".
Yes, my "dumb phone" works up in the
woods ... I even talked to mom one time, if I stood in just the right spot and ... Well, moved here, moved there. But, it
worked, that's all I can say.
My brother? Not so lucky.
Not so much. I tried everything, but just had to text. That's all that worked.
Drove back down to Richland after
a great week with my uncle. Did I mention it was quiet up there at night?
No? It is. Like crazy quiet ...
Well, I'll talk
about that next time ...
Back to our little feathered
friends along the Salmon River ...
goes the tripod and lens ...
Wait for it ...
OK, they were all out and about.
The chick, was, like, as big as the parents, and out flying around like he had been doing it for all of, what? A
I can never tell who is who ... But you already know that.
Flying, landing, flying some more ... Calling out. Waiting.
Ten frames per second.
To give you some idea
of what I was going through, my old, trusty, D90 shoots at, what? Four? Four frames per-second.
My D300, and D300S, shoots at eight. I almost forgot. I have peed my pants over that, for what? The past
few years ... Seven? Eight?
I don't know. A long time.
So, there I was ...
One of the osprey comes in, fire away! I just held the shutter release down ... One-one thousand, two-one thousand,
Four. Five ...
Do the math ...
Ten. Twenty. Thirty. Forty. Fifty.
Fifty shots in five-seconds. Five times one, bring down the zero ...
What comes after peeing your pants?
That fast. That quick.
Let 'er rip ...
Blue sky. Osprey. Ten frames per-second.
I have images ... Oh, and
did I mention I had the camera set to continuous focus? Yeah. The camera/lens tracks the bird while it is in motion ... Go
Welcome to the 21st century.
Ten, FOCUSED, images of an osprey landing at it's nest, or in this case, taking
off, from it's nest ...
Wait! I mean, fifty. Fifty, well
focused, images ...
BAM. BAM. BAM. And on, and on,
and on ...
Here are a couple of images ... Well, two
Two images that say all there is to say about
why I bought a new camera.
True, the lens is nice, and
I have covered that before ...
But, it does deserve some
The first shot is as it came out of the camera
... "The Digital Negative".
No crop. No nothing.
Of all the images, and there were a lot. BAM! I liked this one.
The moment. The wings. The framing. The eye ...
Just taking off for another flight ...
the chick. That I know. The male or the female parent ... Which? I have no clue.
I got a bunch of images of this particular take-off ... And this one shot caught my eye.
Well, the osprey's eye, but you know what I mean ...
I even zoomed in on the back of the camera, right there along the road, to
see what my mind's eye wanted me to see, if I had a 900mm, f5.6, lens for an eye.
My left-eye, that is. I shoot with
my left eye.
And, I just thought of this, it is the bird's
left eye as well ...
I have no idea what that is all
about, but, well, anyways ...
I zoomed in on the display
screen and saw what I wanted to see, but couldn't.
Under the wings. Framed by the wings.
And it is SHARP. In-focus.
That is the lens.
The whole "framed by the wings"
thing? That is the camera. The focus. The speed.
moment. A moment frozen in time. Forever.
The lens. The
It takes two to ... No, I'll just stop there
... My mind works in strange ways. Always going for the pun, the clever catch-phrase of the day, the one-liner ...
It always has.
should of heard me in sixth grade. Eighth. A senior? Oh, please ...
Even worse, years later (there was a twenty year gap) ... In MY classroom. It got worse as the years flew by
In the middle school, AND, at the college.
"It takes two to Tango" ... There, I said it. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
But I digress.
The lens and the camera.
The glass and the motordrive.
That is what this shot, this image, is all about.
Big glass (900mm) and big burst speed (again, TEN frames per second).
Now, true ...
Ten frames per second is not the
top-of-the-line, earth shattering speed ...
I had a student in my class once, with a Nikon D3. Ahh, something like, twelve
frames per second ...
A machine gun.
Or, was it fourteen? Whatever, it was FAST!
Remember, this is me. School teacher. RETIRED school teacher.
Four frames per-second for the past, what? Thirteen years? Eight frames per-second for the past two? Three?
The speed, and the sharpness, of this new camera just blows my mind.
Now, the second image ... Oh, wait ... I have to mention ... Did you notice
the claws, I mean, talons?
But, back to the second image ...
That is just a very small portion of
the original (top image), 20 mega-pixel file.
cropped big time. I just dug in there and cropped ...
is technology. That is a new camera. And yes, a great lens.
the speed. Not top-notch, cutting edge speed, but, pretty darn close. Pretty darn good.
I'll say it one more time ...
Ten frames per-second.
With super-fast focus. Tack sharp.
Together, they made for a really great time up in Pulaski, sitting
on the tailgate of my Element (with a pillow, of course) ... Just waiting. Watching. Waiting some more. Hoping. Wishing. Coaxing.
"Fly osprey fly" ... Please? One more time.
So I can pee my pants ... One more time.
for it ...
That good. That fast.
Glad I could finally retire.
But no, I will have to wait a few more months for that ... Heck, I have
"retired" every year for the past twenty-four years ...
For a couple of months anyways.
No, it won't
be until October, when I am down on South Georgia Island, looking through my viewfinder at, what? Half a million Emperor
Penguins, that I will really, truly, comprehend the fact I'm retired.
And no, I won't need 900mm of glass,
or that ten frames per-second speed ... They are close, and they are slow (on land, anyways).
No, I won't be worried about that. I will be worried about that whole peein'
my pants thing ...
The Falkland Islands, South Georgia
Island (NOT Georgia, as in The United States. No, no, much, much farther south), and Antarctica. Three weeks.
Then, and only then, will I know that I'm really retired.
October? November? During the school year? Not during Easter, or Christmas,
or Summer Break?
W. Eugene Smith
I wrote my Master's Thesis on Combat Photography back in 1993.
Back in the day.
I was in Graduate School, while
living north of Chicago. The wrong place, at the right time.
See, Columbia College is an Art School. I was not your typical college art school student.
got kicked out of art class in high school, took one art class in Community College -- Something to do with watching movies
-- And never even thought of myself as an art person, or, heaven forbid, an artist.
I can't sing, draw, paint, build, or, no ... Wait, I was once in a play, in high school, what was it? I was
a delivery man ... Neil Simon ... Can't think of the name of the play at this second. One line. No, really, I had one
And no, I can't remember it now. This was, what?
Late 1972, or early 1973, one or the other; it was my Senior Year.
Art. I was an artist. Perfect.
So, there I was,
in a Graduate Program, in photography, at an Art School, with little or no background in art.
Not so perfect.
Prior to being accepted into
the Graduate program, I had worked for The Department of the Army, as a photographer, while living in Germany. Three years
-- 1985 to 1988.
I thought of myself as a photojournalist,
although, truth be told, most of my work was in a studio, shooting B/W official photographs for soldiers in the
Army, once they got to a certain rank: E-6 (staff sergeant) and above.
Not art, per say ...
But ... What I really enjoyed,
and worked very hard at, was getting out of the studio, and out photographing the various field operations for the Second
Armor Division ... Men and their toys.
training. General Patton's famed tank corps of WWII. Out of the studio, into, and through the mud. Bergen-Belsen. The
former property of the work-camp where Anne Frank, and her sister, were sent to their deaths just before the end of the
At the same time, I also picked-up work as a travel photographer, working for a stock agency called Strawberry Media,
that specialized in American military publications in Europe.
Run by a retired Army officer, I had most of my work published in airline in-flight magazines, as well as travel
magazines, Berlitz language guides, and calendars.
Travel stuff. Military stuff.
Or so I thought. Or dared to admit.
So, for my thesis, I went with
what I enjoyed most: Combat Photography. As if shooting "War Games" had anything to do with war photography.
But, ten years before, in my under-graduate work, I
majored in history: Social Studies. That is what I enjoy the most. I studied combat photography and the people that covered
W. Eugene Smith was a LIFE photographer that covered the action in
the Pacific during World War Two. He photographed Marines.
I was in the Marines, a sergeant, an E-5. I was trained in mortars, but spent two years over in Japan raising hell,
I mean, guarding a Naval Air Station from ... Well, you know, somebody. This was thirty something years after the war.
I did go on to spend my last six months with an infantry unit at Camp Lejeune,
North Carolina. I was a Platoon Sergeant in charge of 60mm mortars.
I had never seen a 60mm mortar. I had trained on the 81mm mortars ... Right Church, Wrong Pew. Close, but no cigar.
I knew nothing, yet I
was in charge.
