I don’t know what I’m doing…

Is it really the end of March 2013?  Have I really not posted anything since whenever it was?

I’m only posting now because I was doing something this evening that I have been putting off for ages:  deleting old photos.  When I first started with my first dSLR I was using CaptureOne software for editing.  At the time I had no clue what I was doing and missed what was probably the really helpful part of such software: file management.

I took advantage of CaptureOne as I was able to procure a free copy thanks to the nice SanDisk media card I had purchased for my then-new Canon 40D.  However, when I made the change to Apple computers in 2009 I also made the jump to Adobe’s Lightroom. With Lightroom I decided to take full advantage of all the file management opportunities, but it was too late for all those old files edited in CaptureOne.

But I think this turned out to be a good thing in the end.  In the beginning I pretty much kept EVERY photo I took.  And MOST of what I took was crap.  And so I have carefully avoided looking at those old pictures in Lightroom because I knew the day would come that I would want to cull the heard, so to speak.

Besides, I didn’t want to go through them and bring them into the fold (adding keywords and renaming the files) unless I really, really wanted to keep the picture.  At this point I have already deleted over 500-images, but I don’t know how many I looked at so I can’t say what percentage went to the garbage can, but I’m confident it was pretty high.

I’ve also been considering getting back into the habit of writing here.  I don’t know that I will.. I have much in the way of major changes occurring in my life at this time.  Huge changes.  And starting writing again at this moment may not be right.  Then again, perhaps the time spent writing will help ease me through this transitional time with a bit more grace and ease than I might otherwise exhibit.

But no promises.

It’s not laziness if you’re not inspired…

Geez… for a while there I really felt like I was on top of this blogging thing. Posting again. Trying to post regularly. Trying to post something good (trying….). But then I hit this wall. This wall named October.

No details, but my private life is a bit of a mess. Well… more than a mess. A complete cock-up is more like it. And while I had thought I might find solace in blogging I’ve actually found it really difficult of late to feel motivated. To feel communicative. I just want to keep everything inside. I’ve noticed how I’ve backed away from most everything I do on the web: CNET, Facebook, Gizmodo, Twitter, etc.

So I’ve decided that for right now I’m not going to continue to feel badly about not posting and instead simply accept I’m not ready at this juncture to post. I mean, why fight it? It only becomes a horrible cycle of not feeling compelled to communicate. Then feeling bad that I’m not keeping up my blog (even though I do have some photography related things to talk about), which makes me want to write even less instead of inspiring me.

I know… what a dork.

Fortunately I’m going to be out of town for a few days, visiting my parents, who will be vacationing in a small mountain town in North Carolina. Perhaps a few days away from here… from home… might help lift me from this funk.

But I make no promises.

No. That’s not true. I will make one: I’ll be back.

In the mean time…

The Thinker

The Thinker

Mike Sells

Mike Sells

Tiny Tex

Tiny Tex - a kitten we rescued, fostered and found a home for

"Anyone there?"

"Anyone there?"

Get yer race on

Get yer race on

Picnic

Picnic

White balance you say?

You know what I like about taking photographs with my iPhone? Simplicity.

At its core there are no settings. You select the Camera app…. it selects the focus area (or you can do such if so inclined)…. you press and release the virtual button. And you’re done.

Granted, there seems to be millions of apps by which to edit your image, but the actual act of snapping the photo is brain-dead simple. And this is a good thing as I’m pretty brain-dead a lot of the time. But for every moment the iPhone is just fine for capturing something in a lovely stream of 1’s and 0’s there is a moment when a dSLR (or something relatively equivalent) certainly comes in handy. But the price we pay for shooting with fancier cameras is complexity. And complexity, my dear readers, opens up opportunities for mistakes.

But this isn’t necessarily always a bad or undesirable thing. For example…

West Milton Falls in Fluorescent White Balance

West Milton Falls in Fluorescent White Balance Setting

I snapped the above a few days ago while re-visiting a local waterfall, which is actually part of a city’s drainage system. I had thought I ‘fixed’ all my various settings to the appropriate… uh… settings, when about half way through the shoot I realized the white balance setting was still on Fluorescent (I had been shooting in my kitchen a few days previously).

Sigh.

I quickly made the necessary adjustment to Cloudy and continued shooting knowing I could easily alter the white balance setting in Lightroom as I shoot in Raw. Notice I said I shoot in Raw and not in the Raw, which would be a completely different matter altogether.

