David Hessell Photographer

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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 ...


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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 a visual art.

Visual.

Period.

Funny how that works.

I was asked to come over to a friend's house to photograph a band that he is getting 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.

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 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, filled with ... 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 ...



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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 in the first place, 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 ...

But now, it looks great next to the other 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.



 

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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 ...








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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.


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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 ...



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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.









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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 ...







 

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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 ...


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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" ...





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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.



  

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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 ...








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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!

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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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skimmercrop.jpg



Good, But Not That Good

Sure, I get carried away and shoot like crazy sometimes when I see something I like.

Like skimmers ... Or whatever their real name is. I just like photographing birds. In fact, looking over my work of the past few years ... Yeah, I like birds.

This summer I shot a lots of birds ... Well, you know, photographed, a lot of birds ... Osprey, some red-eyed under-water swimming bird out in California (yeah, I forgot the name ...), and yes ... I didn't even get a photograph of the hawk ...

But one bird I was surprised to see this summer was this skimmer thing out on the Outer Banks ...

Flying around and then swooping down to skim across the top of the ocean ...

I locked on and just kept firing away ...

On the water, and when he circled around for another run ... I believe he knew I wanted another chance at it.

I have been to the OBX a lot. I mean, you know, for someone that lives in the Foothills. I have been there many times over the years.

It started when I was shooting for OUR STATE magazine ... They run a "special" on the coast every year. Then, I started taking my college class out there every Spring.

Our first year, we stayed at a motel for two nights, but figured out that renting a house for a week, was a much smarter deal, and the way to go.

We went ...

I don't know, five, six years in a row.

That was when I had two classes at the college ... T/Th and the Saturday class. That was nice. More students.

When we lost the Weekend College, it was hard to get enough students to rent a house.

At that very same time, my sister-in-law just happened to move out there! Perfect.

So, although I no longer take my class out there, I still have a chance to get out there myself every once in awhile. Dave and Carol live close to The Wright Brothers Memorial.


Perfect.

I ended my summer trip this year there, driving down from New York where I stayed with both my sister, and my uncle.

I have not been out on the islands in the summer in a long time. It was always the Spring, or the Fall.

HOT.

Oh, it was crazy hot.

It caught me - and everyone else, I'm sure, off guard.

Heat Index hot. Hotter than what the temperature says it is.

That's not a good thing.

But, it is the OBX.

That is a good thing.

Hey, I'm a photographer. Get up early, stay out late.

And watch movies in between.

Lots of movies.

In fact, it was so hot I skipped the whole "stay out late" thing ...

I left at 5:30, 6:00 in the morning and was back by, I don't know, say 9:00.

Really.

That hot. That muggy.

Granted, I was only out there five days ... But still, it was hot.

Funny thing ...

The very first day, the first thing I did was drive to the ocean ... Remember, I had driven out to the Pacific Ocean first ... California, to pick up my brother.

So, before stopping in to see family, I drove to the ocean. Get it? Coast to Coast?

Anyway ... There I was shooting ... Sand dunes, sea grass, the waves ... I had to walk into the water, you know, to get my feet wet, to make it official ... The East Coast.

But let me back-up ...

When I first walked out onto the beach, I noticed this lady looking at me ...

Well, of course I thought it must be my good looks, or maybe my Nikon, I wasn't sure which, but she was checking me out (or the camera).

I went on shooting, thinking I was dreaming ...

But no, when I finished shooting the waves washing up on the beach - you know, lines, shapes, repetition, etc ...

There she was ...

"Are you the OBX Beach Bum"?

Say what?

I wasn't sure what she was talking about ... I mumbled something clever, like, "Well, I've been called worse, but no, I don't think I am who you think I am" ... Something like that.

She said something about this guy on Facebook ...

Yeah, not me.

But that cleared up the whole mystery of the lady staring at me thing ...

OK. The OBX Beach Bum. Or maybe just the OBX Bum ... Something like that.

Whew, I thought she was stalking me ... Or worse, wanted to talk to me ... Or ...

Oh Lord help me.

No, wrong guy with gray hair and a camera ... Who shoots sand dunes, sea grass, and waves, etc ...

I found out later that, yes, there is a guy that is on Facebook, and in fact, lives about three houses down from where I was staying! Dave and Carol have heard of him, have seen his photos on Facebook, etc ... Small world.

But, back to the skimmer ...

I panned with its movement and followed him up in the air firing away ...

Never noticing the crane behind him ... I just hold down the shutter and track 'em ...

Once I got home and went through my images, I couldn't believe I was dumb enough to get that first image ... True, I had four or five other shots, but I thought to myself ...

I like the shape of the wings in that first image, not the crane ...

So, since I don't shoot for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, I did what every other photographer does in the world, I took it into Photoshop.

Digital Voodoo ...

Simple crop ...

Three seconds max. Done.

I like it.

I like the shot of it "skimmin' the ocean" better, but I do like the color better in this one ... Red, white, and blue (and black).

And the light.

As usual, it is all about the light ...

Front lighting vs Back lighting.

Blue sky vs gray sky.

I am happy. The bird looks happy. And I have two images of a bird I have not photographed that much of before.

Maybe they are not around this area that much except for in the summer ... I don't know. I'm just glad he was around that day.

And just to finish up the story about the OBX Bum ...

The day before I was planning on leaving, Dave got on Facebook and found out the guy was going to be out shooting the next day from 5:30 to 7:00 in the morning just across the Bodie Island Lighthouse. A mini-workshop for anyone crazy enough to join him.

Perfect.

I was planning on stopping there before heading off to the Mainland ...

I got on-line and told him I would meet him there in the morning ... Two old guys out shooting at sunrise, sounds good to me.

I left at 5:30 (didn't want to be too early to the party) and got to the lighthouse just before sunrise (it is all about the light) ...

Perfect.

Except it wasn't a perfect sunrise ... Cloudy. Gray. Flat.

I shot for a few minutes and headed across the road ...

He said he would have a sign posted ... A few other people were planning on being there as well ...

No sign, but I knew it was the right place. Right across from the lighthouse. Simple.

I drove over, parked, got out, walked up to the beach, and looked around for a guy that looks like me ...

Nothing.

There were maybe three people on the beach, not counting me.

One women had a camera ... And a tripod in the sand near her ... She's got to be one there for the workshop ...

So, after chasing some dolphins swimming off-shore for awhile, but never getting a shot, I walked back and asked the lady if she knew about this OBX Beach Bum guy that was supposed to be here ...

She did. She wanted to meet him too. And yes, she said this was the right place, and that she has been there for awhile.

Nobody.

Except a guy from Hudson, NC (who was clueless) and her ... From Cleveland, Ohio! She was hoping to meet the guy too!

Crazy.

Oh, and did I tell you it was HOT out on the ocean? Yeah ...

We talked for a few minutes, she showed me some shots of lighting that she had taken the night before (not bad!), and then we parted ways.

Maybe 7am. A little after ...

I went to my Element, put my gear up, and ...

Had to change shirts, mine was drenched!

Seven o'clock in the morning!

OK, I did run up the beach, maybe 20 yards trying to get a shot of flipper, but come on ...

Drenched.

Whew ... Glad I got up early, and had my air-conditioned Element there in the parking lot ready to head home in.

Crazy.

What an OBX Bummer not to meet the OBXBeachBum, but maybe next time ...











The Best Image I Never Took



"Have a camera with you at all times".

I say it all the time.

Every class, every semester.

I have one in the Element. All the time.

I have three or four in my classroom at the middle school. All the time, every day.

This summer I had ... Let's see ... Six cameras, not counting my cellphone with me in the Element. It's not a camera, it is a phone. With a camera.

OK, seven cameras.

I took thousands of images ... From the Blue Ridge Parkway to the coast of California, then back across the country to Florida, then north to up-state New York. And yes, back to the coast of North Carolina, then my return to the foothills.

I used a camera every day for two months.

Got some good images ...

But not the BEST image.

No, I always miss the BEST image. Those once-in-a-lifetime images that we see every once in awhile, as if that is possible.

Oh, it's possible.

There I was, in up-state New York, in the middle of a state forest at my uncle's camp reading. Very quiet. Very peaceful.

Can't remember which book -- It was about Navy SEALS, that I am sure about. I read two ... Killing Bin Laden in Pakistan,  and being killed in Afghanistan - Well, except for one - Lone Survivor.

Navy SEALS ...

Except for another uncle, my mom's older brother, who served in WWII, I am not a big fan of the Navy.

Come on, as a Marine in the 1970s, who was stationed on a Naval Air Station in Japan, and spent 45 days on a Navy ship, the USS Oklahoma City, in the Western Pacific, I was not a fan of the Navy, ships of the Navy, or people in the Navy.

It's a Marine Corps thing ...

They wore bell-bottom blue jeans, for God's sake. They could grow beards, and ... Well, they tended to be fat. Period. It drove me nuts. I saluted one too many fat Naval officers in my day.

And I won't even go into my last five years at GFMS. Whew, like I said, the Navy, and especially Naval officers, drive me nuts.

But, then there is my uncle, who was in the Navy, and spent time on Iwo Jima.

Yes, THAT Iwo Jima.

I never knew that growing up, or even as a Marine researching the famous flag raising (yes, I know, BOTH of them) at NCO School in Hiroshima, Japan.

My uncle ... He drove the boats that took Marines ashore ... 

Whew ...

But, again, I digress ...

Back to my other uncle's camp ...

And the rest of the story ...

And then there are the Navy SEALS. I can't even figure out how they are part of the Navy. They are a special breed. SEALS, I can deal with.

I was just sitting there, reading, all alone, while cooking my can of chicken breasts over the fire.

A fire from all the limbs and branches my uncle and I picked up all week long. Like ... MILLIONS of them. I burned them all day long in a metal bin. Day after day ...

My uncle had left for the day, I was just reading ... Nice and quiet.

Then I heard something, or sensed something, behind me, can't remember which ... I looked around.

Nothing.

Then, for some reason, I looked down, like right next to me. A hawk. A beautiful hawk ...

No more than six feet away.

It just stood there looking at me. I just sat there looking at it.

Then I reached behind me for my camera, you know, like I always do ...

Nothing.

They were all in the Element. I was on "off-duty" ...

Crap.

I just sat there. Looking. Staring. Right there. Six feet away. The closest I've ever been to a hawk. I noticed it's feathers ... It's beak. It's powerful legs. Those claws.

Whew ...

And those eyes ... Just staring at me.

We just sat there looking at each other. Not a sound. Nobody moved ... I just stared.

Beautiful bird.

Finally, I said, "You've got to be shitting me"?

And yes, I said it out loud. I was talking to the hawk.

That broke the spell, the hawk flew off, as did I. Had to get a camera, any camera. I got to the Element and reached for a D90 with the 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens.

Perfect. The right lens for the job.

I walked back ... Yes, I walked. While walking back, I changed the ISO to 800 and opened the aperture to f2.8 to have the fastest shutter speed possible depending on the amount of light once I returned and got some shots of that darn hawk.

Walked back to the tree ...

Nothing.

It was gone.

But not the memory.

The moment.

That I have.

And that image in my head ...


Perfect.





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Ta-Da! (2.0)

Magic.

Yes, I know, I have talked (blogged) about this before ...

But now I actually want to show you my secret and share with everyone how I do what I do ...

OK ... I was out in California, at the end of June, picking up my brother and taking him to Florida. I spent four nights with him at a monastery in the mountains of Northern California. Very nice, very quiet.

They had a garden ... For a photographer, heaven.

 Get it? Monastery ... Heaven?

Anywho ...

Flowers. They had flowers. And sunshine.

Perfect.

You know I love poppies ... And sunshine.

So ... You see the results. A pink poppy with a tan background, and that same poppy with a new black background. A "fake" black background. A man-made, fake background, in this case.

I made it.

My shadow.

You know ... Magic.

The first image (top), is what it "looked" like in real life.

Reality. Pink and tan.

But I wanted something different. I wanted a black background. So I made a black background.

Pink and black (the second image).

But, just like all those "reality" shows on TV, it is not real. There was no black background. It was shot in the yard ... California dead grass. Tan. Dead, tan, straw (or grass), whatever ...

It is California. A very DRY California. The very same California that is now (still) burning ...