What a trip. The good thing was that I knew I knew nothing, so I let the men that did know something, run the show,
and I made sure all the crap was taken care of ... You know, work details for this and that, all the men had hair-cuts,
organized foot lockers, and that their rooms were squared away.
No worries. That, I could handle.
I was infantry.
I was a Marine. I could march. I could make my bed.
months. We trained with the Army Special Forces, on and off Fort Bragg, NC and got to "go home" for Cold Weather Training
up at Fort Drum, in Up-State New York.
Where I grew
up. I knew snow.
So there I was, years later, in
art school, in Chicago.
Like I said, no worries.
Combat Photography. W. Eugene Smith. David Douglas Duncan. Robert Capa. The
greats. That is what, and who, I studied; who I researched. At an Art School.
My advisor thought I was nuts.
But I was a stubborn
nut, and I finished "my" paper ... You know, after a couple (like four, or five, or six) revisions, of course, so that
the paper sounded like it was written by anyone but me, but that is formal education. Higher learning.
Art? Combat photography? W. Eugene Smith? LIFE magazine?
is what I was thinking about when I took this image ... What? Twenty-four years later.
Yeah. The Family of Man. One of the greatest photography exhibits ever put together. It was held the year I was born;
1955. New York City. The Museum of Modern Art.
of Man. Google it. Or ask me, I have a copy of the book, from the show, upstairs. A classic.
Look for an image in the book that looks like the above image ... Just envision two young kids, walking hand-in-hand,
down that gravel road ... A Walk to Paradise Garden.
Eugene's kids. His back yard. One of his most famous images. One of THE most famous images.
Smith was covering the battle of Tarawa,
an island in the Pacific, when an explosion nearly killed him. He spent over a year recovering from operation after operation.
And then at home.
This image of his children, walking down a path through the woods, was the first image Smith made after his many
operations, and recovery.
A combat photojournalist's
first image after the horrors of war, was of his children walking through his garden ...
I saw the arch, the woods, the road (OK, they were walking down a path), and I saw W. Eugene Smith's image in my
I took this picture, made this image.
I saw the two children holding hands. The boy's foot lifting off the ground,
ever so slightly, that shadow under his heel, the path ...
how that works.
No kids. No holding hands.
But the arch ... The "path" ... The woods. I saw it ...
That is the power of art. The power of photography. The power of memory.
The love of art. The love of making an image. Seeing an image. The love of photography.
"My Camp". Up in the woods. The gravel road. The arch. The memory of an image ...
I'm glad I went to the wrong school to study art. Study history. Live in the Foothills. And have a place where
I can see, and make, art.
Or simply take a picture. Make
a photograph. See lines, see shapes, notice contrasts, and most importantly, find peace in the woods; with my camera
Like W. Eugene Smith saw in his backyard, with
his kids, with his camera.
Google it. See if you
don't see what I saw, what I envisioned ...
3D Sunflower Seeds
On my way back from photographing my friend's Official 4th of July Family Portraits, I just had to stop and photograph
some sunflowers along side the road.
Yes, the same section
I stopped at a few days before that, and even before that ...
Hey, they're on the way, what can I say?
just been using my Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens and it was just sitting on the passenger's seat anyways ... Perfect.
True, I would tell my students that any image taken with a tripod will be sharper
than one without ... If, and only if, you take the VR off while it is mounted on the tripod.
I didn't have a tripod with me.
And please, lets just keep that to ourselves, OK?
too easy ... I just had to re-think the way I wanted to shoot this beautiful sunflower.
What story could I tell? What "look" could I give it?
How was I going to come away smelling like a sunflower on this one?
The sun was just right, low in the sky and ...
actually, no, it was in the wrong position, with the front of the flowers pointing one way, and the sun shining the other
Oh, but look at that! One flower. In full glory,
turned around and facing the sun. You would of thought I planned it that way.
I got out, walked down, got close,
well, you know, as close as I could with the lens I was using, and "Filled the Frame".
I love sunflower seeds. I mean, to a
point where I just might be eating too many of them, I don't know ... Un-shelled kernels. A lot of them.
Hey, they're small ... I get carried away.
I had my image.
I checked the edges ... Oh wait.
The flower had such a deep center, that my depth of field, remember, f2.8 ("Little Number, Little Depth of Field"),
was not enough to keep the whole image in focus.
on different focal planes ...
The trick is to keep the
sunflower, and my sensor, parallel to each other.
Which plane of the sunflower? The front? The middle? Or the back? It is DEEP!
I picked the back ... And kept my lens/sunflower as parallel as possible, and fired away.
Well? OK, not everything in focus, but, will it work?
I needed more Depth of Field.
Darn. No tripod. And I didn't want to
risk hand-holding the lens closed down to, say, f16, my MAGIC SWEET SPOT, for maximum depth of field ...
Less Light, More time. Not a good thing without a tripod.
Unless, of course, your heart stops beating ...
What the heck ...
or six quick shots ...
I got it.
Not what I had planned, but what I needed, what I could get, at that time, that
moment, in that situation.
Period. That simple.
It is the never-ending game of shutter-speed and aperture that every photographer
must deal with while making images.
Every shot. Every
time. Every click.
What ISO (effects shutter speeds)?
What aperture (effects depth of field)?
What shutter-speed (effects the whole motion/sharpness/blur thing -- THE most important factor to me)?
Three BIG questions you have to deal with every time you press the shutter.
Basic Exposure 101.
The Exposure Triangle.
The Nuts and Bolts of
Photography. Whatever you want to call it, you have to have an idea on how these three components work together, if you ever
want to go beyond just taking snapshots.
And the good
The combinations are endless.
And, once you get the basic exposure down pat, you can change the settings to
capture the LOOK (Depth of Field) of the image that you want.
Again, ENDLESS (Well, a lot anyways, let's just go with that).
I could have used f22, f16, f11, f8, or, as in this case, f5.6, and because I shoot in Aperture Priority, my
shutter-speed would have tagged along (the camera does the work for you) in order to keep the basic exposure settings correct.
And that is not even counting the changes in ISO I could
have changed ... Oh yeah, it can get crazy.
have been properly exposed, AND, I am quite sure, every seed would have been as sharp as the others at f16, with the help
of a tripod.
Or, now get this ...
I could have kept it at f16 (no tripod), wiggled the camera during the exposure,
and created something along the lines of an abstract painting.
That works too (Well, maybe, it is a gamble after all).
After looking at this image as my screen-saver (nice and big), I like the 3D effect it has by drawing your eyes into
the sharpness ... From left to right.
A sunflower seed
roll-a-coaster ... Whoa!
Thet say, that the human eye
is drawn to the sharpest area of any given image ... I don't know, someone must have gotten paid to stare at images someplace,
sometime, you know, in the name of science, I mean, art.
is how things are done, I guess ...
That said, I agree.
That is a good thing.
For photography. For art.
It draws you in ...
It is what allows photographers (and painters) - OK, artists, to show depth
in a flat image, or canvas, or computer screen, or ... Well, you know ... A 2D image.
3D effects on a 2D medium.
If you have an questions
on all of this artsy stuff ... "Google" The Mona Lisa ... and take a look at the background.
Yeah. If it worked for Leonardo, it works for me. He was painting at f2.8 before there even was such a thing as f2.8.
... It gets me out of a rut, you know, ALWAYS shooting at f16. ALWAYS having everything sharp from edge to edge
... Hey, I'm retired now, I can do whatever I want.
that's a game changer ...
Plus, you can't go wrong.
And, if you do (and you will), just tell them that you are trying something
new, something artsy, and want to go rouge, and change the world!
Works for me.
The Games I Play
Three-fold game here:
Color vs. Black and White
OK, first, lets start by saying I like to drive up into the woods above Collottesville.
You know that.
Second, I like to play. You know
I also hope you know that, to me, playing is
teaching. It is what I did for, say, well, I'm still doing it, in the classroom, or not.
It is what I do. Did.
You also know I have a
number of cameras. Yeah.
I take a few of them with me
when I go up into the woods. Or anywhere else, really.
there I was ... In the woods. At "MY CAMP", if I ever really owned a camp. To be honest, first off, it is not a camp. It is
a dead-end, pull-off, from the gravel road I take up a small mountain ... A true foothill, if ever there was one.
A gravel road pull-out.
I have spent many a night there over the
past, what? 10 - 12 years?
Call it 13. Yeah.
I like it up there.
I pull in, turn around, and park up by a section where it is flat, well no, a wee-bit of a slope, so I can sleep
with my head a little higher ...
I have just the
And I pull out my chair ... Set it off
to the side, and, well ...
