Back in the saddle again…

Well I finally did it. Posted some pictures on Flickr. And not just ones from my cell phone. Or ones I took for a special occasion. Or as part of my group project thing.

Nope.

PIctures of the sort I was enjoying taking until the malaise struck. Things like this…

And this…

Oh… what the hell. And like this too…

It seemed appropriate that my first real posting in some time should include pictures from a wonderful evening I had with some fellow Flickr-ites.

Let the fun begin. Again.

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Perchance to dream…

It happened again. I experienced a photography-related dream.

And no doubt the overall weirdness of the dream could be directly related to the rather powerful drug I took yesterday, which is for migraine headaches. Not that I get migraines any longer… I used to… but not in some time.

Nope.

Instead I take it for when I am struck down by a particularly horrible sinus headache. The sort so intense I feel nauseous, like I’m going to hurl, cannot eat and every movement of my head sends waves of pain through my body. The surgery I had two years ago has gone far to greatly diminish the number of attacks each year, but now they simply appear to be more intense each time. Joy. But somehow I have gotten off track here…. must have something to do with reading this guy’s blog.

😉

So…. dreaming. I don’t recall any dreams from the past 24-hours, but this one. I’m driving along some roadway when I’m struck by the awesome grandeur of the sun setting between these two buildings. The buildings, which are close together, create a wonderful frame for the intense orange orb hanging quite low in the sky. There were some power lines criss-crossing the sun, but they only seemed to add to the photographic quality of the moment.

I remember ‘thinking’ in the dream “I don’t have time to get out the dSLR. The sun is setting too fast and I need to get this image NOW!” As such, I pull off the road and rush to get out of my car with camera phone in hand. Moving into position so that the gap between the buildings is nicely centered in my cell phone’s screen I press the shutter release button.

“Click” goes the phone.

And I get something not unlike this…

“Ummmm,” I think to myself inside the dream. “That’s not what I was photographing.” Confused, but determined, I re-shoot the setting sun and wind up with a picture of, and I’m not kidding, a parrot sitting on a branch in what appears to be a lush and tropical rain forest.

“What the fuck?” races through my dream mind and with ever greater determination I re-compose the shot, press the shutter release and wind up with a picture of a boat. And not just any boat, but a canal boat of which I have seen plenty of late via a fellow Flickr-ites photostream.

Now, in this dream, I’m stomping my feet and cursing Bog and all the heavens for the injustice being done unto me, while the gorgeous, bright orange orb of the sun sinks below the horizon leaving just the two buildings and power lines glowing in the light of dusk.

Let’s Just Call It Progress For Now…

Having mentioned in previous posts that I have felt a certain amount of intimidation… and perhaps even trepidation… regarding Adobe Lightroom (and it’s little brother, Photoshop Elements), it has come as good news to yours truly that I have been busy embracing Lightroom (“Lr” from here forward) over the past week.

It is such an incredibly huge programme with so many features, options, settings, etc. such that I don’t even know where to begin most days. Clearly the user’s guide would probably be a nice starting point, but that would be way to easy. We can’t have that, now can we?

Regardless, I have thrown myself into it with full effect and, like the younger version of your humble narrator, remain hopeful that all will be just fine regardless. And thus far…. well… it’s been a bit of mixed bag.

No doubt Lr is a very powerful application for viewing, editing and cataloguing image files and thus far I have only scratched the surface of all it can do to images and for for me. I spent the better part of a week adding keywords to approximately 1/3 of all my pictures (not having yet imported the other 2/3’s) and began working on a project which I have neglected for far too long: processing the pics from my trip to Wisconsin for my grandmother’s funeral and my cousin’s wedding.

It has been during this first major undertaking using Lr that I have started to use some of the more everyday features (or I assume they are ‘everyday’) including a smattering of keyboard shortcuts (I love keyboard shortcuts) and the collections feature. I have also embraced the Auto button in the Development mode, at least for this particular project.

First, collections is a way to group together photos that share some sort of user-defined common theme. Perhaps it is a birthday party. Or a certain person. Or whatever it is you might want to group together for some purpose. For me it was the opportunity to group together the pictures from my trip to Wisconsin. See… that trip includes pictures of different events and settings and as I knew that some images would likely demand more of my attention in post-processing and that some would only be shared with family I elected to divide the entire group of imported pictures into collections. One collection for funeral-related stuff. Another for visiting some friends in Two Rivers. And yet another for the wedding… and so on. Dividing all the pictures into these collections allowed me to work on them in smaller batches and with certain ideas regarding their processing/editing being specific to the collection.

It also made it easier when it came to exporting them as JPEGs because I could select only those collections which I was going to share with family members via burned DVDs. For instance, the pictures I took of my friends in Two Rivers as well as mine and my dad’s photography excursion to the WW II submarine exhibit will not go out to the family members. As such I need only select the other collections for exportation to JPEG, thus leaving the unrelated pictures off the DVD.

Sweet!

However, not all is sunshine and bunnies with this collection business. First, it seems that I cannot always remove a photograph from a collection as the option to do such is greyed out. In some collections this isn’t a problem, but in others… well…. it’s a problem. And as yet I haven’t seen any recognizable relationship between those pictures I can remove from a collection and those that I cannot.