In fact, on the drive up past Crystal Lake to get to he monastery, I drove through those very same dry hills and forests, and saw signs of fires that were fought in the weeks prior to me getting there.

That is what my brother did for three months ... Cut and cleared away brush on the 300 something acres the church owns ... Up on those very dry, very hot, hills.

But, back to the image(s) ...

I photographed the poppy. Nice. Pink and tan. Not bad.

But you know me ... I wanted that black background I have grown to love ...

I needed shade. And I needed it where I wanted it. Not over there ... Or there.

No, I need it right THERE. Period.

Jet black. My studio. My background.

The poppy's background to be more exact.

There. And only there.

So ...

I had my tripod.

I had my self timer.

I knew I could make a shadow.

BAM.

It hit me ...

I could put my shadow right over there and take the picture ... All at the same time.

Oh my.

Genius.

Pure genius.

I set the camera up and got an image. A nice image.

Well, yeah, you see the first image. Reality. What was in front of me. Pink and tan. The "regular" picture ...

So ...

I thought for a second ... Well, you know, less than a second really ... Not to brag or anything, but I have been doing this whole photography thing for a long time now ...

I had my exposure set for the poppy ... My tripod locked down ... The exposure locked in.

Oh wait ...

That exposure is based on there being light on the subject (poppy) AND background (dead, tan grass/straw).

VERY different than sun on the flower AND a black background (no sun/shade).

So ... Maybe it was longer than a second ...

I did what I always do.

I guessed.

I knew the camera would see all that BLACK and want to lighten it -- make it mid-tone.

Neutral.

And when it did that, it would take my pretty pink poppy and make it a REALLY light pink little poppy.

Washed out. Blahh ...

Not pretty.

It can only do one thing at a time.

Pretty pink (sun). Or pretty black (shadow).

Not both.

So ...

I took the first picture and got it all set for full sun ... Yes, I set my COMPENSATION button to, I don't know, something like minus two.

Whatever.

Until it looked good. You know, to me.

The beauty of digital.

That said, it was bright ... Hard to see that little screen on the back of the camera ...

MINUS some more. NEGATIVE baby, minus something ...

OK. Got it. Whatever.

Then, I looked at my settings, the numbers  -- Aperture and shutter speed. Whatever they were ... It doesn't matter.

And then I took my camera off APERTURE PRIORITY, and set it to MANUAL exposure, and then just set my aperture and shutter speed to what they were for the first image ...  Set for the sun.

Like I said ... Whatever, I can't remember.

You EXPOSE FOR THE LIGHT. THE SUN. Not the shadows ... The background.

Then, I set my timer, pushed the button, and jumped over behind the little poppy and placed my shadow right where I wanted it. Right where I knew it would become the background for my shot.

My image.

The one I saw in my head. My "mind's eye". The one I "pre-visualized".

Thought about.

The one I wanted. NOT the one I was given in front of me.

Not reality.

The way it looked. The way it was.

No, I got MY image. The way I wanted it. The way I knew it would look.

Pink ... And black.

Magic.

I MADE an image. I didn't just TAKE an image.

Well, yes, I actually did just take an image, but, you know, I worked to get that image. I MADE it.

Art.

An artist.

Oh, and yes ...

I took several (Rule Number Three).

Took a few seconds, but I made sure I got it.

I moved around ... Made my shadow the biggest I could, held out my hands, ran around ...

Hope nobody actually saw me doing all this ...

But, I got my image.

And an image of me making my image.

My poppy.

My shadow.

That is the magic.

That is why I do what I do, when I can do it.

California. New York. Florida. North Carolina.

Or anywhere in between ...

Magic is magic. It works anywhere.

And not just with poppies ...

Need a shadow? A black background?

Make it.

Oh, and it is fun ...

Trust me.

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This is it. This shows how I actually made my background. My BLACK background.

My magic.

Me and my shadow.

In the second (the "real" image), I was zoomed in on just the poppy. My shadow became the "new" background. I covered up that tan grass with my black shadow.

The magic.

With this bottom image, the "behind the scene" image, I zoomed out to show you what it really looked like, the "reality" of the scene.

Notice how dark the image is ... NOT reality, just my photo reality. Big difference.

UNDER EXPOSED.

That is the key.

It is not the CORRECT exposure for the scene, the REALITY ...

No, it is only the correct exposure for what I wanted. The poppy.

THE final image. My image. My reality, at that moment, I might add.

I hope this bottom image helps explain the magic that it takes to make images ... To MAKE art.

Like I tell my students ... "Don't let reality stand in the way of your photography".

Take control. Take charge. Take the camera off AUTO ...

Have fun.

Make a shadow! Or two or three ...






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Art Wolfe

It is that time of year again ...

Summer Vacation.

My last summer vacation.

That's right, next year at this time it will just be "Vacation" period.

Retire.

But that is twelve months away ...

As of now I am spending a few days getting ready for this summer. School is out but I have a few things to do before heading out on a Road Trip with "Brother" Mark.

Yes, he is my brother, and his name is Mark, but since he has been in a Russian Orthodox Monastery out in California the past few months, I like the sound of ... Brother Mark.

I leave in a few days ...

First things first ...

I am moving out of my classroom of twenty-two years and headed for the other end of Granite Falls Middle School.  

Yeah, I don't do change very well ... I mean, I'll have to park in another parking spot. Twenty-two years in the same room, same parking spot, same desk, same chair, same wall map, same EVERYTHING. I mean SAME. I don't change ANYTHING.

What will get me the most are the names on the door frame and around my map. 22 years of kid's name and heights ... 6th grade. 7th grade. 8th grade. Moving up every year ... Some a little bit, most of them by quite a lot. Middle school ...

Kids. "My" kids ...

I took down the pictures ... Twenty-two years of faces on my filing cabinet. That was tough ...

I'm getting there.

Tougher yet ... My maps. One whole filing cabinet drawer FULL of maps ... States, countries, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC maps on everything and anything ... Maps.

I kept all my National Parks maps and found a good home for the hundreds of others -- The art teacher.

Perfect.

Maps. Art.

I feel better.

Got a couple of days ... I'm just waiting for the retiring teacher to get finished, and then I'll haul all my crap up there to replace all her crap ...

Until next year.

Don't get me started ...

Anyway ...

Art Wolfe.

This is about Art Wolfe.

I have been home watching his videos ... Again.

TRAVELS TO THE EDGE.

If you haven't heard about them, goggle it. A television show on photography and travel. Go figure.

Check your PBS stations, they are still running I believe ... I have the DVDs. Two seasons.

Yes, a few years old now ...

And yes, I've watched them many times ... Oh wow, it has been a few years. What? Five years? Six? Seven?

Wow.

Art Wolfe.

I was watching him today and realized just how much I have picked up from him over the years ... His vision. His style.

Lines. Shapes. Patterns. Colors. Textures. Repetitions.

Simplicity.

Not that this is anything new ... I have been shooting for over 30 years now, and it has always been like this ...

"The role of the artist is to simplify".

"K.I.S.S." (Keep it simple, stupid)

Or, as I find myself saying in my college classes more and more ...

"Get rid of all the crap".

Not quite as eloquent, but it gets my point across.

Art Wolf is an artist. As am I.

But no, he really was an artist before becoming a photographer. Went to art school and everything.

His parents were artists ...

Hello? They named him Art, what more can I say?

He painted. He drew.

I didn't.

My story - and I'm sticking to it - is that I got kicked out of art class more than anything else.

True story.

But I did get a Master's Degree in Art.

Go figure.

Photography.

I teach art. Have for over twenty years now. Art, not photography.

Art 261. And Art 262.

Color photography I and II (one and two).

Used to be Black and White, but that was, like, a long time ago ...

Over 12 years ...

And, as I was watching my DVDs today, I kept looking over at my computer, and what did I see?

The above image.

Very Art Wolfe.

Color. Lines. Shapes.

Symmetry.

Art.

Shot it in Egypt eight years ago. Just went back and picked it out a few days ago while going through some images for FLICKR and National Geographic's YOUR SHOT site.

Simple.

"It's a gift to be simple" .

While I am out and about this summer, that is what I'll remember ...

From Carl Purcell and his articles in POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY back in the 1980s when I first got into photography, and all the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC photographers I have admired for years, to Joe McNally's Blog, books, and videos ... To Bob Kirst , to Art Wolfe ...

And don't forget my college students ... Jack Daulton, Denise Clay, and on and on and on ...

Look at art. Yes, photographs, but more, much more ...

Paintings, drawings, movies, sculptures, nature ... And more nature. Architecture. YouTube. Flickr. And every other website out there ...

Ahhh, this Blog/Website.

Art.

Your child's (parent's) art work from middle school ...

Yellow balloons.

Everything. Anything.

Look at it. Study it. Think about it.

Find what you like about it and then ... What you don't. Think about it. Study it.

Get out there.

Do YOUR thing.

Over and over again ...






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Tater Hole Infrared

Here is another one I forgot.

A month or so ago I was a birthday present ...

Yeah, really.

A young student is the niece of one of my former college students. Her mother gave her two weekend workshops with me ... She is hoping to take my college class next semester.

The first meeting was a late afternoon shoot at The Tater Hole in Granite Falls ... A place I know well.

In fact, I was just there today riding my mountain bike and a run through Lakeside Park, or what we at GFMS, call The Ian Dudley Trail.

Yes, Ian Dudley was a runner for me at GFMS six or seven (or more) years ago, and introduced me to the woods -and trails - out behind his house. His dad was our school librarian, and we would run past his house on the way to the woods. 

This night I was just throwing everything I could at this young lady just for fun.

From a 10.5mm fish-eye to the big 300mm f2.8 with the 2x converter, to the infrared camera body.

It was all good.

For this image, I turned the Nikon D-80 infrared camera to Black and White (because I could) and showed her how strange all this can be, and look ...

Not just Black and White, but glowing Black and White.  Plus the curve of the extreme wide-angle perspective ... Leads to a nice panorama format.

I like it ...

Another tool for visual effects.

Perfect.

Infra-perfect if you will.

Get close, fill the frame, and fire away.

I remember shooting this, but like I said, I forgot I kept them ... I usually delete just about everything, if I'm not shooting on assignment, or on one of my road trips.

Oh, this one looks cool ...

I then took it into Photoshop Elements 10 or 11 ... Can't remember which one I have, and cropped it into a long panorama.

I just wanted to ...

It is what I saw when I saw it.

Fair enough.

Again, it is fun to come across these images way after you shoot them ...

Takes you back ...

The Tater Hole, Granite Falls, NC.

My place. My spot.

My image.



 

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Second Look

I was adding some images to my National Geographic YOUR SHOT page, one last week before I head out for the summer ... Headed to California (again).

So, I pulled out my Egypt DVDs and started looking through them for something I know I missed all those years ago ... What? I was in Egypt in ... 2006? I will have to check and see ...

2008.

A few years ago ... Eight years. I knew there had to be an image I missed in there somewhere ...

I am bad at that. I get back, I go through several hundred (thousand?) images one time and ... That's it. I'm done.

Finished.

Ready for the next trip ...

I move on.

I stack the DVDs up behind my computer screen so I can't see them ... And ...

The images I do use on my website are saved on CDs and stacked off to the right of my screen ... Out where I can see them.

Yeah, I have a few CDs piled up in little colorful paper sleeves ... And some up higher in plastic holders ...

Yeah. It's a mess.

Colorful, but ... Finding images is a trip ... A joke really.

See, I like taking photos. Period.

I'm not a Photoshop kind of guy. And Lord knows I'm not organized.  The same with slides back in the day ... Thousands of images upstairs in a filing cabinet in no particular order what so ever ... Thousands.

But anywho ... Back to me looking for a "new" old image ...

I went through them, and came across one I didn't use the first time around.

I like it.

Egypt. The Nile River. The boats. The crew out playing soccer after diner ... The ships were our "hotels" as we cruised the Nile from one place to another ...

Wonderful.

Even in summer ...

As only teachers do.

The Sahara.

In summer.

Yeah ... They wait until just before sunset before they get out and do anything ... Smart people. Unlike tourists.

Football.

Sort of. Well, no, it really is football. They use their foot to kick a ball ...

Makes sense.

I had my camera ... I ran around the edges, looking, shooting ...

Playing.

