Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it…

AUGH!

I absolutely hate it when I do something stupid. Then again, I imagine most everyone hates it when they do something stupid. But this blog is about me and not everyone else, so at the moment I’m very busy hating myself for doing something stupid.

Yesterday (Saturday, 25 April 2009) I hooked up with fellow Flickrites Edgar and Ron at Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm. We were going to stroll about the grounds (and then head over to Aullwood Gardens) in hopes of finding interesting things to photograph, but before we even got started Edgar realized he had accidentally left his camera at home. Not completely his fault, mind you, as they were waylaid by a last-minute telephone call, which put them off their game.

For this photographic adventure I had elected to instead make use of my car-camera: the Rebel XTi (400D for you European types) with accompanying lenses, instead of my more usual kit (the Canon 40D and such). As I had just been to both Aullwood Audubon Center and Aullwood Gardens the week previous, I didn’t feel the need to carry my more serious equipment and looked forward to the much lighter and more transportable Rebel. But now we had a man down, so to speak, and as such I did the valiant thing and offered my Rebel to Edgar. He was hesitant at first, but Ron convinced him to accept my most generous offer, especially since I was able to use my 40D, which was in the car anyway.

As Edgar uses a point-n-shoot camera we made adjustments to the settings of my Rebel to better reflect the way his camera would shoot and the way he uses his camera. One particular adjustment to the settings was to turn off shooting in RAW and engage shooting in JPEG, which I no longer do at all. For the most part Edgar was satisfied with the adjustments and went about taking pictures for the afternoon.

Once we returned to the cars and said our goodbyes I immediately set out to revert the Rebel XTi to my preferred settings so that said camera would be ready-to-go at a moments notice, as is its typical usage. Except for one thing: I forgot to switch back to RAW.

Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!

And I’m all “damn it, damn it, damn it,” because I took a quick trip today to a park which I had not yet visited: Charleston Falls Preserve (part of the Miami County Park District, Ohio). I called it a recce and as such wasn’t going to bring any camera, but at the last moment elected to bring along the ready-to-go Rebel. And I’m glad I did. I may have obtained a handful of decent photos from the excursion, but it was when I was only minutes away from the end of the trail (the return leg as I had been in the park for about 2-hours by then) when I realized that I had been shooting in JPEG all day!

Don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing really wrong with shooting in JPEG. Lots of folks never do anything but shoot in JPEG and they take awesome shots! That said, I much prefer shooting in RAW because it allows me greater control over the final product and, perhaps most importantly, allows me to sometimes salvage photos that might have been designated to the round file otherwise.

Damn it.

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It was bound to happen one day…

Lately I’m behind in all matters regarding photography. I haven’t quite gotten hold of the manner in which Lightroom likes to organize my files and this is frustrating me to no end. I guess I could read the manual a bit, but I wasn’t looking to have to read about file management damn it! This is, in part, why I avoided purchasing such software. I was quite happy with my own system and it served me well. Now I have a robust piece of software that thinks it is helping me, but thus far it, in conjunction with some bone-headed moves of my own, has just made life unexpectedly more complicated.

And then there was the trip to Aullwood Gardens I undertook early last week. I had been charging my camera’s battery expressly for the photo shoot, yet walked right out the door without having grabbed the now fully charged battery. Of course I didn’t realize I had left behind the battery until after I had arrived at the gardens, grabbed all my gear, surveyed the gardens (for maybe 20-minutes) and selected the shots I wanted to take. Setting up the tripod I was humming a little tune to myself and thinking about how lovely was the day and how nice it would be to capture some nice close-ups of the blooming flowers. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the camera, but nothing happened.

And never let it be said that Mother Nature doesn’t have it in for me as well. A few days later (late last week) I returned to Aullwood Gardens so that I might finally snap some pictures, and while walking from the parking lot at Englewood MetroPark I came across a very large blue heron standing quite serenely in the Stillwater River. It was close enough that with my 100-400mm I should have been able to grab a supreme picture. Supreme I say. So I quietly and quickly broke out the tripod and got it set up. I broke out the camera and swapped into place the 100-400mm lens and mounted same to the tripod. And JUST as I framed my shot and considered which aperture I wished to use the damn thing took off. It’s a good thing there were no small children within ear shot.