In an unrelated, but equally confusing matter, I have noticed that some functions/settings can be applied to images when they are selected in the filmstrip, which runs along the bottom of the Lr window. However, other functions/settings cannot be applied from the filmstrip, but must be handled either from grid view or as a single image in the viewer. To me that’s just plain weird. A selected image is a selected image and I don’t know why it should matter whether it was selected in the filmstrip or in the grid. Perhaps there is a reason…. a very good reason, but it shall remain a mystery for the moment.

As I mentioned earlier I learned of the miracle of the Auto button in the development module. Auto is just like it sounds: auto-adjustment. Press it and Lr does whatever it does to determine what would make your image better. Nicer. Whatever. And I must say that for the most part it was a rewarding experience to use it. The end result was often very close to the adjustments I made myself, which, after some experimentation, left me feeling confident in its use for moving rapidly through many images.

However, and I think further experimentation is needed before I’m completely certain of this accusation, I’m not certain one can use the Auto option along with the Sync option. It occurred to me after having already gone through maybe one half of the 600+ images I had from Wisconsin, that if I’m generally satisfied with the Auto feature I should use it and then Sync it across all the images! What a time saver! I could then review each photo and if I felt Auto had gotten it wrong I could Reset that image and manipulate by hand to my heart’s delight. Except I don’t think it really worked that way….

As I said, further experimentation is needed, but I think what happened is that when I Auto’d the first image and then synced that to all subsequent images it was the specific individual settings from that Auto-treatment that wound up being applied across the rest of the images, which is NOT what I wanted. No. Instead I wanted Lr to apply the Auto feature to each individual image and not merely copy the Auto-settings from that first image.

Something of a disaster, you know?

But where would humanity be without the adage “Live and learn”?

It Felt….. It Felt Good. Damn Good!

This morning while enjoying breakfast with my wife I suddenly thought “Holy shit! It has rained like crazy over the past two days. I wonder if the water fall at Charleston Falls Preserve is doing anything interesting?” Between loads of melting snow and over 2-inches of rain it occurred to me that the normally ‘dull’ waterfall might actually be a ‘real’ waterfall.

See… normally it looks like this (please forgive the rather heavy-handed post-processing effects):


(photo courtesy of my iPhone)

It is a pretty place, but not much of a waterfall to be frank. But what about after some serious rain? Well let’s just say it got a lot better!


(photo courtesy of my iPhone)

Now isn’t that better?

But the issue of the waterfall isn’t the real thrust of this posting. Nope. Instead, I guess this posting is, in a way, an extension of my last post regarding my attempt to get back into this photography game. Today’s adventure was a pleasure. A real pleasure.

My original intent was just to run out to Charleston Falls Preserve, see if the waterfall was more interesting photographically speaking, and if so snap some pics and come home to watch the inaugural Formula 1 race from Bahrain. As the above picture shows the waterfall was far more interesting than it has ever been before during any of my visits.

And so I puttered about snapping pictures from this position and that place and eventually found myself satisfied. Satisfied that I had done both what I wanted and needed (“need” being the need to get out and take some pictures again). But as I packed up my kit I thought “You know… I wonder if there are any other photographic treats in the park today?” After all it was perfect shooting weather in so many ways: 41-degrees Fahrenheit (5-degrees C), lightly misting, quite grey and overcast (soft, diffuse light with no shadows) and everything covered in water such that colours looked rich and dark. And so I took off on the trails in search of other valuable targets.

Now… I do not have any of the pictures from this excursion yet available as I haven’t yet gone through them. I’ve been busy since I got home. Sorry. But the tale is just as important in this instance because it was the simple act of getting out and enjoying myself that, in a manner, recharged my batteries for this hobby.

While out there I managed to nab a handful of pictures related to my first shooting assignment for my photography class and I spent about 30-minutes stalking a small herd of deer I chanced upon. Granted, the end result was a meager one photo for all the time I devoted, but let me tell you…. it was EXCITING!! Moving slowly and carefully with camera in hand I tracked them from the trail while they made their way through the woods, eventually leading me to a tall grass prairie where I managed my one picture. But the great thing is now that I know there are deer there AND I know a place where they congregate I can return one day (hopefully soon) and play the game of sit & wait in hopes of nabbing some additional pictures. (keep in mind I only got the one picture because I didn’t have my camera out and in hand when I chanced upon them – they were unexpected as I had never seen deer there before)

Of course, any great day must have its less-than-stellar moments, which for me was when I tried to snap some pics of the quite large vultures gliding in the grey skies above me. For whatever reason…. probably a brain fart or a bit of senility creeping in…. I turned my 70-200mm zoom lens to 70mm and began shooting wildly into the mid-March air. Wondering why the damn birds looked so far away in the viewfinder I put down the camera and took a quick glance at my settings where I discovered my 70mm boo-boo.

However, this very minor mistake is not going to ruin my otherwise perfect afternoon! Three hours of glorious hiking, stalking and photography more than compensate me for such stupidity.

