David Hessell Photographer

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Blog


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dofflowers.jpg


My Mind's Eye

Yeah, I see these flowers every time I walk up the hill ...

Or down.

What is this? October? And they are like, in full bloom ... What's up with that?

That just shows you how much I know about flowers ...

Well, 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".


Anyway ...


I saw the image, as it would look on my computer screen, before I even had a camera in my hand.

Bam.

Done. Got it.

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?

I lose track, to tell you the truth.

OK, back up the hill ...

Nikon D7000. Nikkor 70-300mm. Gitzo tripod. Kirk BH-2 ball head.

Perfect.

I 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.

Simple.

I keep my trusty Nikkor 18-200mm VR on the camera all the time. Well, you know, unless  I change lenses.

I did.

Set 'er up, set my self-timer for two-seconds, lined up my "wall of flowers", and fired away ...

Nothing.

Say what?

Tried again (like, what? I thought I didn't do it right the first time, and now it will magically work? No problem).

Nothing.

What?

Now the camera has my attention ...

Auto-focus? Check.

Self-timer? Check.

I even tried manual focus ... Remember that? Yeah ... It took a second to dawn on me ...

Nothing.

Bam.

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 else?

The moon.

I am ready.

I switched out cameras, back up the hill ...

Got my shot.

That was the easy part.

D500. Tripod. 300mm @f16. Self-timer.

One-thousand one.

One-thousand two ...

Bam. That easy.

Got it.

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?

You 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.

But wait a minute ...

Walls can go up and down too ...

Vertical it is ... Simple enough.

Oh poop.

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).

No L-bracket. No camera strap.

Nothing. A bare-naked camera body.

I just can't "flip it, and click it" into my Acura-Swiss tripod head.

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 ...

Nope.

Got it.

Back up the hill ...

Shoot, shoot, shoot ...

Wall of flowers. Wall of flowers. Wall of flowers.

Perfect.

I'm a genius.

Bam.

Just one more ... Wait a minute ...

Not a wall of flowers image.

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.

Hello?

Slow down ...

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 ...

Now 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.

Depth.

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.

Lens
Aperture.
Distance.

Photographic vision.

Magic.

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 ...

Remember, 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 ...

Perfect. I can see it in my other Mind's Eye ...

Poop.

The D500 works a little different ...

Or, at least, I haven't figured it out yet ...

It 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. 

Yeah, the very camera I had in the first place.

OK, gotta run ...

Back upstairs.

Back up the hill.

And yes, I'm way ahead of you ...

Back to the trusty, reliable, best-lens-ever, the 18-200mm VR.

No, wait ... The 70-200mm f2.8.

Perfect.

Just 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?






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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.

And heavy.

It 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 sharp.

And fast.

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 good thing.

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.

That easy.

That nice.

And for those of you new to the game, think about it ...

DX sensor.

1.5 crop factor.

200-500mm ...

I'll do the math for you ... I taught Special Ed. for 24 years ... I know my multiplication tables.

That 200mm becomes 300mm.

Sweet.

That 500mm becomes 750mm.

Bam.

300-750mm.

And remember ... f5.6.

Period.

Constant aperture.

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 Saturday.

I'll get it just in time. I hope.

Oh wait, it is Adorama ...

No worries.

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 ...

Oh crap!

I couldn't help myself ... Oh my.

That is CRAZY!

Yes, it is a LARGE lens. A heavy lens. But ...

Think VR.

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 was SHARP.

This image is all the proof I need. Look at the hairs below the eye. The blood on its beak ... Sharp.

I 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.





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One, Two, Three

Three is a charm.

I was, you know, checkin' out ADORAMA the other day, and came across ... Oh wait!

It was not Adorama ...

Really.

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.

Yeah, 1991.

I got on their website and looked for, well, you know, old, used cameras.

Cheap.

The "X" classification. They don't work.

Remember, I haven't shot film in YEARS ... 2005.

These are for my collection.

Three more ...

The 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 ...

I did 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.

They had their rangefinders cameras ... Leica, Contax, and ... Well, like I said, they had their 35mm rangefinder cameras.

German.

Actually, 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 is history.

Nikkor.

Nikkor glass.

Nikon cameras.

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.

F for film.

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 ...

No problem.

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.

Easy enough.

Try 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.

Different mounts.

Nikon baby!

OK, that is the Nikon F.

Next ...

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.

Unlike today.

And, if I remember correctly, this was one of the first "automatic" cameras of the day ...

Shutter-priority.

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). 

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.

I had one years ago ... Now, I have another one. Even better.

Oh, 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 the X-700.  

Really.

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!

Fun times.

But, it all started with the Konica.

Cameras for the collection.

Nikon.

Zeiss Ikon.

Konica.

Three cameras.

One ... My collection.

Two ... My passion.

Three ... My obsession.







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Elk

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" ...

Yeah.

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.

Well, no ... I did get some images, just none of elk.

Never saw an elk. I did hear one elk call, but I think he was just teasing me ...

I got nothing.

But ...

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 time)...

Oh, I did photograph a turkey, way out there, you know, making sure the camera still worked ...

But 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 ...

And 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 ...

Perfect.

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.

Monochrome chocolate.

That is what I'm going with on this one.

Chocolate.

Chocolate wood.

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 as well?

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 good.

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 ...

Canon.

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?









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Illuminated Color

Yes, this is another flower I met along the interstate ...

And yes, it is another Blog about LIGHT.

And color.

But what this is really about is BACKLIGHT.

Flowers and backlight ...

Color and light ...

Pretty simple really.

LOOK AT THE LIGHT

GET CLOSER

SHOOT LOTS OF IMAGES

OK, I was parked on an Off-Ramp, but come on, I see truckers doing it all the time ...

And, for the most part anyways, I doubt most of them are out there chasing the light ...

Maybe.

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 ...

But then, before you walk away ...

One more. There is always one more ...

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 ...

Look.

Study the light ...

The shadows ...

The glow of light passing through the petals ...

BACK LIGHTING.

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.

THE shot.

Get the best image possible, and then keep looking ... Hunting. Or should I say ...

Fishing.

Photography and fishing ... Catch one, and then cast for a bigger one.

A better one.

It is always the "next" cast ... The "next" image ...

Always.

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 ...

I move.

I cast 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 ...

The point 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 ...

ALWAYS.


 


mooncraters.jpg


Craters of the Moon



No, I did not go out and buy a new lens.

I promise.

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 ...

GET CLOSER

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.

Wow.

I cropped like a madman.

What you see here, is just a wee little bit of the original file ...

Not bad.

Yes, I did "Sharpen" the image (I can click a button with the best of them).

That's it.

Crop. Sharpen.

Then, 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.

Makes sense.

True, some newer TVs and monitors, do have 96 dpi, but ... You know me.

Low-tech.

72 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 ...

Now I can.

It's fun.

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 ...

Man, what a bummer ...

900mm. Ha. NOTHING.

But ... I am going out right now and shoot (photograph) the moon, one more time ...

Later.



 


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Poppy


My sister's garden.

Well, her and my brother-in-law's.

Like everything 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.

Habit, I know.

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 ...

Use the photography process to "make an image" ...

When I took this image, there was no BLACK background.

The leaves are green.

Yes, there was some shade, but, to my eyes, they were greenish, you know, dark green.

Darker green that the light green leaves in the light ...

Green, dark green, and red ...

That was what I saw. What I had to work with ... My palate, if you will.

A garden. Flowers ...

Nature.

Sunlight.

Shadow.

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".

Minus compensation.

Work it ...

Enjoy 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.

Contrast.

Simple as that.

Well, after driving from Hudson, NC to Richland, NY that is ...

Simple.

The name of the game ... KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Nature is not simple, for the most part.

Make it so.







ospreylanding.jpg

Your Reality

polenest.jpg

My Reality


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 ...

This is 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 ...

OK.

I was 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 to write.

That simple. That quick.

That color, framed in white, with that black background ...

The Presentation.

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) ... 

Anywho ...

BAM.

There it was ... COLOR. Framed in white, against a black background.

I took it from there ...

Which brings me to this image.

Oh crap! I can't remember what image I am writing about ...

No, really.

Oh yeah ...

Two images, actually.

There I was in Pulaski, NY, in June. Well, just outside the village limits. Route 13, right along the Salmon River.

"My Nest".

You know, I have written about it before ...

Many times.

I have hundreds of images ...

The Nest.

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 ...

Do people still listen to the radio?

Wow.

Anyway ...

The 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 ...

Yeah.

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 ... 

So, not 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.

Year after year ... The same couple. The same pole. The same nest. Year after year.

Perfect.

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.

Perfect.

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.

So am I.

Hope this gives you some idea as to ... Wait for it ...

Wait ...

"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 ...

Thank goodness.



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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.

Color.

Orange. Yellow.

Bam.

I stopped for the color. I got close because of the color. And I photographed color.

The rest is just, well, you know, fluff.

Nice fluff, but fluff never-the-less.

COLOR.

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.

Why not?

First off, it is my image, so I can make-up anything I want. Period.

Just like you.

The artist.

I 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 ...

Self-expression.

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.

No, it can be fear. Beauty. Terror. Joy. Love. And yes, even color.

Like in this image.

Color.

Take your pick ... Yellow or orange.

Or orange or yellow.

Color, or color.

Flower? Flowers? Field? Green? Bug?

Color.

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 image.

The MAIN subject.

What?
 
Oh, I know, squint your eyes while looking at the image ...

No, really, go ahead. Try it ...

Scroll up.

See?

Color.

Perfect. I love it when I actually begin to believe what I am saying myself. I love it.

Color as subject.

Why not?






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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.

I 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.

Three rules:

LOOK AT THE LIGHT

GET CLOSER

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 simple.

And, due to the fact that you see two images here, proves that I actually do follow my own advise.

Horizontal.

Then vertical. 

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 the photograph.

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 hands full.

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 ...

But I didn't "see" the image in my head, until I walked around, and saw the light on his face.

Bam.

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.

Know 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.

Vertical.

Horizontal.  

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.

Texture.

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.

His 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.

Perfect light.

Side lighting.

Texture.

The side lighting brings out the texture. Period.

His face.

His work.

Texture.

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 ...

LIGHT.

TEXTURE.

Period.

With light and texture, you have an image. Now, all you have to do is go out and find it. Make it.

And no, you don't have to go to the Equator.

That was just an extra bonus ...



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Two On, Two Off

This is what it comes down to ...

Two days with my mother, two different doctor appointments ...

I had 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 get me?

They had a question for me ...

What medicine does my mother take?

Say what?

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 ...

Anyway ...

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 ...

A first.

And two cans of fruit. Plus a bag of dried apricots, and some peanuts.

I had water ... I was set.

Two nights.

I 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 ...

Holy crap.

"My 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 stored inside.

I needed them.

I filled up two of them.

Then I got my camera and tripod out ...

Attached 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.

Magic.

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.

It charges my Goal Zero Sherpa 50 rather quickly, which in turn, charges my camera batteries, i-pod, and cell phone.

Works for me.

Yes, 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 tape.

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.

Perfect.

Overkill.

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.

Isolate.

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 ...

Got it.

One leaf.

One big, green, leaf thing, lit up by the sun.

That's it ...

Did I mention 450mm?

Yeah, it gets you close.

That close. That big. That green. That shape ... Shapes.

Green Zen. Green and Black Ying-Yang.

Yeah, last week it was the dog's face, this week , a green leaf.

Zen baby!

Shapes. Green and black.

Or is it black and green?

You choose.

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.

The "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.

Magic, I tell you.

Light and shade.

You know ... The camera can only give you one.

Or the other.

Light?

Shadow?

What do you (the artist) want?

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.

One exposure.

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.

Photography.

Art.

Which leads me to my third image ...

Now, remember, I mentioned one image ...

Yeah, we both know that's not going to happen ...

I take many, many, many, many images.

Period.

Which 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 worries.

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 it.

I love it when my last minute plan actually works out. 

I used the panel to charge my Goal Zero battery, my phone, and my I-pod shuffle thing, and not in that order.

Music. Gotta have my tunes ... Hey, it gets dark around 8pm ...

So, 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.

Check.

I didn't need my fan (battery powered).

Perfect.

Two bags of old beer bottles - GONE.

Perfect-er.

And yes ... I now have a list of all my mother's little pills in my wallet.

And yes, I still can't pronounce all but one of them ...

Now, they just better not ask which pill is for what ...

Good luck with that one.

Now, that would be perfect.










 

plastersunrise.jpg


Plaster Sunrise

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 ...

And 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.

The light.

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.

Light makes the image; is the image.

Light makes the plaster, the dots, the shadows ... Light MAKES the image.

Period.

Can you take an image of nothing?

Yes.

And no.

Yes, you can click the button, and come up with a black rectangle.

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.

That 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.

Add light ... It becomes art.

Light, color, texture, shadows.

Not plaster. Not a ceiling.

Look at it. Go ahead, look at this image again.

Light to dark, with every tone in between. From white to black, with orange and yellow thrown in for good measure.

Art.

Photography.

Sheer joy.


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Vision

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).

Too easy.

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.

Period.

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.

What makes up the subject ... That is harder to see.

It all starts with light.

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 ...

Early.

Nice subject, been there many times ...

Nice light, pre-sunrise.

Put them together, you have something. That is a given.

Too easy.

The Greek word, photography, means painting with light. Period.

Light.

I was at the memorial making images as the sun rose ...

Beautiful. Light. Color. Heaven.

I shot like crazy ...

Then I noticed the light on the blocks. As the sun comes up ...

Look down.

The 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.

Something we walk on.

Something we overlook.

Most people, me included, come to the monument to see the monument. Period. Makes sense.

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.

Ying/Yang, which forms lines ... Lines that curve. Lines which forms shapes ... Which make photographs.

Magic.

Light it, and you have an image.

Guaranteed.

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 ...

And that's all you have to do.

There is an old newspaper photography quote about "f8 and be there".

Newspaper 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 photographer.

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".

Simple.

Sharp.

Stones lit by the sun. Sharp stones lit up by the sun.

What is my subject? Rocks? Squares? Lines? Light? What?

What is this an image of?

You tell me.





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YingYang

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 ...

Unreal.

Black and White.

Ying and Yang.

Dog Zen.

I 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 ...

Perfect.

In and out of the water ... On the shore, tennis ball, stick, whatever ...

Fetch.

Back 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 time.

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?

GREAT!

I love it.

I have no idea what his (or her) name was, but for me, easy:

Girl? Ying.

Boy? Yang.

Easy. Simple.

Ying/Yang.

Black/White.

Or is it White/Black?

Either way, perfect.

Great model.

Great face.

Great Zen.

Black and white, and it is in color.

Perfect.






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Sisters

I like taking pictures.

I like taking pictures of people.

I like light.

I 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 you.

Knowing her, I know what I think it is, but I won't say it out loud, or in writing.

No way.

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 ...

Perfect.

The hair ... No, the S-curve of the hair, that is what caught my eye, made me zoom in.

Get Closer.

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.

S-Curve first.

Hair second.

Graphic Shape.

OK, and the smile ... Another form of a graphic shape.

Even better. I'll take it.

And did I mention color?

I should have.

I did.

Both images are images of color.

Pink/Blue.

Yellow/Blue.

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. Too perfect.

Perfect portrait pictures.

Even better.


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Deva-Vu All Over Again

I spent the Labor Day Weekend on the Outer Banks with family and dogs. 

Very nice.

For the first time, like ever, I think I spent the first three or four days out there without lifting a camera.

Yeah, really.

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 ...

No sunrise.

Well, 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.

Sort of.

I got them set-up pretty good and it was like second nature ... The buttons, the controls, the feel ...

Perfect.

No problem.

Then 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 ...

That 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.

Back 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.

Something different.

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.

Unreal.

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.

One long, skinny, image of the lighthouses ... That is how I envisioned it. A long pan-o-rama  of the lighthouse(s).

Perfect.

That is how I cropped it, once I got back and got it into Photoshop.

Simple.

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".

Now, true, 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 very many.

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.

That simple.

Well, except for those darn mosquitoes ...

Whew ...


flagwave.jpg

flagshape.jpg


Moving Shapes
Still Images

I got a new camera and lens today. Had to check them out, so I went for a walk.