My own game.

Playing with images ... Makes sense.

They knew I took pictures, they knew I wouldn't get in their way, and yes, they forgot about me soon enough.

I had fun.

So did they.

I like this image for what it is. An image of people enjoying themselves after a day on the Nile.

People here ... People there ... A ball. Great light. Action.

Stopped action. An image of a game ... A timeless image of a timeless game.

Perfect.

A moment in time. Along the Nile. Eight years ago. The Nile. The boats. The light. The people. The action. The joy.

Egypt. Soccer.

And me ...

Playing.

In Egypt. Along the Nile. Shooting. Being out there, among them ...

Playing.

Shooting.

True, as I am writing this I am remembering how hot it was ... How sick we all got ... The heat during the day ... The pills ... The water. Lots of water ...

But the image also reminds me of just how lucky I was to be there, shooting a pick-up game of soccer in Egypt, along the Nile River, in the evening light ... Perfect.

Eight years later ... Better yet.

One image.

One new, "old", image that I had forgotten about ...

Until tonight.

The Nile River.

And the people who took me there ... Playing soccer.

Eight years ago.



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Memorial Day Indeed


I spent Memorial Day Weekend up in the woods. In my element.

No, really, in my Element ...

My Honda Element. My 2010 silver Honda Element. The one I did not trade in for a newer one because ... Yeah, there was no newer one to buy!

Gone.

Just like that ... No more Honda Elements. Period.

I should have seen it coming ...

This is my third one: Blue and Gray 2004 (Yeah, I know ... Blue and Gray - I'm from New York living in North Carolina, how cool).

Maroon-ish Red 2008. Drove it to Alaska and The Artic Circle - in two countries - and traded it in early two days after my return! Whew, what a trip. The mud ... And the chipped windshield ...

Silver 2010. From the Northwest tip of Washington State, to Key West, and from The Gaspe' Peninsula up in Quebec , Canada, to San Diego, California and more ... This one I have kept.

100,000 miles.

And where did I turn over that one extra mile?

Up in the woods overlooking Collettsville, NC.

"My Camp" if I ever really did have a camp, which I don't, except for this little turn-off up the Maple Sally Road. You know, In The Woods.

I "camp" there ... Spent the last few nights up there doing absolutely nothing ... Well, except camping. In my Element.

Literally ...

In my Element.

Inside. On my futons ... Pillows, sleeping bag, my cooler (for everything except food), my little cooler-like bag thingy my mother bought me up in Pulaski, NY (where I actually do keep my cans of chicken, fruit, and breakfast bars - You know, my meals).

And Sunny D.

And a gallon of water ...

And, yes, my camera gear. Lots of camera gear. Some of my "new" (used) camera gear that I am "field testing" for my trip out West this summer.

My Nikon D300s with the Kirk L-bracket (sweet), and the 70-200mm f2.8 VR zoom lens(sweeter).

Along with the 300mm f2.8 with the 2X converter, mounted on the big Gitzo tripod with the Gimbal head ...

Just getting ready ... Checking the maps ... Seeing what I can come up with.

Kelseyville, California.

Northwest of Sacramento on Clear Lake. In the mountains.

In two weeks ...

More miles ...

Looking forward to the next 100,000.

In My Element.

On the road. Again.



 

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Testing 1,2,3,4 ...




This is what happens when you (me) sit around all day in your (mine) Element with camera gear all around you. 

Multi-Exposures.

Multiple times.

Over and over.

Ten images on one frame.

Why?

Because I can.

I call it art.

No really ... I was sitting in my Element going over my atlas, or reading about cameras, or going through my travel magazines (Outdoor Photographer, National Geographic TRAVELER, and Outside), as well as my trusty Rand McNally Road Atlas (go figure, I finally figured out it is NOT named after one of my favorite photographers of all time - Joe McNally - Maybe his brother?).

It was raining ...

Well, no, it never really rained ...

It was drizzlin' somewhat, and I had the windows rolled most of the way up (Testin' out my new window rain protector thingys I had installed after being hot last summer, and the summer before that ... etc ).

I had my "new" Nikon D300s with my "new" Nikkor (I love sounding so Nikonish ...) 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens and just had to try ...

Something. 

Ten images, one exposure.

I did nothing but push the buttons and move the camera ... Well, in this case, that is just about everything.

The camera did the rest.

The Magic.

What impressed me was how straight I kept my camera (hand-held) as I worked my way up (or was it down?) ...

Sweet.

That was weird.

I actually tried to keep it straight the next few times -- Once I saw how good I was at it ...

Nope. Not happening. No-way.

Remember, I can't "see" what I am getting ... I can't see every image.

Until the end.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 ...

Wait for it ...

Ta-Da.

Multiple exposures. It just appears ...

Gotta love sitting around, in your (my) element, just playing (learning), in the sort-of rainish weather, just thinkin' ... planninin', shootin' ...

Ten shots ... Up and down. Then from left to right ... Then, right to left -- Oh wait, that would be too weird. No ... Right to left (whew...) trying to keep track of the number of shots ...

Yeah, this is the tough stuff ...

1,2,3,45 ... 6789 ... Was that 9, or 10?

Oops.

Turn off motor-drive.

Single-Shot.

Easier.

Just play.

See what art you (I) can come up with today.

Memorial Day 2016.

Up in the woods ...

Looking at trees. Seeing something in my mind's eye ...

Multi-Green.

Nature at its finest. Green art.

Go sit in a car, look out the window, grab your camera ... See what you can come up with.

Yes, I was parked.




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Tiny Dancer





I was driving through the campus of CCC&TI on my way to class.

Rule Number One: LOOK AT THE LIGHT

Perfect. At 5:45pm, the late evening light was shining on the flowers along the road. I knew I would get out there as soon as possible. I walked into class and told everyone to grab their gear, we are shooting.

Rule Number Two: GET CLOSER

I grabbed my trusty 18-200mm zoom lens and walked outside. I got right up in the gardens and got close ... Maybe eight inches? Ten?

Close.

Rule Number Three: TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES

In the fifteen minutes we were out front shooting, I took 137 shots.

Really.

I was hand holding the camera, I had it set on continuous high (4.5 frames per second), and just fired off five or six per "shot". Shoot, shoot, shoot.

And, with this perfect light, I was also looking for the perfect shadows. Very important for this type of "look".

The trick is to find a flower in the bright light (the sun) with a shadow in the background (in this case, the college). Perfect.

Low angle evening light, shadows, and a zoom lens. Perfect.

One other important detail that I can't downplay:

Compensation.

Remember, cameras want everything "middle tone". Medium toned. 18% gray, for all you die-hard black and white shooters still out there.

I set my compensation -- Remember, I shoot in Aperture Priority 99% of the time -- to minus 1.0 to 1.7 before I even look through the lens.

I expose for the highlights, and let the shadows go black, where they belong. Where I like them.

Black. Like real black. Blacker black.

Black shadows, white flowers. Perfect.

Powerful.

Like Tiny Dancers up on the stage (I'm singin' the song as I type this). Spot lights. Flowing dresses ... Movement ... Flow ... Energy ...

Art.

Flowers.

Not bad for just outside the door to the classroom. Think about it, they plant these flowers there just for my photography class to have an excuse to get there.

I love it.

And the light ...

At the time I arrive for class.

Perfect-er.










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Scatter Plot



I teach math. Well, kind of.

No, I do teach math, but I am not a math teacher. After more than twenty years, I still find it hard to say I'm a math teacher.

I was not good at math.

I did not go to college to study math.

Yes, I was FORCED to take a couple of math classes (maybe just one, now that I think about it), but that was only because I had to.

I teach Special Education math.

I am actually getting pretty good at it because I know what my students are going through. I was not good with numbers. I got by in high school, even college, but I had to work at it. Get help. Like, actually work at it to pass.

I even remember having to go to summer school in the 4th grade because I wasn't very good with my multiplication facts ...

I know them now!

I also don't remember ever talking about Scatter Plots back in the day ... No, it must be this new Math they are/were talking about. New math has been around for years ... This must be newer math.

Scatter Plots.

How crazy.

Well, anyways ...

About this image ...

Scatter Plot.

This is a dogwood tree along side/inside some bamboo that lines my driveway.

I photograph it EVERY Spring. All the time. Every time.

I like the contrast.

White islands in a sea of green.

But I never saw it as a scatter plot until, I don't know, two days ago? I took the images a few weeks ago, but just set it as my Screen Saver the other night.

I didn't see it when I photographed it (Hello? It's a dogwood tree). I didn't see it for the past twelve years in my driveway. I didn't see it when I worked on it in Photoshop.

No, it's a dogwood tree and bamboo.

But then I was helping one of my 8th graders the other day in class and she was a wee bit confused on all these little dots all over the page. I tried to explain all those little dots all over the page, and came away with the idea that if she could just understand that one was a POSITIVE slope and the other a NEGATIVE slope, that would be a good start.

Yeah, for those of you that understand what I just said, great. The others? Just bear with me ...

Then, the other night, after I had this image as my screen saver, I was sitting on the couch watching TV, and during the commercials, I noticed the SCATTER PLOT image on my computer.

From a distance, I guess (it is hard to tell just how my brain really works), the white flowers stuck out as dots against the green background.

It hit me.

A negative slope.

From upper left to lower right.

Negative slope.

Just like in the text book.

True, the math book had black dots on white paper, but white dots on green bamboo is just about the same, only different.

Ta-da.

I'm a math teacher.

I saw a negative slope on my computer screen.

I saw something from the eyes of a math teacher. A math person. Me.

I mean, me?

I majored in Social Studies in college.

I went to an art school for my M.A. in Photography.

It is the end of the world as we know it.

Scatter -Plot. Who would of thunk it?

Me?

Math?

Actually seeing an image through the eyes of a math person.

Over thirty years as a photographer. Twenty something years as a (Special Ed.) math teacher ...

A scatter-plot.

That I took. On MY computer.

And I nailed the whole negative thing ...

Upper-left/lower-right.

BAM.

I love photography.

I love teaching math to kids that don't "see" numbers.

I love the fact that I now know what a scatter-plot actually is.

And, better yet, what one looks like.

On my computer screen.

Go figure ... Photography and math. Art and math. Me and math.

And scatter-plots.




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Blowing In The Wind



Have I mentioned I like Bob Dylan? No, I don't think so.

I do.

I like what he has to say, and how he says it.

What this has to do with photography? I have no clue. It is just something I thought of as I stated to write about this image ...

Leaves.

Blowing in the wind.

Except they weren't.

No, I lied.

It was just what I felt when I was photographing them. I wanted to show movement in a still photograph when there wasn't any movement. Nice concept.

Think about it. Movement in a still photograph.

Sounds impossible.

It's not.

At the college, I refer to it as "The Notion of Motion". True, I probably stole that from someone, but I have been saying it for so long now I think I came up with it all by myself.

Probably didn't, but that won't stop me from actually taking credit for it. That's what I do as a photography instructor.

Come up with these great one-liners and clever sayings and actually believe I actually came up with them.

Pretty cool actually.

The Notion of Motion.

Thing is, the subject can actually be moving, or not. It makes no difference. Remember, it is just the notion of motion.

An illusion.

Magic.

Photography.

Art.

Try it.

Go out and show motion in an image. Of anything. Moving or not moving. Keeping the camera still (tripod helps), or not. Moving the camera, or not.

Slow shutter speed, or ...

Well, yes, slow shutter speeds help, but ...

If the subject is moving REAL fast (think NASCAR), you can still show a hint of motion with a fast shutter speed. It is all relative.

Try different shutter speeds with different moving subjects. Try moving the camera with the subject (panning). Try different shutter speeds. Different ISOs. Different ... Well, different everything you can think of, and even some you can't (say what?).

Yes, try it. You might like it.

Play.

Then call it art.

Just give me all the credit. You know, like I do for all the stuff I steal from others ...


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Cheap Filter


That is a good thing.

I used to own a filter that you could buy to give your image that foggy look ... Diffused Filter I think it was called.

Been awhile.

Now I use the free one ... kind of like a free App that you can use at any time.

Breathe.

No, I'm not trying to get you to relax, although that is a good thing as well.

No, breathe on your lens.

That's it. That's the filter.

Pretty simple really. And it is free.