Read. Dream. Eat. Relax. Get
out my camera. Play. Take walks. Make images. Dream some more. Take a few more images on the way back. Over and over.
Oh, and clean up all the crap people leave around ...
But, don't get me started on that ...
Anyway, on this fine day, I had the Nikon D7000 I just picked-up, at you know where ... And yes, you also
know I bought it "not new", with the MB-D11 grip, for under $500.
I don't know how I find these things ... Well, yes, I do, but that is another story, for another time ...
There I was. Happy as could be. A Nikon D7000, with a 40mm Nikkor macro lens
in my hands, while in the woods. Perfect.
I then told myself, "Self, you can not move
out of the little area you are sitting in, and you have to find two images. Quick"!
don't know ... Say, ten feet by twelve feet. Something like that. Not tiny, but not LARGE
either. My Honda Element parked on one side, woods on the other three sides.
I looked around. I looked at the light (or was it the other way around?). Soft diffused light, at the moment, better
hurry. It changes fast.
Quick. Find something, anything.
no, you know, find something nice. Something graphic, with lines, shapes, patterns, texture, color, contrast, or,
all of the above.
I told my college classes every semester, every year ... "You find something
graphic, you found an image".
"Find it in great light, and you have just found art". Again, period, with a capital
So, I took my own advise ...
that was easy. Simple. Look at them? Green art, just sitting there ... Lines every which way ...
The right light. Soft light, to bring
out every little detail. Every line ... Every point.
Well ... OK, not as easy ... Look.
Oh wait ... On "the backside", away from the wooded area ...
me say that again, "My Element". Just sitting there, in the perfect spot.
No, really, BAM (my license plate, for
those of you that have no idea what I am talking about). My Element, in the perfect spot, in the perfect light.
The red tail light. Color!
Lit by the sun ... Sparkles!
So, lets see
... Color. Shapes. Lines. Contrast. Patterns. And Sparkles? Are you kidding me?
Yeah, I didn't even have to leave
"my restricted space", my area ... I really was in my element (You knew it was coming sooner or later ... I love it).
For both of them, I used one of my smaller
tripods, and ... Let's see:
That easy. That fast.
I had 'em.
Two images in, like, five minutes,
Less probably. More maybe. I don't know ... Time fades
away in these kind of games. I get into a Zone ... Photo Zen, if you will ...
True, it was a few days ago, but
I really have no idea how long I actually played my little game.
Seemed like a short period of time, maybe not.
know me, I took several images ... From each "scene", from this close, that close, closer, closer yet ... Looking. Always
looking, as I moved the camera ever so slightly, one way or the other, as I moved in. Closer.
Visual hunting. With
a camera. My eye. My mind.
My mind's eye.
Slow down ... That is key to the success of the game ...
Check the corners of the frame. Any lines? Where do you want them?
Coming out the corners? Up here? Over there? Pointing lines? Leading lines?
Be quick, but don't hurry.
OK, yes ... Once again, I stole that quote from the late, great, UCLA basketball
coach, John Wooden. I love it. Drove my middle school kids crazy as they were running up and down the hall ... Say what?
"Be quick, but don't hurry".
True, it is fun to limit yourself
sometimes, but it is all just for practice. You know, for when you are actually out there, say, in Paris, or Lenoir,
walking around, looking for images.
Not just playing a game in the woods ...
Anywhere. Anytime. Anyplace.
That was easy.
... "The Rest of the Story".
OK, that was fun.
Nothing new. I do it all the time.
Next, I was going through the images back at my place, and BAM, there I go again
I saw the lines, the contrast, the shapes, you know,
all that stuff, and said to myself, "Self, time to play".
#3: Color vs. Black and White
So, on the computer this time, using my fancy, dancy, Photoshop Elements 10 (or whatever, an OLD version, lets put
it that way) I pushed one more button ...
to Black and White (I don't know, I always want capitalize them).
"Too easy, drill sergeant, too easy"
(Yes, I stole that from when I photographed Army recruits at Fort Jackson, SC) years ago.
A life time ago ...
We never sang that
in the Marines ... First, we had real Drill Instructors, not Drill Sergeants, and second, we would never admit (out loud) anything
was too easy. Are you kidding me? In Boot Camp? Parris Island?
But I digress.
So, what could I do to make it
more than just pushing one little button?
Slide one little
button, or two, or three ...
So I did ...
Convert to Black and White, takes each primary color and lets you "play with
them" to get the results you want.
OK, that is just my
non-tech way of putting it ... I have no idea how it really works, it just does ...
I just play ... Slide ... Oh, no ... Too much, back ... There. Perfect.
Slide red. Slide blue. And yes, slide
green. One, two three ...
Back and forth. A little, or
Who cares? You can always slide them back
the other way. Can't get lost.
Contrast? Another slider thingy ...
Slide ... Oh no ... Whoa!
Slide it back. Play.
Now, I get to play again while writing this all
down on my blog, I mean, BLOG.
No, I mean, I'm really done now.
Until the next time ...
Oh crap, wait ...
I forgot to mention the whole LIGHT thing.
Remember, I have mentioned that there is no such thing as BAD light, just the wrong kind of light for any given subject,
at any given time, and place.
Did you notice the difference
in the light in these two images?
Fern. What kind of
Taillight. Same light? Different?
What kind of light?
Does it, or really, did it, make a difference?
soft light for the fern, and harder, brighter light for the tail light.
Both within ten feet of each other. Maybe twelve. Whatever.
In the woods. Shade, no shade.
Different light for different subjects.
the ferns in soft, diffused light ... There is enough "space between" to show the contrast. No light required.
I also liked, or really needed, the hard, brighter, contrasty light hitting
the tail light. Back to that one word again ... Contrast.
red "popped", and when it came to the Black and White version, "popped" is right! I needed that spark, that pop!
No Pop vs. Pop!
The game is all about matching the right light, with the right subject.
Love it when things work out.
I mean, POP.
it doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?
Now I am finished.
Your camera, well, most cameras (my new, I mean real new, not used, Nikon D500 does not have one) usually have a
small pop-up flash built into it.
It is free.
OK, technically it is not free, but it came with the camera, so you know what
I mean ... You don't have to pay for it every time you use it.
It is also considered to be "available light", because ...
Wait for it ...
If you are using a camera with
a pop-up flash, well ... It is available, any time you are actually using the camera.
Push a button. Magic.
It is what the little flash is for ... What it is designed to do.
Fill-in the shadows.
In this case, I was driving back from a day up at "My Camp" in the woods above Collettsville ...
Right along the side of the road is a long, skinny row, or two, or three, of
sunflowers ... I don't know ... 100 yards? 200? Something like that ...
I like sunflowers.
I shoot them whenever, and
wherever I find, them, see them, pass by them ... You get the picture (Get it? Picture? Get the picture? Oh boy ...)
I stopped, pulled off to the side of the road, got out, got my camera, and ...
Well ... Rule Number One.
The flowers were pointing one way, the light was coming from another way ... The opposite way ...
Nice, but ...
sunflowers are nice ...
But the front is in shadow ...
I didn't have an assistant with me with a large reflector (I looked around,
couldn't find one), so ...
I did the next best thing
... Or actually, I did the FIRST "bestest" thing ...
went to my fill-flash button ...
I pushed a button and
The sun lights the flower from the back,
the little, tiny, itsy-bitsy, flash on top of the camera "fills-in" the shadows in the front of the flower.
It balances the light from the sun with the light from the flash. A little bit
of this and a litle bit of that ...
Two exposures for the price of one: Natural light, and fake, artificial, electronic,
One, two ...
All in one shot.
Just what I needed.
Just what my image needed.
And, better yet,
it was just what I had available to me, at that time, and at that place.
You have one, use it.
Now, you know I have my
Three Rules, and my Three Buttons that I have talked about for over twenty years at the college ... You know, the ones I preach/write/Blog
about all the time ...
The number four button, if I could
count that high, would be ... The Fill-Flash Button.
I have that covered with Rule Number One: Look at the Light.
looked, it didn't look right ...
Oh wait, yes it did.
See, our eyes can see "into the shadows", where a camera sensor can not.
It looked right.
It fact, there where no shadows when I looked at this flower, or, when I took the first picture.
shadows only came when the camera (the sensor) read the backlighting situation, and exposed for the bright light ... The backlight
- On the BACK of the flower.
It does its job
as it is designed to do. In fact, it does it quite well. Those Japanese Wizards I am always taking about know their stuff
But ... It the case of backlighting, and I learned
this a LONG time ago ...
The Meter is a Moron.
True story ...