Another Nikon D7000 with the battery pack. It is in excellent shape, just like the first one I bought.

See, 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).

Nice.

Pretty much like the D90, but, you know, better.

Newer.

Faster.

The 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.

Oooopppps ....

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).

Yes! Perfect.

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.

Downtown 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 ...

Shapes.

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 ...

But, 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 overall image.

I refer to something like this as:

Emotional Nuance.

That "little" something that "makes" the image. You know, that ... That little accent. That little "something" ... 

Color. Curves. Triangles. Waves. Lines. Shapes. Repetition.

The red, white, and blue(s) ...

Now, besides that, and what made it all special to me, is what you can't see here.

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 ...

Ten 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 ...

Much more.

It is all about seeing the images, taking the images, the moments clicking by ...

Two hundred forty-two moments to be exact; two hundred forty-two images.

Moving shapes, still images.




spacebetween.jpg


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.

The Space    Between ...

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 ...

The image.

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 ...

K.I.S.S.

My photography students can tell you ... "Keep It Simple Stupid".

That's it.

Art 101.

Keep it simple ...

In doing what I do best, I kept it really simple, and short, and dropped the "stupid" thing ...

You know, to keep it even simpler.

And shorter.

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 image.

A stream (with trout in it), and a tree (with trout below it).

That simple.

Yet look at how complex it is ...

Complex Simplicity.

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.

I couldn'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 is).

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.

The contrast in color. The contrast in light and dark. The contrast in texture.

The contrast in the space between.

The difference in the space between.

Zen.

The Zen in the Space Between ...

Oh Boy.

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 ...

You 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 the tree.

And it is NOT about the stream.

It is ALL ABOUT ...

The          Space           Between.


*** Got it! Dr. Mulvaney. The Head of the Art Department.

BAM.





lord.jpg


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.

At first.

Now? 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.

Thrift 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 with. 

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 awhile ...

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.

Yeah, 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 ... 

My "favorite" -- 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 another one?

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 ...

Yeah. 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.

I asked. The lady at the desk then had to call the owner. Yeah ... She wasn't home.

She 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.

It 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 ... LORD.

No, that's the name of the camera ... LORD.

It is right on the front of the camera ... I have no idea where it is made, or how old it is ...

Duh, I should of Googled it. Hold on ...

OK. "A lesser know Japanese camera company dating back to the mid-fifties".

Post-WWII.

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.

$5.00.

SOLD.

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?

Weird.

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.

What good is the Minolta 101 without the Minolta 202?

Yeah, you understand, you get it ...

I knew I wasn't the only one ...

Lord help me.



medwings.jpg


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 Possible.

Just do whatever it takes to keep the main subject sharp. 

Period.

OK. I can do that.

I have done it for years.

I follow orders. I'm a Marine.

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.

Ahh, 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. And ...

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.

I 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.

ALWAYS SanDisk.

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.

Yeah ... 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.

Cool.

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.

Bad karma.

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 retired.

How do they do that? The 32 GB SDHC card is the exact same size as my old 4GB cards ... Magic, I guess.

True, 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. 

Fast. Faster. Plus, a little faster than that, if that is possible.

It is.

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 ...

That fast.

Period. Move on. Keep shooting. Hold that sucker down ...

Fast.

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"!

Unreal.

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.

Magic.

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.

Walk that 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.

Or not.

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 ...

Data.

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. And cameras.

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 ...

Played.

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.

That said, just shoot. Be in the moment.

Photo Zen.

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)!

Sweet.

Glad I thought about breaking all those weird rules ...

Magic happens.

Try some magic the next time you are out shooting, just be sure to obey all the rules ... For a little while anyways.

Or not.







greenlinesss.jpg

hosta.jpg

greenblur.jpg


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.

Period.

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 now.

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 Yellow Camp).

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" ...

A case 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.

And black.

Light. Shadow.

Light hitting green stuff, black shadows where the light is not hitting green stuff.

That simple.

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?

OK, 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. 

Noise.

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 Lower Forty.

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" ...

So 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.

Simple.

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): Green Lines.

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.

Green is 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 ...

Green lines.

Green shapes.

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 ...

I was 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).

I told him.

"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).

I 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.

The 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 ...

But 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.

Like me.

Except he smokes cigars.

I don't.

Although ... 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.

Really. True fact.

But only if I stay inside the building ... Outside?

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.

And ...

Run like Hell.

Back to the "Work Camp" and its smell, its odor.

Its protection.

Ahhhhhhhhh ... The Work Camp.

Cigars.

Perfect.






theospreysm.jpg

ospreyeye.jpg


The Eye

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.

Yeah.

Unreal.

For someone that mainly shoots with the Nikon D90, it is literally like night and day.

Fast.

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.

Action!

Did I mention ten-frames per second?

Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast.

Faster than you can read that ...

That fast.

OK, you 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.

Really.

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 do much.

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 tripod.

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.

A small gun. Pistol really.

Pop-gun.

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.

Gray.

So, after two nights on the couch at Nancy and Dan's house, off to the woods I went.

And, like I said ...

"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.

Period.

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.

Anyway ...

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 ...

Yes!

Blue sky.

Crazy.

Finally.

Up 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 week?

Love it.

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, three ...

Get real!

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 fun. That fast. That quick.

Let 'er rip ...

Blue sky. Osprey. Ten frames per-second.

TENFRAMESPERSECOND.

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 figure.

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 anyways.

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 attention.

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 ...

Not 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.

I don't.

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.

The eye.

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.

The moment. A moment frozen in time. Forever.

The lens. The camera.

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.

You 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.

Once again ...

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 know.

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?

Yeah.

But, back to the second image ...

The EYE.

That is just a very small portion of the original (top image), 20 mega-pixel file.

Like, cropped big time. I just dug in there and cropped ...

Tiny.

Sharp.

That is technology. That is a new camera. And yes, a great lens.

And 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.

Wait for it ...

Tee-Hee ...

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.

Really 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?

No way.

BAM.




 

mtgarden.jpg


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.

Period.

I 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 line.

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.

Tanks. Hard-core 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 war.

That Bergen-Belsen.

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.

Art?

No.

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.

It didn't.

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 combat.

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.

Perfect.

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.

Six 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?

War?

That 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.

The Family 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.

W. Eugene's kids. His back yard. One of his most famous images. One of THE most famous images.

EVER.

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 head.

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 ...

Funny 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 in hand.

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 ...

In my head.





seedssmall.jpg


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?

I had 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.

No worries.

I didn't have a tripod with me. And please, lets just keep that to ourselves, OK?

So, 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 ...

Well, 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.

Perfect.

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".

Seeds.

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.

Anyway.

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.

Seeds on different focal planes ...

The trick is to keep the sunflower, and my sensor, parallel to each other.

Well? 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.

Period.

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 ...

Ahh, no.

What the heck ...

Fire away!

Five 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. Click.

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 news?

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.

It would 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.

That 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.

Go figure.

And ... 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.

Now 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.

ferngreensm.jpg

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bwtaillite.jpg


The Games I Play


Three-fold game here:

Light
Vision
Color vs. Black and White

OK, first, lets start by saying I like to drive up into the woods above Collottesville.

Simple enough.

You know that.

Second, I like to play. You know that too.

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.

So, 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.

Camp.

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 perfect spot.

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.

OK, time to play.

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"! 

"Go".

I 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.

Game on.

#1: LIGHT

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.

#2 VISION:

Well no, you know, find something nice. Something graphic, with lines, shapes, patterns, texture, color, contrast, or, all of the above.

Very important.

I told my college classes every semester, every year ... "You find something graphic, you found an image".

Period.

"Find it in great light, and you have just found art". Again, period, with a capital "P".

So, I took my own advise ...

Ferns!

Ahh, that was easy. Simple. Look at them? Green art, just sitting there ... Lines every which way ...

Pointing.

The right light. Soft light, to bring out every little detail. Every line ... Every point.

BAM.

Too easy.

Next?

Well ... OK, not as easy ... Look.

Oh wait ... On "the backside", away from the wooded area ...

My Element.

Let me say that again, "My Element". Just sitting there, in the perfect spot.

BAM.

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? 

Anything else?

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).

BAM.

My second image.

For both of them, I used one of my smaller tripods, and ... Let's see:

Macro lens

Two-second self-timer

Aperture priority

f16

ISO 200

BAM.

That easy. That fast.

I had 'em.

Two images in, like, five minutes, tops. 

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 ...

Yeah, really.

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.

You 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.

Hunting actually.

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?

Check again.

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".

Anyway ...

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. 

Hunting.

Not just playing a game in the woods ...

Art.

Anywhere. Anytime. Anyplace.

That was easy.

Now ... "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".

Again.

#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 ...

Convert to Black and White (I don't know, I always want capitalize them).

Simple.

"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.

Next?

Slide red. Slide blue. And yes, slide green. One, two three ...

Back and forth. A little, or a lot.

Who cares? You can always slide them back the other way. Can't get lost.

Play.

Contrast? Another slider thingy ...

Slide ... Oh no ... Whoa!

Slide it back. Play.

Got it.

BAM.

Done. Finished.

Got 'em.

Three concepts.

Four images.

Game over.

Now, I get to play again while writing this all down on my blog, I mean, BLOG.

BAM.

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 light?

Taillight. Same light? Different?

What kind of light?

Does it, or really, did it, make a difference?

Diffused, soft light for the fern, and harder, brighter light for the tail light.

Both within ten feet of each other. Maybe twelve. Whatever.

Close.

Within minutes.

In the woods. Shade, no shade.

Different light for different subjects.

I like 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.

The 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.

BAM.

I mean, POP.

No, it doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?

BAM.

Period.

Now I am finished.

Done.




sunflowerfield.jpg

sunflowerfill.jpg




Available Light

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.

Right?

Push a button. Magic.

Available light.

That easy.

That simple.

It is what the little flash is for ... What it is designed to do.

Fill-in the shadows.

Period.

Perfect.

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 ...

Backlit 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 ...

I went to my fill-flash button ...

I pushed a button and magic happened.

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 ...

Perfect.

Two exposures for the price of one: Natural light, and fake, artificial, electronic, strobe light.

One, two ...

All in one shot.

Priceless.

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.

But, I have that covered with Rule Number One: Look at the Light.

I 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.

No.

The 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 ...

When 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.

Period.

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, baby!

No, it exposed the sunflower the way it thought it should be exposed. And it was. Perfect.

The BACK of the sunflower.

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.

I pushed the button, Nikon did the rest (Yes, I sort of, kind of, stole that line from Kodak. Please forgive me).

That's it.

That's 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.

Simple.

Push the button.

Button Number Four.

Unofficially, that is ...




poppyback.jpg

poppywing.jpg

sunbud.jpg

greenlove.jpg


Macro Magic

I drive over I-40 every time I go fishing.

Exit 113 Valdese!

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.

Not 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 ...

And yes, I just so happened to have had my 40mm macro lens on my new (used) Nikon D7000.

Perfect.

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.

True story.

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.

Perfect.

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 ...

No tripod.

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).

Just tried 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.

No, 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 ...

Fire-in-the-Hole!

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.

Get Closer.

Fire away.

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 ...

Sunflowers.

One tiny, little bitty one ... All wrapped up. Look at it! Wild. Tiny little hairs all over the place ... Lit up by the sun.

Got it.

Did I mention I like Poppies? See, I even capitalized it ... Poppies. Quite proper.

I got closer. Even better.

I saw things ... I saw wings ... Red wings. I got closer. Like, on top of the petal close ... That close.

Macro 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 do.

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.

Chiggers!

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 want.

Re-think Rule Number Two?

Nope, not going to happen ...


strings.jpg

drums.jpg


Seeing Sound
Feeling Music

The great thing about photography is that it is a visual art.

Purely visual.

The bad thing about photography, well, still photography anyways, is that it is purely a visual art.

No sound. Just visual.

Period.

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.

BIG difference.

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 tables ...

True story.

I know them now.

I taught them for 24 years.

Same thing over, and over, and over ...

And over and over again ...

STOP!

I get carried away ...

Photography.

I went to photograph music.

How can anyone photography music? A sound?

Think about it.

Capture sound with a camera? A lens?

Something you can not see.

Easy.

You can't.

But I have done it for a LONG time now ... Photographing music.

Sound.

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 ...

Cool.

I even knew one or two of his songs ...

Lou Rawls.

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 troops.

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 ...

Something like that.

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.

That, and playing my stereo ... Which is playing in the background as I am typing this ...

i-tunes. Feel the music ... Writing about music ...

I 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 ...

Crazy ...

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 ...

So ...

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.

Get Closer.

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.

So, don't.

Do what you can, enjoy the music, and experiment with what you know best; your camera.

Your art.

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 ...

A 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.

Try it.

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 ...

Slow. Slower. Slowest, whatever you think looks good. Just shoot ...

Play.

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 ...

I 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!

Two exposures in one ... Blurr and freeze. Pretty cool actually ...

Ahh, 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 music? Sound?

No worries ...



newgraphic.jpg


Classic Camera

One more camera for my collection ...

I drove 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.

I'm not.

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.

Twenty 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 time.

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.

It did.

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.

Interesting.

The 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.

It is all part of the process ...

Math.

Simple (like magic).

Looks like a real studio shot.

Well, in a way, it is.

My dining room, my studio. Perfect. White becomes gray.

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 ...

Perfect.

Glad I finally got old enough to retire.

Oh, wait a minute ... Let me re-phrase that ...

Glad I'm still not old enough to have used the camera when it first came out ... I'll go with that.

Lucky me.



 

granitetree.jpg


GFMS Sunrise



I taught at Granite Falls Middle School for 23 years.

Loved it.

I got there early ... A middle school at 7am is quiet. Much later than that, forget it ...

My 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 dark.

Good? What could be good about getting to work before the sun comes up?

This.

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.

Light.

The 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 ...

And that I got there early.

And that I had a camera ready, you know, just in case ...








troutface.jpg


Nymph

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.

Period.

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 nymph. 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 ...

Nah.

They eat 80% underwater. When I read that, done.

That was it ...

Yes, I tried dry-flies early on, but, come on ... 80%.

I like those odds.

Nothing else.

I tie on a nymph, add my strike indicator, and I am done.

Period.

I get into the stream, right in front of my parking spot, and cast up-stream ...

Always.

I watch my yellow strike indictor, and wait ...

It twitches, I lift the rod.

That simple.

Cast. Watch. Lift. Repeat.

Over and over again. For twenty something years.

Same stream.

Oh, wait ...

I have gone rouge (once or twice) and fished another stream that feeds into the main stream ...

WILD trout. 

Smaller. Smarter. Funner.

But, I still cast up-stream, and watch my strike indicator. Just watch.

Wait for it ...

Got one.

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.

Easier.

I just catch 'em ... Photograph 'em ... Release 'em.

Repeat.

And, 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 Ear.

Same fly every time.

And wait until Spring.

Or, in this case ... Fall.


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FOOTBALL

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 ask ...).

And finally, yes, she ran track for me for two years as well ... She is a great athlete, and a pretty cool kid. 

Period.

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.

I could 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 ...

And, 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 ...

I just told 'em we were going to run a little faster through the woods that day ...

It worked.

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 ball, 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 up football.

One team trying to take a ball one way, the other team trying to stop them. Pretty simple really.

Kind of like this image ...

A very complex image of a simple game. Or, is it a simple image of a complex game?

I just 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 ...

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Yes, that is her, running down the ball carrier ...

Go Blue Demons!






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Right Church,
Wrong Pew

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.

Something.

I didn't.

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.

She wasn't.

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.

Or today.

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 ...

Nothing.

I did see a few Boy Scouts out on the trails ... I mean, these trails are out there ...

I was 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 ...

One of my favorite quotes, from any of my college instructors, was  ...

"Right Church, Wrong Pew" ...

Perfect.

I was in the "Right Church" all right, but I had no idea where the "Right Pew" was ...

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 Lady Slippers.

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.

Looking.

And to see how much of the Park was effected by the fire ...

I haven't hiked some of those trails in twenty years ...

Some never.

I just followed the signs ...

But, what about this image? The Lady Slipper?

Beautiful.

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 are small?

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 is life.

That is why I continue to walk around all day ... Looking.