When I returned home and popped my pictures onto the computer I finally had the opportunity to see them on the large screen which allows for a better view. I moved along through all the pictures with the incorrect (Fluorescent) setting and then came upon the ‘correct’ ones. And you know what? I was disappointed with them. Yes; they were much more accurate in terms of color, but they seemed to have lost something. And so I tried an experiment.

I created a virtual copy of the above image and set its white balance to Cloudy within Lightroom and obtained this result…

West Milton Falls in Cloudy White Balance

West Milton Falls in Cloudy White Balance

So… is it just me who thinks the image with the much more appropriate white balance setting is less appealing or what?

I confess I prefer the foliage in the corrected version, but the focal point of the image is and should be the waterfall and there I find the incorrect white balance setting to offer a much more pleasing effect. Perhaps more importantly is the fact it was my intention all along to work my final selection of photographs such that any greenery showing would be fairly desaturated as to take away its potentially distracting qualities and help keep the viewer’s focus upon the water.

Once I factor in my additional editing plans I can’t think of a single reason to not use the incorrect white balance setting on all my keepers and let the work speak for itself with those who view them. However, I elected to seek some opinions from others and shared these two images with a handful of friends and family. The consensus? None.

There were those who liked the correct white balance and those who preferred the incorrect one, AND they were evenly split. Good grief. It’s bad enough when I myself have difficult selecting for more impact, but when everyone puts the decision up in the air…. Wow.

So where does this leave me? Well I’m going to work the keepers with the incorrect white balance and edit as previously mentioned. However, I think I will include at least one copy with the same edits, but with the corrected white balance and see what folks on flickr say about the choice. Can’t wait to see where the choices fall.

When life gives you lemons…

Yeah… so… I have this thing about photography wherein I tend to have something in mind which I wish to accomplish. I call it project photography.

Instead of simply picking up my camera and photographing stuff I get an idea into my head, plan it out and then go and do it. I meet with varying degrees of success as is painfully obvious when one views either this blog or my Flickr account. There are those who strongly support the shoot every day mentality, but I can’t get behind that for myself. It’s like those 365-projects you see so often on Flickr. The pictures often seem forced, if that makes any sense and I’m not into forcing myself to snap pictures if I’m not inclined. But I sure do love setting up for a photography outing and so it was I did such last month.

I had been searching for a new model when at a local art festival I ran into a young lady my daughter knows. I had thought about asking her before, but never got around to it, but here she was. And I was. And there you go. Numbers exchanged I began making plans for a project with her. And I had it all planned out… the location, time of day, what I wanted to actually shoot, etc. And so it was the day came and I arrived early to scout the location, which I had been to before, for our photographic get-together.

But there was a problem. Actually… two problems.

First, the incredible graffiti, which covered a lot of the walls around this set of buildings in downtown Dayton, was gone. Painted over. And fairly recently. So much for my cool-as-shit backdrops. Second, my model was late. By over an hour. Not really being a model she wasn’t aware of the great importance of the waning daylight I had intended to make use of. We were off to a poor start. But instead of being dejected (too dejected I mean) I opted to make do with what I had of the remaining daylight and the fact I had brought my single-light kit.

And so it was we tackled my first selected location with the now fading ambient daylight…

Sarah in Doorway I

Sarah in Doorway I

I had noticed this tiny green door surrounded by the red-painted bricks and thought it might make for a nice background. And I think I was right, but I had no small amount of difficulty figuring out how to arrange her within the space. So many of the poses looked tense or even awkward… as if she was just a bit too big for the small doorway, but we continued in hopes of finding some sort of magic.

Sarah in Doorway II

Sarah in Doorway II

While I’m not certain I was actually aware of the thought-process, I eventually came to settle upon two styles which seemed to work better. The pose in the above picture seemed to work well. I mean, if the space is vertically challenged then go horizontal, right? Seems pretty self-evident in hindsight, but at that moment in time I was having issues with seeing this. And the other style which appeared to work better was to get in close and let just a part of the doorway be the backdrop.

Sarah in Doorway III

Sarah in Doorway III

Alas… the sun was setting quickly and at this location we were already shooting in strong shade brought about from the shadow of the building. I was loath to let my model go after such a short period of time… hell… I had been there longer in advance of her than we had been shooting thus far. And so I suggested, if she didn’t mind, we try and make something of the evening with the flash, stand and umbrella I had dragged along.

