Welcome Surprises…

Being an amateur photographer I’m accustomed to surprises. Unfortunately they tend to be of the un-welcomed variety.

Like the time I first took out my brand new 70-200mm lens. Photographing cardinals in an ice-covered tree I’d press the shutter release and nothing would happen. Then some seconds later “click”. I spent two or three minutes thinking there was something wrong with the lens, when in truth there was something wrong with me: I hadn’t changed the camera settings back from self-timer after my last use.

(sigh)

But sometimes we hobbyist photographers get lucky. Something cool happens. We’re playing in post-processing and chance upon a setting which really makes our otherwise average photo really sing. Or once home and in front of the computer we realize the pictures we took and thought were ho-hum on the camera’s LCD screen are actually pretty good. These are great moments.

But today I’m talking about coming across something within the actual image, which we hadn’t originally seen. For instance, we start with this basic flower picture…

A pretty picture of a pretty flower. But nothing surprising about it. Right? Well when working with this in Lightroom with a large, 24-inch monitor I came across this…

Isn’t it cute?

Sure… this isn’t a big surprise. A bug. On a flower. Outdoors. It could happen. But it was unexpected and unseen when I snapped the picture. Hell.. it was only because I was playing with cropping that I even saw this little fellow in the soft shaft of sunlight falling upon the petal.

And just the other day I was out at a local garden, Wegerzyn Garden (part of the Dayton, Ohio, area Five Rivers MetroParks system), snapping pics of late Spring flowers when I came across a bee. A bee doing its busy bee thing and so I started snapping a series of pics of it on this one particular flower.

When I got home and was going through the images I had, once again, zoomed in to better see the bee when I … well… well see for yourself.

The poor little bee has what I am certain is an unwelcome guest: a mite!

While I’m certain the bee could live without this Faustian nightmare, I can’t help but think how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right moment such that I could capture this bit of nature.

I’ll take these sorts of surprises any day of the week over not clearing previous session settings.

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Firsts for 2011…

It seems a bit funny to be typing “Firsts for 2011” when one considers we are…. what…. half-way into 2011. But I think it will all make more sense when you see….

While certainly not the first butterfly to be found in the Dayton, Ohio, area in 2011 it is my first shot of one. I imagine folks who venture to my flickr photostream get tired of shots of my butterflies. But that’s their problem. I love photographing them. They are such beautiful little creatures and seeing them on my computer monitor makes me smile. Their bright colours. Sometimes iridescent.

Like I mentioned in one of my more recent posts, if I enjoy it why shouldn’t I photograph it? It is, after all, my hobby. My passion. I should shoot what makes me happy. Granted, I hope others enjoy those images as well, but ultimately the only person I need to satisfy is myself.

I also have a penchant for photographing…

Although I’m not certain what I’m really photographing in this image. I was shooting for the bee (I do love bees.. at least in terms of photography), but wound up focused upon the flower instead. But I do enjoy photographing flowers as well, just not as much as bees and other bugs.

At first I was going to delete the image from my hard drive as it wasn’t what I was looking for. You know… I nice & sharp picture of the bee. But before I could flag it as a reject in Lightroom I think I realized how this photo worked just fine after all. The flower is lovely and the bee, while out of focus, is still in-focus enough that I, and any other viewer, immediately recognize it’s a bee.

And upon further consideration I decided that this ‘mistake’ was actually a very nice photograph. Or at least I think so.

And sometimes I manage to get it right…

My last post described a moment that left me wondering if I really should bother at all with this little endeavor known as photography. After all, I’m celebrating the end of my third year with my first dSLR this very month and yet I still manage to screw things up royally all the time.

(sigh)

Regardless, there are moments, few but they exist, where I feel like I have gotten things right. Maybe even a bit more than right: really great. This for example strikes me as one of those really great moments:

My lovely little niece Clarissa (aka Claire Bear), one of a set of triplets belonging to my sister, playing at some playground at some park not too far from my sister’s house outside St. Augustine, Florida. It’s a picture with which I was quite happy. I felt it framed-up well and the amount of fill-flash I threw at it really helped make her pop a bit, without being too-flashy.