Hunting.

That is why I take pictures. Make images.

It is also why I taught photography for over twenty years ...

My 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 ...

All 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.

Really.

But I digress ...

Back to 1984 ...

I remember thinking, I was just one page ahead of my students  ...

It 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?

And then, for the past 23 years, right here in Hudson, NC. CCC&TI.

Which brings us around full-circle.

Amy's shot reminds me of why I teach ...

Or, should I say, taught ...

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 ...

Wow.

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 Banks ...

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 ...

Perfect.

Even if I never did find it, or one like it ...

Next time ...

Next time, I will be sure to wait for Amy ...

Oh, and Tim.

Yeah, Tim for sure.









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South Mountain


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 or two.

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.

Or two.

I look forward to getting out there and shooting with you all once again.



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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.

Silly me.

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 ...

So, I just set the camera/lens/tripod up in my living room and just waited ...

Duh?

Why wait?

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".

Period. 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 ...

Yeah.

That one is a wee bit harder to find now-a-days ...

But anyway, go out and photograph the moon.

No, really.

Go out tonight and photograph the moon.

Period.

Here is the thing ... The meter wants to make every image mid-tone, or 18% gray.

That is what meters do. What cameras do.

Works 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!

Impossible.

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.

f16 @ 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.

So ...

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 ...

In 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 ...

Wow.

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!

Oh.

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.

Terrible. A disaster.

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.

First and most important, is that I knew nothing.

Second, print 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.

Not even close.

Longer is better ... I'll just leave it at that.

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 ...

How cool.

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.

Get out there ... 

I'm actually taking my BIG tripod down, and putting the lens and 2X converter away for now.

I 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.

Until the next full-moon ...

Or Crescent-Moon. Half-moon.

Whatever-Moon ...

It never ends ...

Thank goodness.

FYI ...

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.



 

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Late Birthday
Early Retirement

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 ...

Oh boy.

Holy crap.

They had an old Kodak 8x10 view camera ... With a little wooden tripod to go with it (ahh, way too small,  but hey, it looked good).

Big wooden camera, small wooden tripod.

That was it ... $900.

Yeah.

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 ...

My 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 ...

Insane really.

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 one.

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?

Medium 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.

No worries.

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.

Magic.

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 the texture.

Shot with my trusty Nikon D90 and the 40mm macro lens.

Aperture Priority, f11, with a -1 overall compensation, you know, to bring out that DARK, rich, wood color.

All against a dark, black background.

I 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 it.

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, or gift.

No, those are just, you know, necessities. Household items. Boring.

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 ...

Nah ...

I'm good.



    

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Stingray City

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.

That 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.

And shallow.

It's a sand bar five miles out from shore. Waist deep. Maybe.

Shallow.

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.

Then you jump in ...

I wore my snorkel and mask, most people don't.

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 easy.

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 ...

And 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 ...

Hunting.

It is great.

Quiet. For the most part ...

That tunnel vision thing ... That quiet ...

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 ...

Then 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 God.

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 ...

I 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.

Yeah.

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.

I swam over them ... Beside them ... In front of them ... In back of them ...

Fire away.

Over a thousand images over two, one-half hour visits ... T/Th.

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 ...





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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 ...

I had 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.

Then, 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.

Hiding in plain sight.

Yes!

I shot him from the surface, and then dove down - What? Four of five feet (maybe), and shot him up close. You know me, "Get Closer" ...

Great camouflage, but he couldn't fool me.

I then followed him around for a few more shots ... Finding Ninja Waldo in the Grand Caymans ...

And the whole time all I could think of was Panama ... I finally got my flounder shot, my flounder images.

Took awhile, but I am now happier than a flounder eating fettuccini.

True, I went there for Sting-Rays, and loved every minute I was out there chasing them around -- More on that later -- But this little flat flounder fish did make the trip that much better ...

I now have my flat-fish flounder images.

Life is Good. 

I was even using the same type of camera, the camera that replaced the one those two guys stole all those years ago ...

A GREAT little camera, the one I don't leave home without.

The Nikon Coolpix AW100.

I think they are up to the AW120 now, I will have to get one once I retire ... You know, buy a camera that is actually NEW! Not new USED, but a real, new, modern digital camera ...

Perfect.


trillium.jpg




Fill-Flash Macro


Yeah, I've done this before.

Sort of.

I went fishing over the weekend and although I didn't catch any trout -- I saw a couple -- I did capture this nice purple trillium.

Like fishing, I had to work at it.

First off, I had a nice hike up the mountain ...

And second, I got to play with my new used Sony mini-DSLR camera, with an 18-55mm zoom lens.

Sony.

Years ago, I started using Minolta 35mm film cameras ... Loved them. Had a bunch of them ... In fact, I have a X-570 and a X-700 right on the shelf off to my right ... And another X-700 upstairs.

I like cameras.

I also enjoy shooting with different cameras. I am always learning.

Something.

There is always something new to learn about old cameras.

This shot had great light ...

And a great subject.

Perfect.

Except it wasn't.

The light from the sun was coming in from the upper right slanting across the flower which was not lit directly by the sun ... "Sil-o-wet Sity" (Silhouette City)!!

Look at the shadow ...

This lack of the light - where I wanted it - made the image, well, lacking something, missing something ...

Color.

The Color Purple.

So ... Pop-up the little flash, and fire away. Fire away to "fill-in" the shadows and bring out the purple.

Make the purple pop. I like the sounds of that.

I did not have as much control over the flash as I would have liked, or have had in the past ... I couldn't "Move it", or even adjust the power ...

Or so I thought ...

I checked the flash options ... It did offer a "Fill Flash" setting.

Perfect.

And although it doesn't sound like it has much to do with flash, I did find the Macro Setting I was also looking for ...

I have shot Nikon for so long ... What? 30 years, now?  I kept looking for the little  "Tulip Icon looking thingy" and thought I didn't have a macro setting ...

Then I remember these newer type cameras sometimes have all the icon thingies on a dial, up on the top of the camera ...

BAM.

There it was ... A Macro Setting, or icon, or whatever ... I had macro!

Duh.

I got closer to the little dinky flower, which got my pop-up flash closer, which helped darken the background (the whole Inverse Square Law thing) ... Which helped simplify the image with a black background.

Which, in this case, is perfect.

Funny how that works ...

No trout, but photography saved the day.

And the purple trillium.

And having "fill-flash" as an option.

And finding the macro icon ...

And using a SONY camera -- which, to finish my story -- is what happened to all my Minolta cameras ...

SONY bought out Minolta (years ago) -- Minolta cameras became Sony cameras.

Kind of, only different.

Going full-circle in my old age ...

Happy Birthday to me.

Another year ... A BIG year. My last year in the classroom ... College, and the middle school.

Retirement. Period.

Now I will have more time to play ... And another excuse to buy another camera ... Or two, or three ...

And find that darn macro icon ...

And the fill-flash option ...

And ... Which brings us back to the future ... And my first go-around with these tiny purple/pink flower things ...

South Mountain State Park.

See below ...



pipeslines.jpg


Re-Think

This is a vertical shot, trust me. They are long and skinny, and VERTICAL.

Period.

I saw them that way, I photographed them that way. That is how I shot them, pre-visualized them, saw them.

Vertical.

The church is in Reykjavik, Iceland. It is a VERTICAL church, vertical building ... Rising up to the heavens. Up and up and up ...

Vertical.

Except when I used it on my NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOURSHOT Page. It is used as my "Home Page Image" along the top of the page ... A long, skinny horizontal image above all my others.

I like it. It "fits the format" for the page.

That got me looking at it in a different way ... Horizontal. Cool.

I then went in and cropped the heck out of the "original" vertical shot and came up with my new Screen Saver for my computer.

It works.

Who would of thunk it? A vertical shot, working as a horizontal shot. A different look, a different image from the original.

Duh?

I just can't believe it took me this long to "see it". I shot it three months ago.

It is funny, I tell my students all the time, that, "The best time to take a vertical image, is right after the horizontal one".

Yes, I stole that quote from Bryan Peterson, I admit it. It is good advice.

See, MOST people shoot a LOT more horizontal images than vertical ones ... Pretty natural, really, the way the camera "fits in your hand" ... "Landscape mode" ... The horizon off in the distance, etc ...

Horizontal.

What this image has taught me is that now I have to change my teaching ... My thinking.

For years I have used a stolen quote about "The best time to shoot a vertical shot, is right after the horizontal shot" ...

I have to change my favorite stolen quote to ... "The best time to shoot a horizontal image, is right after the vertical one".

Seems only fair ...

And that way, I won't be copying/stealing/plagiarizing Bryan Peterson any more ... And will be able to sleep much better knowing I am not a quote thief any longer. 

Maybe.

We shall see, but until then, "You keep shooting" ...

Ah, there I go again ... That is HIS line also!

OK, OK ... How about this? "Until then, you keep shooting ... A vertical shot every once in awhile, just to make everyone happy, and have more options for your website, blog, whatever".

Works for me ...

Oh, and did I mention THE LIGHT? That warm colored light, all over the pipes?

Well, I should have. It makes the image. The contrast ... The color. The warm tones on the silver pipes ...

The VERTICAL pipes.

Perfect.









brownsands.jpg



Light. Brown.


Shifting sands?

Chocolate Slot Canyons?

No.

Light.

I tell you, I didn't make, LOOK AT THE LIGHT, my first rule of photography for nothing.

Drawing with light. Painting with light. Having fun with light. Exploring with light ...

Whatever.

I really can remember which, or what, the true, correct, official Greek translation of the word PHOTOGRAPHY boils down to, but I do know it has SOMETHING to do with light ...

It is important, let's just put it that way.

If it were up to me (and it isn't), I would make the official translation "Playing with Light".

That is what it really boils down to, let's face it.

You have a tool - a camera - and you look for light. Any light. Anywhere. You find it, and you try to capture it. Anyway you want.

You can (and should) manipulate the crap out of it. Bend it, diffuse it, color it, reflect it, shape it, darken it, lighten it, twirl it, even block it ...

Anything you want.

It is called ART. With a capital "A". And in this rare case, a R and a T.

Or better yet, sometimes you can just find it ... Just stumble across it in the strangest places and at the weirdest times ...

As in this case.

Well no, or yes ... Depending on what you think about making some of those adjustments I was talking about.

I usually "don't just find" anything ... LIGHT, or SUBJECT. You know, just see something and take an image ... Done.

No.

I work it. I "make it". I play.

I make it look the way I want it, not just how I found it.

I make adjustments.

With this image, I did nothing more than play with the compensation button ...

Well, let me re-phrase that ...

As far as exposure goes, I just changed the compensation ...

The other thing I did, and always try to do, is move ... Change my angle, my perspective. Tilt the camera. Play with the "lines", the angles ... The composition.

Now, you know that I can't remember every shot I take, every fact, etc ...

Yeah.

But, you do know that I took A LOT (43) of shots dealing with this one scene, right? Shoot, shoot, shoot. Play, play, play ...

First, I saw the light making this pattern - BAM. I knew the fun would begin ...

Then, I took shot after shot ... And made adjustments as I went ... You know, nailed down the exposure.

The exposure I WANTED, not what the camera, and all those Japanese Wizards I am always talking about, think I want.

MINUS.

And just to be clear, my cameras are set at MINUS as the norm to begin with.

-0.7 would be my preferred starting point. Period.

"My Norm".

And, like I have said a thousand times, it usually gets darker and darker the more I shoot.

See? I can change.

I do change.

Like every other shot ...

True, I still own, and use, the same cameras since 2004, still have my high school football jersey from 1970, and have every GFMS track t-shirt and "Hoodies" since 1995 upstairs, but, yes, I do, and can, change.

Make changes ...

That's what I do.

And yes, usually on The Darker Side ...

Play with light.

Get closer.

And look for with different angles. I tilt the camera this way, and that ... Shoot, shoot, shoot ... LOTS of images.

I started out at -0.7 and ended up, well, for this image anyway, at -2.0.

FYI ... I used my Nikon 1 V1 with the 10mm (28mm equivalent) lens, at f2.8, and the ISO set at 220.

What? 220?

I didn't even know I had an ISO setting of 220.

Oh, I know ... I told you I can change.

These newer, fancy cameras have an AUTO ISO setting or something ...

You can set an ISO RANGE ... I guess I set mine at the 100-400 ISO limit, or range, or whatever it is called ...

I don't like the higher ISO ranges, so I limit them to the "safer", everyday, regular settings that I know are "pretty good" ...

Or, use a tripod, or flash ... I just know I don't like the high ISO quality of my cameras ... ANY of them.

But I did change ... Tried "a new setting". New technology ... I just forgot I did.


Perfect.

Now, let's see if I can get you to change ...

Well, to make some changes in your photography anyways ...

Oh, and yes ...

See if you can tell me what this is an image of ...

You know, like what it really is ... What the subject is? Can you guess?

Well, besides "light", that is ...

What the actual subject is? Like, the LEAST important aspect of any image dealing with LIGHT.

Oh wait ...

ALL IMAGES DEAL WITH LIGHT.

Duh?

Well, you know what I mean ...







 

splitlog.jpg


Little Drip(s) of Gold

I didn't see them at first ...

No, I just saw this big crack down the base of a tree that blew down just up the street from my place ...

Heavy winds.

Nice stump.

I was walking up the hill today while out on a walk around the block ... What? It got up into the 70s or something. Perfect "first nice day" for a walk.

You know ... Spring Cleaning.

That, and getting ready for track season ... My LAST track season. Been running with kids since 1994.

I hope I can make it ... It starts on the First Monday in March ... A GFMS tradition. One more time ...

But, back to the tree stump ...

The crack. Period. I knew I had a design element there, just waiting for me to photograph.

The LINE.

The contrast between light and dark. The black zig-zag down the middle ...

That was my image.

Until I got over there and got a lookin' ...

Up close. Fill the frame.

My eyes followed the crack and ... There they were ... 

The Drips.

The tiny drips of sap that were at the very end, holding on for dear life.

The sun hit them ...

They became my image.

Smallest part of the image, but they MADE the image.

The End.

Period.

Follow the line ... See the end.

The punctuation.

Period.

The Golden Punctuation.

And the shadow went black ... Like I knew it would.

Contrast.

The sun hit the Golden Drops, the shadow went black.

Basic camera exposure Rule 101.

Our eyes can see "into the shadows", our cameras can't.

I knew the golden drops would stick out from the black background (shadow).

Just having some fun with graphic elements and exposure ...

And "Seeing Photographically". Seeing like a lens. Learning to think like a camera. Very important.

It is what walking around Hudson is all about ...

Playing with vision, photographic vision. And skills ...

Now, all I have to do is wait for the time to "Spring Forward", so I can get my college class out walking around Hudson in day light ...

Waiting ... Waiting ... Waiting for it ...


liteline2.jpg



Light Line

Reality vs. Photography

Yes, this is an image of a light line. No, this is not what I saw when I took this photograph.

It is NOT reality. It is not what I saw, or what was in front of me.

It is an image created in my camera. It is an image I saw in my mind and then pushed a few buttons (well, only one really), and I made my camera give me the image I wanted, what I "pre-visualized" in my mind.

And yes, I stole that line/concept from Ansel Adams ...

This is an image I made up, right in the camera, right as I took the image.

I lied to the camera. Ansel can call it anything he wants, I just flat out admit I lied to the camera meter and made the image look how I wanted it to look.

PERIOD.

Photography doesn't lie ... Just the photographers!

Now, if I remember correctly, this is an image of The St. Lawrence River up in New York, that I took while driving up to The Gaspe Peninsula to photograph The Northern Gannet a couple years ago.  

Yes, it looks like a lake, no I think it is a river ... A river of light, as it were.

OK, I lied.

Yeah, I just finished writing this and then looked at the date of the image ...

Wrong. I just took it last July. So, that means it is the ocean ... The Pacific Ocean. To be fair, I do think I did the same thing up in New York a year or so before that ...

But ... Now I remember! It was the same day I took the image of the elk out along the Pacific coast with that BEAUTIFUL light/cloud ... Black and Gold.

Of course.

Then, the other day, I gave my college photography class an assignment dealing with WATER.

As usual, I didn't plan this, or even give it any thought, before assigning it. That is what I do, how I teach.