Focus, breathe. Wait for it ...

Now.

Shoot.

And yes, you know the game ... Repeat.

Several times. The best thing is that no two images are the same.

Heavy fog effect? Shoot fast.

Light fog? Like I said ... Wait for it ... Look through the viewfinder.

If you like what you see, shoot. If not, wait until you do.

No big secret, no rules, no worries.

Play, play, play.

Any subject. Any lens. Anytime. Anywhere.

One tip ... I didn't need to for this shot, but sometimes (there is always a sometimes ...) your auto-focus might freak out and search ...

Find your focus. Turn-off the auto focus. Breathe. Shoot.

That's it.

Filter Tip of the day.

Free at your Non-App Store.

Just Breathe.

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Heavy Metal


I have photographed at the Broyhill Walking Park in Lenoir for over twenty years. I have photographed flowers, trees, gazebos, birds, turtles, a wedding, more flowers, and even more flowers, but I have never photographed a moving, stainless steel sculpture in the park before.

There it was, plain as day, just off the main trail on the way to the gazebo. Say what?

Shiny metal and moves with the wind. Very nice.

Glad I had my college photography class down there for the evening light ...

Something new to play with ...

Like a kid in a candy store, I got carried away in the moment.

It moves.

It reflects light.

It changes.

Like every second ...

The clouds, the color, the color of my shirt, the sky, the trees, light, light, light.

And movement.

I ended up taking 72 images (I just counted ...) in, well, it didn't seem like a LONG time.

I like movement. I like color. I like reflections. I like taking photographs.

I like The Broyhill Walking Park.

Even when they add something new.

Especially when they add something new.

Play. Play. Play.

Find something new to photograph at a place you have photographed over and over again.

Get out there.

And did I mention it moves?

Always changing?

Never the same.

If I didn't, I should have.

Enjoy.

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Feeling Blue?


If so, pick up a camera and go for a walk.

Pretty simple really.

In fact, I do it all the time, and I'm never Feeling Blue.

I go to take images. To make art. To see. To explore. To look. To relax. To get out there. To take pictures. To see old things in a new light.

Or color.

The Loop around Hudson, NC. Yeah, I've been around it a few times ... A lot.

I have never "seen" this image before ...

Funny how that works.

In fact, unless you were out walking during a full moon, late at night, you would never see this shot either.

Or, if you don't like walking around at night during a full moon, you are in luck.

I didn't walk around at night during a full moon to capture this image, no, that would be crazy.

I'm not THAT crazy.

No, more, like 3:30pm on a sunny Sunday ...

Although it is Spring, this one tree near the Elementary School is still bare. That caught my eye. The lines ...

Then, I noticed the late afternoon sun was just about right ...

I walked up, knew what I wanted before I ever brought the camera up to my eye ... I saw the image in my mind's eye.

Silhouette.

Backlit tree ... Perfect.

Moonlit night? White balance. Incandescent. Compensation. Minus 2. Perfect.

All this was going through my mind as I walked up to the tree.

Yeah, I've done this before.

Many times.

But not so much with my Nikon 1 V1.

No worries.

It does things like the big cameras.

Perfect.

Then, I took the image.

Well, no ... You know me ...

Images.

Nine.

If I would have know, I would have taken one more, you know, just because I could.

Next time.

Perfect.





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Smooth Flight





No, I drove to Florida.

By "smooth flight", I am referring to the "flight" of my lens while using my new gimbal head on my tripod.

SMOOTH, period.

I drove down to Clewiston, Florida with my mother over Easter Break. Yes, things went fairly "smooth" going down, the roads were good and the weather just about right. Overcast and cool. Perfect.

Spent a few days in Clewiston ... The main reason being to get a vase that locks into the headstone so we could leave some flowers.

Crazy me.

I have been there a couple of times and did not realize that there was a vase installed ... It was just upside down. I never knew. I called and asked to buy a vase and was told that he would go out and check on the size, etc ... To make sure he had the right one in stock.

The next day I drove out, and there he was, at the cemetery, with the vase, everything was good to go. What I saw was the bottom of the vase -- It was up-side down.

That's it.

Finished. All set.

That was easy.

Went to Wal-Mart, bought some cleaning stuff, and some big, fake sunflowers that I saw when I was there at Christmas.

I like sunflowers.

Nope.

None to be found. Not the BIG ones anyways. So I bought some small ones. Mixed them up with some other flowers, added a bit of color (red), and just for the fun of it ... A butterfly.

My mom likes butterflies ("If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies"). Perfect.

Ta-Da. Mission accomplished ...

I took mom to her old place of business ... Lyons Printing. Oh ... That was good. They talked, and talked, and talked ... It has been over twenty years.

And then we looked up another women that my mom worked with ... A 91 year old former book-keeper. She still lives at the same place. They talked and talked and talked ...

The next day, mom was going out for lunch with her friend ...

I left Clewiston at 5:20am.

The Everglades.

About 90 miles away, something like that. I was just down there at Christmas and knew where the osprey nests were ... I'm out of there.

I was at the empty nest, set up my tripod, and was just waiting ... For about three minutes, when all of a sudden I heard them coming ... Four osprey came swooping in and all tried to land at the nest at the same time ...

Say what? Four? All flying in at the same time? Four?

Really? Crazy.

I just "locked on" one of the birds and fired away ... Wings were flappin', birds were squawkin', and I was firin' away ... BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM. BAM. BAM. BAM (8 frames per second).

That fast, that quick.

It was over. The birds, all four of them (the two adults and their off-spring, I presume), were gone. Wow.

I was happier than a pig eattin' poop, and it was, like, not even 9am. I was done. Mission accomplished. The drive was worth it.

Life is Good.

Now what do I do? How can I top that?

I just sat there going over everything that just happened. I had the images. I just stood there and dared them to return for Round Two.

They didn't.

I drove off to the next image ...

There are several osprey nests down at Flamingo (the "Southern End" of the Everglades). I knew where they were.

Empty.

Empty.

One on top (way up there) of the "communication tower" at the Visitor's Center ... There was a head poking out but ... Naw.

Oh, a "new one", one I missed somehow at Christmas -- Or else I forgot (possible). Right next to the marina. Like, twelve feet, then twenty feet up. Right there.

I saw one, and heard another, like, close by. What?

Got a few images of the one on the branch ... Then, he flew off and another one, that was in the nest, flew off seconds later ... The one I couldn't see but knew was close.

Their nests are HUGE. And DEEP.

So, got my osprey.

Oh, and my Park Stamp!

Drove back up to Royal Palm. The Anhinga Trail. The one mandatory stop while in The Everglades. The trail around the deepest holes in the Park.

Gators. And birds. And flowers. And dragonflies. And turtles. And ... This is where the gators are. Like, three feet away. Next to the walkway. Right there.

Perfect.

Well, except for me being me, and only using one lens ... A game I play.

My 300mm f2.8 (450mm equivalent) WITH my new 2X converter (900mm f4.5 equivalent). Mounted to my gimbal head which is attached to my Kirk BH-1 ballhead, which is attached to my Gitzo, four section tripod, which is attached (well, might as well be) to my shoulder.

They were TOO close.

So I shot REAL CLOSE images of alligators. Period. The patterns, the shapes, the texture.

Learn to see with whatever lens you have.

A good exercise for any photographer with any lens.

I shot away.

Now, yes, I cheated, and brought along my little Nikon 1 V1, with the 10mm fixed lens (28mm equivalent)for some "regular" shots, but for the most part, yeah, I lugged that sucker around that boardwalk, I was going to use it! 900mm lens/tripod for gators that were just a few feet away. Perfect.

And yes, I did actually get to photograph one that was ... Well, you know, "far away". Got some nice close-up shots. Perfect.

And off I went.

Back to the start. Got my Park Stamp, bought a couple of stickers, and I was off to ...

Another National Park. Another Park Stamp.

The place I failed to make it to over Christmas -- Big Cypress National Preserve, part of The National Park System.

Not THAT far out of the way ...

I had been there years ago, but now that Jennifer gave me that National Park Passport thingy for my birthday LAST year, I just had to get that stamp!

Off I went.

I knew there would be gators ...

There were.

Got some more images ... Always good.

Then, back to Clewiston. The back roads ... Up and over. Through a few small towns, sugar cane fields, farms ... I knew them from the years visiting my mom since 1974. The Back Roads. Drove my GPS nuts ... It might not have been the "most direct" route, but it was the way I chose. I looked at the map, and went "my way". No worries.

Long day. Great day.

And, like I mentioned before ... I was happy within five minutes of setting up my tripod. Photography is like that.

Being in the moment. Being there. Being out there, at the right place at the right time.

Perfect.

Why I do what I do when I do it.

Oh, and I had a nice trip with my mother. Lets forget the traffic on our return trip. Not a good thing. EVERYONE returning from their Easter/Spring Break ... And, everyone from Canada, and the entire northern sector of the United States (THE SNOW BELT)pulling their winter homes with them, all going north with me, and my mom, and my little Element.

Crazy.

And don't even think of the word TRUCKERS ... Please. Just let me remember the osprey ... And the pelicans ... And the anhinga ... And the ... Dragonflies ...

And every fast-food restaurant chain on the East Coast ...

I even had mom thinking about walking into Wal-Mart, buying a couple cans of chicken, a few cans of peaches, some V-8 Juice, and just sitting in the Element, and having dinner, you know, like I ALWAYS do ...

But ... No.

I solved the case of the missing flower vase, mom was happy, and I got to use my new lens/tripod set-up on some moving targets ... That was enough for me.

That, and my mom made it back home without losing her teeth.


Perfect -er!










   



 

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Gimbal Smooth



That time of year ... Well, close anyways.

My birthday.

So, a new toy.

I have wanted one of these for, well, for awhile.

A Gimbal head.

Once I got the big Gitzo tripod, and the large Kirk BH-1 ball head for my 300mm f2.8lens (last year), I just knew I wanted this little piece of set-up.

I bought the Induro GHBA ... Metal. Well made right here in the USA. Heavy metal for my heavy lens. I like it.

Once attached to the Kirk BH-1 ball head, it pivots, rotates, swivels, whatever ... It takes all the weight off the lens ... Smooth.

Period.

Makes shooting effortless.

What I am really looking forward is shooting wildlife. Following birds in flight... Smooth.

Oh, and did you notice the Digital Camo covering? The Lens Coat?

That is new as well.

As a Marine, what do you expect?

True, I never wore camo like that, but ... The Times They are a'Changing".

With the 2X converter, the lens becomes a 900mm f4.5 beast that needs the bigger, heftier tripod mount. Like I said, it is weightless ... And smooth.

I'm headed south to Clewiston, Florida for a few days with my mom. Jane, my younger sister, is buried there, and we are going down to clean up her tombstone, and leave some big, fake sunflowers! And see if mom remembers what Clewiston looks like - She has not been down in over twenty years.

It is at the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee and, well ... There is an osprey nest. 'Nuff said.

I will try out the new set-up.

Smooth.













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Eye


Get Closer.

Rule #2.

I know, you have read about this before. If you know me, you know I talk about it all the time.

It is a big deal. An important concept. A RULE.

Get Closer. Fill the Frame.

Don't make the viewer guess what you are trying to say with an image, slap them up side the head with it ... Make it very clear what you want them to see by showing only what you want them to see.

Simple.

So simple in fact, that I talk about it all the time. Get Closer.

Most beginning photographers don't. That too is pretty simple. And true.

Oh, we can all "get closer" if we have a big zoom lens, or telephoto lens, but most beginning photographers don't have either.

But most of them do have legs.

Get closer. Move in. See how close you can get to your subject and still get an image.

Every lens has a limit. Every lens.

Find out what it is. How close can you get? Where do you have to be to get the close-up you want?

If you have one lens, this should be very easy to find out. Move in, then move in some more.

If you have more than one lens, find out where you need to be (well, where the lens needs to be) to get the image you are looking for. Each lens, every lens.

This will save you some time. BAM. I know, that with my small point-n-shoot camera I can actually get inside a flower and still get focus. With my big 300mm f2.8 with the 2X converter (900mm), well, not so close. What? Two feet?

I know, I just don't really know the exact distance. In fact, I was just outside this morning taking shots of the first Dogwood blooms in my front yard. I walked up to about, you know, this far, and set up the tripod. Got it. Oops, too close. Backed up about an inch, maybe two inches.

