Back, but forgotten anyway

If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all.  

Really.  

It’s a mantra that fits my life in so many ways and has done so for so many years.

I am not in North Carolina as many of you already know if you read the e-mail I sent to you, my most regular readers and friends.  My previously fault-less car acted up not more than thirty-minutes from home, while on my way to North Carolina.  Not willing to risk a 9-hour, 500-mile drive to a car exhibiting odd behaviour I turned around and visited my dealership.  

Bottom-line:  a problem showed on the computer, but they couldn’t replicate it.  I’m not willing to risk such a long drive without knowing what is the issue and whether or not it may repeat, especially seeing how the issue was a cylinder misfiring and I was heading into the mountains.  As such I am currently missing the wind and snow falling around the mountain top where my parents are currently hiding…in their cabin.  

Life sucks.

Oh, and no pictures from North Carolina, which REALLY sucks considering how much time it took to pack my camera kit!!

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Gone, but not forgotten

Just a note to say that it is highly likely I will be away from WP and Flickr for about a week. Off to visit my parents in North Carolina as they make their annual pilgrimage to the mountains.

There likely isn’t any Internet access in the cabin so getting online becomes a rather futile gesture. In the meantime you’ll just have to make do with me in this medium.

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Busy, busy, busy…

Oh it’s been a busy, busy, busy week of photography. No. That isn’t quite right. It’s been a busy, busy, busy week of trying to take pictures. By “busy, busy, busy” I mean that I have made some minor excursions to places where I hoped to grab some nice pictures related to this time of the year we call Fall.

You know….Fall. When the leaves change colours, the temperatures drop and the bugs begin to disappear.

I returned to John Bryan State Park in hopes of catching some nice Fall colours. Maybe some beautiful reflections off what exists of the Little Miami River. Unfortunately for those of us who both live in SW Ohio and who love photography, the very dry summer has left us with little in the way of quality Fall colour. It would seem most trees are simply yellowing and then dropping their leaves. Great. But the trip wasn’t a complete loss….or so I hope.

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While John Bryan State Park is a nice place to visit I have been thinking that I would like to try someplace else that is both new and closer to home. Having visited a couple of the local Five River MetroParks parks (they actually have some of my Flickr photos on their site – a few on the main page and on the link for Cox Arboretum!) I thought it may be time to try another one and so I elected to journey to the Germantown MetroPark in Germantown, Ohio. The directions led me to believe it would be a pretty quick trip, but that wasn’t the case.

It also wasn’t the case that I found much to photograph. The area is heavily wooded, which is nice if you’re a tree and such, but it made photography rather uneventful. I remain hopeful that with more visits I’ll find good or great places to snap pictures, but this day I simply drove around and then took to some trails.

One trail led to some nice Fall colour shots of groups of leaves like so.

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Otherwise the wood was so dense there simply wasn’t anything to photograph. I later located another trail, which was actually marked for hiking (I think the first one was an unofficial trail, blazed by folks just interested in running around in the woods and being rule-breakers), and enjoyed a very vigorous hike through the hills and into and out of the valley. I swear; there wasn’t 15-feet of horizontal trail to be found. Up. Down. Left. Right. The trail was never level or straight for more than 10-feet. And again, it was heavily wooded and thus didn’t lend itself to great photography. But maybe to okay photography on occasion.

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However, not all was lost over the past few days and oddly enough the best actually came from home. The other day I ventured outside to the west-side portion of our huge estate (some 16-trillion hectares) and took to snapping some pics of what little Fall colour can be found upon our estate. And I wasn’t disappointed either.

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But the really best part was when I returned to the front entrance to find the daughter standing just inside, looking out the glass door at me returning. And it hit me. “Take her picture. No. TAKE HER FUCKING PICTURE YOU A-HOLE!”

Ghost

You know…I’ve complained about my poor lack of timing when it comes to taking pictures. But this time everything was just right. The daughter was in the right place at the right time. I was in the right place at the right time. Mother Nature was in the right place at the right time. And most importantly my brain was in the right place at the right time.

I actually snapped two pictures of the daughter in the doorway: one was focused upon her, while the other was focused upon the reflection in the glass of the trees across the street, thus giving the daughter a soft look – sort of dreamy – sort of ghosty. But I haven’t shared those pics with you here (you can see them on Flickr), but instead the processed image I made of one of the two.