And this is the image I thought of before going to class that night.

Of all the images dealing with water ... Rain, snow, fog, creeks, rivers, lakes, ponds, oceans, water parks, car washes, squirt guns, rafting, sweat, you-name-it, that I have taken over the past, what? Thirty something years, and I thought of this one.

I saw it in my mind. I remembered.

True, I couldn't find it in time for the class, but I did THINK of it. That has to count for something ...

And then I stumbled across it a couple of days ago ... How? I have no clue.

There it was.

I grabbed it, and just had to write about it. Or "blog" about it, whatever it is that I am doing ...

I like the image.

Again, PERIOD.

I liked it the day I took it -- and yes, it was during the day, or on "the edge of day" -- And I like it now.

Something I created. Something I made.

And something no one else saw.

Not at that moment, that instant. No, it is only something I created.

I took what I saw and changed it to fit what I "felt", or envisioned.

That is art.

That is photography.

I made it darker, I under-exposed the image. Minus "something" with my compensation button (-2.7 to be exact).

Darker, darker, dark.

And that is why I like photography.

Why I am a photographer.

An artist.

A teacher.

Oh, and a "Blogger" ...





redlite.jpg

rwbnikons.jpg


Seeing Red

I took a walk around town ...

The sun was out, I grabbed two of my "point-n-create" cameras and went out to check on what I could come up with this time ...

A game I play.

Hudson, NC. One town, two cameras.

Nikon 1 J3

Nikon Coolpix P500

I have used the cameras before but have never really put them through "The Walk" ... You know, a "Test Run" to see what I can get out of each camera.

Vision has nothing to do with the camera ... But getting the vision you have in your head with the camera you have in your hand has everything to do with the camera ...

I try to get to know my cameras.

All of them.

Big or small.

I really wanted to know what each camera's zoom lens could do, you know, "In the real world".

The walk.

Did I mention I have photographed Hudson, NC a few times? I take a walk around the block and photograph every man-hole cover, telephone pole, tree, flowers, The Caboose, The Windmill, cracks in the pavement, you name it ...

And the fire truck. I usually stop for a shot or two, or three ...

Yeah, lots of shiny do-dads and chrome ...

And today, with the light just right, nice turn signals. Big red turn signals. At least I think that is what they are. I don't know.

I just saw the light shining through them ...

That was it.

How close could I get? How macro is the macro? Zoom in? Or zoom out?

How much compensation can I get out of this little red camera with the BIG ZOOM?

I didn't know ...

I do now.

The macro works just fine. The image stabilization works better than I thought it would, so I could get REALLY close.

All good.

I tried to get this image with the other, smaller, Nikon 1 J3 ... The little white camera with a nice little zoom lens.

I also wanted to see what shooting at 60 frames a second was like ...

I filled the card up before I made it to the truck ...

Holy crap.

I'll need a much larger card ...

Or cut back a bit. You know, like maybe just 30 frames per second. 10 frames? 5?

That's what you learn walking around with a camera that can shoot 60 frames per second.

I blame it on the wind.

And that darn windmill.

And the light ....

Anywho ...

I deleted a bunch of images to make room, but I got what I was looking for with the P500, so I was good.

Better macro.

But I didn't know that before the walk ...

That is why I take a walk whenever I get a new camera or lens ...

Learn something.

That simple.

Oh, and to have some fun.

Learn to have fun.

Nice concept.

Get out and take a walk. Think of it as a reason to go out and buy a new camera ... Or two.



  

purplerain.jpg

purpleflow.jpg


Flower

I am a teacher. I teach middle school Special Education and I teach a photography class at the local community college.

It is sort of like playing ...

I try to get "kids" of all ages to try something new, try to learn something they don't quite understand at that moment. Try, try. Try.

Over and over.

Teaching.

Playing.

With pencils, paper, books, cards, Jolly-"Rogers", The Bubble Gum Jamboree, Orange Sherbet and Oreos, running around the woods at The Tater Hole ...

And with all my cameras and different lenses, flashes, reflectors, what-have-you, at the college ... Art stuff.

With photography, besides all the camera gear stuff, I mostly play with vision. 

Seeing.

I try to photograph more of what I "feel", than what I see.

These images are all about "playing" ...

I have a student at the middle school I call "The Flower Boy". He brings flowers from home just about every day ... You know, from his greenhouse ...

Did I ever tell you I went to high school for Landscaping and Greenhouse Management.

Yeah, really.

I photograph flowers ...

The boy brought in a flower bulb the other day ... Put it in water, and it bloomed on Friday.

Like magic.

Then he stuck in on the windowsill. In the light.

That was it ...

The light.

I grabbed one of my cameras I always have with me at school, and ...

Well ... Played.

Light. Color. Shapes. Lines. Textures ...

A flower. Light.

And so much more ...

Later that day, as he was getting ready to get on his bus while waiting in the Media Center, there it was again ...

Near the window, in the light ...

Light.

Flower.

Color.

I went back to my room and grabbed the camera one more time ...

And played.

And, for once, hoped his bus was late ... No, no ... I won't go that far, his bus is late enough on its own ...

But I kept shooting ... Playing. Looking.

And then I will take these images (this BLOG) and share it with my college class ...

And get them to look at a single flower, like this one, with new eyes. With the eyes of a young boy ... Or an old photography instructor.

Play. Play. Play ...








treewhite.jpg

whitedriveway.jpg

snowbam.jpg


Snow Storm

We got it. Just what the weather people were talking about ...

And all the students (and teachers!) at GFMS ... SNOW.

Six inches of snow in my front yard. And on top of my Honda Element. Six inches of snow in one night.

It started around 3 pm Friday, I know, because I am a school teacher with windows in my room this year ... Yeah, the past twenty-three years, I was in a room with no windows ... I was the last to know.

This year (my last), I actually saw it snowing outside.

Or what kids around here call snowing ...

I call it "dandruff".

A few flakes in the sky ... OK, it technically is snow, so, it was snowing when school let out.

Barely, but perfect ...

Then it stopped.

Later that night, I drove down to Lenoir, took my mother to FATZ for her bowl of Potato Soup, then Walmart - You know, the usual ...

Drove home, no snow.

Later on that night ...

Snow.

I went to bed around 11 pm.

Snowing.

Woke up around 3 am.

Snowing.

Got up at 7 am.

SNOW. Like I said, six inches ...

THE MOST SNOW I HAVE EVER SEEN IN HUDSON, NORTH CAROLINA, SINCE I MOVED HERE IN 1993. 

Snow.

More snow than I saw in Iceland at Christmas.

Really.

Hudson, NC with more snow than Reykjavik, Iceland.

Yeah.

I got out there and photographed it, just like I do every time it snows around here.

I take a walk in the woods ...

But, I ALWAYS start in my driveway.

The Bamboo Grove ... Always.

I like the arches that are formed across the driveway.

Art.

Arches.

That simple ... Well, and the shapes, lines, repetition, contrast, and colors ...

White on green. Green on white.

Six inches of snow in my driveway.

Perfect.

Well, I guess PERFECT will have to wait until Monday ...

Snow Day(s), that is what it will all come down to ...

College starts Tuesday - I hope ...

So, one Snow Day would be nice.

Please, please, please ...


*** Snow Day Up-Date: No kids Monday - Teacher Workday (I'll take it). Yes!

snowingcity.jpg

facemask.jpg


Reykjavik


I had been there before ... 2002, I believe.

I landed in Iceland on the way back from Norway after a week long motorcycle tour.

Another life-time ago.

I knew then that a romp through the airport didn't really count ... I knew I would return.

It took awhile, but I did make it back.

I spent ten days in, and around, Reykjavik, the capital.

Great place.

Small, like the country, just right for walking.

Even if it was in the dead of winter over Christmas Break.

And that is another thing ... I needed a break. I needed a hotel in the very center of town, and I mean right down town ...

Perfect.

Yes, it was cold. Yes, there was snow. And yes, it snowed just about every day. Clouds every day, every minute, every ...

Well, it did clear for a few minutes one night while we were out searching for the Northern Lights ... A few minutes anyways.

I was lucky.

I was there nine nights, the Northern Lights tour buses went out two ... The second time I was on another day trip; another location I had on My List.

The Blue Lagoon.

I had three items on my Christmas Wish List:

The Northern Lights

The Blue Lagoon

Down Time

And not so much in that order ...

Did I mention it was dark twenty out of every twenty-four hours each day?

Oh yeah, remember, Iceland is hovering around The Artic Circle. Way up there ...

Four hours of daylight.

Sunrise sort of appeared around 11 am and sunset faded away around 3 pm.

Kind of.

With the clouds, you really couldn't tell ... It was dark, then it was just kinda dark, then it was dark again.

Over and over.

I saw part of the sun maybe twice while I was there. Ten days. Twice. And that was, like I said, just a hint of light, for part of a few minutes, peeking out from behind the clouds, and always on the horizon.

Twenty hours of darkness.

Really.

That is winter in Iceland.

And that is why I went.

You have zero chance of seeing the Northern Lights in the twenty hours of sunlight during the summer months ...

You go in the winter.

And cross your fingers.

The tours, when they do run, leave at 9pm. They took us outside the city to get away from the light pollution, and just looked for a spot the buses could get in and out of ...

Yes, buses. Plural. more than one ...

It is a big time operation ... Every company in the city checks the weather reports every day ... Looking for that one break in the clouds. So, even when it looks 50/50, everyone jumps on the band-wagon ... Buses everywhere, people waiting for the clouds to part and the color to start jumping ...

In-land, or near the coast, it is all up to the weather. And "mobile devises" ...

And LUCK.

So we stopped ... I don't know, 10:30, 11 pm. In a construction site.

Really.

I set my tripod up next to a big metal scoop thing used on backhoes ... It was just sitting there, detached, in the middle of this lot ...

In the middle of nowhere.

I was looking for water ... You know, reflections. Green in the skies, green  reflected off the water - You know, a GREAT location, at the right time, under the right conditions.

Forget about it.

No worries ...

I was ready.

I had no clue what I was doing ...

I have never photographed, or even seen, The Northern Lights before.

I have The Milky Way thing down pretty good, so I started with that ...

Aperture-Priority, wide open (f4), focus at infinity (and set to manual focus), wide-angle lens (12mm), high ISO (1600), a tripod, self-timer (2 second delay).

And go from there ...

Well, actually, you wait from there ...

Crazy ... Two buses in an empty construction site, pitch black, people running around asking what to do, and where to look ...

Did I mention a tripod?

And cell-phones?

Yeah, it was a trip ...

Anyway ...

There I stood, ready for ACTION.

And for the clouds to get the crap out of the way ...

So much for Goggle and all those fancy apps ...

I looked up, to the right, to the left, behind me ... Every which way but loose.

Oh, there is something ... Faint green light thingies, coming and going ...

Holy Crap!

That's it.

Where I wasn't looking ...

Swing that tripod around ...

Got it! Oh ...

Adjust ...

I forgot about the whole +5 compensation thing ...

Got it.

Better.

Gone.

That fast.

Now you see them, now you don't ...
 
Got my settings set ... Sort of.

Clouds.

No, wait ... Over there!

Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.

Got it.

Sort of.

Nice, but ...

Kinda, sort-of ...

But it is AWSOME baby!

I saw 'em ...

Even got an image or two ...

Greenish blue waves sweeping across the skies ...

Sweet.

Everyone - The guides the most - were running around laughing, high-fives everywhere ...

But it was over ...

Head back and hope the clouds break again ...

Oh, the hot-cholate and donut was a nice touch ...

Back on the bus ...

An hour or so -- I don't know, I NEVER could tell what time it was, or how much time passed.

Dark is dark.

Another stop off the road in the middle of nowhere ...

Yes!

There they go ... Skipping across the sky ...

We were in the right place (except for no foreground interest, not counting the bus!), at the right time, with the right conditions ...

OK, a few clouds, but come on, it's The Freakin' Northern Lights baby, who cares?

Shoot, shoot, shoot ...

They move fast!

In front of you ...

No, off the right ...

Holy crap, no, no, look over there ...

They were dancing ...

Sweeping across the sky.

Fast.

The guides were going crazy ... Even they were amazed.

Remember, most trips are ... Well, not as exciting ... It is a Crap Shoot at best, even with all this technology everyone is ga-ga about ...

A half-hour, an hour ... I don't know ...

Shoot, shoot, shoot ...

Make adjustments ... 1000 ISO. F8. 1600 ISO. f11. +4. +3. No, +5.

Shoot, shoot, shoot ...

Giggle.

Gone.

Just like that ...

Back on the bus ...

Happy.

Holy crap. 3am.

I got back to hotel at 3am.

What?

Well, like I said, dark is dark.

DO NOT DISTURB.

I can't remember when I got up, it wasn't dark, let's put it that way. True, it was cloudy, and kinda dark, but that was normal ...

Perfect.

Even if it wasn't PERFECT, and I didn't capture any award-winning images (yes, I even tried using the bus, and the people standing around looking up), it was PERFECT.

Iceland.

Oh, and then there was the whole Blue Lagoon thing ...

Yeah. The other reason I was there ...

Off at Dark Thirty-Hours (again), another bus ride out of the big (small) city ...

Got there when it was sorta, kinda light ... Perfect. Oh, did I mention I was slated to get there at 1800 hours ... Ah, for all you civilians out there, that is 6 pm. Again ... DARK.

I had them switch my bus ride out there ... Oh, it is PACKED, every time slot booked days in advance ...

So, I had my ride changed to 11 AM ... But my little slip of paper still had me set for a soak at 1800 hours.

Oh well ... I could use what little light I had before going in ...

Did I mention The Blue Laggon is a cool place?

A man-made wading pool (with bar, and face-mask booth) next to a hydro-power heating station ...

Yeah, Iceland runs on Geo-thermal energy ... You know, hot water heated up by lava just below the surface ...

Dig a hole, heat your house, and run your electric lights ... Energy from the earth. Pretty sweet deal they have going for them ...

That is Iceland.

The island is sitting on the edge of two of the planet's tectonic plates ... The North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate.

The earth's plates are in constant movement, friction creates the heat, which heats the water, which runs the country ... Cheap, re-usable energy in your (well, their) backyard.

Pretty sweet deal.

True, the plates are moving apart, but ... That is what keeps everything running so smoothly ... Or, actually, not so smoothly.

They are pulling apart ...

Give or take a few  million years ...

Whatever ...

It is a place of extremes ... A wild country with fewer people than most of our states ... I mean, cities. A small country with a small population, with an even smaller power bill.

And, to make it even sweeter, there is The Blue Lagoon ...

Got there with some light left in the cloudy skies. I went and walked around the place ...

They have several smaller "pools" that are just as magical ... Black lava rocks, covered with white snow, surrounding these light blue hot water pools ... Beautiful.

The BIG POOL is tucked in there, behind a building with a maze of locker rooms ... They give you a locker, an arm band, and, after a shower, off you go to The Pool.

Sweet.

You know, I have taken a Polar Plunge in both the Arctic Ocean, and in The Southern Ocean, off Antarctica (not counting The Tater Hole), but you can't beat this ...

Cold outside ... I don't know, 5 or 7 Celsius, or something like that (low 30's Fahrenheit); it even snowed while I was there ... But the water is HOT. My kind of Polar Plunge!

Wonderful.

And, as you can see ...

"While in Rome" ... The Silica Face Mask treatment. Oh yeah ...

Hey, it was included in the price ... Does wonders for something, but I just liked the Photo-Op it provided. People standing neck-deep in blue water with white faces, their eyes peeking out from behind the masks ...

The Blue Lagoon.

Perfect.

Yes, let it snow. Let the clouds roll on and on ... Let it get below freezing, whatever ...

It's The Blue Lagoon, and you're in Iceland ...

I relaxed.

Remember, that was third on my To-Do List - Or first, depending on the light ...

What a trip.

Like I said the first time I touched down on the Land of Fire and Ice, I will return.

In the summer next time ...

Twenty hours of sunlight. And I've seen pictures ... The sun actually does shine every once in awhile.

Perfect.

"I Shall Return".

Again.




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Rocks

I collect rocks.

I really can't say why, except that I like them. They remind me of where I've been ... Even if I can't remember which came from where after a few years (days?).