I took my first photography course, through the mail I might add, with The New York Institute of Photography, I learned that
The Meter is a Moron.
Basic Exposure 101.
The meter reads light ... Again, period. That is all it does. And yes, it is a moron.
It does not see the image ... It does not know that I am taking a shot of a sunflower. It can not read my mind and
figure out that I want my light, my way.
I want it all,
No, it exposed the sunflower the way it thought
it should be exposed. And it was. Perfect.
The BACK of
The part I wasn't photographing. The one
part of the flower I couldn't actually see, wasn't in my viewfinder ... NOT in my image.
Perfect, but incorrect for the vision I had in my head ... MY vision.
Not the geek back in Japan that made my camera years ago ...
Oh, by the way ... I was using my "new" used Nikon D7000, with the 40mm macro lens in case you were wondering ...
The camera did it's job, now I had to do mine.
I'm the artist. I'm in charge of my images, my art.
pushed the button, Nikon did the rest (Yes, I sort of, kind of, stole that line from Kodak. Please forgive me).
my lesson for the day ...
Get out there, carry a camera,
look at the light, and make the camera do what you want it to do.
Learn to see like a lens, and think like a camera (I'm sure I stole that from somewhere/someone).
Know what your camera can, and can not do, and learn what to do to get it to
work the way you want it to work.
Push the button.
Button Number Four.
Unofficially, that is ...
I drive over I-40 every time I go fishing.
The state has wild flowers spread out among
the on and off ramps ... It is very nice. I have photographed them for years ...
Poppies. Purple things. White things. All kinds of things ... Even some sunflowers.
I stop for poppies and sunflowers. I am a creature of habit.
So, on the way back from dropping off the music images over near Icard, I pulled over, walked over to the fields
of flowers ... And took pictures, I mean, made images.
the best field of flowers I've ever seen over there, but, flowers are flowers, and I did see a red poppy, or two ... And even
a yellow sunflower, or two, or three. The little ones ...
yes, I just so happened to have had my 40mm macro lens on my new (used) Nikon D7000.
I knew what I wanted before I ever
got out of the car. Funny how that works.
This was around
noon ... Give or take, and the sun was out among the clouds. Not bad. Not ideal for some subjects, but for macro work, perfect.
That is the key.
The wrong time of day, but the right type of light. Which, just so happens, makes it the right time of day to be
in a field, with a macro lens, photographing poppies and sunflowers.
The key being ... Macro.
I'm up close. Within
an inch of the flower most of the time, two or three inches at the most. I don't need a lot of light. And what little
light that I do need can be changed very easily if needed ...
To hard a light? ... You only need to diffuse a very small amount. A trash bag, a diffuser (a small one), a small
softbox, anything that diffuses light. And it can be small ...
Need more light? Use that trash bag, that you have handy, to bounce the light back into the frame ... Again, you
won't need much.
You only need to light a
six to eight inch square ...
A sheet of paper, a newspaper,
a napkin,. I saved the wrapper that came with my hot dog when the school took the kids to see the Crawdad's ... White on one
side, wrinkled aluminum foil on the other. Perfect.
Back in the day, I used two small pieces
of cardboard, some aluminum foil, crumpled it up, then flatten it back out, and taped it to the cardboard ... Reflector boards
that fit in my camera bag.
Whatever works ... In The
Grand Caymans, the house I stayed at had some real thin, white cutting board things in the kitchen ... Fits in my bag.
Yes, I asked ... They had several. The owner was amused when I told her what
I used it for.
You will be surprised what will work,
when the main subject is usually, what? Six inches, or less, in diameter.
On this day, in this light, I didn't need anything. All I had to do was bend the plant around to place the light
where I needed it.
Except for certain little bugs that we will talk about later ... Yes, I was wearing shorts and sandals ...
Duh? I'm retired.
So, off into the fields I went ...
Sun. A fast f2.8 lens ... Fearless.
Just playin' ... Lookin'. Huntin'.
You know me ...
Shoot this, shoot that ... Turning
the flowers up into the sun ... Away from the sun ... Firing away ... Shoot, shoot, shoot ...
Backlit. Frontlit. Sidelit. Whateverlit (Yes, these are words ... Photographic technical terms used by me. Don't
worry, I taught college photography, I know).
to follow my own rules of photography: Look at the Light (check). Get Closer (check). And Shoot Lots of Pictures (check).
Camera in one hand, turning the flower every which way but loose in the
other hand, and firing away ... Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.
I didn't keep track of the number of shots, but if you are still reading this, you know ...
I shoot a lot.
Doesn't cost anything. Well,
you know, it doesn't cost anything once you actually bought the card ... And you wouldn't be out there shooting without a
card (I hope), so, you know what I mean ...
Let 'er rip (I might have stolen these, non-technical terms from
my days as a Marine)!
I think the D7000 shoots at 6 frames per
second ... So I did.
Then, I looked for another
flower, or flowers ... Oh look, little green bugs. One giving the other a little ride ... How cute.
I think I had both hands on the camera then ...
Down on one knee. Out in a field along I-40. Exit 113, Valdese!
Love it. Move on ...
One tiny, little bitty one ... All wrapped up. Look
at it! Wild. Tiny little hairs all over the place ... Lit up by the sun.
Did I mention I like Poppies? See, I
even capitalized it ... Poppies. Quite proper.
closer. Even better.
I saw things ... I saw wings ...
Red wings. I got closer. Like, on top of the petal close ... That close.
Red butterfly wings ... BIG, red,
butterfly wings, or wing ...
That is what I saw, that
is what I wanted to capture. I also want you, the viewer, to see big, red, butterfly wings, or wing, where there are
no big, red, butterfly wings, or wing.
That is what photographers
What artists do.
They see things through the viewfinder, and then want others to see it too. Even if what they are looking at isn't
what you want them to see ... Did you follow that?
Flowers become wings ...
Like magic, only better.
Until I got home, went through the images, did this, did that, had
dinner, worked/played on the computer, and then got ready for bed ...
And noticed little red dots all over my lower body ...
Now that, as you can only imagine, was a real work of art.
I might have to re-think that whole
"Get Closer" thing ...
No. I just bought a little bottle
of clear nail polish ...
Which, again, I learned from
my first extended stay in North Carolina back in late 1978 and early 1979.
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Home of the Chiggers
You do what you have to do to get the images you
Re-think Rule Number Two?
Nope, not going to happen ...
The great thing about photography is that it is a visual art.
bad thing about photography, well, still photography anyways, is that it is purely a visual art.
No sound. Just visual.
Funny how that works.
I was asked to come over to a friend's house to photograph a band that he is putting together.
Now, I've worked with Cam, and his wife, Fran, for about twenty years now, when
I was at the middle school.
True, they are math teachers,
but we got along pretty good. I even team taught with Cam for a year.
Yeah, me, in a "regular math class", whatever the heck that means ...
I don't know about the students, but I was blown away ...
8th grade math is tough. Period.
I was like
... Say what? Slope?
I'm not a math person. Period.
Cam, and Fran are. Whew.
True, I taught math for over twenty years, but I made it perfectly clear, that I was a Special Education math teacher.
I worked on the skills that the middle school kids missed while in the elementary school.
That, I could handle. Addition. Subtraction (I mean ... "take away"), counting
money, telling time, you know, stuff like that. Stuff I knew pretty well.
I told my students that I had to go to summer school after the fourth grade, because I didn't know my multiplication
I know them now.
I taught them for 24 years.
Same thing over, and over, and over ...
And over and over again ...
I get carried away ...
I went to photograph music.
How can anyone photography music? A sound?
Think about it.
Capture sound with a camera?
Something you can not see.
But I have done it for a LONG time now ... Photographing
In 1984 I was hired by the Public Affairs Office at Fort Gordon, GA to photograph Lou Rawls ...
You know, Old School, R&B singer from back in the day.
Cool. I'll loved it.
I photographed his outdoor concert from down in front of the stage, and up in a bucket thing above the stage ...
even knew one or two of his songs ...
Yes, he was in the Army back in the 1950s. He enjoyed playing for the troops thirty
something years later.
I enjoyed him playing for the
I got to meet him before the show, followed him
around while he ate dinner with the soldiers (and he told me something I never forgot ... NEVER photograph people while they
are shoving food into their mouth - True story!), got to go into his bus before the show, I had a great time.
The lift-bucket, or whatever you call it ... Cherry-picker, can't think
of it at the moment ... Was the best. Up above the stage and the crowd. During the concert.
Rocking away ... Literally.
I was in photography heaven ... Get it? Up above the stage ...
Anywho ... It was cool.