And while I typically eschew fooling around with my pictures and ‘doing things’ to them I got a bit creative with this one and made it even better. Or so I think.

Not too shabby, or so I think.

Actually, the pictures I took on this trip in late October were, on the whole, very good. I will concede there were enough to hit the cutting room floor, so to speak, but in general I had far more keepers than I had expected. And to be frank this was no small feat considering I was mostly shooting small, constantly moving targets, consisting of two boys and girl, all 20-months old.

In addition, lighting conditions often dictated the need for flash, but I refused to just through the camera into Program mode and let it do all the work. Instead I elected to shoot as I most usually do, in Aperture priority, and use my flash for fill purposes. This usually entailed taking a picture or two so that I could dial-in the correct amount of flash (or should I say “the amount of flash I found appropriate”), but once that was accomplished I was off and running.

I endeavored to remember all the basics about shooting little kids: get on their level, try and capture candid moments as well as posed ones, move quickly to keep up with them, etc. No doubt I must have looked the fool some days, running around trying to keep up with these three knee-biters. Of course one morning when visiting the very park in which the above picture was taken, I would very much have liked to spend an awful lot of time photographing one of other mothers. Wow.

Anyway….

When I returned home and had the pictures up on the computer I was surprised at how many keepers I had and how much I really had enjoyed taking all these pictures.

But something did bother me a bit during this trip. I regularly felt the adults would rather I not be sticking my camera into everything and snapping photos here and there as it were. Usually I think the objection was more to having their own picture taken than anything else, but I really don’t understand why it’s such a problem for folks.

If I take a bad picture of you I’m not going to keep it. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad because they look bad (bad hair, eyes closed, whatever, etc.) or because the image is technically bad. It’s a tosser regardless. Perhaps it’s just the sentimentalist in me, but I’ve always enjoyed recording moments in life.

During my 20’s, when I led a rather wild life, I was the only one in my group who had a camera and while I wasn’t snapping pictures every weekend I could be counted on to have one around often enough. As such I have a nice collection of photographs capturing some truly wonderful times in my life, while many of those very same friends have nothing, but the vague memories. If that because there certainly was a lot of alcohol involved and we all know what that does to memories.

This aversion to having ones picture taken is best exemplified by my very own family. Neither my wife nor daughter want their picture taken. Ever. Under any circumstances. My wife didn’t used to shy away from such, but as we grew older together she became less and less willing to have her picture taken. And the daughter? Short of those pictures taken at school she damn near pitches what might best be described as a hissy fit if I try to take her picture.

However, and in fairness to the daughter, she has deigned on occasion to allow me to photograph her and cooperated as my model one afternoon from which I got some awesome pictures of her. But that was the first and LAST time that would happen.

The end result: there are no family type pictures of myself, my wife and my daughter from the past five or six years. Maybe even longer. This saddens me to no end, but I suppose I shouldn’t be completely surprised considering the type of people they have grown into over the past few years. But that’s a story for my counselor.

Ohhh iPhone…How I Love Thee

Anyone who has read my various postings already knows I’m not right in the head. I’m “special” as my colleagues across the pond might say. I have a variety of hang-ups about photography, my abilities as related to photography, and in particular of the creative process that can be explored via software.

So why is it I love my iPhone and its camera?

Let’s be honest: as a camera it is mediocre at best. Granted, the 3GS model does bring larger sized images than did the 3G model, but I’m not certain there was any appreciable increase in the quality of the images. I could list all the flaws in the camera built in to this device, but what would be the point? Describing it as “mediocre” probably sums it up well enough.

Yet I find it completely irrelevant. I love using it. I love snapping pictures anytime and anywhere. This does not come as a surprise as I have often noted how much more I love being actually behind the camera as opposed to in front of the computer monitor, labouring with the process of editing, etc. And so I snap, and snap and snap every single day. Some I simply share via e-mail with family and/or friends, while other images are simply for my enjoyment.