I thought the dreamy/ghosty quality could be further enhanced via post-processing and lo and behold I was right! I’m actually quite proud of the result. I usually don’t toot my own horn (especially when it comes to my photography lark), but this time I think I did a great job and I’m pleased as punch to share this with you. (I will concede there is one thing wrong with the image, but there is nothing I can do about it, but I’m not going to let it bring me down! No way. No how).

Thank you and good night.

Just do it

Not too long ago I was posting comments upon a Flickr account belonging to a gentleman who takes exceptional photos of nature. Besides the usual “Gorgeous photo,” type comments I had also, on occasion, stated how lucky he was to have such a great place to take pictures. It was as if nature had rained down upon him the blessings of beautiful and abundant scenery such that all he had to do was walk out his door, point his camera in any direction, press the shutter release button, and voila: instant gorgeous image.

I hated him.

Eventually there sprang from my commentary some e-mails from him discussing how it comes to be that he gets these incredible shots. He also states how it would appear that I too have some wonderful places where I could be taking pictures and went through the bother to send me the URLs for a few public parks in my general area. I must say I was both excited and depressed. Excited because he took the time to see through my commentary (to get to what I was really saying) and depressed because he helped expose me to myself.

His communication helped me to see how I was being self-defeating. This self-defeating nature comes as no surprise to me as I am, no doubt, more of the “Glass is half-empty,” sort. And there are other things that have been going on in my life of late that have helped fuel the fire of this self-defeating nature. His thoughtful words helped me to see that I didn’t have to continue with my self-defeating nature, but more importantly the insights he provided helped propel myself into thinking that I’m not creating total rubbish here. Clearly this photography lark, if I want to be better at it, requires work and that what appears to be done so effortlessly on sites like his is actually a lot of hard work and experience gained over years of involvement in photography.

Armed with inspiration from his kind and thoughtful communications I vowed to work harder at this photography thing. And inspiration came to my aid the other day when I was walking out of my local Best Buy and saw the most glorious sunset I have seen in some time (other than through images on Flickr – we’re talking in-person here). While there wasn’t enough time to run home and grab my camera kit I promised to venture forth the next evening and capture some of the wonder that is the late evening sky around here.

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And you know what happened? It was rubbish! But that’s okay. The sky the night before had been clear of clouds, yet looked to be ablaze in a light that could pierce your brain. Of course, a photograph taken from the Best Buy would have been awful, what with the parking lot, light polls and other businesses on the horizon. So the next night I adjourned to another local spot where I thought I might be able to capture the glory of the setting sun. But it didn’t go that well as evidenced by the image above. The tall corn was in the way of the horizon. The sun too low already. And there is no place around here that doesn’t have a large outcropping of trees within 1,000 yards (no flat and tree-less plains around here!). But I remain undeterred. I enjoyed the experience. I hope I gained a modicum of knowledge from the excursion. And I managed a few decent pictures, but nothing to get excited about.

Again, based in no small part upon the advice and inspiration supplied by the most-kind gentleman, I sought a new place to take pictures and settled upon John Bryan State Park (Ohio), which came recommended to me by my fav salesperson at my local camera store. This too was an episode of mixed results.

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I trekked about the park, always uncertain of where I was as I had not procured a map of the park’s hiking trails, in search of something interesting to photograph. The truth is that I didn’t find that much in the great scheme of things. Being at the end of a long and rather rainless summer the Little Miami River, which runs through the park, was very low and subsequently rather boring. In addition, the summer foliage goes far in blocking views of various things (the river, rock outcroppings, etc.) that may have been of interest to photograph. Furthermore, where the hiking trails ran close to the river one couldn’t get down to the bank to try any photography as there were signs posted all over the place asking folks to stay on the trail. And finally, the park was rather busy that particular Sunday and as such the wildlife (mostly birds, squirrels and chipmunks) was rarely spotted thanks to the heavy foot traffic and more noisy of the visitors.

But this too didn’t get to me, too much.

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I told myself when I first arrived at the park that I would spend time just looking around and take only a few photos (which I did). This was mostly a recce trip to put into my brain ideas for future visits. It’s all about putting in some work. Some patience. Giving things time to happen, but never giving up. Getting to intimately know the places where you like to shoot so that you can make the most of each visit. So maybe I have learned something of late…..and that feels good.

Thanks John.