I learned real quick,
that you don't photograph music, you photograph the illusion of music, the spirit of music. You photograph the music expressed
by the person preforming the music ...
What it feels like to play music.
Personally, I have no clue. I do not do music.
I listen to music. Period.
Well, no ... I just
explained that I photograph music. That is my music.
and playing my stereo ... Which is playing in the background as I am typing this ...
i-tunes. Feel the music ... Writing about music ...
have also photographed other bands, such as Alabama, The Commodores, Martha Vandel, and The Four Tops, while I worked
for the Army back in the 1980s ...
A long time ago.
Another life time ago.
But, there I was in the basement of Cam's house looking for the sound of music ...
Three people, in a room with posts, music stands, tables, wires, lights, computers, more wires, and a couch ... And
more mike stands, etc ...
A small room, no, a large
room, which seemed small due to being filled with ... Stuff. Music stuff.
The drummer was back in the corner ... Blocked by Cam up front with his mike stand, music stand, and everything else
you can imagine a musician might need ...
I literally could NOT get all three of them playing in one shot.
Yes, I had my 12mm lens ...
It was tough ...
Luckily, we took the "group"
shots prior to coming inside to play ...
Well, no, I
actually could get all three of them in one image, but the drummer was kind-of-sort-of framed by Cam and his guitar and a
post in the middle of the room ...
I went with some one-on-one images ... The Drummer. Period.
The Bass Player. Period.
Lead guitar player. Period.
Then, when Cam switched
to The Piano Player, I went in, got close, and just got The Piano Player. Period.
Without the posts, stands, etc ... Well, you know, the best I could ...
Rule Number #2.
It is one of my rules for a reason: Simplify.
It was driving me nuts ... One player on one side of the room (and post), another on the other side, and the drummer
stuffed back there in the corner ...
That is photography.
That is being a photographer.
Try to photograph something
you can't possibly do -- Music -- and do it in a room where you can't possibility get all the members in one frame, without
an issue, of some kind, every single time.
Do what you can, enjoy the music, and experiment with what you know best; your
Play with the "Notion of Motion" ... Slow that shutter speed down. Then go slower ... "Drag your shutter" as Joe
McNally so eloquently says ...
Slower and slower
as the night goes along.
Feel the music ... You have
heard me talk/write about "The Notion of Motion", well, take it one step further ...
The Notion of Music. The feeling of music ...
slow shutter speed, along with a burst of flash, produces a freeze/blur that both stops the action, and, shows the
movement ... The whole Notion of Motion in a still photograph.
Photograph something that is moving
and ... Besides using a slow shutter speed (say, 1/15 of a second), pop-up your flash and see what happens.
Switch to Shutter Priority (one of the few times I use it), set your camera
to a slow shutter-speed, and fire away ...
Slowest, whatever you think looks good. Just shoot ...
True, I was using off-camera flash, but the concept is the same, no matter what
kind, or where your flash happens to be ... The freeze/blur effect is never the same every time.
Shoot first, look at the results later ...
had one placed on a self, over by the drummer, bouncing off the ceiling, another one in my left hand, pointed up, and
off to the side. My small pop-up flash triggered both of them, but did not add light to the scene (unless you want it
to - I didn't).
"Drag that shutter" ... 1/30th, 1/15th,
1/8th, whatever ... 1/4th ... Try it, you just might like it.
You are the artist -- Create!
There is also
the whole "Rear-Curtain" flash thing you could try, but because musicians are not stock-cars, or The Roadrunner, regular-curtain
flash seems to work fine ... But try it!
in one ... Blurr and freeze. Pretty cool actually ...
the joy of the sound of music.
And photographing it.
I enjoyed it. I didn't trip over anything, or knock anything over, and came
away with a few images (over 250) ...
Images of music. Who says you can't photograph
No worries ...
One more camera for my collection ...
over to Asheville over the weekend, to visit one of my favorite camera stores, not named Adorama.
True, I have been to Adorama a couple of times, and it is my favorite all time,
but, it is in New York.
Asheville is closer. Period.
I first stopped in YEARS ago with my Saturday college class ... Full of old cameras, gear, and more stuff ...
Old School camera store.
I just went to look ... They have a table (or two or three) just piled up with old gear ... Cameras, lenses, bags,
straps, you-name-it, they have it ...
Just piled up
... Crazy as ever.
Then they have their "real" used camera
section ... Old film cameras, and some digital models as well.
Then they have their newer old section ... Digital. Even some new cameras, I'm not sure ... I'm always looking
at the used stuff.
And then there is the off-limits,
real cool old stuff, up on a shelf, all the way around the store ... Or most of it anyways.
The real classic, good stuff ... Rangefinders, medium format, large format ... The Owner's Private Collection.
Or, if I remember correctly, the owner's dad's collection.
years ago, he showed me around the place - The Good 'Ol Days.
Now, laying around each of these different sections, they have, well, more cameras ...
I noticed an old Speed Graphic. No price tag. Just sitting on top of some paperwork, magazines, or something ...
It caught my eye.
A Speed Graphic.
An old WWII era, 4x5 inch,
large format, manual camera. Like the one used on Iwo Jima to capture the famous flag raising on Day Four of the battle back
in February, 1945.
Yeah, the same island my uncle served on
during the war ... He drove the landing crafts that took the Marines ashore. He was in the Navy.
That type of camera ...
I wanted one for a LONG
I got it.
True, it was in rough shape (why I could afford it), but I knew a little super glue, for the loose cover on the back,
and some of my fancy leather cleaner for the bellows, and some Armor-All, and it would clean up just fine.
And, with the
use of a small, wooden tripod from my 8x10 inch view camera, I was in business.
I took the image in my dinning room, I mean studio. I just picked-up a new C-Stand from Adorama last week, and put
it to good use.
Using my 3x5 foot softbox, up high and
to the right, I shot away, knowing that the white background would go gray, due to the fall-off of the light.
You know, the whole "Inverse Square Law" thingy ... Move the light closer to
the subject, the light falls off twice as much. By having the camera away from the wall, the light did its thing.
Notice how the "white" wall turns gray, and grayer ... Fades away.
I heard somewhere that there are more than 50 shades of gray.
camera is exposed correctly, the white wall, because the light "falls off" real quick, becomes gray ... Compared to the camera
(main subject), the wall received half as much light.
is all part of the process ...
Simple (like magic).
Looks like a real studio shot.
Well, in a way,
My dining room, my studio. Perfect. White becomes
Jennifer, the friend that gave me the money for
my retirement, and the one that gave me several other WWII era cameras years ago, says I have enough cameras ...
Ahh ... Maybe. My apartment, I mean, studio, is pretty small.
But come on ... A Classic. I couldn't pass it up.
And the cash just happened to be in my wallet ...
And, I got a good deal (less than what they first asked for) ... That loose flap on the back helped ... And it was
dirty ... And old ...
But now, it looks great next to
the other old, classic cameras ...
Glad I finally got old enough to retire.
Oh, wait a minute ... Let me re-phrase that ...
I'm still not old enough to have used the camera when it first came out ... I'll go with that.
I taught at Granite Falls Middle School for 23 years.
I got there early ... A middle school
at 7am is quiet. Much later than that, forget it ...
last year, I took on a new class ... My first students arrived at 7:10 every morning. Why? I have no idea.
The only good thing about this, is that during the winter, it was still
Good? What could be good about getting to work
before the sun comes up?
This image. This light.
I kept a small point-and-create camera (or two, or three) at the school, and in my Element, for just this reason.
power of light.
And getting to work early.
And always having a camera near by.
I am really glad I worked at GFMS for all those years.
And that this tree was right out back ...
that I got there early.
And that I had a camera ready,
you know, just in case ...
I have been fly-fishing for over twenty five years now ... Twenty-four, something like that.
South Mountain State Park. Once I found out about it, it is where I go to fish.
Same park. Same parking spot. Same stream. Same pools. Same rocks. Same fly.
Well, no, not the same fly, just the same type of fly ...
I lost one up in a tree yesterday ...
A beaded, Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear nymph. I have used them for the past twenty years ... Like, all the time.
The one fly I don't leave home without.
I know, I know ... Fly-fishing ... A dry-fly, up on the top of the water, the trout rising up, suckin' it in, perfect
They eat 80% underwater. When I read that, done.
was it ...
Yes, I tried dry-flies early on, but, come
on ... 80%.
I like those odds.
tie on a nymph, add my strike indicator, and I am done.
I get into the stream, right in front of my parking spot, and cast up-stream ...
I watch my yellow strike indictor, and wait ...
It twitches, I lift the rod.