Rocks.

Well, plus, they save me money. I don't pay for them, just collect them.

I have them all over the apartment ... From my Zen Garden (I made it a project for my college class one semester), to the displays downstairs, little rocks pop up everywhere ...

My trip to Iceland was no different. In fact, I have mentioned that Iceland is made-up mostly of basalt, so I knew I would bring back something in the line of basalt rocks in one shape or another.

I did.

First I saw this carved basalt piece of art in a store the first night I was walking around ... ICELAND.

They even had the Icelandic version, ISLAND (their way of spelling Iceland; go figure) and it caught my eye.

Again, just because I watched that darn Art Wolfe TRAVELS TO THE EDGE show about Iceland ...

Basalt.

So, the seed was planted the first night without me even knowing about it.

Then, over the course of the next ten days, three bus tours, and countless miles walking around the city, I had three rocks I liked.

It still hadn't hit me that the two would go nicely together ... Until I bought the carved piece the day before I left (Yes, I paid for a rock!).

Duh? I'm a math teacher (sort of), and I thought, three regular rocks, plus one carved piece of rock, just might equal one art piece from Iceland.

Brilliant! 

All four of them came from the island; they ARE the island, the country, the nation ...

The Soul of Island.

A Piece of Art.

Just what I was looking for. Fits right in with my décor ...

If I actually had a décor, that is ...

I won't even mention the rocks I have at school ...

Yeah ... Décor, I love it.

Flintstone Neo-Classic.

Perfect.






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Pop-Up

No secret here ... No Photoshop, no tricks. One button. That easy.

Well, OK, there might be a tad bit of magic, but don't worry, the camera does all the work - And all the math!

Yes, as a Middle School teacher, I must admit that math is part of the equation in this situation, but luckily, like I said ... The camera does all the figurin' ...

I'd still be there trying to decipher all the crap out if it was up to me ...

That might not be a bad thing ...

Anywho ...

Blue Lagoon, small Nikon AW100, my "Don't leave home/hotel without it" camera ...

Perfect.

I'm in neck deep looking for people to get an image of the facemask junk you put on your face, you know, good for your skin and all ...

This one woman asked me about the camera being water-poof and BAM, that was my green light ...

I asked her and her husband, boy-friend, whatever, if they wouldn't mind letting me take their photo ...

First off, it is a dinky camera, they were not intimidated by it, or me ... No worries.

I had been taking images of the pool and the clouds/sky/light earlier, and simply fired away ...

Duh.

The first image is my first image . Shot without thinking ...  Quickly - and that is key when taking photos of others that you just stopped on the street, or in this case, a pool - I pushed one button, and got the image I was looking for ... The second image.

Just like that ... Quicker than I could type the sentence (my 7th grade students make fun of my typing skills as they are learning how to type themselves). That simple, that easy.

That said (or typed), I did go into the situation knowing I would use this technique (Ahh, my "Selfies"), so if there is any secret, or magic, to this situation, it is that I had set the flash to whatever setting Nikon has programed into the camera for backlit situations just like this one ... Yes, they have a fancy name for it, and yes, I can't think of it at the moment (I'm so focused on typing) ... Whatever it is called, I knew enough to have it set there just in case ...

So yes, one push of the flash ON button, and I was set to go ...

On my bigger Nikons, it would be called something fancy like, "Slow shutter, rear curtain, Super-Duper Fill-Flash" mode ... Or something like that. Like I said, the camera does all the math.

Just PUSH THE BUTTON and let the camera do the rest.

Really, little has changed over the past 150, 160 years (whatever it is now-a-days) of photography ... Like George Eastman said years ago, "You push the button, we do the rest" ... It is all math. It is all magic.

Figure out the magic of your flash, you know, just in case you are ever in the Blue Lagoon and you need that little burst of light to fill-in your white faced subjects in a back-lit situation ...

Pop-Up perfection. Done quickly, without all the fuss.

Perfect.



 

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Fifty Shades of Black


I watch Art Wolfe videos.

But I bet you knew that ... I have written about them before. If you have taken my photography class, or have been at the middle school with me, you know I rant about them all the time.

Yes, he went to Iceland.

Yes, I have watched that program many, many times ...

Basalt. Black, and fifty shades of gray, it is the rock that makes up Iceland. It is Iceland.

"The Soul of Iceland"

The mountains, the beaches, it is all basalt (Well, you know, pretty much).

At least that is what I came away with from watching that video over and over again ...

Magma. Lava. Cooled magma.

It is what is left over from all the volcanoes that spit the stuff up every few years, or for millions of years, whatever ...

Cooled magma. Lava. Whatever you call it, it is everywhere on the island. Like I said, it IS the island.

I knew I was going to photograph black rocks ... I just knew it. Before I even planned the trip months ago, I knew I would come away with an image of basalt ... Black basalt.

Black on black.

I talk about it when I teach exposure compensation at the college ... Every semester, every year.

Minus, minus, minus ...

I have photographed it for years ...

Way before Art Wolfe and Iceland.

Japan.

Remember, I have climbed Mt. Fuji twice. I lived in Japan. I knew basalt before I even knew what it was called ...

Magma. Lava. Black rocks, the one with little holes in it from being blown up into the heavens ... Air pockets when the magma cools up in the air.

I have two pieces from Mt. Fuji at school that I show the kids every year ... And tell them about running straight down the volcano and wiping out along the way, and cutting my hands on the sharp, black and red, rocks ...

Yes, I know basalt.

My little Zen Garden up-stairs is made up from small, black, pieces of the rock, which I picked up at a certain location out West, which I can't mention ... I use it to re-arrange my three white rocks (which I have no idea what kind of rocks they are) every once in awhile to maintain the piece of mind to keep going back to the middle school every day for the past 24 years.

I also use it to improve my composition: The pleasing arrangement of the subjects within my frame ...

Black and White. Composition. Photography.

Photographic Zen.

Ahh, basalt ...

Here is my newest image of basalt taken in Iceland.

More than just black rocks ... It is shape, patterns, and repetition ... The key make-up of any good photograph.

And it is also a good(great) exercise on photographing black on black: Compensation.

Get it right in-camera. Period.

Darker? Lighter? How dark is dark? How black is black?

I like the challenge ...

Black on black ... Gotta love it.



 

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Rembrandt Lighting


OK, I've seen this image in my head for years now ...

THE BARN at Old Salem. An empty barn, except for this one hay-stack up in the loft.

I have wanted this close-up of THE LIGHT. Period.

The hay is lit by the large open barn doors ... Key word being LARGE.

Soft, side light ... Rembrandt Lighting.

Yes, I know, it's a hay stack ... But, come on, that is nice lighting. Portrait lighting.

That is what I do ... Look at the Light.

True, it might take me awhile, but since I go back to the same place year after year - I was just there a month ago for Veteran's Day, I KNEW I could get something with the right lens.

And Photoshop.

Yeah ...

Crop, crop, crop.

When I say, "the right lens", I am not limiting myself to the lenses I own (Ahh, I own a LOT of lenses!).

No, I mean "My Mine's Eye". The one in my brain.

I "see images" that are just a fraction of what I see, what is in front of me.

I zoom in, eliminate all the "junk" around my subject, and see only what I want.

That is what a photographer does, what an artist does ...

"The role of the artist is to simplify".

Some Asian philosopher came up with that one a LONG time ago, way before my time. I just use it, and think about it, as much as possible.

People, haystacks, whatever ...

Big light from the side seems to work for just about anything.

I think I'll refer to this light as "Moravian Barn Lighting" from now on, see if it catches on ...

Works for me.



 

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The Sound of Music


Christmas at Old Salem. I love it.

True, the line at the bakery was really long, but  the light was good, the streets were filled with people, and music was in the air ...

I tend to follow the music as much as I chase the light; both usually result in good images.

The band was playing in the middle of the street just like they were years ago when I covered them for OUR STATE magazine ... What? 1999?

Back when I shot 100 ASA film ...

I walked around, looking for images.

I was shooting with my "new"  17-55mm lens I picked up from Santa.

Great lens. Big lens.

It is a great match with the D300 with the MB-10 battery pack ... Big lens for a big camera.

With the wide-angle lens, I got in close ... Like, less than a foot away from the players. Shooting over their shoulders ...

I got a few nice shots and then they walked up the street ...

As they were walking away, I noticed one man slung his instrument over his shoulder ...

The light.

The glint of light off the metal ...

I just flowed the guy and remember shooting several while looking through the camera, tilting the camera to match the tilt of the horn on the guy's back.

Just shooting ... Looking ... Getting closer  ... Closer.

I wanted a close shot of the lines, light, shapes, metal, and texture.

A new light on an Old Salem instrument.

Get Closer
Look at the Light
Shoot Lots of Images

Perfect.

A perfect image, in the perfect light, at the perfect moment.

That's what usually happens when you follow the sound of music and notice the light.

The perfect light ...

Ahh, like, just past noon.

The wrong light at the right angle.

Perfect.

I had fun, got my Christmas shopping done, and enjoyed shooting in an old place and coming away with a new image.


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Complex Simplicity


Keep it simple.

Let nature make it complex.

This image was shot using my Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens at f11, tripod mounted, two-second timer ...

Yes, you read that right ... f11.

True, I know, you know that I ALWAYS shoot at f16 if I want to maximize my depth-of-field, which I wanted to do here.

I know, I know, it even caught me by surprise ...

I am so used to shooting at f16, I forgot that my 50mm lens only goes to f16 when "closed down".

I stopped. I thought about that for a nano-second, and then changed to f11.

Why? You ask ...

Because I am so "trained" not to shoot at my smallest aperture ... I am a creature of habit.

Like, big time.

In EVERYTHING I do ... During my two years in Germany, I went to the same little restaurant, sat at the same little table, and ordered the same thing (one pepperoni pizza, one coke), every time I went out for pizza - Which was a lot.

I do the same thing now at Fuji #1 in Hudson. Same table (once I had to find another table -- Someone was sitting at MY table, same meal. When I worked with Viking River Cruises, I always sat at the same table, every meal, every time ...

I even find that to be weird ...

But ... That is what I end up doing.

Recently, I do try to mix things up ... At Fuji #1, sometimes, I order the steak, instead of the chicken, with my PLAIN rice, no vegetables, and Dr. Pepper (Mr. Pip).

Sometimes.

Don't even get me started on how I line my yogurt up in the refrigerator every Sunday ...

Shooting at f11 is a big deal for me.

Really.

The reason? I read somewhere, long, long, ago, that your lens is sharper when it is NOT "closed-down" all the way.

Or, get this, when it is "opened-up" all the way.

Go figure.

Of course, I really can't see the difference, and even question how true this little tit-bit really is, but, I still "follow orders" like a good Marine. That is who I am.

Don't "open up" or "close down" all the way.

That said, unless I blow this image up to poster size (or larger), f11 looks as sharp as f16 to the naked eye. On my website, on ANY computer, nobody but me would really ever know what aperture I used. Or even think about.

Or even care.

But, I switched it up. f11 baby!

A "slice of reality". Abstract reality, complex reality, complex simplicity. An image of lines, color, and shapes; all within nature. All part of nature.

And all in focus.

Well, not all of it. Not everything ...

Which leads me to "the other aspect" of this image I wanted to talk (write, blog, whatever ...) about.

No horizon. Not "the whole picture". Not what my eyes saw. Not reality.

No image ever is.

No, when I stay up in the woods, sitting in my Honda Element, this is what I see out of my windows ... Slices of nature, framed by the windows.

Slices of reality.

Framed abstracts of reality just outside my windows ...

Everything in focus ... Every line, every shape, every color, everything ... All of it framed within my windows, and then, later, in my viewfinder.

First, I noticed the light ... In this case, soft, diffused light, and then combined that with the vertical lines of the trees, and then picked out the diagonal lines, shapes, patterns, and mayhem of nature, and just framed them altogether within the frame, my rectangle. My camera's rectangular viewfinder.

Simple.

Composed nature. Composed mayhem.

Composed lines, patterns, colors, shapes, and textures.

Composed nature.

A simple image of a complex scene.

I love it.

How simple is that?

Just a very small, very simple, very complex, slice of "My Woods" up above Collettsville, NC.

Although I was not actually in my Honda Element when I made this image, I certainly was within my element.

Nature. Light. Color.

Photography.

Simple.

Yet, so very complex.






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Fall Abstracts


Up in the woods once again.

I got up early, packed up the Element, and headed up to catch the sunrise.

Perfect.

Got there just as the sun came up. And better yet ... No one was in "My Spot".

I had two cameras; one with the 50mm f1.8, and the other with the 10.5mm f2.8 fisheye.

Keep it simple.

Keep it easy.

Keep it fun.

Fall Colors in both color, and Black and White Infrared. How cool is that?

I had fun.

I shot a LOT of images ... With both cameras. One day, over 350 images. Or was it 450 images?

A lot of images.

It was great.

Overcast day. I couldn't tell if it was clouds, fog, or smoke ... Probably a mixture of all three.

With the color images, I kept the sky out of the frame. I'm not a fan of white skies ...

Unless, of course, you happen to be shooting black and white infrared.

I was.

Then, I like the white skies ...

Yes, I can set my modified, infrared, Nikon D80 camera to B/W, and go from there.

Red is nice ... But, for me, I like the black and white mode. I shot them all in black and white.

And the Fisheye? Yeah, I like that too.

Fun.

Fun day. Fun images.

I had planned on going up there for four nights ... You know, four cans of meat, four cans of fruit. Four nights. The regular.

I was all set ... Just didn't feel that good.

I was home by 7pm.

Made it up there before 7am, made it home by 7pm.

Perfect.

I wanted a quiet Thanksgiving, and I got it.

I slept in ... Stayed home all day ... Watched Art Wolfe videos ... Watched football ... And yes, ate my can of turkey on Thanksgiving.

And went through all my images ...

Picked four of them ... Two color. Two Black and White Infrared.

Great day. Quiet Thanksgiving.

Felt weird sleeping in ... But it works for me. I needed the rest. My LAST school year is turning out to be a WILD school year ...

A QUIET Thanksgiving is just what the doctor ordered.






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Old Salem
New Images


I drive over to Old Salem every Veteran's Day. I like their cemetery and I enjoy the bakery, and they have my favorite tree ...

"My" Gingko Tree.

Every year.

I don't know ... For the past twelve years or so ... I enjoy the day. The weather, the village, THE tree, THE bakery, the images ...

Veteran's Day. 

Perfect.

Well, except for the leaves ...

The Gingko Tree was not quite perfect. Or, it was too perfect, depending how you look at it.

Still a lot of green ...

Which, for a Marine, is a good thing. For a photographer, not so much ... I like the leaves on the ground, some of the leaves anyways.

And I like 'em yellow ... Ripe!

But, it is still Old Salem. It is still God's Acre. It is still Veteran's Day. It is still the right time at the right place, in the right light.

Old Salem.

I spent the morning there ...

I got up early, took a couple of cameras, and off I went.

The light was good, the weather excellent, and the village was slowly coming to life.

The first image, the fence ...

I park just down the road, and have walked past this fence for years ... I was just about to walk past without shooting when I saw that one little "creeper" sticking out into the light ...

I knew I had something ...

The subject in full light, the background in shadow ...

Perfect.

I knew I could light up the lines of that vine ...

Minus compensation.

Line up the subject and the background, and fire away ...

Place the subject in the right spot ... The right light.

My image. Done.

I saw it before I took it.

Photography.

Art.

Fun.

The second image ...

The Gingko Leaves and the Bricks.

God's Acre.

Everything was in place ...

The tree. The headstones.

The light.

The ... Well ... No leaves. No yellow gingko leaves on the ground.

Oh wait ...

There were a couple.

On the sidewalk, right under the tree ...

The bricks. The patterns. The textures. The leaves. The colors.

The image.

A new image from Old Salem.

The Gingko Tree without seeing the tree ...

Interesting.

Like I said, I have been there before. I have photographed Gingko leaves before. On the tree, on the ground, on the headstones, on the streets, on the cars, even on the sidewalks ... But not like this.

Simple.

The colors. The textures. The, well, the simplicity.

Simply perfect.

You know, for a day where there were not that many leaves on the ground ...