Family time

It isn’t often that I post pics of the family. Part of the reason for this is because I do not see members of my family on a frequent basis; other than my wife and daughter. It is also because I’m not certain that my Flickr site is the place where I want to place such images. But why not? Especially when they look this good:

Grandma & Aunt Karen

I’ve had this notion, right or wrong, that my Flickr account is for something other than family photos. I really cannot explain how or why I have this idea stuck in my head, but I know it is there. If I had to take some guesses I suppose I could argue that it was never my intent to use my Flickr account to post images of family get-togethers. That my Flickr account wasn’t meant for the casual (i.e. ‘record’ type) image, but more for the purpose of expressing myself through photography. (from my photostream it is pretty clear I’m communicating about as well as a 6-year old with a bad meth habit)

It could also be that I don’t think folks who regularly visit my site will be interested in seeing these members of my family. After all, there is nothing to connect the viewer to the photograph. Pictures of nature are fairly universal. Same goes for wildlife and such. But family pics seem somehow different. While we all have families I don’t think we connect as readily to photographs of strangers unless they are intended as such (like the street photography found at I Didn’t Mean to Go to Stoke).

Aunt Karen at Grandma's (3)

Regardless of the ‘feeling’ that I have that I shouldn’t upload these pictures, I have done so anyway. And I can think of two reasons why I wish to do so: (1) I’m actually proud of these pics because almost all of them involved the use of flash and I think I did a pretty decent job considering my lack of flash-photography knowledge or skill, and (2) because I didn’t grow up knowing most of these people (my father excluded). Not to go into a long story about family relations, let’s just say I didn’t grow up seeing these folks and knowing them as family until much more recently in my adult life. I’m very happy to get to know them now and I want everyone to know such.

Dad at Grandma's (2)

Sometimes a picture is just a picture

When I first began snapping pictures with my lovely, lovely Canon 40D (did I mention it’s lovely?), I horded every image file as if it were the only thing standing between me and certain death. Every image was a masterpiece of lighting, composition, framing, colour management, blah, blah, blah. Well……the truth is that most of those early pictures were, at best, okay. And that is being rather generous. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has moved up to a dSLR (or a super nice compact super-zoom) as there is a learning curve with the camera, forgetting completely about the learning curve that comes with the process of photography itself. But within a few weeks of blissful dSLR ownership I was struck by a certain problem: what do I do with all these image files?

For your consideration:

Wedding mausoleum (2)

A lovely picture, no? And no doubt it is a picture. And it was shot in both Canon’s RAW format as well as JPEG. So what do I do with these files once I get home and upload them to my computer? It was a keeper (as not all were from this particular shoot)….the JPEG version was good, but with the RAW file I could make some minor tweaks (to coin the phrase of a certain Flickr mate) and then convert to JPEG, thus making the from-camera JPEG moot. So what is one to do?

Well my solution was to delete the from-camera JPEG, edit the RAW image file, create a new JPEG from the RAW file and then upload that to Flickr. The nice thing about the RAW editing software I use for much of my workflow (Capture One 4) is that it doesn’t really alter my original RAW files, but creates a new file that tracks all my adjustments to each image file within a given folder. If I re-open an image file in Capture One 4 it displays with the afore-mentioned adjustments, but if I open the file in another app (say….Photoshop Elements) then I am once again working with the unaltered RAW file. Heck, if I want to start over completely all I need do is delete the Capture One 4 created file from the folder and there you go! But this isn’t really to what I was referring earlier. I really mean when do I keep the RAW file and when do I only keep a JPEG (either from-camera or generated from the RAW file)?

For me I look at my image files in the context of “What was my intent?” Was I trying to do something interesting or was I trying hard to make a better picture, or was I simply pointing and shooting and thus creating a record of a moment in time that I wish to have? I guess I could split this concept in a different manner….the creative/working hard for a better picture side wants to use the Canon 40D, while the record-creating side can use the 40D, but would have been just as happy with the Canon A630 point-n-shoot. I do not usually carry both cameras with me, so I often end up using the 40D for point-n-shoot situation photographs like the image above and the one below.

BBQ at Aunt Linda's (5)

Maybe it sounds like a bit of a strange way to do things, but I’m finding that it works well enough for me. I keep two folders on my computer: one for images that are simply records of a moment in time and one for everything else (hoping that ‘everything else’ are better or more interesting pictures). I really don’t know if this is such a great system, but one must have a system otherwise their picture collection will become completely unmanageable. And isn’t that the real kick in the head? Because even if you do have a system, if you find or discover one that may work better there isn’t much change of making the change because it could involve so much work as to make it unfeasible.

Isn’t that a warm and fuzzy feeling?