Cast. Watch. Lift. Repeat.
Over and over again. For twenty something
I have gone rouge (once or twice) and fished another stream that feeds
into the main stream ...
Smaller. Smarter. Funner.
But, I still cast
up-stream, and watch my strike indicator. Just watch.
for it ...
Well, not that easy ...
More like ... Cast,
watch, cast, watch, cast, watch, cast, watch, cast, watch, cast, watch ... Over and over and over and over again ...
Just one more ... OK, just one more ... This is it, one more cast ...
Hour after hour, weekend after weekend, year after year ...
Spring and Fall, every year.
I take the summers off.
Catch and Release is
put on hold then.
If I'm ever hungry for fish, I go
to Captain D's to eat.
I just catch 'em ... Photograph 'em ... Release 'em.
every once in awhile, tie on another nymph to replace the wore-out one I have used over and over again ...
I wear 'em out ...
And fix 'em up for another run ... Bring out my fly-tying gear, wrap 'em up with some tan stuff, and re-fill my little
plastic container for next time.
And every once in awhile,
I actually order new ones on-line. Same thing, over and over:
Size #14 and #16.
Beaded Gold-Ribbed Hare's
Same fly every time.
And wait until Spring.
Or, in this case ...
One of my track girls stopped by my room the other day at school to say hello ...
We talked, and then it dawned on me that I had taken photos of her and the football team this Fall, but never showed
her the images ...
First, yes, she played football at
GFMS for two years. Yes, she is that tough. No, I won't go into my thoughts on girls playing football at the middle school
And yes, she wrestled for two years as well
... Yeah. On the wrestling team. Ahh, yeah, she sometimes wrestled against the boys ... She took care of herself (again, don't
And finally, yes, she ran track for me for
two years as well ... She is a great athlete, and a pretty cool kid.
As I was going through some of the images
I was going to give her ...
Yes, I actually found the
files among my mass collection of DVDs stored behind my computer screen.
I came across this one ...
Not of her actually,
but hey, I like football. I like this image.
go on and bore you with how I played football back in the day, that I was an All-County linebacker, co-captain of the team
my Senior year, even made the All-Upstate (NY) team ...
that I'm 5'7", and weighed in under 170 pounds my Senior year (Yeah, that isn't true any more).
Well no, I still am 5'7" tall ...
Yeah, I like football.
I like photography.
I haven't photographed football that much in the past 40 years or so ...
But this year, I had a new toy to play with, and wanted to see how my 300mm
f2.8 worked out on the football field.
Oh, and with a
2x converter just for fun ...
It worked pretty well.
I used a monopod, I upped my ISO to 400, you know, because I could, and lucked
out with a nice sunny day.
I coached cross-country during
the Fall for many years, and had a hard time making it to the football games, but I planned ahead, and got everything out
on the field in time for some action ... A little sweat never hurt anybody ...
just told 'em we were going to run a little faster through the woods that day ...
Now, about this image ...
First thing I noticed, once I saw the image, was ball security ...
It is middle school football.
The second thing, for me anyways, is the triangle formed by the bodies ... You know, as a photographer, and a Marine
(you know, Iwo Jima, the flag raising) ...
the body language, the colors, the hands, the action ... Or, should I say, "stopped action".
No, he did not fumble. Yeah, they kind of piled us up all afternoon, shut us down, but darn ...
I had some nice light! Some nice action.
And he didn't fumble ...
And it kind of sums
One team trying to take a ball one way,
the other team trying to stop them. Pretty simple really.
of like this image ...
A very complex image of a simple
game. Or, is it a simple image of a complex game?
hope she enjoys the image ... And the ones of her. And her time at the middle school.
Knowing her, she will be talking about it for years to come ...
Yes, that is her, running down the ball carrier ...
Go Blue Demons!
I knew the odds were against me ... Yeah, by a lot.
One flower, in the woods, inside a State Park. No way.
I knew this, but, you know me ... I went looking anyway.
There has got to be more than just this one Lady Slipper in the Park, I knew I could find it, or one just like it.
The image was shot by Amy, a former college student
of mine ... Well, let's just say, a few years ago ... I don't know ... Ten years? Eight? Twelve?
It was in the age of digital, I think, lets just go with that ...
She is the one that got the whole "Retirement Get-Together" thingy started for last weekend ... The one that was
late because she forgot her tripod ... The one we waited for as I led a few around looking for another Lady Slipper that I
shot with my class years before, as well -- And, yes, had no idea where it was ...
We walked around, and then circled back to see if she was there.
We took off ...
And never found any flowers ... The Trillium had come and gone, as had the Dwarf
Irises, or so it seemed to me. I couldn't find any that day.
I asked Amy where she found it, had some idea
where it is ... But, come on? South Mountain State Park is HUGE. Miles and miles of trails.
I took off ...
I hiked around the woods for
four hours ... Searched and searched for flowers the size of ... Well, you know, small flowers.
I went the LONG way around ...
It was nice. Quiet. Remote. Uphill a lot. Some down hill ...
I did see a few Boy Scouts out on the
trails ... I mean, these trails are out there ...
headed for the Waterfalls ...
Amy said the flowers -
I think she mentioned that there were three of them close together - were "not far from the waterfall, off the trail, and
on the right".
As I was walking up ... I kept thinking,
"on the right side" ... Is that coming down, or going up?
"Not too far" ... Yeah? But how far is, "Not too far"?
Kind of, sort of, reminded me of my early college days back at SUNY Brockport ... Social Studies, ten years
before my photography days in Chicago ...
my favorite quotes, from any of my college instructors, was ...
"Right Church, Wrong Pew" ...
I was in the "Right Church" all right, but I had no idea where the "Right Pew"
There are A LOT of PEWS in South Mountain State
Park. I believe I hiked a total of 10.8 miles of trails looking for just one of them ...
Up one trail, down another ... Towards the top of the waterfall, and then back down "the easy side", you know, the
one without the stairs ...
I went off the trail
looking, both on the right and the left ... Not too far ...
Well, I did have a nice walk.
Didn't see any
But I did have a good time.
It was a nice day for a long walk in the woods. With a camera. And a flash.
And my little soft-box thingy ... Just in case.
And to see how much of the Park was effected by the fire ...
I haven't hiked some of those trails in twenty years ...
just followed the signs ...
But, what about this image?
The Lady Slipper?
Natural light. Shallow depth of field ... You know, I failed to ask Amy if she actually used the tripod
she went back for ... Or, for that matter, who actually carried the tripod up the mountain, if she did indeed use it ... She
was with a friend, Tim, who she admits is the one that actually found the flowers in the first place ... Did I mention they
I love it.
That was what I went there looking for ... Twice now, but never got to photograph.
Or even see ...
But that is photography. That
That is why I continue to walk around all day
That is why I take pictures. Make images.
is also why I taught photography for over twenty years ...
first photo classes were held at the Fort Gordon, Georgia, Arts and Crafts Center, in 1984. I had a group of eight,
or ten soldiers, and I taught them how to use their 35mm film cameras ...
this, while I was still learning how to use my own camera ... I was taking a photography course, through the mail, from THE
NEW YORK INSITITUTE of PHOTOGRAPHY, which, just so happens, to be in New York City.
A real school, in New York City. Yes, that New York City.
I actually went there to talk to the instructors before showing my portfolio
to several organizations/magazines, back in 1989.
But I digress ...
Back to 1984 ...
I remember thinking, I was
just one page ahead of my students ...
was a humble beginning.
Then, in 1986 and 1987, while
working as a photographer for The Department of the Army in Bremerhaven, Germany, I taught my first college photography classes
for Boston College Overseas.
I taught the class in the
very studio I worked in, how cool was that?
for the past 23 years, right here in Hudson, NC. CCC&TI.
Which brings us around full-circle.
shot reminds me of why I teach ...
Or, should I say,
The PASSION FOR LIGHT.
Getting out there and looking for images, hunting for images ...
Looking at light ... That is what it is all about.
And to have a student send me this image ...
Years after taking my class ... And, years of sitting in at The Camera Club
in Lenoir ... Soaking up all that Doug Terry, Jack Daulton, and the rest of the group have to offer ... The tricks and tips
of photo editing (which is light-years beyond what I know), the outings, joining my college class for a week out on the Outer
It all came together for her right there on
that mountain (like, you know ... Somewhere) with that flower ...
That perfect flower ...
And that perfect light
Even if I never did find it, or one like it ...
Next time, I will be sure to wait for Amy ...
Oh, and Tim.
Yeah, Tim for sure.