And even fewer yellow leaves on the ground.

The Gingko Brick.

Perfect day on Veteran's Day.

And yes, the bakery was open. And yes, I did enjoy some cookies.

And yes, I actually saved some for the holidays coming up.

I hope they make it that long ...

Perfect.

 

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Here Comes the Sun

I like to play.

You know that.

I was camping (if you can call it that) up at "My Spot", above Colletsville, this weekend, and had a great time playing with the sun, the leaves, the color ... And the camera.

It was cold.

It was perfect ... Crisp!

I took a LOT of images ... I like these three.

One "regular", two, not so much ...

And the most important thing, they did not look like this ... In reality.

Photography is not reality, don't forget that.

My famous quote ... Yes, I think I actually made this one up, although I'm sure I didn't. Something like that ...

"Don't let reality, get in the way of your photography".

In the first one, the starburst is made in-camera with the use of a small aperture (f16 or f22, I can't remember).

Yes, that simple.

That's all I did. I saw the sun burst through the branches, so I just thought ... Starburst, sweet. Use f16. Or f22.

So I picked one (can't remember which one!). It does not matter.

That simple.

Nice effect, simple solution.

Spin the thumb dial ... Period.

Seeing the situation and knowing what to do with it is the key. Just get out there and shoot ... And play.

And keep doing it for thirty plus years ...

Play. Get out there. Shoot, shoot, shoot.

Speaking of which ...

The second image.

Play, play, play ...

Oh, and get up early. Like, pre-sunrise early. And no, I have no idea what time it was ... I just knew it was image time.

Period.

Get out there, look at the light, and get up early ... Or, actually, get up early, THEN look at the light, that would help.

I took this shot six feet from my bed ... My Element.

Talk about being in your element! Or, you know, just outside your Element ... Get up early.

Yes, it was chilly ...

But that light ...

Which brings us to the third image ... Wild Swirl.

Same moment, different camera movement. I have no idea why I did this certain twist, swirl, twirl, whatever ...

I just could. That is the key. The only rule is that there are no rules.

I knew I was going to blur these images even before I went to bed that night ...

Really.

Before getting into the Element the night before, I was out blurring the Fall Colors (trees) along the road ... Yes, I have done this before.

Like ... A LOT. For years.

And I am always surprised by the results ... ALWAYS.

Something different. Every time.

Same technique, different results.

Well, let me re-phrase that ...

Same concept, different results.

The concept is to show motion ... To give the images an abstract feel.

The technique always changes ... Left to right pan. Or right to left. Up. Down. Zig-zag. Zag-zig. Wiggle this way, wiggle the other way. Swril, twril, swish, swash, splash ...

Yes, you can make up names ...

Do SOMETHING different.

Every time.

Or not.

I call these image "The Up-Lifting Sunrise".

It was.

I loved it.

Photograph your feelings ... Your emotions ... Your dreams ...

Photograph your own vision.

Play.

Play with a purpose. I knew what I wanted, I got "out there", I played. Tried this, tried that.

And was thrilled when chilled ...

It is why I do what I do, when I do it, and where I do it.

Get out there.

Play.


 

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Multiple Leaves
Multiple Times


Yes, I have done this before.

Multiple times.

Like, EVERY year for the past twenty something years ... Two exposures: One sharp, one out of focus.

The camera does all the math, thank goodness ...

I was driving home from South Mountain State Park and saw this tree a block from my apartment. I knew what I was going to do at that moment.

When I got the gear all put up, I got my Nikon D90, switched the 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VR lens for the 70-200 f2.8 VR lens, and walked back up the street.

No tripod.

Got the images I wanted.

That easy.

Practice, practice, practice ...


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3 4 3

Three for three. Get it?

I went 4 a walk with my little Nikon D50 with an old 28 - 80mm zoom lens. Old school camera with an older school lens (a film lens).

Why?

Because I could. And I own them. And I like Old School Photography.

No, it was not my first choice ...

I first went out with my smaller, red, Coolpix something ... My "BIG RED" camera.

The battery was low, no problem. I was just going around the block.

I didn't make it past my first Bradford Pear Tree.

The first color of the Fall. From green to yellow ...

I had to use some "fill flash" and ate up what little battery power I had. No worries. I was 20 feet from 20 plus cameras/batteries.

I went back in, plugged in the battery, and grabbed a new camera.

The D50.

What? Five years old? Eight? Something like that ... Ten? Ha. I can't remember.

Old School digital. Old School Nikon Digital. Fun little camera.

OK ...

Walked out toward the driveway and shot the whole backlit tree(s) thing ... Yes, I've shot this before.

Like every year.

Shot, what? 8 shots? 6?

Next ...

Walking up towards town ...

One block.

Flowers.

You know me ...

And flowers.

Shape. Lines. Contrast. Repetition. Form.

And more lines, shapes, contrast, and repetition.

Oh, and color.

Shot another 5 or 6 images ...

Whatever ...

Then, when uptown, I turned down into Windmill Park. But before I got there I ran across this flower next to the Town Hall.

Wow.

Fall Color.

Perfect. Perfect flower ... Perfect color.

Took another few shots ...

And ...

The battery died.

Yeah, I know. No worries. I knew it was low as well.

I was done. Well ... Finished.

Three "shoots", three images.

I like it.

3 4 3

Perfect.



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Say What?

Yeah, I was at Cataloochee shooting (photographing) elk when I came across this image ...

Yeah.

A little girl backlit by the late evening light. Perfect.

Well, except that she was in a field that is off-limits to people due to large elk running around with a larger sex drive.

The Rut.

Male elk are HUGE. And fast. And us humans have no idea just how crazed, big, and wild these animals are.

This is crazy.

Really, I was down the road from this little girl with my long lens taking pictures of the elk ...

Now, yes, they were no where near this young girl. Sort of ...

They were in the same field ... They are fast. And they are, well ...

Unpredictable.

Wild.

Territorial.

Crazed animals.

But that light ...

I loved it.

Backlighting.

The perfect light for this young model.

Even if she shouldn't be where she was.

I was.

I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right lens, the right light, and the right model.

True, not an elk, but I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this play out in front of me.

Well, no, not in front of me, but fifty yards to my right ...

A happy surprise.

I love being out there for moments like this.

My littlest "elk" ...

Perfect.




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New Moon

No, not a real New Moon (I don't really know what that really means), but a new image of the moon.

A new moon ...

Finally, I got my 900mm f5.6 lens out there with a kinda full moon ...

Wanted to see what I could come up with. The LONGEST lens/converter combination I have.

My 300mm f2.8 lens with the 2X converter ... And the 1.5X crop factor of the smaller sensor.

900mm f5.6.

Out in the parking lot of my apartment ... Not quite dark.

I changed from Aperture Priority to Manual exposure.

Set my shutter speed to 1/250 of a second, my aperture to f11. Tried that ...

Adjusted as needed ... Tried f16 (Sunny 16 Rule). Remember, the moon is lit by the sun.

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Adjust, adjust, adjust ...

Even at 900mm, I wanted more.

At this magnification, I noticed the "shake" in the lens ... No worries.

I changed from my normal 2 second self-timer to 5 seconds, you know, to give me more time for the vibration to calm down once I push the shutter.

Easy.

Don't really know how much it helps, but it makes sense to me. A no-brainer.

I'll take it. I can put up with an extra 3 seconds every once in a while ... The moon stays put long enough.

Got my shot.

The computer takes over ...

I cropped it in Photoshop Elements.

Sharpened it.

Done. Got it.

The Moon. Craters and all.

Again.



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Two Deer Too

Yes, there are deer in Cataloochee Valley as well.

I saw a few ...

Three young ones running around in the "first field" as I was driving in.

Playing. Running around with no adult supervision. It was fun just watching them. Like there was nobody around ... No adult deer, no adult people, nothing ...

They looked happy, if deer can look happy.

I was.

I stopped. I watched. I actually forgot about the elk I came to see for about ... Oh, five minutes.

I got out of my Element (no, that was not meant to be a pun), grabbed my 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens with a Nikon D90 attached to it and just stood by the side of the road and took a few shots.

No one else bothered ...

Ahh, there were elk behind me. Big elk. These were wimpy little fawns, just playing off on the side of the road. Runnin' and jumpin' ...

Playing.

I guess they must have known that that is an important part of my teaching style.

PLAY.

I stopped and played with them.

The elk could wait.

Well, like I said, for five minutes anyway.

I never did see their parents, you know, the REAL deer. I guess they don't like to play as much any more.

I got my shots, forgot about them, and went on to photograph the real subject I was after ... Elk.

But, play is play, and I just had to stop and smell the ...

Running fawns ...





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Something Different

I am always looking for something different. Always.

That is what photographers do. That is what artists do. Find a new way of looking at "the same thing" everyone else looks at.

Elk. Cataloochee Valley. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Last Saturday and Sunday. And the Sunday before that. Hours in the fields looking, looking for and at elk.

That simple.

Spending time looking for elk. Looking for images of elk.

Anything.

And yes, what really drives me nuts is ... Where do I go? Where do I stop. The first open field? Or the second?

No matter where I go, I am always second guessing myself. What is going on in one field when I am in the other? Drives me nuts.

OK, there is one bull elk with six cows in front of me. Right in front of me. True, off in the distance, but, come on, right in front of me. I have my long lens. I can get something.

They lay down.

Do I stay or do I go? How long do I wait? What am I missing in the other field? Are two bulls fighting while I am standing here waiting for something to happen?

I keep looking.

I go from one field to the other, looking.

This time, the light was there. There was even an elk or two ... One male, a couple of females. The I noticed some else.

Back lit, in the tall grass, was a pair of ears.

Elk ears.

Small elk ears. A fawn. A young elk. Whatever you call a small elk.

All I saw was the ears.

I knew I had an image. My image.

You know, the image I never thought of, planned, envisioned, whatever ...

Something new.

Something different.

Well, to me anyways. That is the key. Another image to add to my collection.

"Another brick in the wall" ...

A visual foundation from which I will build on day after day, year after year.

Elk images.

This is my "new one". My "different one". "My elk shot". One I have not seen before.

Not that it hasn't been taken before, by someone, somewhere. No, that is not the point. The point is that I haven't taken it before.

I have taken images of elk before. In fact, just this summer I took my favorite image of an elk out in California. Great light, golden light. Dark storm clouds. Back lighting. A silhouette.

I can remember photographing one out in ... Where was I? Yellowstone? Yeah, I believe it was Yellowstone. Somewhere out West, in some National Park.

Walked right past me. Well, me and my Honda Element. I make it a habit to have something close by I can step behind ... You know, just in case.

I can remember it like it was yesterday ... And elk. A big bull. Walking right by me coming out of the woods into a field.

And now my newest image. My small elk with the large ears. Ears not that close to me. Out in the field, hiding in the grass.

Just the ears. And the grass. And the light.

And the image.

My image.

My new favorite elk image.

Until the next time I photograph elk. The next time I look for something new.

Something different.

Always looking for something different. Something new.

That is why I do what I do. Over and over again. Year after year. Image after image.

Elk. Sunflowers. Ferns. Trout. Fall Colors. Spring Flowers. Arches National Park. Osprey.

The same thing over and over again ... Year after year. Day after day.

Looking for something new out of the old.

Photography.

Art.

Passion.




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Elk Calls

Went back to Cataloochee for some more elk images. I just had to.

Last week I took one shot with my 900mm f5.6 lens set-up. One shot.

OK, you know I don't take one shot ... But you know what I mean.

One situation.

One elk walked out into the light ...

I believe I took two quick shots, more to get a check on the exposure, to tell you the truth.

A doe.

A doe with a collar, no less.

Not what I was looking for.

Way too far away, no antlers, one too many radio collar ...

Two, maybe three shots. Period.

This time I had a riot.

Right around 450 images ... Many, many "situations".

I like it.

Big lens, big tripod, big subject.

Bigger than an osprey anyways ...

The 300mm f2.8 was made for elk.

Bull elk. Big bull elk.

Bugle Boy.

No collar.

Full frame. Up close. In your face.

Again ...

300mm f2.8 VRII lens. That works out to be 450mm f2.8 when used, as in my case, with a "crop-factor", smaller sensor. I use my old D300s with the 8 frames per second speed I am looking for.

Add the Nikon 2X converter because you just happen to have one, and you have a 900mm f5.6 super telephoto lens.

I have waited a LONG time in order to get this set-up. Throw-in the large Gitzo tripod with the Kirk BH-1 ball-head with the Induro Side-Kick gimbal arm, and you have a set-up to photograph big, nasty bull elk during rutting season.

That is one part of the story: The Gear.

The rest of the story is all about getting there. Getting out there. Being there in the first place.

That is key.

I got up early Saturday morning and drove straight to the Park.

I-40 all the way.

Got to the "second" big field just as the elk were headed into the woods for the afternoon ... About 9:30am.

No worries ... I turned around, and headed for another field, the "first" field as you come into the Park.

Remember, this is a section of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Just as I parked, I noticed a number of people down the road a bit, and walked down to see a male and one of his girlfriends come out of the woods.

Perfect.

Spent the day working this "first field". They came and went, came and went.

Not bad.

Great day.

Time to find that Rest Stop on I-40 West I saw on the map ...

Back down the long and winding and gravel, dirty, dusty road (15 mph) to get back on I-40.

Yes, I went West, away from the Park. About ten miles ... Something like that.

Got there before it got dark. Parked at the end of the parking lot, brushed my teeth, put up my "curtains" ... Set my alarm for 6am.

Nice night.

Cool. Perfect.

Got up, checked my alarm, I was up before it went off ... 5:47am.

Drove West another, what? Five miles to the next exit, turned around, and headed East, back to the Park. It worked out great.

Back up the gravel road ... In the dark. Glad no one else is as crazy as I am ... It is tight and twisty.

Drove through the Park to the very end, just like the day before. Pre-sunrise.

There were a few elk out in the field ... The foggy field. They left before I really got anything ... And the sun came up.

I drove back to the "first field".

One bull (the same one from the night before) with a couple cows just laying there.

I'll take it. They were "sort of close" ... For a 900mm lens set-up.

I shot. I waited. I moved.

He didn't.

Oh wait ... As the sun was trying to show-up (it did for about five minutes), he stood up. Perfect.

Wait for it ...

Yes! My favorite sound of the weekend... The bugle call.

He was in the middle of the field, the light was nice, I got it.

The moment, or two.

That was it.

I was gone when he left to follow his harem. The light was gone, they went to the other side of the field, and ...

I had my shots.

Full-frame, in your face, elk call ...

Perfect end for a perfect week-end (except for that whole "hole in the bumper" thing ...).

Next weekend ... Closer to home.

Trading in the long lens for the fly-rod ... Trout.

Delayed-Harvest.

My time of the year. Back to South Mountain State Park.

From one park to another.

One animal to another.

From elk to trout.

I believe I can get closer to a trout ...








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Running Bull

Went over to the Smokey Mountains for some elk images ...

Oh, stopped in Asheville for a look at some old camera gear ... Found an old Pentax camera body (I had a lens for it), an old Nikon camera strap, and a beat-up Canon auto-focus lens for another camera body I have laying around upstairs ...

Ah, I found out that a Canon lens does not fit a Canon camera body.

Say what? YES! A Canon autofocus lens that will NOT fit on a Canon autofocus camera body ...

Go figure.

And I paid $10 for it! Come-on!! I don't get it.

I knew Nikon is one of the few (if not the only one) companies that have kept the lens mount the same, for like, EVER!

I have an old Nikon D50 autofocus camera body upstairs with an really OLD Nikkor 50mm manual focus lens on it which I use to play around with ...

Yes, it can not auto focus ... Yes, I have to use manual exposure ...

But ... I CAN USE IT!!!

Canon? Go figure.

Anyway ...

That was before getting to Cataloochee -- THE place for elk in North Carolina. Best place east of the Mississippi? I'm not sure ... But, yeah ...

A nice place. A special place.

I got there about noon ... Crazy dirt road up to the valley. Didn't see anything but a few turkeys ...

Drove up to the end ...

Stopped.

Read a few magazines ... Checked out all the places I want to go to next ... Pretended to rest ... Relax.

Then ... Got out my long lens and tripod, got everything ready.