However, not all is completely lost for I did not yet know that I had some nice heron shots, but from a completely different outing and camera:

IMG_0225

Two weeks ago I had ventured to the east banks of the Stillwater River where it runs through the Englewood MetroPark (part of the Five Rivers MetroParks district here in the Dayton, Ohio area). I had with me my Canon Rebel XTi and was hoping to capture some shots of mallards feeding near or along the banks and shoreline. Instead I was treated to a sole heron who was slowly making its way in the river not some 50-yards or so from shore. One thing I have learned about herons is that they are fairly skittish birds and if one sees a heron one should start snapping as soon as possible. With this mantra in mind I trained my camera upon it and fired away. I wound up with a series of photos like the above and below:

IMG_0263

I confess that I didn’t think much of the pictures as I looked over them on the tiny LCD screen attached to the back of the camera, but once I was home and had the images opened in Lightroom (and on a nicely sized 24-inch iMac screen) I was much more impressed. Quite impressed to be frank. The low sun was creating great reflections off the water and left the heron in silhouette. My only criticism of the series that look like the first above picture was that too often the heron’s head disappeared into the black area of water just above it. In the end, of the eight or so I took this was the only one where the head was clearly separate from the water. I guess I should clarify though…there was another issue with the picture, but it didn’t rise to the level of problem and that was the strong glare of sunlight off the water.

Fortunately for me I’m finally getting a handle on the use of the Graduated Filter effect in Lightroom and was able to use such to decrease the exposure in a limited area of the image. I was able to keep the colour and strength of the reflected sunlight without the completely over-exposed nature of it. I used this to good effect in both of the above pictures, working the left-side of the above image.

It was also during this scouring of the banks in hopes of photographic opportunity that I came across this reflection in the water:

IMG_0274

I snapped the picture less because I thought it was photo-worthy (in terms of its impact), but more because of what it said to me in that moment in time. The long thin cloud is actually a contrail from a passing jet and I was having these thoughts about how strange it was that I was watching the plane and its passengers flying off to who-knows-where to do who-knows-what, but that I was sharing this moment with them from afar. In the end I like the photograph, but I’m more intrigued by the moment itself.

Finally, there was this:

IMG_0248

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really enjoy this photo. I had taken position behind a tree in hopes that a couple of nearby mallard ducks would make their way towards me. While standing there waiting for the ducks I noticed this single strand of spider web gently rocking in the soft breeze. I soon became semi-mesmerized by this solitary strand and eventually realized that it was, at least for me, photo-worthy. I switched the lens to manual focus and made the shot. I’m quite pleased with it to be honest. It speaks to me. Unfortunately though I’ve learned from experience that those pictures which speak to me do not usually speak to others. I wonder why that is?

Fear and loathing in Adobe…

It feels as if it has been an age since I posted anything to this WordPress blog. I guess it has been seeing how I usually post every week and yet have only posted twice since 18 March (some 25 days ago). But it’s not my fault….really. Events have conspired against me. Truly. My little side job requires that I finish off the bits and pieces I have before I take my work back to my client in about 10 days. The daughter and her emergency appendectomy. Waiting for the new photo-editing software to arrive. Waiting to find the courage to install said software. Yep. Courage to install software. Sounds pretty lame doesn’t it? Well suck on this for a minute before I explain…

daffodils-at-home

I have discussed this before, but it begs for repeating: I’m afraid of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Believe me…no one is more surprised than I. I’ve always been one to jump head-first into new software. Always anxious to grab it by the neck and throttle it for all it’s worth. But for some reason I have been experiencing this incredible sense of trepidation when it comes to both Lightroom and Elements.

I’ve been using other photo editing software in the likes of Phase One’s Capture One 4 which I received for free with the purchase of a high end media card. It really is a nice bit of software: resource light, intuitive (for the most part), covers the basics well, and has an user’s guide one could read in an hour on a Sunday afternoon. Lightroom? The first hint it might be a powerful programme is one looks at the retail price of USD300. The second hint is the pdf of the user’s guide, which weighs in at 175 pages. The third hint can be found at the Adobe website, where one can find what seems like a million or more web pages dedicated just to using Lightroom. Yet, why should this cause me any hesitancy? I’ve used other applications that have large user’s guides and the like, but for whatever reason, this is different.

father-daughter

And then there is Elements! At least Lightroom only took a minute or two to install on the new iMac. Elements took something akin to ten minutes! And talk about intimidating! Over 300 pages can be found stuffed into the user’s guide. THREE HUNDRED! And, of course, there are tonnes of pages dedicated to Elements on the Adobe site, etc.