Sarah being game she helped me get the equipment out of the car and we moved on to another spot I had selected. And here was where things became more complicated as I hadn’t planned to shoot with just the flash and I’m really not adept at it in any way. I mostly use the flash and umbrella for fill-light and the like and not as the sole source of illumination. Add this to the general complications which come from photographing a model when you don’t really do that sort of thing anyway and it’s more-or-less a recipe for disappointment.

Still….

Sarah on Escape Ladder

Sarah on Escape Ladder

I think the above is my fav of the entire evening. It may not be my most favorite pose, or lighting, or framing/composition, but I think it possesses the best overall qualities. Kudos to Sarah for having been so cooperative too as we spent most of the rest of the evening working on the escape ladder, which couldn’t have been particularly comfortable.

The ladder had presented a unique problem in so much that she was up fairly higher than I and my light, while on a 9-foot stand, just wasn’t tall enough to throw light on her in a more or less 90-degree angle to the plane of her face. In other words: I was often throwing light up to her at an angle, which led to some really weird and undesirable results. In the above image she had come down onto the steps and I was able to get the light thrown more directly upon her.

Eventually we wondered off to one last spot in front of a solid brick wall. Just her and I standing there with me trying to find a way to get light on her in a way which might be pleasing. I didn’t want her to be lit face-on as she was in the last image, but nor did I want anything which cast large portions of her face into too much shadow. After a great number of attempts I finally found a pose and positioning on my part which seemed to work.

Sarah at Wall

Sarah at Wall

There are still some things I could do to this image in editing which I think will make it even better (like adding some light to the dark side of her hair), but in general I’m rather pleased. Of course this sort of thing gives me just the excuse I need to dump the file into my recently purchased Adobe Photoshop CS5 and try and make the image more the way I really want it to be.

But boy… CS5 sure is a complicated bit of programming.

Pimpin’s hard work…

I see I have, yet again, been a completely lazy sod of a blogger.

Sigh.

But hey! You get what you pay for, am I right?!

However, let us not equate a lack of blogging entries to mean humble narrator hasn’t been taking pictures. Nothing could be further from the truth my dear readers. To be both frank and honest I’ve been taking more pictures over the past month than has been the norm throughout much of the summer. Unfortunately, one of my more recent photographic projects did not go quite according to plan, but instead followed my usual tried-and-true route of revealing large gaps in both my skills and talents.

And so it was humble narrator become a bit dejected. After a few days of sulking it suddenly occurred to me that my so-called ‘failure’ wasn’t actually a failure at all. Nope. Perish the thought. A ‘learning experience’ it was rebranded and suddenly all was right in the world. Lesson learned: models may be late, especially if they aren’t really models and don’t understand the value of available daylight.

Like I said… lesson learned.

Reinvigorated with my learning experience I opted to take a more casual approach to photographing of late and came back with some pleasant results.

Falls @ West Milton, Ohio

I was actually turned onto this small waterfall by some fellow Flickr friends in my area, but took great advantage of a then recent thunderstorm, which I had anticipated would swell the creek and turn this otherwise quiet fall into something more interesting. I think I was right, I might add with a just a hint of self-satisfaction. I even got a little crazy with the processing in that I dropped the Vibrance pretty heavily in Lightroom so that the green foliage would be more muted, thus making certain the viewer’s attention remained more focused upon the actual water.

Another evening I found myself suddenly struck by the urge to go out and snap some night time pictures, which is something I have rarely done. I had actually wished to grab a particular shot of a sign in the downtown Dayton area of which I had a nice daytime picture. I had hoped the neon lighting would be all lit up and that it would be… well… awesome.

It wasn’t.

The sign wasn’t lit at all. But instead of being dejected and resigned to this fate I elected to drive around the area and look for another opportunity. And could you believe one presented itself?

Firefly Building

This is actually a triptych (duh!) of some of the pictures I took that evening. It was a complete fluke that I came across this building’s entrance way as it’s not quite visible from the main drag. Regardless, I thought it so unusual it merited at least an attempt by me to get something out of it. Long exposures… tripod… not so bad results. Actually, my fav from this particular building is this image…

"NG"

Please do not ask me to explain why I like this one so much, but I do and that’s enough for me.

Now… keeping in mind my aforementioned issue with my lack of talent and skill, I elected to take part in a free class on flower/garden photography offered at one of my local parks. The price was right. The weather reasonable. And I have no problem sitting through a lecture which helps reaffirm what I’m doing right and makes me question what I’m doing wrong.