There.

Perfect.

It is a game of inches.

Take off the 2x converter ... Move again.

Add the 25mm extension tube? Oh, move in closer. A lot closer.

It changes all the time. My 40mm macro? Closer. With the extension tubes? Ha. Like on top of the subject. No, closer than that.

THISCLOSE.

Know your distance.

People? Forget that whole "Space" thing. Their "personal bubble". Get Closer.

This is how this image came about.

College student. Female college student.

I brought in my 105mm macro so they could see what I was always talking about. Get Closer.

In fact, this was her second semester in my class. That is very important.

Before I handed her my camera/lens macro set-up, I explained that she had to get close. But not that close.

Or in this case, that I had to get close. But not THAT close.

I warned her ... Explained that with the longer 105mm macro lens I didn't need to invade her personal space THAT much. Maybe a foot? So, I got close. But not too close.

Next week or so (we have Easter Break), I will have to bring in my 40mm macro ... That foot would be closer to six inches.

With my Nikon AW110? Ahh, 1cm. Like, REAL close. Too close.

Rattlesnake? The 105mm. Better yet, the 300mm with the 2X converter ... Give him his space. No worries.

Flowers? I love to get right inside the petals and look around with my little "point-n-create".

Know your equipment.

Know where you have to be to get the shot you want.

True with every lens. Every subject. Any subject.

The right tool for the right job.

Very important.

Oh, and don't forget (and more important)... Know how to use every tool, for every occasion.

Practice, practice, practice.

Or, as I like to say ..."Play, play, play".

All the time. Even when you are "working".

Get Closer.






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Leaving His Mark



My brother Mark visited for a week before heading out to California. He has never stayed with me for a week before.

Well, no, He did visit me in Germany when he was 15. He graduated from high school down in Florida and spent, well, it might have been two weeks ...

Hard to remember. We drove around Europe. I was married back then.

Hard to remember.

I do remember him joining the street artists in Italy, drawing on the streets. One hotel to the next. He was young. Come to think of it, so was I.

It was fun.

He has lived in Nashville for the past fifteen years or so ...

Not so fun. Kids grow up. His son has grown up. Mark moved to Nashville from Florida, where he grew up. His son has gone off to college.

Mark has gone to California to get sober.

It is not easy. For anyone.

He stayed with me for one week. We had dinner with my mom on the nights I wasn't at the college.

He walked around Hudson.

He got rid of everything ... His apartment in Nashville. Packed away everything he could at his friend's house (the mother of his son), and just ... Well, started over.

He is a cook. A chief. He is into food.

I'm not.

He actually used the burners on my stove ... I never have. Not in 12 years.

We are very different.

He left my mom this pepper thing ... He grinds his own pepper. Mom doesn't. I kept it.

I have NEVER poured pepper on anything in my life. True, I have eaten things with pepper, but I have never, ever taken a pepper shaker and actually poured in on anything I have ever eaten. Period.

Maybe as a kid (no way) ... I can't remember.

I do remember this ... In the past 12 plus years, I have never bought salt or pepper, period. There is none in my apartment.

Oh, wait. That is not true now.

There is Mark's pepper thing ... Pepper grinder. Pepper Mill. Whatever it is called.

It sits on my stove. Next to my ceramic camera thinghy that I found somewhere some time ago.

One Me. One my brother.

Like I said, we are different.

I like it.

And now I have pepper on my black sweater-vest thing I wear at school. Well, I wiped it away the best I could ... I will have to clean that up real good ...

Yeah. The black background you see in the image. I shot this upstairs in my bedroom, on my dresser. My sweater-vest is the background.

Two flashes, one on each side. My sweater-vest as a backdrop. An envelope box, and a DVD box, to block the light from actually hitting the black backdrop, and turning it gray.

A mini-studio, if you will.

For a mini-pepper grinder thing.

From my brother. For my brother.

He might actually find a use for it once he gets his life back on track.

Not sure if pepper is the answer, but it might.

Simple tool. Simple light. Simple Art.

The Pepper Grinder ...

Maybe I'll even try some once he gets back to my little apartment ...

Maybe.

Probably not. Let's be honest.

But ... I'll always have this image.

It might look good in his kitchen one day ...

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HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY


One of the students decided to throw a Valentine's Day Party for the class on Thursday night ...

Sounded good to me. Much better idea than what I had planned. Or not planned.

Pizza and cupcakes. Perfect.

First we ate the pizza ...

And no, not in classroom. That is frowned upon. So we went down to the Student Lounge.

What a plan!

The pizza was good. Then we got to work ... On the cupcakes.

But wait! This is a photography class ...

So, before we finished them off, we lined up the cupcakes in order to work on this whole notion of DEPTH OF FIELD that we talked about on Tuesday night. Line 'em up, focus on one, and play with the depth of field.

Play with your food before you eat it. Sweet.

I love my job.

Really, it did fit right into my plans of showing how this all works ... But cupcakes taste better than the old stand-in -- Pool balls.

No, we used them to show motion once all the cupcake prompts were finally gone ... That didn't last long.

It also played right into my lesson on ELEMENTS OF DESIGN that we were also working on ... First come the "mechanics" of photography, than the art. We used the cupcakes to "build our image".

Cupcakes as art ...

Make an image, not just take an image.

Start with an empty canvas ... Then add the subjects, line up and place the subjects just where you want them ...

Then ...

Eat the subject.

Again,works for me.

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY.


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FIND YOUR SPOT


I live in Caldwell County, North Carolina. Hudson, to be exact, but that is not how it goes around here. No, county first, then village.

I am not used to that. I didn't grow up here. I'm a Yankee. Pulaski, NY to be exact.

I have NEVER said "I'm from Oswego County". Never.

And to be honest, I believe this is the first time I've ever said/written that I live in Caldwell County.

I'm trying.

Going on twenty-three years, but I'm not quite used to it yet.

I moved here because of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Period.

Oh, well ...

And the winters.

Lack of snow.

I came from The Snow Belt of Up-State New York. Feet, not inches. Six months of the year.

Yeah.

I made money as a kid shoveling snow ...

I like the winters here better.

Simple.

But I also like the Foothills. Caldwell County.

I teach at Granite Falls Middle School. I also teach photography at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. I am a teacher.

I am also a photographer. I have been for over thirty years ...

And it all comes down to this image.

The Tater Hole.

I am also the track and cross-country coach at the middle school. We run down and around the Tater Hole ... Or, what is now officially called ... What? Lakeside Park?

Yeah, The Tater Hole.

I bring the teams down here every year to eat, what has become, over the past twenty something years, the end-of-the-season party treat ...

Orange Sherbet and Oreos. A classic.

And yes, you have to crunch them up and mix-'em up real good ...

But I digress ...

This image of "My Foothills" was taken right from the spot where we run to every year ... The Boat Dock.

The sun was setting ... The color was getting nice ...

POWER LINES.

Crap.

Walked over to the Element, brought out my trusty old Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens, mounted it to my trusty tripod (and camera, duh) and ...

Ta-da ... No power-lines.

Magic.

Sunset. Foothills. Color. Reflections. Light. Dark.

My Foothills.

My spot.

More than just a place to run through the woods, up one hill, down another, a place to run with hundreds of kids over the years, eat Orange Sherbet and Oreos, take a Polar Plunge or two ... Run into and do jumping jack and push-ups (swimming is not allowed) with the whole track team ...

My place.

My place to take photographs.

And witness sunsets ...



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COMPENSATION 0.0

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COMPENSATION -2.0




COMPENSATION 101


One of my THREE BUTTONS that I write about, talk about, and wear out.

The one I use the most.

It is important.

Our cameras are not perfect.

Lets get that little fact out and in the open real quick. True, they are good - Super Good - Right out of the box, but ...

Not perfect.

Not perfect for you.

YOU are the artist. YOU should be in charge of what your images look like.

This button makes that possible.

WITHOUT Photoshop.

Let me repeat that, WITHOUT Photoshop.

Yes, you can fine-tune your images right then and there ... Easy.

Here is a good example: I was out shooting with a photographer in Granite Falls, North Carolina, where I teach at the middle school. We were walking around shooting and seeing what we could come up with. Sort of playing with our cameras, looking for something to shoot.

I came across this black plastic tire on one of the many big trash containers we have at the school, you know, the plastic ones with the wheels so you can move them around. Not what most people would think of as a piece of art.

But ... The wheels are black and make for the perfect example of why the camera's exposure needs to be adjusted when shooting anything that is not a perfect mid-tone.

See, the camera is designed to give a "perfect" exposure if the subject is mid-toned (18% Gray to be exact). The good news is that a lot of subjects just happen to be mid-tone ... Not too bright, not too dull. Green grass, the bark of many trees, the blue mid-day sky, many flowers, plants, clothes, etc ... Again, not too bright, not too dull.

Mid-Tone.

Not white. Not black. Red. Blue. Whatever.

Mid-Tone.

The meter works great. Aim at a mid-tone subject, take a photograph. Get a nice exposure. All very simple and pleasant.

Yeah, but that is not how real-life works ...Or how photography works ALL the time.

Nothing is THAT simple.

We have bright colors. We have fifty shades of gray. We have fifty shades of black. Fifty shades of white. Red. Purple. Yellow. Violet. Green. You name it ... Color. Black. White. We have it all ...

The meter only gives you 18% gray. No matter what the color is. Mid-tone. Not too black, not too white. Or red. Green. Orange. Whatever.

You must adjust. Let in more light, or let in less light then what the meter suggests, or gives you.

EXAMPLE: Black subjects. White subjects.

Black plastic tires ... Or a yard covered in snow. Or a bride in a white gown. Or a groom in a black tux. All white, or all black.

Or little men running around in dark green suits ...

Or dark red roses ... It is NOT just all BLACK and WHITE.

I can remember finding this out the hard way ... With film, at the zoo with my photography class YEARS ago, maybe 20. All my images of the buffalo came out LIGHT brown. 18% brown. NOT the color that they really were. Every shot was too light, washed out. Crap.

I learned. I thought I was safe with BROWN. I wasn't.

That is when the photographer - the artist - needs to compensate for the amount of light reflected off the subject. Dark subjects absorb light, lite subjects reflect light. Not the "perfect" 18% mid-tone the "Japanese Wizards" set our cameras to record.

Oh no.

So, what do we do?

THE COMPENSATION BUTTON.

Try it.

Set your camera to APERTURE PRIORITY (or AV for all you Canon shooters). Check to see if your compensation button is still at +/- 0.0 ... It will be there if you have had no clue about it in the past ...

Then, fill the frame with, say, a black plastic tire. Take a shot. Check the results.

Say what?

What the heck happened to the BLACK tire?

Gray (Or in this case, light silver).

Now, set your COMPENSATION BUTTON to (minus) -2.0, and re-take the same image.

Ta-da. Magic. A BLACK tire. Like it looks in real life.

The camera meter makes everything gray (mid-tone), so you have to let in less light to make it look like it does in real life. MINUS the compensation.

Minus two(-2) too dark? Try -1.7. Or -1.3. Whatever looks good to you.

Perfect. You got it.

**Just don't forget to re-set your COMPENSATION button**

I keep mine set at -0.3 as my "norm". My starting place.

On every digital camera I own, or have used ... I find they shoot to light for my taste. The same was true for film cameras back in the day. I set my ASA (pre-ISO) to 125 when shooting 100 ASA film. I "lied" to the camera to cut the amount of light hitting the film. Old school.

Now, I just set my cameras to 200 ISO, and then set my COMPENSATION BUTTON to -0.3. New school.

Cool.

Then I go out and shoot ...

I run up and down the scales to give me a little more light here, a little less there, depending on the color, or tone, of the subject. Shoot. Adjust. Shoot some more.

Wear that button out!

And get this, the WRONG exposure just might turn out to be the BEST exposure.

Even better.

It is all about mood. Light. The "story" you want to tell ... ART.

Shoot now, ask questions later. You never know.

And no, I didn't learn that in the Marine Corps.

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FLORIDA GATORS: Get it?

Spent a week in Everglades National Park photographing birds and gators ...

Florida Gators.


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The Everglades: "The Rest of the Story" ...