Join me at South Mountain State Park on
Saturday, May 13th at 8am for a day of photography and memories.
Over the past twenty-plus years, SMSP has been my place to get away. To fish. To photograph. To camp. To teach. To
hike. To run. To fish some more. To hunt wild flowers. And yes, sometimes just relax.
I will be at "The End of the Road" at the large parking lot, camera and/or fly-rod in hand, at 8am in the morning.
Hope to see you there. And I actually signed up for a campsite - in advance,
no less - for the night, if anyone is interested. You know I sleep in "My Element", so there will be room for a tent
And yes ... There are other sites still available.
I drove over today to fish, but got rained out ... No worries, I remembered
to sign-up for a campsite on my way out.
Join me for
a day of photography at one of my favorite sites for "The Old Saturday Class" (And yes, I even have a few "Saturday
Alumni" lined up to be there) over the years ... The camping trips with CVCC, draggin' Brett up and down the mountain,
the hikes to the waterfalls, lighting up wildflowers in the field, slide shows in the campgrounds, great images of a "master
fly-fisherman" at work (I don't charge a modeling fee), and all the other images, always the images ...
Again, Saturday (like The Old Days), May 13th, 2017 at 8am ... Yeah, I know,
but we are photographers, 8am is actually a wee bit late, but I didn't want to push my luck.
The gate opens at 7am ...
I'll be there waiting.
See you there.
Bring a friend.
I look forward to getting out there and shooting with you all once again.
Walk Two Moons
It just occurred to me one night, that
I only photograph the moon when it is full, like anything else was just, you know, not worth it.
In my photography classes, I only
talked about photographing THE FULL MOON. Nobody ever asked me how to photograph a half-moon. Or a quarter-moon.
No, it was ALWAYS a full-moon.
I told them to wait until the NEXT one ...
I just set the camera/lens/tripod up in my living room and just waited ...
Get out and shoot ...
Every phase of the moon.
Shoot 'em all, ask questions later.
So, out I went ...
Shoot. Adjust. Shoot some more ...
For over four months ... Not EVERY night, of course, but, every once in awhile ... Follow the Moon.
In fact, maybe, just maybe, now that I have retired from teaching photography
at the local Community College, I just might make that a new rule ...
No way! It was ALWAYS, "My THREE RULES".
I refuse to change it all now ... What would my students do? What would I do?
Yes. Another Rule.
RULE #4 : Look at the Moon.
Follow the moon ...
Yes, it moves. Try to figure out where the moon will rise, and where it will set.
Then go back and figure out when it rises, and when it sets ... Each different season, each and every month ...
That will keep you busy.
What time of the year? What time in the evening? The morning?
It is a game I have played the last few months ... Well, really, my whole last semester at the college.
In one of the very first classes, I told them to photograph the moon. It
is one example of when your camera meter does not work well ...
That, and snow. And black cats on coal piles ...
That one is a wee bit harder to find now-a-days ...
But anyway, go out and photograph the moon.
Go out tonight and photograph the moon.
is the thing ... The meter wants to make every image mid-tone, or 18% gray.
That is what meters do. What cameras do.
pretty darn good, I must admit. Most things in life are mid-tone ... A little bit of this, a little bit of that.
But ... A BLACK sky, and a LITTLE white dot, when turned gray, go really wacky.
The jet black sky goes muddy gray, and that white round moon goes ... Well, bright becomes brighter. You can't make black
gray without turning white whiter!
The camera can only make one exposure. Period.
So ... You, the artist, must choose. Do you want a black sky and gray moon, or a gray sky and blown out, elongated,
oval blob of unrecognizable moon?
Yeah ... Underexpose.
The moon is lit by ... Ahh, like, The Sun.
Remember that. Think of that. The sun ... Bright. Like f16 bright.
And fast ...
As in, a fast shutter speed.
Set your camera to MANUAL EXPOSURE.
Set the aperture and shutter speed to "Sunny 16" ... f16 @ 200th of a second
(at 200 ISO), or f16 @ 400th of a second at 400 ISO.
@ the shutter speed of the ISO, get it. f16 at 100th of a second at 100 ISO, etc ... You get the idea.
The CLOSEST shutter speed that you can find to your ISO.
That is what the meter is designed to do if you are out in "full sun" ...
Well, true, it might be dark at night, but the MOON is lit by the sun. Sunlight.
A full moon is well lit, trust me.
Like, FULL, as in
all sun, all over. Bright sun.
Set your camera to shoot THE SUN. Heck with that meter ... Heck with that BLACK,
DARK night sky ...
Fake the meter out. Plain and simple.
Oh, and just go from there ... Faster shutter speed, open your aperture, no,
close down that aperture, shoot, shoot, shoot ... f11, f8, 250th of a second, 500th of a second, what the heck ...
Have fun, I have.
Over the past thirty something years ...
fact, let me tell you a little story ...
Back in the
day (1983), I was down in Pensacola, Florida walking across an old naval air field on Corry Station, when The Harvest
Moon began to rise ...
Unreal. I have NEVER experienced
another one like it ... It was ...
The BIG, full, moon of the Fall ... I ran home, got my camera (an
old Konica TC3 I bought in Japan) and tripod, and went outside to photograph THE MOON. Yes!
Yeah ... Clueless.
My meter was, indeed, a moron. It was dark, I had a dinky 200mm lens, and the
BIG FULL MOON was tiny.
I captured a
long, oval looking blob, that looked nothing like The Moon.
And, even better, I was shooting print film,
if I remember correctly. Yeah, back when I was just getting into photography ...
Bad. Badder. And real bad.
But ... It taught
me something. And I learned an important lesson that night.
and most important, is that I knew nothing.
film was ... Well, not what I needed. I have shot slides, or digital, ever since (except for a few weddings I shot, out of
the kindness of my heart, for fellow teachers at GFMS. Which, I might add, I gave up on a LONG time ago).
And third, I needed a much longer lens.
From 200mm to 900mm, and it is still not enough.
Longer is better ... I'll just leave it at
And a bigger tripod.
And shoot it over and over for, what? Like, the next 30 years!
I like this image. Side lighting the moon, who would have thought?
Look at the craters ... The one with the "dot" in the middle ...
I know very little about the moon
... But I am seeing things I didn't know were on the moon ... Side lit craters ... Wow. Amazing ...
The texture of the moon. Perfect.
out there ...
I'm actually taking my BIG tripod
down, and putting the lens and 2X converter away for now.
did buy a NEW camera, a real new, new camera, that I hope to slap back on that lens this summer while up in New York visiting
my osprey nest, but for now, it will all go back upstairs.
the next full-moon ...
Or Crescent-Moon. Half-moon.
It never ends
Yes, I stole the title from a book I
read years ago ... Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. I don't know, it just came to me, when I added
the "second moon" today ...
Funny how that works.
Doesn't really matter how you look at it, I finally picked up a camera I have
been watching for over two years ...
As most of you know,
my mother moved down here two years ago ... Since then, I have been to every thrift shop, Bargain Barn, Flea Market, Lawn
Sales, you name it, looking for that one extra piece that will fill my mother's tiny little apartment ...
One place we stopped in is right in Granite Falls, where I teach. Just on the "other side" of 321 coming
out from the middle school ...
I drove down there once 23 years ago ... One
of my track runners lived down there -- That was back in the day when a coach could drive a student home if they had to.
Anyway ... The Antique Store (that might even be the actual name) was one place my mother wanted to check out ...
had an old Kodak 8x10 view camera ... With a little wooden tripod to go with it (ahh, way too small, but hey, it
Big wooden camera, small wooden tripod.
That was it ... $900.
Nice BIG price tag. I checked it out and
That was about it.
I did buy a couple other old film cameras there ... Why? Because I like cameras. I don't use them ... I collect them.
A bit of a hobby of mine ... It has been for years. Over twenty five years ...
I have a bunch. I have also written about it for years ...
Polaroid SX-70 I picked up in Korea. The Russian rip-offs I bought in St. Petersburg (not Florida). The Japanese
twin-lens medium format camera. The old WWII era, large format, camera I got from Jennifer. The Polaroid Swinger, that I took
my first pictures with, back in 1968. My first Kodak 110 Instamatic. My first 35mm, my first Minolta, my first Nikon, my first
this, my first that ...
But come on ... Look at this beast.
A Kodak EMPIRE STATE Number 2, large format 8 inch x 10 inch view camera. You know, like back in the Old Times.
Glass negatives. The works.
Upside down and backwards
view on a glass plate. The old black cloth you put over your head while you focus ...
Think Civil War. Ansel Adams.
I have never used
I have no desire to ever even try.