After the lecture I, along with many in attendance, ventured into the garden and snapped away merrily. I hadn’t really intended for this to become a major deal, but before I knew it almost four hours had passed (including the 1.5 hours of lecture). As I hadn’t gone to the garden with the intention of photographing flowers, insects, etc. I had become very relaxed about the entire event. It wasn’t one of my projects, where there is a built-in need to feel as if I’ve successfully accomplished something, but a simple afternoon of photography. A simple afternoon of trying to incorporate the things the instructor had discussed.

I must say I think I had some pretty nice pictures come from it as well…

I need more days like that one.

They’re being cheap…

I’ve only ever owned SanDisk memory products. Media cards for cameras… thumb drives for computers. Just SanDisk. And while I do not recall why it was I originally selected them I’ve never changed makes because I’ve had nothing but perfect luck with their products.

I’m a believer.

But I must say they recently went cheap on me and I don’t like it.

I purchased two 16GB Extreme UDMA cards to go with the camera. I needed the jump in both GB space (8GB having been my previous card-size limit) and in writing speed. They weren’t cheap, but there was a sale and it made the cards much more affordable than their non-sale price. And having bought some of their higher-end cards previously, I expected a little perk or two based upon that experience.

Maybe a nice, zippered carry case. Some of their recovery software. Both of these very nice perks came with the 8GB Extreme III card I purchased about 3.5 years ago. But these new cards? Perks? Oh I think not.

Instead each came with it’s own simple plastic case, which is nice, but I find them to be rather difficult to open compared to the cases I received with my older Extreme III cards. Rather difficult.

And instead of a CD with the recovery software, which is what the III’s came with, they offer a free download & one-year subscription to the service. And no handy carry thing.

See… This is what came with those less expensive Extreme III cards purchased years ago…

SanDisk Carry Case

Has room for two cards, each kept within its own protective case. It’s really quite nice. And the protective plastic case has this nice hinged bit, which acts as the clasp to keep them closed…

SanDisk Plastic Case

The new cases have to be pried apart and I think having a fingernail would help, but I keep mine pretty short, thus leading to much irritation, fusing and fuming.

So what’s up SanDisk? Why did you go all cheap on us, especially with cards that are more expensive than the ones I purchased 3-years ago? I know cost-cutting is the business mantra everywhere, but for a card which costs in excess of USD85, how much more would it have cost to add a nice zippered case and proper plastic case?

Huh?

It was hot… that’s my excuse…

We all have days… days where we suck.

For whatever reason we just can’t seem to get things right. Sometimes it’s because we are lazy. Or simply don’t care. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have the right tools or knowledge or skill-set. It might even be The Man with his collective boot on our neck.

Whatever the reasons or excuses…. we can… on occasion… suck.

And today I kind of sucked. But only kind of, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of not sucking, but you get the picture.

Hey! I just made a funny. “…get the picture.” Photography-related blog.

Yeah.

(ahem)

As I previously I opted to take part in a photography publishing project this year and I finally finished and submitted my…. uh… submission. One may be forgiven for thinking I’m feeling a real sense of accomplishment, but that’s not quite the case.

More like a feeling of sucking.

But that’s ok. I own it. I admit it. Freely. And it was mostly due to simple laziness. Mostly.

Granted, there was some problems getting the pictures taken. It was, after all, blazingly hot and humid here for the past four weeks, and it all started at exactly the same time I began photographing. And if you haven’t heard this before, please let me inform you: I hate the heat. And trying to snap pictures in a mosquito-infested wood while sweat pours down my face and over my hands and camera… well… yeah. It’s pretty gross.

To be frank I was so disappointed with my images I really thought about pulling out of the project. I mean… look at this…

Izzy Kitty

I never could get the white balance quite right, and there’s foliage in the way, and.. well… just poop. Of course, Izzy is notorious for keeping her distance so shooting through the undergrowth is to be expected, but it just didn’t feel ‘right’.

Then again…

Two Tone

But I think the greater issue was that I had to submit my project as a PDF and while Apple Pages does export as PDFs using Pages doesn’t exactly offer a lot of creative options for the book publishing part of the project. I found my lack of creative options rather irritating, but not so much so that I was willing (or able) to spend the cash for some nice publishing software that would also export as PDF.

BUT… in the end I elected to bite the bullet. Use my good and not-so-good images. Create my very simple (“austere”) book and upload it. There. It’s done. Maybe not quite as I had envisioned, but I know and remember a forkboy who would have simply abandoned it. And you know… that would have sucked more.