But I have also found a strong and pleasant feeling that comes with playing around with my images via the numerous photo editing apps I have downloaded and installed on my iPhone. At this moment in time I have five different apps, each of which is solely dedicated to editing the images I take with my iPhone. I actually have a few other image-related apps, but they aren’t related to actually editing images.

Anyway….

I enjoy messing around with these apps in ways I have yet to be excited by the likes of Photoshop Elements. And I find this weird. Elements is such a powerful piece of software with the capabilities and abilities to do so many things, yet I have not embraced them. No doubt this is due, in no small part, to my lack of creativity. When I see my images I do not ‘see’ what I might do with them other than to correct exposure, add some contrast, etc.

Yet, I look quite forward to massaging my iPhone images through any of the various apps I have installed, preferring Photogene and Best Camera the most thus far. Why? Maybe it’s because I can do this…

I have been pondering this question for the past few weeks after I noticed how much I enjoyed working with my images on my phone. About the only reason I can offer is that these apps are really pretty basic and don’t actually require me to be creative, but instead to simply be satisfied with the results.

Most of the apps installed offer preset effects which are applied to your image. Best Camera ups the ante by allowing the user to layer more than one effect, which I’ve made use of one more than one occasion. Perhaps it is this simplicity, this “Don’t worry your head about it Forkie….we’ll suss it all for ya,” that I like, prefer and need?

Whatever is the reasoning, the opening splash screen for the Best Camera app states “The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You,” and they are spot on. I may love my 40D and Rebel XTi (400D), and I may lust for the Canon 7D, but I’ll be damned if my iPhone really isn’t the best camera sometimes…because it’s always with me in ways the others cannot.

Lights! Camera! Shit!

Never let it be said bad timing isn’t my friend…because it is.

While driving this morning on an errand, I was taken aback by how lovely were the reflections of the recently installed street lamps, as well as the red lights of the traffic signals, upon the rain-slicked road as it stretched out before me.

As I came closer to the intersection I decided the view was too much to pass up without breaking out the always-at-the-ready Canon Rebel XTi/400D. I turned round the car, drove back about a half-mile, turned back around and pulled over onto the shoulder of the road. I pulled the camera bag up to the front street, broke out the camera and began fiddling with the settings to make the most of this cloudy and raining morning.

ISO? 400. White balance? Cloudy. Auto-focus? On. Focus point(s)? All. Aperture? 7.1. Ready!

I checked my mirrors for vehicles coming up behind me and with the all-clear noted I vacated my vehicle and found myself standing in the gently falling rain. About to venture into the oft busy two lane road (so that I might have a nicely centered shot) I look in the direction of the beautifully reflected lights when click:

The street lamps cycled off.

Mutherfu….

I can only imagine how bizarre I must have appeared to those folks driving by as I stood next to my car, facing the direction of the formerly lovely scene, yelling obscenities at the lights.

Really? Has It Been A Month?

Where does the time go, eh?

But I guess it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I haven’t been posting to this blog about photography when I haven’t really been taking pictures. But that isn’t completely true. I actually have a pretty large catalogue of unprocessed/edited photos sitting on my computer. I have the intent to boot-up the machine and sit down and go through them all, etc., but I just don’t seem to make it to the chair. I wish I understood why the trepidation. But for now I refuse to get too worked up about it. I figure that like many of my creative moments in life it will come to me when it comes to me and there is no point in pushing it upon myself.

That or I’m simply a lazy sod.

I think I’ll go with lazy sod.

But all this laziness doesn’t mean I haven’t been something of a shutter bug. Please note:

Charleston Falls

I have found myself making no small use of my somewhat recently acquired iPhone and its camera. My previous mobile blowers also had cameras, but neither (the Motorola RAZR and Palm Centro) were of any particular use for taking pictures that one might wish to share in a forum such as the Internet. But the iPhone does a pretty reasonable job all things considered. And there is a wealth of iPhone apps dedicated to photo editing and I have downloaded a fistful and make good use of each on almost a daily basis. The above picture was captured with the iPhone while I was hiking and then edited using an app named Camera Bag.