Yes, I spent a week in The Everglades National Park photographing birds and gators ... And anything else I could find ...

Except people.

In fact, of the thousands of images, I can only think of two images with people in them ... The two you see here.

That's it. Period.

Funny how that works ...

Oh, there were plenty of people ... I think I even talked to a few of them. Maybe four ... But who's counting?

Not many.

I teach middle school.

I get away from the middle school for a reason ...

But, I thought I would share these images with you ...

People.

The Masked Man was a no-brainer. Bam.

I was at the marina in Flamingo hunting down an alligator I had seen over by the docks ... And a manatee ...

I had the big lens on the tripod ... Hunting.

And came across these people getting into their boat getting ready to go out fishing ... I think.

I have no idea. I just saw one of the men (?) with this mask ... You know, to protect himself from the Florida sun. Smart man.

I just fired off a few quick shots.

Smart man.

The second image is the type of "Behind the Scenes" shot that I took once I walked back to the Element and picked up "my other set-up" ... My trusty Nikon D90 with the 18-200mm lens. My "regular" camera/lens combo that I use "all the time" ...

See, Florida had a wet summer (like it always does). Winter is "The Dry Season". People go to the Everglades in winter because the whole area is dried up ... And the gators gather around the deepest pools in the area.

Yes. Which just so happens to be ... Ready? The Anhinga Trail, located at Royal Palm, home to the Anhinga Trail. A boardwalk smack dap in the middle of the deepest holes ... Where the fish hang out for the winter.

Where there are fish, there are gators. In the driest parts of the winter, there are a lot of gators in the area.

And where there are gators, there are people - Many, but not all, of which, have cameras. And a few have LONG lenses mounted on BIG tripods. You know, photographers.

This Christmas was wet.

Too much water all over the park. Which means, not that many gators hanging out where they are supposed to be this time of year. I have been there when there have been over twenty floating and laying out in the sun. Lots of them. Everywhere.

Not this time.

Three or four. Maybe six ... Sometimes none. Or one.

Still good.

More than I've ever seen in Hudson, North Carolina.

So, when one was spotted ... Watch out! Like bees to honey. I usually could tell where the gators were by the number of people standing around. Kids love alligators.

Kids of all ages. And from all over the world ...

I was like a magnet.

I set my tripod up. People come. I even had mothers hold their kids up to my camera so they could see the "little logs" up close to prove they were really gators. See, some were off in the distance ... And small.

And some were not.

"The Tanning Booth" usually had one, sometimes three gators, sunning right along the trail. Their tail one foot from the trail.

Elevated trail I might add.

Like pets. But not ...

But us kids could get a nice close-up with a, say, ten foot alligator. Close. I could of grabbed its tail if I was so inclined.

I'm not.

Oh, the "Selfie-Sticks" were out in force, let me tell you ...

All part of The Everglades Experience ... Even the mosquitoes were behaving along the trial, which, trust me, is VERY different the further you venture down the road ...

So. Two "people" images ...

From The Everglades.

One extreme telephoto up close, and the other up close with a wide angle lens. Very different.

That is why I carry more than one lens ...

And camera.

The right tool for the job.

Period.

Wildlife - Of all types, got to love it.




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The Everglades


Spent Christmas down in Florida. Christmas in the Everglades. I have been there a couple of times dating back to 1988. It is a great place to photograph wildlife ... Birds and gators. Perfect for my new lens.

I have written about getting a 300mm f2.8 lens for my 60th birthday, and matching it up with a 1.7X converter. This is the one place I knew I could put them to the test, you know, have some fun.

Well, I could have had fun with any lens, but having the long lens made for some new images ... At 750mm (35mm equivalent), it is by far the longest lens I have ever shot with. It was great.

And the great thing about the Everglades is, that I didn't really have to lug the beast around all that much. I could park, get out, and be shooting within, what? Fifty feet. Less really.

True, I did lug it around the Anhinga Trail quite a bit (1/4 mile trail - ALL day), but, it wasn't bad. At the Flamingo Campground, there was an osprey nest right at the entrance... Two-minute walk. Perfect.

This upside down reflection shot of an anhinga, is one of my favorite from my week in the park. The bird itself, was blocked from my view by branches, but his reflection is what really caught my eye.

The fact that you see these birds drying their wings all the time, and that I have photographed them every time I am in the park, made it the perfect time to expand my vision, and go for the "abstract" shot of the bird that gives this certain walkway its name ... The Anhinga.

I know for a fact, that my first time here I did not "see" this image. Well, to be honest I can't remember that that far back ... I was just thrilled to see these beautiful birds just sitting there posing for me, that I just photographed them "straight", or, just the way I saw them. The way most people photograph them. Perfectly good plan.

Rule Number Three: Shoot Lots of Images. In fact, what that really means is shoot a lot of images, for a lot of years. And repeat.

Once you get "The Shot", the record, then you can begin to think of new ways to photograph the same subject. Same story, different chapter.

It is the same thing I did (do) with the Bradford Pear trees outside my front door. And sunflowers. And osprey. And alligators. And ferns. And ...

I knew where the gators were along the trail, because I have photographed them at the same places year after year. In fact, I swear they are the same animal.

They look the same.

Which reminds me ...

I have photographed osprey for years now ... The Outer Banks, Florida, New York, Idaho, and New York, and New York (you get the idea). I, sort of, kinda, know what they are all about ... I can tell when they will take off, and I have a better understanding of them. But, that said, the one thing I never could tell was, which one was the male, and which one was the female?

I thought I knew because the female stays at the nest and raises the chicks, while the male goes out and "hunts" the fish ... You know, like Ozzie and Harriet, from back in the day.

Personification.

Giving human traits to non-human subjects (learned that teaching at the middle school). Say what? What was I thinking? I don't know, but that was really was how I thought of them ... Hey, I teach middle school kids, what can I say? I am not a ... Well, you know, whatever it is you call people who study birds...

I never really knew which was which.

In Richland, NY, where I have photographed the same pair for years, I always get there after the chick, or chicks, are born. You know, the whole school teacher thing. I get there mid-June. Too late. They don't "fool around" in front of the chick(s), I guess ...

But ... In Florida, at Christmas, the osprey are mating fools and ... Well, I figured it out. I'm that good. An osprey expert.

The females are also bigger ... But someone told me that, or, I read it someplace, I can't remember. I just saw which bird landed on top of the other, and took it from there ...

The female had brown feathers on her chest ... The male didn't. Ta-Da. I could tell.

Oh, and yes, my whole, one stays in the nest/brings back the food theory, was shot all to pieces ... But hey, it kept me amused for all these years ...

Although, it is funny, but the male osprey brought back a big branch for their nest (it is a HUGE nest, by the way). He landed, tried to put it in just the right place, but no ... The female was all over him, grabbing the branch, twisting it all around, almost knocking him out of the nest , and placed it right where she wanted it ... Maybe my theory wasn't that bad after all ...

Just sayin' ...

The Everglades. Great place to photograph birds, alligators, and ... Well, as it turns out, it is also a great place to donate blood ... I tend to forget that ...

But that is a different story for another time ... Holy crap, I can almost hear them buzzin' around me as I sit here and typin' away ...

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh










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Say What?

You know you take a lot of photographs when you are looking back over some of your DVDs and ...

Say what?

When did I take that? Where was I? What the heck?

Then you look closer.

True, I still have no idea where I took these two images but I believe at least one of them was when I was in the car wash ... The "White One" with the little streaks.

Yes, I have taken a lot of images of my windshield while sitting in the car as it is getting washed.

What? Don't you?

Yeah.

Now, the other one, the "Green One".

No idea. Don't think it is a car wash. I came across it while going through my New Zealand images from 2005.

Ten years.

Yeah, no way. It must have been a wall, the side of a building, something. Who knows? New Zealand was pretty wild ... Could have been anything.

What it is, is art.

Simple enough.

That is why I took it. True, I don't remember taking it but I know why I took it, and that is good enough for me. Works for me.

Art.

Pretty simple really. That is why I take ALL my images. Every one. All of 'em ...

I like to tell my college students (and my middle school camera club kids) that if you can SEE this type of art, your photography - your art - will improve.

A lot.

Seeing lines, patterns, shapes, texture, and ... Soap suds and paint, is the first step in seeing art. Art is lines, shapes, patterns, texture, and yes, even soap suds and green paint.

If you can see this, seeing the art in a flower, a building, a forest, the human face, the trees out front in your yard, whatever ... Will become easier. Period.

Look for art where others don't. See what others don't. Make art out of anything. Anywhere. Any time.

Don't worry, you might not be able to remember the when and/or where, but you will remember the why.

Get out there and look. See.

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Playing With Leaves


I have been working very hard the last month or so - from the first of November, to be exact - photographing the Bradford Pear trees out in front of my apartment. Every day. Real hard.

I started out like I usually do ... One day, one lens, one shot. Well, no ... That is how this whole "game" started years ago, but this year I was going with, shoot a couple, delete all but one each day.

Nice little game.

It was easy at first. The first few weeks not much was happening color wise. Green. Green. More green.

Then the magic starts ...

Yellow.

Orange.

Red.

Rules changed ...

Hey, I make up the rules, so ... I couldn't help myself. I see one image. I see another, which leads to another ... Oh boy.

Kind of like the books I used to read to students when I took my kids down to the Elementary school ... IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE ... Hey, you can't help it.

The Magic Happens.

So, for the past week or so ... Yeah, I take LOTS of images. And get this, don't delete them.

Well, until I ran out of space on my card that is ...

Then I go inside and ... Well, clear space.

I have also taken the 300mm f2.8 lens up in the mountains with me and, well, played another game. It is called Shoot Now, Ask Questions Later.

That is fun too ...

Anything and Everything. Period.

I like the act of making images ...

Seeing.

Learning.

Trying this, trying that ...

This is what these two images represent.

Playing.

That simple.

Like I said, I have done this before ... What? Ten years? Same yard, same trees (there are three in a row), same concept - With a twist or two depending on the year, my mood, my playfulness ...

The change of color every year. Fall. Autumn.

Green to Yellow to Red to Brown to ... Mulch.

Thousands of images.

No two the same. You know, kind of like snowflakes ...

I have never come across images like these three before.

No, sorry, I stand corrected here ... The third one, the BLURRRRed image.

I saw that one at the zoo. A couple of years ago ... I can't remember everything ...

Pink. The image was pink, and it wasn't a tree ...

Oh yeah, it was a Flamingo.

That's right. I "remembered" this image when I first saw it this morning on my LCD screen ... The "sweep" of color.

The yellow blur reminded me of the sweep of the Flamingo's wing as it stood there with it's head tucked under its wing.

Really.

That is what I saw ... Or remembered. Thought of, whatever.

That is how my "Photographic Mind" works ... For good or bad.

Thousands of images over the what? Past thirty years? And this is what happens.

Yellow Bradford Pear Leaves become Pink Flamingo Wings.

Magic.

True, I had to rotate the image ... But, like I said, I can't help myself.

That is why I am still doing this crazy thing, all these years later ... For images like these.

The first image ... The Panorama. No, I didn't shoot it like this, I SAW it like this. The branch was low ... I saw the line-up and, in my mind's eye, I SAW this shot.

I believe Ansel Adams referred to it as "pre-visualization", I just say that is how I SAW it before I took it.

Same difference.

It is also why I get out there day after day shooting "The Same Thing". Because they are never the same. I don't see them the same ...

Same yard. Same tree(s). Same game. Same concept. Different images.

Year after year.

Deja-Vu all over again ...

Only different.

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Wal-Mart Camo Wrap


I ordered a LensCoat camo wrap for my 300mm f2.8 lens the day I bought it ... Back in April. It was cool ... Digital Camo. Protects the lens from dings, and looks cool, a no-brainer.

It was put on back order.

I waited a few weeks ... Then found out I could buy a Kirk replacement foot to match my Kirk ball head. So, I cancelled the LensCoat, and spent the extra money on getting the replacement foot that works with my Kirk Ball Head (the BH-1).

Sweet.

One-piece, screws right in place of the Nikon foot - Perfect.

Except I didn't get my super cool military digital camo LensCoat thing that I wanted ...

I could wait.

Then I was exploring Wal-Mart like only I can, you know, looking for photo DIY items ... Like camo wrap for your lens. Say what?