I could hear 'em ... The elk bugle. One of my favorite sounds in nature ... He was way up in the woods.

I waited.

And waited.

Then, an elk entered the open field ... A female. With a collar. I took a couple of shots, you know, checking for exposure, composition, etc ...

I waited ...

And waited ...

I could still hear him ...

He was getting closer ... Waited.

Finally ...

Out he comes. A BIG one.

And he lays down ...

I could see his antlers over a small hill ...

And there he sat ... He even had one of his girl friends come join him.

I couldn't see her ...

I waited. It was getting late ...

The light was going ... I was in the right place - One BIG male and five (yes, five) females.

I lost the light. I left.

Drove back down through the valley ...

And the fun began.

One bull was chasing another bull out of his space ...

The cars/people were everywhere ...

Crazy.

I got out with my smaller lens -- The new one I got last week, the 55-200mm VR lens. The 300mm f2.8 with the 2X converter (900mm equivalent) was in the back of the Element ... I had no time, they were running!

Got a few quick shots, drove the car down the road ... Keeping ahead of the two bulls running amuck the traffic ... The cars, the people, the photographers ...

I kept moving ahead, waiting ...

Shooting.

Tried some panning shots ...

Waited until the smaller one ran off into the woods ...

And ... Kept my eye on the victor, waiting for the ...

You know, wait for it ... The Victory Yell.

Late afternoon ... The light fading ... Soft diffused light ...

I remember adjusting my ISO ... First to 400 (from 200). Then, I just went for it at the end and went up to 1000.

It is all about the light ...

First, there was bright, contrasty light ... Then diffused light ...

Then, just plain 'ol low light ...

Adjust.

Shoot what ya' got ...

It's an elk. A BIG elk.

It is all about the elk ...

The subject.

Well, come on? It is an elk.

It is all about the moment ...

Or, to steal a quote from Doug Gardner, a South Carolina wildlife photographer ...

It is all about "The Outdoor Experience".

And the panning ...




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County Fair

That time of year again ...

The County Fair.

Lenoir, North Carolina.

The place I have lived longer than any other place in my life ...

It is also an event I have taken my college class to for many, many years ... Can't remember how many, but I also can't remember when I didn't end up there on a Thursday night in the Fall.

I like it.

My class likes it.

Works for me.

We meet at the gate at 6pm and ... Well, walk around and take pictures. Pretty simple really.

We have been in class about a month at this point of the semester ... Have somewhat of an idea of what is going on, at this point, and just go out to see what we can come up with.

We all know that talking about taking photos is a lot different that actually going out and "making" images ...

And the Fair is perfect.

It is close ...

It is cheap ...

And it is colorful, has plenty of patterns, textures, lines, shapes, and people ... 

And everything else.

Movement.

Moments.

Memories.

We start out together ... Me looking for ... Well, you know me ... Just looking.

Looking for images.

And animals.

And people that love animals.

With people that love to photograph people that love animals.

And rides.

Rides with lights that blend into the late afternoon light that is fading into the late evening light ...

Beautiful light.

No, I did not get all the way around the Fair Grounds this year ...  We tend to get lost in the moment, the movement, the light, the rides, and ...

Well ... The County Fair.

Photographic moments that last more than a moment. Looking for this, looking for that.

Giving instructions here, asking questions there ...

Two and a half hours ... The GOLDEN HOURS that don't always turn out actually being Golden.

No, this year we had the dark brooding skies that worked perfect with the warm colorful lights of the rides, once the lights blended into that perfect light of the Fair, the rides ...

The night was perfect for me ...

I just received a new lens in the mail that afternoon ... Yes, a REAL new lens. Not a used lens. A new Nikkor 55-200mm VRII lens ...

The first new anything I have bought at Adorama, or B&H, or KEH Camera, in a LONG time ...

New.

A new model, telephoto lens - With a set of three filters (UV, Polarizer, and ND) - for $147. Well, with shipping (FREE) and everything, it was actually $146.96, but who is counting?

Krazy.

I got it that afternoon, used it that night.

My one lens.

Yes, that little game I play ...

One camera, one lens, six tripods ...

Well, you know, tripods for students that don't have one yet ...

Low light. Tripods.  

That simple.

Once again, the County Fair turned into the perfect place to practice everything we have talked about in class the past month or so.

And then some ...

Photographing people ...

And cows. Or calves. Or whatever you call those cute little models that were getting cleaned just for us ...

Clean baby cows ...

Crazy.



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Icon

The Icon as art.

I always thought the word "icon" had something to do with Bill Russell, Jim Brown, or Mickey Mantle, when I was growing up playing sports.

Or The Beatles.

And it does ...

But once I got to a real "art school" in college, I learned there is another meaning for the word ...

Religious art.

Who knew?

This summer I drove out to West to pick up my brother ...

I spent four nights in a monastery up in the hills of Northern California.

And this image was in my room ...

Now, I know Icons. I took a river cruise through Russia ... We stopped in every church in every city, every little town, every single day. Church after church. Icon after icon.

They love their churches. They love their icons. Well, really, they actually love the fact that they have their churches back ... Their icons.

They were the first thing they fixed up after seventy years of Communism and having no religion that they could admit to.

A few years before that, I spent a week with Russian families, both Moscow and St. Petersburg. I was in their homes. I saw their art. Their most prized possessions.

Their Icons.

Handed down from generation to generation.

They have been around for THOUSANDS of years ... Greece. Italy. Russia. Eastern Europe as a whole ... Icons everywhere.

A very unique art form.

I like it.

This one I woke up to ...

As I was taking this shot, I remembered something one of my art professors at Graduate School said about taking pictures of art ...

True, this is my image, but it is not my art. No, I do not know who "made this art".

I do know that Father Patrick and Father Moses are keeping this art form alive with their continued work out in Santa Rosa, California. They are working in a church there, much like monks have worked in other churches for centuries ...

Using the same techniques as the original "Teenage Ninja Turtles" -- They paint on wet plaster, in sections, day after day, year after year.

Yes, years ...

It really is amazing what these two men are doing ... In a small church in Santa Rosa, California.

If I didn't know any better, I would have thought I was in Greece. Or Russia. Or Bulgaria.

Not California.

An Icon is an Icon is an Icon ...

Art is art.

No, I did not "make this shot my own" by doing anything fancy with my camera, or in Photoshop like I usually do.

No, I left it as I saw it ... True, it does has a few imperfections on it, but they seemed just perfect to me.

The Icon.

The Icon as Art.

True, it also doesn't hurt that it just so happens to be painted in my Marine Corps colors ...

Well, maybe I did "make it my own" after all.

Perfect.





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Flappin' Away

Osprey grow very quickly. Period.

About a month, and they are just a flappin' away. As big as their parents, they can't wait to get out of the nest.

So they flap.

It is my favorite time to be watching the nest. They eat, poop, flap, and ...

Airborne.

For a few seconds anyway.

Yeah, they practice a lot before they are brave enough to give it a try for real ... You  know, take the plunge.

This young chick is getting ready.

I love it when they sit on the very edge of the nest and flap away ... Then, up they go ... Two feet in the air, wait for it ...

Then return to the nest.

And up they go ... And down again. Flap. Flap. Flap.

They get into a rhythm ...

As a photographer, I follow along. I join the dance.

My favorite time.

I talk about repetition in class ... A simple design tool that improves the final image of any given situation where repetition is found ... And it is found in many places.

Well, this is a different type of repetition ... The repeated movement of your subject. Over and over. Same place, same movements.

A motion you can predict and be ready for. Time after time, year after year.

I know when they are ready, I know when they are about to begin, and I know I am going to enjoy it. Over and over again.

Up and down, up and down ... Same plane of focus, same light, same speed, same movements.

The same.

Yet different.

That is why I drive to the same nest, to the same parking spot, the same birds, year after year, night after night ...

I am a creature of habit.

So are osprey.

Oh, but I did crop this image into a LONGER format ... Something new.

See?

I can change. I can try something new.

A new look to something I have shot over, and over, and over, and over again ...

The art of flight ... Can't wait until next year.




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Circle(s) of Light


Yes, it is my living room.

And yes, it is art. And no, it is not hanging on the wall like a traditional piece of art. It is on my floor. The living room floor.

Window light. Bicycle tire. Floor. Shadow.

Art.

The perfect place. The perfect time. The perfect light. The perfect moment.

Light. Shadow. Bicycle.

In the living room ... Yeah.

It makes me think of a quote I read somewhere over the past thirty years of capturing light ...

"The role of the artist is to simplify" ...

Simple enough.

Speaking of simple ... Scroll down.



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Zen Bricks

Less is more.

My last stop before returning home this summer was the Outer Banks.

The Atlantic Ocean.

Bodie Island Lighthouse.

A lighthouse I have photographed many, many times over the years. From my first visit there in 1974 on my Honda 550, to this summer (2016) in my Honda Element.

You do the math.

Weekends for OUR STATE Magazine. Workshops with my college photography class.  Visiting family on Colington Island ... I have made many visits to the area over the years.

And, yes, I ALWAYS stop and photograph Bodie Island Lighthouse.

Well, usually I say never say never, or always, but in this case, it is a pretty sure bet ... If I drive out to the OBX, Bodie Island Lighthouse ends up in front of my lens.

It is the closest one ...

Once I am in the area, I can get there before the sun comes up. Period.

This summer, I stopped there twice.

Once, the second day I got there, at mid-day, and early in the morning before the sun came up on my last day out there ...

This second time, I wanted something a little different ...

I zoomed in on just "the essence of the place", the lines, the shapes ... Black and white.

And yes, the bricks.

Then, just because I could, I tilted my camera, and just played with the graphic simplicity, the "zen-like" shapes ... The Ying and the Yang.

Simple.

Lines.

Black.

White.

Zen.

Simplicity.

OK ...

Bricks.

But it is more than bricks. More than black and white. More than lines. More than Bodie Island Lighthouse.

Or ...

Is it less?

Or more?

Well, to me, it is more. It is mounted and framed in this cool square white mat/black frame set-up that really plays off its simplicity ...

Simple simplicity.

Black and white image within a black and white mat and frame.

A square frame with a rectangular image. Something new for me.

Black frame/white mat.

Black and white lines. Black and white bricks. Black and white shapes.

Black and White Zen.

More than a crooked image of bricks ... More than an image of Bodie Island Lighthouse.

Yet so much less.

Which makes it ...

More.





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Light Line

I have taught photography at CCC&TI for over twenty years. I've walked around the campus many, many, times, looking for images.

Looking for art.

That is what I do, what I teach.

On a small, local, community college, less than ten minutes from where I live.

Looking for art. Teaching art. Learning art.

Year after year. Semester after semester.

Looking for art where few believe it can be found.

Buildings, stairs, walkways, more buildings, and more stairs. Lines, shapes, and forms.

This semester I was out with the class looking for art. I tell them, an artist can find art anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

With this photo, I was walking up the breezeway towards the library, when I saw the light ...

LIGHT

I have made this trip hundreds of time, every semester, every year.

From F-Building, to E-Building.

Simple.

But this time, at this certain time, the light was just right ...

Well, at this time of year, at this time of the day, I'm sure the light has been right THOUSANDS of times before, but this time, I just happened to notice the light ...

Rule Number One

Now, that is important ...

Notice the light. Look at the light, but the key is to know what to do with the light. What it will look like in the final image?

The image in your head.

Trust me, it did not look like this.

Not exactly.

As a photographer, I know that cameras record light differently than our eyes -- and brain -- do.

We see light differently than cameras do. We can see "into the shadows", our camera sensors can not.

It was this way with film. It is that way with digital sensors.

Period.

Digital sensors have a hard time dealing with the difference between the very dark (black) and the very light (white).

Contrast.

Our eyes (and brains) don't have this problem.

I saw the difference in the light and shadows, and wanted to "play around with this contrast," and make my own image ...

The image I wanted, not the image I saw.

I have talked about this before ...

Knowing how to "make an image, not just take an image".

Compensation Button

Minus.

Minus something, and go from there ...

Get the bright spots under control, and let the shadows, well, let the shadows, look like shadows!

Dark. Black.

Exploit the contrast.

Play with light and shadow.

Another thing I always tell my students ...

If you can walk around a college, your neighborhood, your front yard, and see art ... Make art, my role as an art instructor, a photography instructor, is over.

I believe if you can make art in Hudson, North Carolina, you will have no trouble making art in, let's say, Paris. Or Rome. Or London.

Lenoir, or Hickory.

The Greek Islands. Asheville. The Grand Canyon. The Outer Banks. Pulaski, New York ...

You get the point.

Find art in your house. Your closet. The back yard. The local park. On a walk to the store ...

Anywhere.

Anytime.

Anyplace.

And go from there ...






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Light

You all know my first rule of photography is ...

LOOK AT THE LIGHT

Right?

Here is just another reason why it is number one in my book.

Energy.

That's right, I use the energy of the sun to charge the batteries to my cameras, phone, and my I-tunes shuffle thingy, while on the road, or in the woods.

Solar power.

I use GOAL ZERO equipment.

I have two solar panels that collect the energy from the sun to power up my battery pack ... Which powers up all my stuff.

GOAL ZERO Sherpa 50.

It has an electric outlet and a USB port ... It handles everything I need.

And yes, I can plug it into any wall socket to charge it up as well, if there is one handy ...

I shot this image up in the woods over the Labor Day Weekend ... As you can see, I have one of my panels set-up on my small tripod at an angle to the sun, and then just follow the sun as it moves around in the sky ...

Woods have trees, and trees cause shadows ... The earth moves ... The light moves! So I have to move.

It is a game I play with the sun.

And the shadows.

But, all the running around works. It keeps me, and my gear, working, even when I'm miles from the nearest outlet.

So ... LOOK AT THE LIGHT. COLLECT THE LIGHT. USE THE LIGHT.

Photography is ALL ABOUT light.

Get out there and collect, and use, that light!

However you can make it work for you!

LIGHT.








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Camo

I "played army" when I was a kid.

My father was in the Army and I had a real Army helmet (liner), an ammo-belt, a plastic M-14, you know, all the cool stuff ... I had my platoon of kids ... I played in the woods.

Years later, I was in the United States Marine Corps. Infantry. Mortars. I played in the woods of North Carolina before I actually moved to North Carolina.

They came out with camo uniforms about a year before I got out ... We loved it. No starch. We didn't have to tuck in our blouses (shirts), and best of all ... We could TRY to get away without shining our brass belt buckle ...

Heaven.

I still have my camo top ... I wear it when I fly fish. Still have my metal Sergeant (E-5) insignias and everything ...

Forty years ago.

Yeah, I joined in 1976. A LONG time ago.

I still like camo.

They have this new "digital camo" that is all the rave ...

I like it.

True, I'm "old school", but this "new school" stuff is pretty, well, you know, cool ... 

I have my 300mm f2.8 covered with it ...

I bought some "official" military digital camo duct tape the other day that I found at Wal-Mart.

Perfect.

I got a gift-card from the PTO (new school PTA) at Granite Falls Middle School and just had to spend it this past Labor Day before heading up into the woods above Colletsville.

Heaven.

Digital camo duct tape.

Tripod legs.

Perfect.

Then ... Camo netting to use as a blind.

Oh, perfect.

I seem to be getting more and more into this whole wildlife photography thing and, well, why not?

Like I said, I like camo. Old school 1978 Marine camo jackets and raincoat, the newer digital camo Army jackets , and my Lens Coat lens cover and tripod leg covers, plus, my digital camo duct tape.

Perfect.

Just to practice, I took it all up in the woods with me over Labor Day Weekend and ... Well, set it up and saw how it worked/looked.

Cool.

Taped up the tripod legs, hung up the netting to make a blind, and added a few "real leaves" to give it that 3-D look and ...

Well, I "played army" once again ...

Although now, it is referred to as "playing photographer" ...

Play, play, play ...

Things really haven't changed that much in the past, what? Fifty years ...



 




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Original

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Traditional Crop

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Extreme Non-Traditional Crop (CRAZY!)


The Shot(s)

OK, it's one shot, but ...

Yes, I talked about this shot before ... My favorite shot of all time. This year. This summer. Of osprey. Of birds.

Well, I like the shot, let's just say that.