In Graduate School I had to use a 4 x 5 (the baby brother) in one class ...
No way. Don't tell anyone, but I cheated, and used the medium format camera I mentioned earlier ... The $75 Chinese camera
I bought while working as a photographer in Germany ... Like, 1987?
format? Large format? I faked it.
I mean, really? Upside down and backwards?
No way ... Too slow for me.
It is now just a piece of art.
Two years I waited on this 8x10 beast of a camera ... I kept watching the price
drop ... $850. $800. $750.
I stopped in today and made
an offer ... Nowhere near $750. Gave the person my card and told them to get back with me ...
The guy called. I got my camera. Way too easy. And a few months early, or a little late, again, depending on how
you look at it.
I got it home, cleaned it up, and ... Ta-da!
It looks NICE. Real nice.
From the book I have on cameras, I believe
it is a EMPIRE STATE (as in my home state) Number 2 D. The "D" is for Dark. As in, Dark Wood. It
wasn't that dark looking when I picked it up ... I used this Leather Care stuff from ArmorAll for the bellows ... And just
kept going, wood and everything.
It cleaned up good. Real good.
The rubber ball shutter release is, well, like, you know, really cool. That extra special piece that finishes it
off so well ... And yes, I used regular ArmorAll on that ... It is in great shape.
Now ... The image.
Shot in my dining room.
Three strobes (Nikon SB-600) ... One "main light" off to the
left, 45 degrees, diffused thru a large, round, panel, that I clamped onto my dinning room chair ...
Channel 1 Group A (for all you Nikon shooters).
The other two lights are Channel 1 Group B. These are set at -1 compensation to begin with (one-stop less light than
the "main light"). These are used to help give "shape" the camera ... Light up the edges, the bellows ... They also help "separate
it" from the background.
Black bellows, black background.
The light gives it an edge, an edge of light. This light gives the camera lines that help separate
it from the background.
The second flash is up high
on a boom, aimed down on the bellows. The third one, on this shot anyways, was off to the right, aimed at the bellows, to
bring out their shapes ... With light.
Which brings out
Shot with my trusty Nikon D90 and the 40mm
Aperture Priority, f11, with a -1 overall
compensation, you know, to bring out that DARK, rich, wood color.
All against a dark, black background.
tried several shots with a red gel on the background (why not?) ... Moved the lights here, and there, you know
me. I shot a bunch. From this angle, and that angle, from over there, looking down, from another angle, you know
... Work the subject.
Come on, it took almost an hour
to drag all this crap down from upstairs ... Set it up, etc ... You know I just had to get my shots in ...
I tried this, I tried that ...
Better than TV, or any other "devise," as far as I'm concerned ...
Play, play, play ...
I like the camera. Always wanted a large format,
wooden, 8x10 view camera.
Nice way to finish off my
Easter Vacation ... My LAST Easter Vacation.
And my whole "Birthday
Month" celebration ... And, best of all ...
It was cheaper
than my new washer and dryer combo I bought today as well ... Which I refuse to think of as a birthday, or retirement, present,
No, those are just, you know, necessities. Household
Thirteen years ... Time for a new set.
Now, lets see, I could light 'em up ...
White is tough to light though ... And metal? Whew, reflections ... I'll need a HUGE softbox, or a sheet, something.
Maybe a blue gel bounced off the wall for separation ...
Can't remember where I heard of it ... But I knew I wanted to go.
Grand Cayman. A small island, near Cuba, where the stingrays don't sting, and are a tame as pets.
But they're not.
They are wild stingrays, that are used to having people come out and feed them.
So no, they are not wild, wild, but they are wild (or so they say).
I mean, people hold them, feed, them. pet them, swim with them, take pictures of them, get run into by them ...
And all the time this is happening, I'm just looking at those tails ...
The LONG ones with that barb sticking out ...
Yeah. Like the one that killed Steve Erwin.
was always in the back of my mind ...
Way back, once
I spend a little time with them weaving about the group of people out on the sandbar.
There were a LOT of people. Several boats ... They limit the number of boats out there, but still ... Lots of people,
all day long.
They come and go ... There is also a nice
reef close by that is part of the tour ...
I went twice.
Tuesday and Thursday. Kind of like my college class ... Sort of, kinda ...
WHITE SAND. BLUE WATER.
I mean, really, really white sand, and crystal, crystal clear water ... Unreal.
It's a sand bar five miles out
from shore. Waist deep. Maybe.
As the captain jockeys for a spot on the sandbar, you can see 'em
from the boat ...
Black shadows, inches above the white
sand ... Some BIG ones, some little shadows.
jump in ...
I wore my snorkel and mask, most people
I had my Nikon D90 in my Ewa- Marine UB-10 that
I held in one hand and just started shooting away ... Point and shoot. Fire away.
Get close, press the button.
That simple, that
They come right up to you, around you, even crash
into you ... It is like a maze for them.
I did venture
into the crowd once in awhile, but I also went hunting for the "quiet" moments with the rays ...
They just float through water, so calm, so ...
then one hits you from behind ... What?
Yeah, they just
go crazy near people with squid in their hands ... Or a camera.
I was always looking 360 degrees around me ...
It is great.
For the most part ...
That tunnel vision thing ... That
I remember the first time I swam with a stingray
The Bahamas. 1979. I had just gotten out of the Marines
and was staying down in Florida with my mother, until it was warm enough to drive my Honda 750 (which I had shipped over from
Japan) back up to New York.
I got out 2 MAR 79.
A long time ago.
I flew over to Freeport and, well, just slept on the beach ... No hotel, no nothing. I was a Marine.
It rains in the Bahamas ...
I slept under some cardboard boxes I found ...
I went snorkeling the next morning ... They also have sunshine in the Bahamas.
There I was ... I hadn't really snorkeled that much ... I first tried it out while in Japan.
Ten feet of water ... Something like that. Pretty clear ...
Then up rose this ... Thing. HUGE, black shadowy thing ... Scared the crap out
of me. I remember taking my mask off, kicking like crazy to keep my head above water, and looking around for someone to tell
about what had just happened.
No one was around -- Thank
I put my mask back on and ...
Never saw it again.
But I have always wanted to swim with the stingrays just one more time ...
I shot over 500 images each time I went out. Shoot first, ask questions later.
No, I didn't learn that in the Marines ...
never even looked through my viewfinder ... No, just point, and hold down the shutter.
I thought I was pretty good at this technique, but I found out otherwise.
Like really bad.
That whole science thing again ... Underwater ...
Something about light bending ... Blah, blah, blah ...
But it was fun!
I dove down and tried to get eye level shots ... I even dove down to have the rays swim over me ...
That worked once or twice.
swam over them ... Beside them ... In front of them ... In back of them ...
Over a thousand images over two, one-half hour visits ...
Glad I went. Glad I finally got to swim, touch,
bump into, chase, and look a stingray in the eye, at eye level, and see them for more than just a dark ghost from (almost)
forty years ago.
Very interesting animals. Strange. Different
looking. And real quiet ...
Like ghosts ...
Finding Ninja Waldo
Yeah, I know ... It's a flounder, not a Waldo, but you get my drift ... I hope.
I was just floating along looking for something ... And I found it.
Not while out on the sandbar with the stingrays, no, this was a nice beach/snorkel area just down from the Inn I
was staying at.
I knew what I saw, before I actually
knew I knew it, if you can follow that one ...
seen it before, years ago. 2009, I think.
I was in Panama,
or Costa Rica, can't remember ... One of them. Someplace in Central America, how's that ...
I was shooting with my first (I've owned three of them), small , Coolpix Nikon AW100, and came across a flat fish
looking thing that was working the whole camo look, you know, like a Marine, or Ninja, or ... Something.
I thought it was cool.
I got some GREAT images ... I was jacked. Loved it.
I did make it to Panama City and, well, I think I told you the tale of having my fanny pack stolen, and doing the whole Judo
thing on some touch-holes (to borrow an adjective from my uncle) ...
1 Jan 2009. Yeah, I think that is right ... Early in the morning.
I held on to my "big camera". Even stopped to pick-up my lens hood after flipping one of them over my shoulder (one-handed
shoulder throw), before making my way back to the hotel ...
Anyway ... I lost my favorite fish images ... The camera was attached to my fanny-pack.
I never forgot about them ... They were good (I remember!).
I have wanted to find another flat, little, fish thingy, ever since ... I think
they are a type of flounder ... They swim side-ways ... Weird little things.
Ninja fish ...
Anyway ... There he was, hiding
on top of some cement block in this perfect little spot for, well, looking for fish.