BAM.

I was looking for some camo-mesh stuff to build a blind with and came across this camo tape like stuff that hunters use to wrap their rifles with ... REMOVEABLE tape that secures well but can be removed when needed. Leaves no marks, etc ...

Perfect.

I bought a roll for $9.95. If it doesn't work, no biggy. If nothing else, my boys at the middle school could find something to do with it ... They are good like that. Camo bicycles, camo skateboards, camo little sisters, etc ...

It won't go to waste.

$10.

The LensCoat set-up was $90.

It works well.

True, it is not the fancy digital camo that is all the rage in the military at the moment, but ...

I saved $80. I like it, and it does serve to protect my lens against those little bumps and scratches that could mess up my lens.

In fact, truth be told, I bought a used lens, that does have scratches on it ... But you will never know now, because you can't see them. I have them under wraps!

I even bought a second roll (for back-up), plus a roll of black wrap that I used on my tripod legs. Again, it serves two purposes, one, to protect the legs from "bumps", and second, to insulate the legs from the cold weather. Which, of course serves a third purpose, which is to keep my hands from freezing when I shoot in the cold.

I used some to cover my "leading leg", or "pointing leg", on my tripod. The other two legs I used the black wrap. Pretty cool stuff. It sticks to itself. Like magic. Once it is wrapped around, it sticks. No worries. I can't even tells where it ends.

Rifle Camo-Wrap.

Not bad,for someone who doesn't hunt. Or own a rifle.

Well, no, I take that back. I do hunt, just not with a rifle. Trout. Deer. Bear. Ducks. Northern Gannets. Sandhill Cranes. Alligators. Flamingos. Red-Tail Hawks. Zoo animals. What-have-you.



Chipmunks ...

Wildlife. With a camera. And a big lens ...

So. Glad I went to Wal-Mart.

Now I am planning my Christmas Break get-a-way.

The Everglades or Bosque del Apache? Florida or New Mexico?

I've been to both. And both are good. Real good.

I don't know ... I have a few weeks. I was all set for Florida, but then I counted the number of days I have off at Christmas, and ...

I-40 West. I could be in New Mexico in a couple of days ...

I could be in Florida in one day.

Like I said, I have a couple of weeks.

Wal-Mart. Gotta love it.

And camo wrap.

Who would've thunk it?

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Two For One





I was up in the woods spending the day, well, up in the woods. With a camera. And a 10.5mm fisheye lens.

Looking.

Trying to match the lens with the landscape. Very important. Any lens. Any landscape. Any shot. Any time.

Learn what you can, and can not do, with any one lens. Learn that lens. Learn how to use it. Learn what works. Why it works.

Then remember ...

Even more important.

That is what it is all about. Every image you have ever taken comes into play for every other image you will ever make. That simple.

Good or bad. Or great. Every time you press that shutter release, the past comes into view. What works, what doesn't.

I knew a fish-eye would curve the curves even more by getting close - getting in among the vines. And rocks. And leaves. And ... Well, you know, the woods. Get in there. Poke around. Get that camera where you want it.

I try to get out there as much as possible. With different camera/lens combinations and ... I call it playing. Play. Try this, try that. Get it here, get it in there, get that lens where you want it. Over and over.

Then ...

Do it again in color.

See, I was out shooting in color - as usual. Then I got onto this vines, limbs, curves thing, and I switched to Black and White. In camera. So I can SEE in black and white. See the lines, shapes, patterns, forms ... Tones. See how they work together.

I was into the black and white thing ...

Then, I knew I found something. I shot this rock/vines thing to death. Little here, little there, watch the corners, fill-the-frame. Shoot, move, shoot, move again. Slight move to the left. To the right. Tilt the camera, always watching the edges.

Bam. Bam. Bam.

Then ... Slow down. Stop.

Menu.

Back to VIVID.

Back to color.

Take another shot. Or two or three ...

Then back to black and white. Just because I can.

I will tell you right now, I will remember this rock. This location.

What are the odds I will re-visit this shot?

Yeah.

A given. Four seasons. Year after year.

I camp up there. I ride my bike up there. I take cameras up there.

All the time.

Year after year.


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MOM





I took my mother up to the Blue Ridge Parkway a week or so ago to see Fall Colors.

We found some, and enjoyed the ride up to Cone Manor and beyond ...

I just had my little Nikon S01 with me ... I keep it in my glove compartment, you know, for times like these.

My mother moved to Lenoir this past April, and this is her first Fall in the South. I grew up in Pulaski, New York. No mountains. No foothills. No mild winters ...

No Blue Ridge Parkway.

All reasons I have lived here for the past twenty two (and a half) years.

We stopped at a ... Whatever it is you call them, a pull-out, along the Parkway, and I went across the Parkway to photograph some fall color ...

When I returned, I came across this image.

My mom is small, or short, and the door of my Element seemed to frame her just right, with the mountains filling the frame.

And the light ...

I like it.

I don't photograph my mother that much, she re-married and moved away when I was 17 years old. I haven't lived near her in over 40 years.

But it was her that gave me my first camera -- A Kodak 110 Instamatic, as a graduation present in 1973. I drove my Honda 350cc motorcycle from up-state New York to Douglas, Arizona to visit, and got to take my first travel pictures on my way back.

She got me started on this whole camera thing.

When I do, she reminds me of my uncle - her brother. I have been spending time up with him the past few summers at his camp, just outside Mannsville, New York.

He is short as well.

They look like brother and sister.

They talk like brother and sister.

They both have these little sayings that are, well ... I never hear anyone else say them, ever.

Photographs are funny ... They take on whole different meanings after they are taken, by the person taking them.

I guess that is why I take them.

Mom on the Parkway ... Not the first time, but the first time since moving down here. The first time in the Fall since moving down here from New York.

Looking at the mountains ... Her mountains.

Glad I had a camera with me.

And live near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

And that my mother got to see them ... For the first time, all over again.







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Body Art

I was on a boat in the Pacific Ocean, on my way to The Channel Islands, off the coast of California.

There was a humpback whale, seabirds, and then, a few dolphins came dashing (or splashing) along, playing in the waves created by our boat.

One dolphin caught my attention.

There were several, I zoomed in on just one ...

I hope I don't have to explain why.

That is photography. That is art.

Very simple.

It makes me who I am as an artist.

A photographer. A person.

I teach photography. In doing so, I teach art. The college calls it art: Art 261.

I call it photography.

I have to remind myself that I teach art. Yes, it has been over twenty years, but I still say I teach photography ...

What makes photography art?

The photographer.

The person.

The subject.

What we choose to photograph makes us an artist. An artist different from any other artist.

Just as this dolphin is different from any other dolphin.

The scars.

They caught my attention. They are what made me photograph this dolphin among the, what? Six or eight others that morning out in the Pacific. That dolphin, at that minute (fraction of a second?).

Period.

My vision.

My art.

My passion.

First off, just being at that place, at that time, with that subject, is what really makes me the artist/ photographer/person, that I am.

Think about that.

I live in North Carolina. I am a middle school Special Education teacher. A part-time college instructor. A photographer.

That dolphin was photographed in the Pacific Ocean.

I drove to Ventura, California from Hudson, North Carolina.

With camera gear.

A lot of camera gear.

There I was, on a boat, following a humpback whale, 3000 miles from home, and I see dolphins chasing our boat.

And this is the image I take.

The image that caught my attention.

The image I first used on my webpage ... Although this is a cropped version of the original.

Ahh ...

I zoomed in on what caught my attention in the original image.

That is twice the scars caught my attention.

Made me look closer.

Made me crop out everything but what caught my eye. Made me stop and look. To make this image in the first place.

That is art.

That is my art. My vision. My take on the world around me. What I want to show the people that were not there to witness this event.

This moment.

You.

The viewer.

Art is funny like that. Photography is even funnier.

First, you have to photograph something that catches your eye, then you have to present it so that it catches the eye of the viewer.

Of the thousands of images I took this summer ... And there were a lot, even of this one morning on the boat, this is the one I picked to put on my website, to "publish", to share.

And then, after seeing it a few times (I have it as my screen saver), I chose to go further, crop in more, really look closer at those scars.

The body art of this one dolphin.

And yes, I know, you can't even see it's face ...

Don't even get me started on that whole aspect of photography, of art.

I have preached ... OK, stressed, that for years ...

And it is key to the whole "art/artist" concept I am talking (writing) about ...

Your art, your vision, is really all about what you don't actually photograph, or include, in your photographs (or paintings, sculptures, what-have-you).

Of the million subjects around us every second of our lives, what makes us direct our attention to this one subject?

In this case, this one dolphin? After all,  I was actually photographing this lone humpback whale in the first place ...

The scars.

If I had captured just this dolphin's face above the water, as he played below me, I would have missed the very aspect of this creature that I wanted to show.

The Body Art.

The one aspect that sets this one dolphin apart from the others.

That which makes it special.

Now, yes, millions of dolphins, I'm sure, have scars ... Either from propeller blades, or orcas, or whatever else could produce such marks (I am really clueless as to how these scars came into being).

They just caught my eye.

Made me zoom-in.

Pulled me into the moment. Made me track them through the water ...

Made me wonder.

That is why I drive across the country. Sleep in my Element. Go to National Parks. Put a camera to my eye. Look. See. Push the shutter button.

Zoom-in.

Crop.

Write.

And go on and on ...

The one aspect of any subject that catches my attention. Captures my eye. Makes me single it out from everything else.

My art.

Body Art.

The image.

That is what art is all about. It is what photography is all about.

It is what I am all about.

Well, except for that whole Body Art thing ...

Although, I still do have that scar on my left leg from photographing the Milky Way in Sequoia National Park ...

But, like I said, don't get me started ...

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The original, un-cropped image shot @ 600mm equivalent.




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Postcards from the Edge: 2015

Great Basin NP. Horseshoe Bend, AZ. Grand Canyon NP (South Rim). Colorado NM. Rocky Mountain NP. Bryce Canyon NP. Sequoia NP. Yosemite NP. USS Midway (San Diego). Channel Islands NP.  Blue Ridge Parkway. Cedar Breaks NM. Grand Canyon NP (North Rim). Bodie State Park, CA. Bishop, CA. Nevada Northern Railroad. Grand Staircase Escalante NM. Las Vegas, NV. Pacific Beach, CA.

I kept my mother busy this summer checking her mailbox.

Good exercise.




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                         Sequoia National Park, California

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                        Mono Lake, California (with flashlight)

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                           Western USA  (I Can't Remember)

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NW Arizona, where the road dead-ends at the Colorado River


The Milky Way


Great Summer. Great trip.

I started out at the OBX on the Atlantic Ocean, then turned around and headed to Chicago for my uncle's 90th birthday bash, then west to Nevada, for a National Park I seemed to have missed over the years, and a Lunar Crater out in the middle of nowhere ...

And then California. And a bunch of National Parks, with a couple return visits, and several new ones, with the Channel Islands being my main goal. Coast to Coast. One summer, two oceans.

And the Milky Way in between.

Always there.

I have shot it before ... Rafting trips out West. In the canyons. Dark skies, out away from the cities. In the middle of nowhere.

Dark and clear skies ...

Mono Lake in California. I parked right there. Sunset. Middle of the night. Sunrise. Crazy good.

Yosemite. Half-dome under the stars.

Kings Canyon National Park.

Sequoia National Park. "The Best". Ask me about my scar ...

Joshua Tree National Park. Boulders lit by camp fires ... Magical.

The Grand Canyon. Both the South Rim and the North Rim. Out there shooting at 2am, 3am. Or was it 4am?

Arches National Park. Clouds. No Milky Way, but I was up checking anyways.

Richland, New York.

Say what? Richland, New York? The Milky Way?

No way.

Yes way.

I kid you not. 10:30pm. I walk outside to go to sleep in my trusty Honda Element ... And, Holy Crap! The Milky Way. Clear as day. Only it wasn't.

I got out the tripod, and shot away, for a half hour or so. Crazy.

The Milky Way.

On the East Coast.

In Up-State New York. Richland, New York.

I was like ... The Milky Way?

Really?

Really.

I told myself ... And anyone that would listen to me ... That you had to go out West to see the Milky Way.

Really see it. Away from the big cities and bright lights.