The original shot, as framed, is the first/top shot. I had my Nikon D90 with my new (used) Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens (@200mm) on it, hand-held, as the osprey flew around me up in Pulaski, New York this summer.

Nice lens.

The f2.8 is constant, meaning you can set it to f2.8 at 70mm and when you zoom out to 200mm, your aperture does not change, it remains f2.8.

That is a big deal, trust me.

Most zoom lenses (that I have ever owned anyways) have what is called a "variable aperture" ... As you zoom out to 200mm the lens itself gets longer, and in doing so, the light has to travel farther, and your shutter speeds get slower to make up for this loss of light.

The farther light travels, the less powerful it becomes. It "fades away" ... Darker, darker, dark.

Period.

That is how light works.

But this lens does not "get longer" when zoomed out. It stays the same length, and so, because of this (and the magic of the Japanese technicians), there is no loss of light. Your aperture doesn't have to "make-up" for anything, and can remain the same ... f2.8.

Wide open. Lots of light. Faster shutter speeds.

Wow.

At 70mm. At 157mm. 93.5mm. 198.36mm. And yes, everything in between. If you have it set for f2.8, it will stay at f2.8.

And yes, f4 stays f4 ... f6.3 stays f6.3 ... Whatever.

Wonderful. I mean, really nice.

Sweet.

A great lens.

Makes it perfect for birds in flight in late afternoon light. Very sharp. Not that large, or heavy ... Just right.

Well, except that it is "only" a 200mm lens ...

Which, with my old D90, with its "crop factor", it is like having a mini 300mm f2.8 in your hands.

Perfect.

Well, again ... As perfect as I could get at the moment.

Well, if it is so perfect, why didn't I always have one, you ask?

Price.

Plain and simple.

I have shot with the 18-200mm VR lens for as long as Nikon has made it. THE lens I have used for years. My FAVORITE lens of all-time.

No, really.

If I could only have one lens ... This would be it. 18-200mm VR II f3.5-5.6 (f3.5 @18mm and f5.6 @200mm. Not a constant aperture!!).

I have owned a couple of them ...

OK, they are not PERFECT. They have a LOT of glass (they cover everything from wide-angle to telephoto), and, well ... They can be a wee bit fragile.

Like, fall apart on a bicycle trip, out in the Wine Country of California, while I had it in the little handlebar bag when I was driving around the back roads looking for images, kind of fragile) ...

My bad.

I learned my lesson ... I always use a chest-pouch after that little set-back.

That said, it is a great lens.

The difference is, as you zoom out, the lens gets longer, which means less light reaches the sensor, which means the camera has to adjust the amount of time the shutter remains open, and ...

Well, long story short (Get it? The lens get longer ...), my shutter speeds get slower and slower ...

Not a good thing.

Having a constant aperture really helps as the light gets constantly lower and lower ...

What's the big deal? Why didn't I always have one?

Money.

Any variable aperture lens costs less than one with a constant aperture, everything else being about the same (brand name, focal lengths, etc ...).

Like, a LOT less.

Check it out ... Go to Adorama (or any other camera Super Store) and look at the prices of zoom lenses ... Same brand name, same focal lengths ... BIG difference in prices (like, from under $1000 to over $2000).

That's why I never owned one ...

Until now. I bought it used, once I sold my older model 80-400mm VR lens.

Now I have the perfect lens.

Well, unless the osprey doesn't really fly, like, you know, REALLY close ...

Then, you just "lock on" and fire away, where ever it is, and how ever close it is ... Just shoot! Get an image.

Fire away!

Then crop it later.

Perfect.

And, crop it any way you want ... You know, you have enough room to play with ...

I followed the traditional "Rule of Thirds" at first, but then, you know me ... I had to "play".

Try this crop, try that crop ... Crop, crop, crop.

Follow the rules? Well, you could ask some of my former teachers, but I'll just go ahead and tell you ...

I've been know to break a rule or two in my day. Just don't tell any of my middle school students ...

Oh, wait. They know.

In fact, the image I really like ... The one posted on my website, and the one I had matted and framed, and is sitting in my apartment ... Yeah, I went with a vertical crop.

Vertical? Say what? I vertical shot of a bird flying across the viewfinder from right to left?

What???

Yeah, I can't tell you why I tried it, and ended up liking it, except ...

Well, I could.

All wrong, I know ... Vertical? Really?

And that framing? Really?

Not enough "room, or space, to fly into" (ahh, it isn't really flying ... moving ... It's a STILL image), too close to the edge of the frame ... too tight ... too whatever ...

I know, I know ...

I like it.

It is no longer JUST an osprey ... It is a "shape", or really, two shapes ... Triangles ... I see triangles. The letter "M", or is it a "W"? I don't know ...

I see shapes ...

I see that yellow eye ...

I see LIGHT! COLOR! Cool and warm ...

Cool.

I can crop it anyway I want.

That is art. That is being an artist.

That is photography.

That is ... Fun.

Break the rules ... Just know the rules to begin with.

Makes breaking them, that much more FUNNERS!

Yes, that is a word. And yes, I can say it, and/or spell it, anyway I want.

Call it ... Word art!

Perfect-er.






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Tunnel Vision

I like taking pictures.

I really like driving across the country "In My Element" and taking pictures.

This image was taken while driving through a tunnel under The Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. I has headed for The Outer Banks while driving south from Pulaski, New York.

Headed home. Kind of ...

My goal was Tangier Island, Virginia.

I had read about it somewhere, sometime ... I forgot when and where.

Why not?

I've never been there before.

And ... It's in the MIDDLE of the Chesapeake Bay, are you kidding me?

You can't drive there.

Even better.

So, on the way to my destination, here I was, underwater. With a camera ... Driving along and I just knew I had to get an image.

Did I mention I like to take photos?

Did I mention I had six or seven camera with me at the time?

Well, I do and I did.

So, while being safe (of course), I grabbed a camera and just held it up there and fired away ... You know me, I took several.

Click, click, click ... Repeat.

Put the camera down, forgot about it ...

Yeah, I do that a lot.

Made it to the island ... Takes about an hour and a half by ferry. And yes, I took pictures then, too.

I believe the island - Tangier Island, Virginia - is something like one mile by five miles long. A small island.

A fishing community ... Period.

Well, and tourist stop.

Small.

A few cars ... Two or three "roads". I did see a couple Fire Trucks at the station, and a police car ... A tiny compact, something, that just fits the "paths" used as roads.

No, this island is like a community golf course, without the golf course ...

Golf cart city.

They take the guests around the island, drop them off at their B&Bs, and jam up the "downtown" area pretty good.

Golf carts, mopeds, and four wheelers ... My type of town. Village. Community.

Oh, and boats ...

Lots of boats ... All types of boats ...

And the ferry ...

It makes one trip per day. Leaves at 10am and returns at 4pm.

Period.

One trip per day.

Interesting little place.

Glad I made my way out there ...

But ... The Image.

Like I said, I forgot I took it ...

I was going through my cameras/gear, and noticed one of my cameras was missing a card. I then remembered that I took one of the CF cards out of one of my D200s, and took it with me on my trip this summer for the D300.

I don't have that many CF cards ...

Yeah, I forgot about that too.

I have a lot of cameras, and a lot of cards ... Mostly SDHC cards, but yes, I also have old, just plain SD cards, for my older cameras, and the larger CF cards for the "bigger cameras" ...

Did I mention I have over twenty DSLR cameras?

I do.

So, I went through my gear, and ... Sure enough, I came across this card, up-side down, in one of my card holder, wallet thingy ...

Upside down?

So, I knew I had filled up the card.

That is how I do things.

Now, I have been back a while ... I have gone through my cards, down loaded them onto DVDs ... Set up my website ... Got everything up and running.

I'm that good. That quick.

I'm also good at forgetting things.

I thought I better check and make sure what was on this card ...

Tangier Island. Duh.

Yeah, how did I miss this one? The one place I went out of my way to get to, to explore ...

Funny how that works ...

4 GB worth of images ... And I just overlooked them. Forgot about them.

Crazy.

And then I remembered ... The tunnel.

The LINES.

The design.

The fun.

Art class. Leading lines. Vanishing point. Color. Movement. All that cool stuff ...

Zoom-zoom.


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My New Favorite One

My new favorite osprey image.

For the moment.

Yeah, as you know, I like to photograph osprey. Period. Like a lot. Always. Whenever, and wherever I can find them ...

Let me see ... Pulaski, New York. The Everglades. The OBX. Lake Okeechobee. Virginia. Idaho. Crystal River, Florida ...

But, Pulaski has been my favorite place to shoot.

I grew up there. My sister lives less than 5 miles from the nest. The nest is on an elevated pole above the power lines so there is an unrestricted view of the nest and the birds.

Perfect.

I have shot there for the past five, six (I can't remember) years and I just sit and sit ...

Sometimes even when the light sucks and the clouds are rolling in ... I just watch. Observe. Study.

But, in the late afternoon, when the light is "right" and there are no clouds ... Trust me, I am there.

I watch the clouds. The sky.

I know when it is going to make for good images.

The osprey are a given. The "subject" is there. Period.

It is really all about RULE NUMBER ONE.

That simple.

LOOK AT THE LIGHT.

That is what makes or breaks an image, any image.

Now, that said, trust me, Osprey don't really give a crap about the light. The clouds, or the weather.

Well, no, I believe they like nice weather  ... And even the clouds, when the chicks are small ... Like I said, that nest is out there, no shade, out in the heat. It can get hot out there in the sun all day.

Yes, up-state New York can get hot in June, when the chicks are born, and in July, when they learn to fly. Up until then, they are at the mercy of the sun.

So, yes, they just might like clouds.

But, you know what I mean.

Hungry? Go catch a fish. Cloudy? Raining? Hungry? Go catch a fish.

That simple. Hot? Sunny? Go catch a fish.

They need to eat.

At the nest, I really only have a few options when it comes to getting images ...

Well, that sounds good, but no ...

If it moves, I shoot. Period.

But, the MAIN shots are when they return to the nest ... They almost come to a complete stop ... Flutter, then land -- That split (less an a) second. That flutter (for lack of a better term).

BAM. That's it. The movement, the wings, the talons, the fish (sometimes), the "action". The landing.

Leaving the nest is ... Well, OK, but usually not as good. There is no "moment" like when they land ... They just, well, fly away. Gone, off to the river, away from where I park.

Unless they fly around ... As in this case (The image above).

And this is also a case of me playing ...

Yes, I have a big tripod, a gimbal head, a Nikkor 300mm f2.8 beast of a lens, the works ... And it is nice. I can follow focus pretty good, capture the action, again, pretty good. I love it.

But no, in this case, I was playing with my smaller, lighter, new (to me), fancy 70-200mm VR lens, and ... And just firing away.

So, what that means is, first, I'm having fun, and secondly (for all my math students out there), it means, I'm hand-holding a light-weight, 300mm equivalent lens, just trying to follow the little (well, not that little) birdie and keep my center focusing little rectangle thingy smack dab on the body of the bird ...

And, like I said, just fire away.

8 frames per second.

Usually five or six shots per burst ... Sometimes, maybe eight. Ten.

Depends on the flight of the bird, how close the bird is to me, and how long I can "keep up with 'em".

Fun, and ... In this light ... The perfect time to play ...

I like the light. Warm, golden light. And the subject, duh ...

And in this image, I like the wings, and, I really like the legs. Tucked up in there, perfectly aerodynamic.

But ... What really makes it - for me anyways - Is the background. The clean, simple, background. The color.

Blue.

No clouds. Just a warm-toned bird (golden) against a clear blue sky.

Blue and gold. Plain and simple.

The whole complementary color thing you learned in middle school art class ... Colors that "work" together.

Blue and Gold.

Blue and Yellow.

The school colors for, let's see ... Just a few I can think of right off the top of my head ...

And only a few of the MILLIONS out there ...

Granite Falls Elementary and Middle Schools, Gamewell Middle School (and probably elementary as well, I sure), West Caldwell High School ...

And ... Outside of Caldwell County, North Carolina ... Clewiston Middle, and High School, down in Florida, where my younger sister and brother graduated -- I bought a t-shirt the last time I was down there!

Go Tigers!

Yeah. The colors are drilled into us  from an early age ... They work! Period.

Just add ... The osprey - The real subject. The image takes care of itself.

Easy.

And LOTS of hours sitting there, reading, eating, looking, hoping, dreaming, wishing ... Trying not to eat some more ... Photographing flowers within view, other little birds, watching (and taking a few shots) of the people that hay the field I'm parked next to, talking to the people that stop by and ask what kind of birds they are?

You know ... Putting in the time.

And, always ... Keeping my eye on the weather, the light ...

Always the light ... I mean, I'm ready at all times, but I'm REALLY ready when the light is right.

Then, all I have to do is will the osprey to fly away, land, or better yet ...

When the chicks are getting ready to fly, getting their wing muscles in shape, they jump up in the air, flap like crazy, and land ... Jump, flap like crazy, land ... Over and over and over.

Practice, practice, practice ...

I giggle.

And fire away ... Over and over again ...



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Keep Looking

Yeah, I don't think I really have to say much about this one ...

Rule Number One: Look at the Light

Pretty much a given in this case ...

Rule Number Three: Produce Plenty of Pixels ... You know, Take a Lot of Images

Here I am, out in California, north of San Francisco, at Point Reyes National Seashore, with my brother, driving back to our campground.

We were out at the lighthouse just before sunset ...

That was nice, but ... Cloudy. Not much ... We headed back.

I'm driving ... The clouds break, and ... Well THIS!

This light. Perfect.

Now, all I had to do is hope to find a subject to go with it. I stopped and just shot the ... Well, LIGHT. And clouds ... Ah, they are a subject, right? Just like LIGHT is a subject ...

Stop. Get something.

Then LOOK. Hunt ...

Wish ... Dream ... Think ...

Do something!

I drove ...

I just KNEW I would find something ...

Use my magical powers if nothing else ...

I needed something!

Ha! Cows in the field - Perfect.

Or so I thought.

They were REALLY hungry - NEVER lifted their heads ... NONE of them ... Forever ...

I waited ...

But, come on, THE LIGHT ...

Kept driving ... I just KNEW something was going to be around the next curve, the next hill, something. Somewhere.

Holy Crap!

An elk.

Say what? California? On the coast? Wow. Cool.

In this light?

Are you kidding me?

I pulled over quite quickly, my camera was ready, and I ran to get into the "right position" ... Elk, sun behind him ... Perfect.

You know what I was thinking as I was moving into position, right?

Negative.

Well, no, I wasn't thinking negatively, just the opposite ... 

I just knew I had to set my camera to negative something ...

COMPENSATION.

No, I was POSITIVE  I had the image I was looking for ...

In fact, I had just finished stamping my little National Park Passport thingy that Jennifer gave me for Christmas last year, and now I knew why they had a stamp of an elk for people to use ...

The scene in front of me looked just like the stamp ... Except for the whole black and gold thing going on ...

Minus one ...

Shoot, shoot, shoot ... Adjust. Shoot some more.

At first he looked right at me and ... Well, this is a silhouette, and I lost the shape of its face ... The antlers kicked butt, but ...

Oh wait, there it is ... Fire away!

He got bored of my clickin' and looked off to the side ... Got it.

The shape, the profile, I was looking for ... Just like on the stamp I had seen earlier.

BAM.

Look for it. Find it. Wish for it. Wait for it. Capture it.

Oh man, I just came up with the secret to photography! BAM, there it is.

 
Or should the "Wish for it" come first? Then "Look for it"?

Well, no matter ... That, I'm sure, will work itself out ...

Just get out there, look for the light, and hold on, you never know what might show up at the right place, at the right time ... In the "right" light.

The main thing is to shoot first, look for something better later ... Get THE SHOT, then look (wish/dream) for the next ,THE SHOT ... The perfect shot.

Then, find the next one ... A better shot.

More perfect-er.

Funny how that works.

Elk? On the coast of California?

I'll be darn.

I thanked him as I walked back to the Element.

I definitely was ...

Wait for it ...

"In My Element".

Whew ... Why I do what I do, and go where I go. Period.

I love it. My new "Favorite Shot".

Until the next one ... There is ALWAYS a next one.

Always.



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