A Roller Coaster of Indecision

A review of my posts to this oft-neglected blog would reveal a picture of a character who appears completely uncertain of their abilities and/or talents. This, to be frank, describes me perfectly. Lacking confidence… the world is the proverbial ‘glass half empty’… That’s just the way I roll. But I’m trying to do something about that. Taking charge…. trying to see the glass half full instead of the preferred route of half empty…. imagining better outcomes. It is very much an uphill battle.

But lately I have adopted something more of a can-do; take-charge; damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead mentality. And this is a major turn around mentally as it was only a few months back (during the holidays) that I had become very certain it was time to give up on this photography caper…. this photography “lark” as a certain friend is fond of saying.
The reasons were numerous. And almost exclusively shit.

Self-defeating. Self-deprecating. Woe is me. Just pure, 100% fucking bullshit. I tell you I was this close (thumb and fore-finger spread a centimeter apart) to packing up my camera equipment and shipping it off to another friend, who undoubtedly would have put it to far better use than I. However, as the holidays passed I had to make a day-trip to Chicago as part of bringing another portion of my life to a close. And it was during the 12-hour round-trip drive I had loads of time to think. And to ponder. And to re-think and re-ponder. And maybe even wonder a little bit. It was during this trip I decided to stop being such a giant ass and do something about this unbearable situation.

I would get motivated. I would get back into doing photography related things. I would stop looking for excuses as to why I wasn’t doing something and just fucking do it.

And so here I am…. in front of the computer…. adding an entry to my long-neglected photography-related blog. But that’s not all! No!! I’ve already done some other things as well and I’m gonna spill the beans here and now and WOW! you with my steely resolve and dedication. Well…. that is….. if you’re still bothering to read this shit.

First: I bought some books. Not just any ‘ol books either: photography books. For the moment I’ll pass on revealing the author and titles, but suffice it to say I spent no small amount of time researching. I was looking for someone who wasn’t just going to give me a dry dissertation on photography, but someone who would make it feel fun again. I’ll let you know how that goes once I get into them, which will be soon after…

Second: I’m in a photography class. My local camera store, Click! Camera, offers two five-week series of courses designed to help aspiring photographers (hobbyists, not pros) come to grips with this lark. The first course, which started last week, covers the more basic aspects of photography of which I already feel rather certain of. That said, I view this as an opportunity to hopefully expand upon what I already know (or think I know) and to change in wrong information/ideas I might have. And in the meantime…

Third: I caught up with my contacts on Flickr. I regularly follow my contacts uploads and I’m not one who gives them a quick glance in thumbnail sizes. No sir. I open up an extra tab and look at them in slideshow and when I come across one where I wish to leave a comment I return to the previous tab, find the image and leave a comment. I am, if nothing else, a dedicated contact. Except that I wasn’t very dedicated for some months and it took almost an entire week of spending many hours each day in front of the computer to catch up. But I’m glad I did. I enjoy my contact’s pictures and I very much like many of my contacts (the ones with whom I have established a more personal relationship). It felt really good to be caught up.

Fourth: I have revamped my iMac, which is the computer I use for this photography caper. This doesn’t sound like much of anything, but trust me: it’s major. Back when I was working on my old desktop PC and using CaptureOne 4 for editing, etc. I was simply saving my pictures in folders based upon the date I transfered them to the computer from my memory cards. The system was simple, but not particularly helpful at keeping track of my pictures in any meaningful manner. When I purchased the iMac I also purchased Adobe’s Lightroom (v.2), which offered all sorts of options in regards to cataloguing, keywording, etc. To be fair, so did CaptureOne 4, but I had never taken advantage of such options. So not only have I revamped my entire library of photos (not completely true: I haven’t imported the older images edited in CaptureOne to Lr, but I will once I have decided how I want to do this), but I’m going through the slow and laborious process of adding keywords to every single freaking picture I have taken since about May of 2009. No joy, but it should be well worth the effort in the long-term.

Fifth: I entered some pictures into a photography contest! Okay….. this isn’t exactly something new for me as I did enter a picture into a local photography competition last year (taking 2nd place in my category I might add!) and I have entered a handful of pictures into the “Picture of the Week” competition that occurs at my local grocer, but this latest incident is different. Bigger. International. My wife and I regularly donate to an organization called Defenders of Wildlife and this year they are running a photo competition whereby you can enter up to five pics in each of two categories: wildlife and wild lands. As I don’t take much in the way of wild lands photographs I elected to enter the wildlife category, which fortunately for me includes insects! Below are the images I forwarded to the competition:

The important thing about the competition (besides the grand prize, which is a trip to Yellowstone National Park!) is that I entered. That I believed in the power of these particular images. That not entering means there was zero chance I could win, but that entering meant I could win. Sure… the likelihood is quite remote, but that’s not the point. There is some chance…. regardless of how small.

And it is this sort of reaching for what could happen that I need to latch on to. And run with it.

[Update: I just completed the second major process in the way I handle my pictures in Adobe Lightroom by adding keywords to over 1,300 images. What a load off my mind!]