The East Coast? No way. I grew up in Pulaski, New York, you know, a suburb of Richland, New York.

Or something like that ...

I don't remember seeing the Milky Way. Like ever.

Was I wrong.

In fact, it is 12:56am right now as I type this ... I'm going outside to check if I can see the Milky Way.

Really.

** (Three or four minutes later)**

Nope.

Besides the stupid street light just outside my door, killing my sharply trained Marine Corps night vision (yes, really, 1976), all I saw were clouds ...

I will try again.

And again.

I want to see the Milky Way from my driveway.

If it is possible.

I can't recall seeing it ... Ever.

Maybe I wasn't looking ...

Anyway.

I know how to photograph the Milky Way now. I worked on it. Like, all summer. And for the past, oh, I don't know ... Six or seven years. Or eight or nine. I don't know.

On rafting trips out West.

But I REALLY worked on it this summer.

Here it is ... Try it.

ISO at, like HIGH. The highest you have. 3200 ISO. 6400 ISO.

Wide angle lens, set to infinity.

And beyond.

And wide-open. Like f1.8. f2.8. f3.5.

Whatever you got ... Wide-Open.

Crank that baby!

That's it. That is what it comes down to ... That is what I read.

And now the kicker ... What I learned. By doing it.

At zero-dark thirty.

Plus five (+5) compensation.

Again, yes.

Really.

Yeah. Crank that baby too ...

Try it.

TRIPOD. I almost forgot ... (Duh)

Aperture Priority.

High ISO.

Wide-angle lens.

Aperture wide open.

Plus five compensation.

Focused at infinity (auto-focus turned off).

Two-second self-timer.

Click.

Magic.

That easy.

The trick is to keep your exposure below thirty seconds.

Longer than 30-seconds? The stars tend to blur. Show movement.

It depends on the moon.

Really.

Full moon? Lower your ISO.

No moon? Raise your ISO.

Shoot it with a full moon, then wait for the moon to set, then get back out there and shoot it again. Without the moon.

Really.

If there is a bright moon, I let the moon light the mountains, cliffs, trees, foreground, whatever ... And let the stars do their thing. Play with your ISO to keep those shutter speeds below thirty seconds.

The faster the better.

Pin-point lights (stars). No blurs.

Or little blur. Or movement.

Very different from the film days and the star trails going round and round from the very long exposures. Like HOUR(s) long exposures.

That was all the rage. Hours and hours ...

Yeah. That would fry your sensor with digital.

I think. Or so I've read.

I'm not going to find out for you.

Sorry.

Locking the shutter open for hours at a time is not a good thing with a digital camera.

Or so I've read.

The new thing is pin-point stars and the whole Milky Way Thing...

The Digital Age. The New Thing. What all the Cool Kids are shooting ...

I love it.

I enjoy shooting it.

I play.

I use flashlights to light up trees, rocks, whatever is in the foreground ...

I try multiple exposures to see what happens ... Two shorter exposures mashed together.

I don't know, why not? Try it, you might like it.

I'll try anything ... I've tried everything.

With some success, and plenty of failures.

It is all good.

I giggle a lot, to tell you the truth.

Yes, at 10pm. 11pm, or 3am, or 4:27am, whatever ...

It is all good.

Except the clouds.

And Las Vegas.

Or, say ... Los Angles, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, The whole East Coast thing from Miami to New York City to Boston (except Richland, NY that is) ... You know, big cities (or street lights in your driveway or parking lot).

Full-Frame camera? Even better.

Get out there and shoot it. See what those big sensors, and higher than crap ISOs, can do for you.

Play.

Enjoy the night. The perfect light of night.

Oh, I like the sound of that. Like, it just came to me ...

Must be the time of night.


Or morning, whatever ...



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The Destination

Road Trip 2015.

As I was packing, I came across this t-shirt I picked up on one of my rafting trips over the years.

Like being on a river, being on the road, is the exact same thing.

Only different.

But, it is the destination. The road. The journey.

True, California, and Channel Islands National Park, is as far West as I will be going this summer ... But, the journey, is really all about the miles from here to there, and in-between.

And back.

That is the true destination.

It was true in 1973 on my first cross-country adventure, aboard my trusty Honda CB350cc motorcycle ...

And it is true in 2015, on my next cross-country adventure, in my, I don't know how many cc's, Honda Element.

Things don't really change all that much.

My waist-line ... The color of my hair ... The number of tires ... That whole cc thing ... And the amount of camera gear I'll have with me ...

Yes ...

But, that is about it.

The Journey, is indeed, the Destination.





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Green

I am not very good at this.

My last Work Day at GFMS was Tuesday. Today is Saturday.

I am still here.

Crazy.

I am usually gone for the summer. On the road. Photographing something. On the move. Living in my Element.

Somewhere.

Not this year. Not yet.

And, like I said, I'm not very good at this.

My mother moved to North Carolina in April. April 20th . She stayed with me until May 20th.

She is now all set up in lovely downtown Lenoir, ready to start the next chapter of her life.

I am ready to start mine as well. I have a dentist appointment in a couple of days, mom is all set up, my sister is driving down to visit for a month (and will be staying in my apartment), and I am making plans for the summer.

Well, no, I have plans ... I am just tweakin'  the plans over and over in my head, so I don't need to use maps once I get on the road.

OBX for a few days. Shenandoah National Park. Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Chicago. Route 80 to The Great Salt Lake (because I can). Great Basin National Park. Bishop, California (Galen Rowell's Gallery). Yosemite National Park. Kings Canyon National Park. Sequoia National Park. Channel Islands National Park. Riverside, California (where I was born 60 years ago). San Diego.  Joshua Tree National Park.  Las Vegas. Grand Canyon National Park. Petrified Forest National Park. I-40 East. Nashville. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Yeah, the theme is National Parks.

I like National Parks. They are National Parks for a reason. That's the only reason I need.

My goal is to visit all of them.

This summer will knock a few off my list.

The Channel Islands are what got this whole thing started ... They are kinda out there. Literally. I figured this would be a good year to drive across the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific and knock out a few National Parks I have failed to visit in the past 60 years.

Like I mentioned, I was born pretty close to them, just never made it out into the Pacific Ocean to visit them. I moved when I was, what? Six, eight months old? I don't remember.

In fact, I really have only been back there once ... In 1975, forty years ago. I stopped and had breakfast, and got the heck out of there ... Way too much traffic.

But, for the sake of my National Park Theme, I shall return.

Great Basin. Channel Islands. Sequoia. And Kings Canyon. Those are the National Parks I have not visited before.

The rest?

Just because they are there, along the route.

Perfect.

I have a few more days before I take off.

It is killing me.

I have watched movies. I have cleaned cameras, checked my gear. Cleaned more cameras. Bought new batteries. Gone through camera bags. Watched Art Wolfe videos. Gone for runs around Hudson. Cleaned more camera gear. Ate.

Ate some more.

So, today, I grabbed my new point-n-shoot camera and went for a walk. A Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1.

Yeah, really.

Ahh, with a LEICA lens. Enough said.

Sweet.

Got it used. An older model in pretty good shape. Well, in really good shape. Like new ... I don't know how old it is, but it came with a 1GB SD card, so ... Yeah, it's been around for a few years.

1GB SD, pre-SDHC, card.

Old School digital.

I took a walk around town to pick-up a few items (did I mention I eat a lot of crap when I'm bored?).

The first image is in my driveway. First thing. BAM. Light. Lines. Shadows.

The second one was shot uptown on Main Street. Again ... Light. Lines. Shadows.

The third shot was taken in Windmill Park. Lines. Period.

Well, lines and green. Green lines.

Like the other two.

Yes, I did take other shots along the way ... Tried out the macro on this little bugger ... Seems to work pretty good.

And yes, some of the other stuff were actually ... Not green.

But, when going over the images on the computer ... Green was the theme. I went with green.

In fact, what I really liked, and was just going to write about, was the third image.

Lines. Shapes. Layers. Monochrome.

I enjoy shooting these type of images, and I wanted to talk about why.

Why do I ALWAYS stop and shoot the "same" images over and over?

Anywhere and everywhere.

What are they? Elephant Ears? I don't know ... But I always shoot them. Always.

And Sunflowers.

And Ferns.

The purple flower things at GFMS.

Shadows.

Always.

Oh, and Bamboo.

And Ivy.

Like, what the crap?

Why?

Why do I always stop and photograph the same things over and over? Do I need more images of ... Well, any of them?

No. I delete most of them. Period.

Lines.

I like lines in nature. The graphic shapes. The patterns. The repetition. The color. The lines.

And, more importantly, I actually believe I will see something new every time I photograph them.

Always.

Whoa ...

That's it. I know why ...

Fly-fishing.

Yeah, really. Think about it. When I fish, I always just know that the next cast is going to be "the one".

That is why I fish for hours ... Like, all day.

I just know, that no matter what, my next cast will be the one that catches the trout.

Period.

And, when that is proven wrong, I really, really know that it will be the NEXT one ...

I even think about that while I am casting over and over again ... The NEXT one. No, the NEXT one ...

On and on. Over and over.

I am not making this stuff up.

That is how I fish.

And did I mention I let the trout go? Catch and Release. All those casts, and then ... I "delete" 'em.

Period.

That is how I fish.

That is how I photograph.

I know I will see, find, capture, experience, something new.

Every time. Every photograph.

Period.

I just know it.

Take the last image for example ...

I wanted to see how the three layers (leafs) played off one another ... Playing with the lines ... The angles ... The colors ... Lining them up ...

I looked.

I noticed something new ... I played at lining up the lines ... The layers. I just enjoy looking. Seeing.

Getting lost in the moment.

Playing. Photographing.

And ...

Getting out of the apartment.

And playing with a "new" camera.

Did I mention the Leica lens?

And ... I like the color green.

I am a Marine.

What can I say?

An Old Marine.

Waiting to get on the road again .... Another Summer Road Trip.

Road Trip 2015.

National Parks.

I'm not very good at just sitting here ...

But, my mother is all set up (bank, doctor, pharmacy, TV), my sister is on the way, and my cameras are clean.

Four more days ...

And please ...

No more junk food.






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Spider

I was closing my door to go out for a run when I saw this spider just hanging there ...

I ran upstairs, picked up a D90, put on the 40mm macro lens, grabbed a SB-600 flash and got back to the door ready to shoot ...

Again, I knew what I wanted. The moment I saw the spider, a flash went off in my head (pretty clever, eh?).

I knew I needed to light this puppy up!

From the side, top, bottom, someplace ... I just knew it.

So I did it.

Played around.

From the side. From the top. From the left. From the left-side-top. From the bottom. The flash real close, the flash not-so-close.

Just Do It.

I liked the first image ... You know, the "regular" shot. Hand-held flash off high to the left ... Nikon's Creative Lighting System doing its thing ... BAM.

Then I shot a couple more ... Move the flash here, there, everywhere.

Yeah, I like the second one. The light just hitting the spider ... Yes! I just skimmed the light off the side of the building ...

When I looked at my LCD screen on the back of the camera, I just knew it. I liked it.

Then, later on inside, when I saw it on my computer screen ... Yeah.

The curl ... That was it. Now I really liked it. That simple.

I know my middle school kids will like the second one as well. Simple. Graphic. Looks like one of their video game's logos or something ... Well, it could be.

Sort of. Kinda of.

Spiderman. BAM. In your face ...

Spider-legs.

All this before 7am ...

On a Saturday.

Before my run ...

Oh, you have to love this stuff.

Great way to start the morning. The weekend. Like, four-and-a-half days before SUMMER VACATION.

Are you kidding me?



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Perfect Match

Real quick ...

I found the perfect match for my modified Nikon D80 Infa-Red camera ...

The 10.5mm Fish-eye lens.

Hello?

I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier, or if I did, I forgot about it, I guess ... Whatever.

I was going through my cameras, lenses, and bags, and figured, why not switch out the Nikkor 18-70mm lens with the 10.5mm ?

Genius.

So, now I'm happy.

Crazy lens for a crazy camera.

That's it.

A crazy BLOG about a crazy man and his crazy ideas and his crazy cameras.

And lenses.

And bags.

And his images ...

It is all about the images.

And the lens.

And the camera.

And the ideas.

And my driveway ...

And that whole crazy thing.



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