A worthwhile moment to mention here, on WordPress, is that I both entered a local photography contest and walked away with second place within the category I entered. I haven’t entered an actual contest until this one popped up so I’m quite surprised and excited that I actually won something! The contest was via Woodland Cemetery in Dayton and winners were announced last weekend on the 11th. I had entered this picture:

Winning Picture

It is actually a Photoshop Elements processed picture I took back in February (I think). It’s one of the first pictures I ever fiddled with in Elements, but oddly enough and as much as I liked it, I never posted it to Flickr. Probably part of being a lazy sod, you know? But still….second place. Awesome.

Here is a picture of me, looking rather rumbled and weird, next to my winning entry:
Contest Winner

After the winners were announced it became known to me that the cemetery was offering one of those walk-about type things where a guided tour is provided of some of the more important or interesting characters buried within the cemetery. At each of the graves of said folks there is an actor/actress who talks about the person as if they were the dearly deceased. Since I was already there I opted to stick around and take the tour, which lasted about two hours. During this time I snapped some pics with my handy Canon Rebel/400, but also clicked away here and there with the iPhone, thus obtaining this picture:

Cemetery Walk

It is actually a crop of the original (I removed the others on the tour) and I know…I know…he really should be in the left of the picture for a better sense of balance, but this was all done on the fly and from within the crowd of folks. The wasn’t a whole lot of time for getting the best angle, etc. so I’m lucky to have what I have. I made use of the iPhone app Photogene to perform the crop and conversion to something akin to sepia. I’m pleased enough with the results considering all things.

Lastly, the other day I was going through some pictures my cousin had uploaded to Facebook of a day trip she and her son took to some park near where they live. Some of the pictures were taken around the shoreline of a small lake and included lily pads. Lily pads always remind me of Monet, which always reminds me of the work of Impressionists. Wheels slowing clicking I emailed my cousin and asked for a full-sized copy of a particular picture, which included my nephew on a dock, laying, while playing with some of the lily pads in the water. Opened in Photoshop Elements (cuz I don’t have the grown-up version of Photoshop) I played around with it all morning to create an Impressionistic version of the image with the end result being thus:

Noel Upload

I actually created two versions and I still haven’t decided which one I prefer, but it was a somewhat fun way to spend a few hours this morning. I say “somewhat fun” because I really didn’t obtain quite the result for which I was looking. Both versions are close, but not quite there and I eventually grew both tired and a bit aggravated as my hoped-for results were alluding me. This might explain why I don’t particularly care to do this sort of photo editing, you know?

Scientific progress goes “Boink!”

For the most part my Flickr account has been used to upload photos taken with both my trusty Canon 40D and Rebel XTi (400D for our overseas readers). But I have uploaded some photos taken in the past with my Canon point-n-shoot devices: the Powershot A95 and A630.

But I, like so many others, have a cell phone, which includes a camera. My first camera phone was the Motorola RAZR; a decent phone in most regards (if only it had been a reliable phone). My next camera phone was/is my very trust and handy Palm Centro. It shoots both images as well as video and has proven to be a great phone for the particular reasons I purchased it.

But I have now moved on after almost two-years with my black and silver-accented Centro to the latest incarnation of the Apple iPhone. It too shots video and pictures. It shoots better pictures and video than does my Centro. But my problem is I don’t know what to do with the pictures.

Clearly I can save them on my iMac. Clearly I can e-mail them to friends and family alike. One day, hopefully soon, AT&T (the only carrier for the iPhone in the United States) will finally get its shit together and allow for the sending of media (including pictures) via text messaging. (“End of summer,” they keep promising, but not definite date has yet to be announced)

But should I upload them to my Flickr account? Flickr is for sharing photographs and a photograph is a photograph, whether it comes off a dSLR, a point-n-shoot or a mobile blower. But for some reason I feel that my intent for my Flickr account would be violated, if only gently, by the inclusion of images from the iPhone.

I see some sleepless nights ahead of me…