In a way I think part of the problem is that I don’t even know where to begin. Sure, one can open the user’s guide pdf and start plowing through, but that is, unfortunately, boring. Capture One 4 was so light and basic in comparison that it was difficult to go wrong. And even though one can fix “wrong” with Lightroom or Elements, it just feels far more intimidating to begin with.

Regardless, I finally took the plunge and installed both applications to the new iMac. I also took the liberty of watching a fistful of introductory videos on the Adobe site in relation to Lightroom. Just the first few so that I would have a clearer idea of how to import, catalogue, and develop pictures so that I could clear my camera’s media card and get some shit uploaded to Flickr.

mallard

So my first experience with Lightroom went reasonably well. Everything imported just fine. I was able to make the changes I wished without too much difficulty or fussing about. I was even able to make use of the Graduated Filter feature without much difficulty….at least on two images. A third one never worked correctly and so I abandoned the effect. Oh well. On the whole I will consider this to have been a reasonable success what with me just dabbing my toes into the waters of Lightroom. So to speak.

stamen-up-close

But now comes the really hard part…integrating pictures into Elements and getting creative!

I’m so fucked.

Normal service will resume shortly…

Nope.

This really doesn’t make sense at all. It is completely unlike me. Frighteningly unlike me.

Sitting upstairs in my little office space is a still-very-new Apple iMac, which hasn’t even been turned on for two days. And a new Western Digital 1TB external hard drive; uninstalled. And a just-delivered-today copy of Adobe’s Lightroom v2 (picked up for a complete steal at $205 and change); uninstalled. And a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements for Mac on schedule for delivery to this very house on or about tomorrow (Thursday) or Friday. And yet I’m not overly excited. I’m not chomping upon the bit. I’m not anxious to install the software and get to photo cataloging and editing, and what not.

What the hell is wrong with me?

I confess that I am usually the sort who starts running in circles mumbling “Oh my gawd! Oh my gawd! Oh my gawd!” over and over and over whenever I get new toys with which to play. But not this time. Nope. Very odd.

Instead, the iMac sits silent. The Western Digital external hard drive remains in its box, still wrapped in the cellophane in which it comes packaged. The software, received today, was given a most cursory glance after opening the box in which it was shipped. Actually, I remember opening the box to verify that it was Lightroom and thinking to myself “Oh good. It’s here,” and then tossed the box into the closet for safe keeping.

That doesn’t sound like me. Not at all.

But you see there are other forces at work here. A number of forces all conspiring to keep me from enjoying, savoring, relishing these moments. First, I have plenty of work to complete for my little home business before I take the finished work to my client in Chicago. It seems that every time I think I’m done I find more stuff that need to be fixed, re-entered, re-worded, backed up, etc. Just a pain. And, of course, I’ve been waiting for the various things I have ordered to arrive and had previously thought to myself “I should wait until everything is here and then install them all at once,” instead of dealing with them as they came in, one by one.

And starting yesterday there is the daughter. Yes, even the daughter has become an impediment to advancing my causes. Seems she began to experience a rather unpleasant pain in her side Monday night. By Tuesday afternoon it was clear a trip to our family physician was in order. Said trip led to a diagnosis of a possible appendicitis. Said appendicitis was verified at the hospital emergency room, to which I had taken her after leaving our physician’s office. Surgery this morning (about 5:00a.m.) and here we are now. The wife and I are both very tired from a lack of sleep and my tiredness is compounded by the fact I had not slept well for the three or four days prior to this appendicitis event.

(as an aside, wouldn’t you know this whole thing would happen at this particular moment in time…while good for the daughter because she is on spring break from school, my wife and I missed a concert this evening in Columbus; Morrissey. we missed his tour in 2007 because we were out of town and I was looking so forward to tonight’s show as I’m a major fan. i could have gone anyway, but was certain that I was too tired to make the drive there and back (3-hours round trip) and be safe. i know the daughter didn’t want this to happen and she certainly didn’t do this to interfere with out concert-going, but damn if my luck with Morrissey tours doesn’t continue to be shitty)

Finally, there remains in me, and I’ve discussed this before, a certain amount of trepidation, almost fear, regarding these very robust photo editing programmes like Lightroom (and even Elements). I really cannot fathom why I’m so intimidated by this particular type of software as I’ve never been intimidated by software in the past. I always enjoyed exploring and playing with new software, but this is different. But I am going to overcome this trepidation/fear and move forward.

Now I just need to find some time to get it done.