Timing is everything… and I’ve got nothing…

This is not a new subject matter for me, your humble photography narrator. Not by a long shot, but it has been a while since I’ve encountered this particular gem of a let down…

You know what this is?

It's a tree


It is a tree.

Good job.

But do you know what makes this particular tree special?


Well let me tell you…

This morning I was enjoying my breakfast in the t.v. room. I chanced to look out the sliding glass door towards this very tree and what did I see, but two juvenile squirrels playing. I don’t know if it was simply play or courting or what, but it was very, very cute. They would scamper around the tree and pounce upon each other just like kittens do. One or the other would often wind up upside down on the grass while it’s paws playfully coaxed the other to attack. They raced around the tree, up its base a bit… back and forth.

It was one of those moments which would melt the heart of the most jaded soul alive.

And so I watched them for about four or five minutes before I realized I should get up off my ass and grab my camera, which was at the time residing in my car. I put down my glass of milk, raced to the garage, grabbed the camera and began making settings adjustments on the way back to the television room. Upon completion of my task I reached for the handle to the sliding glass door so that I didn’t have to shoot through it when I noticed the squirrels… were… gone.


I myself wasn’t gone but maybe 30-seconds and in that particular span of time the lovely squirrels had decided enough was enough and taken off for other squirrelly pursuits.

Some days I hate being the owner of a camera.

Things in life…

They say there are two things in life of which one may be certain: death and taxes. I’d like to add a third: not working on your blog.

Clearly I’m guilty of such.

As this is a blog dedicated to my adventures in photography one may be forgiven for thinking I had given up photography. And some would further suggest this isn’t such a bad idea! However, they would be wrong. Wrong about my having given up photography, but not about it being a good idea.

I have, actually, been snapping pictures and such ever since my last post regarding the birds in the snow. That was, I might add, a glorious day. One for the record books. And as is my wont I have been all over the place photography-wise. I’ve snapped more pics of the feral and homeless cats I feed and watch over. I’ve snapped some using the daughter and her friend as models. And, of course, there have been birds, flowers, landscapes, etc. I’ve pretty much covered all my usual bases.

Hell.. I even attended a Scott Kelby seminar in Indianapolis, Indiana with my camera store guru and new friend Alex. It was titled “Light It, Shoot It, Re-Touch It”. It was fun and cool and very exciting. Also a bit baffling as I don’t use Photoshop, which is the software he was using for the seminar. Even more bizarre was that I was the grand prize winner of an all-access pass to Photoshop World being held in Las Vegas this coming September. Absolutely wild it was. A room filled with over 500 professional photographers and I, the non-Photoshop using hobbiest, walk away with the grand prize.

Who would have thunk it?

Though all this background information does nothing to explain why I haven’t been posting. I wish I could offer a reasonable or useful explanation, but I have none. Unmotivated? Surely. Lazy? Without doubt. Lacking guidance? Of course.

But if pressed to offer a real reason… if pressed to truly weigh and consider why it is I haven’t been posting for a while I think I would point to two reasons:

1) The situation at home. Meaning, the continued lack of gainful employment coming my way (regardless of the number of resumes I’ve been sending out) and the low-level tension which exists between myself and my ex-wife-to-be. Mind you, we get along just fine. Our problem was never one of fighting or anything like that. The tension comes from simply having to continue living together while anxiously waiting for something good to happen to/for me in the job market so we can get the ball of divorce rolling, so to speak.

2) A lack of direction related to photography.

Point 1 is simply no within the purview of this blog so I shall not venture forth and illuminate you to the particulars in that matter, but I can speak here to point 2.

I enjoy snapping pictures. I really do. I do it almost daily. If not with my dSLR I’m certain to play shutterbug with my cell phone. Hey… a photograph is a photograph regardless of the device used to take it. And while I have no problem with being a basic and generic shutterbug I had hoped… maybe expected… that by now something in particular would have shown itself to be the sort of photography I wished to focus upon.

I don’t know why. I mean, I don’t know why I felt that need at all. Maybe it’s a normal and logical conclusion to which to arrive when one undertakes a new hobby. That at some point in the future the hobby will become more sharply focused. More specific. That it will cease to be something simple and become something more complex. Something which requires more time and dedication and in which one feels as if they are growing within the confines and context of said hobby.

But why does it have to be that way? I suppose it doesn’t. Regardless it is the way I feel and since it’s my hobby and my blog and my life, why shouldn’t I live it the way I feel regardless of how it appears to only add anxiety and complexity where none is necessary?

So where does this leave me exactly? Where am I and what are my plans? My intentions? My concerns and needs?

Fuck all if I know.

I almost wonder if I’m holding back, intentionally or otherwise, simply because I feel as if the rest of my life is on hold. Waiting for a job. Waiting for a divorce. Waiting for finding a new place to live and starting over on my own. Perhaps these up-in-the-air issues are thwarting my attempts to move forward with photography? Or maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe I’m just not certain where to go. What to do.

Hell… I still have a terrible record at figuring out which of my own pictures is better than the rest. I’m still regularly amazed at the reaction I will get to one photograph on flickr, while another, one I think is great, garners little to no attention. For example, I posted the following two pictures a few weeks ago:

The first picture, of my cat Pumpkin sunning himself at the front door, generated 43-views and 6-separate comments. The second picture, of a mallard at a local park, generated 26-views and 1-comment.

The picture of Pumpkin was just a whim. Just me enjoying snapping a photo of one of my cats doing what they do best: getting some sun. The one of the mallard was me doing what I love best: snapping pics of nature. Especially of animals and birds in particular. I worked hard that particular afternoon to grab a handful of good shots of the male and female mallards enjoying the early spring/late winter day at the pond. And I worked hard to narrow down the field of photos until I had what I thought were the best of the best. And this one… this one in particular really stood out for me.

Tack-sharp. Gorgeous colours. A perfect profile.

In my mind the mallard was a winner. Hands down. Should have been favourited and commented upon and loved by all. Instead it was the everyday shot of a cat in the sun which generated the far greater response. What the hell is wrong with me that I don’t see this? Am I too close to my own work to recognize what’s better? I’m I prejudiced to think less of the casual snap of the cat because I didn’t ‘work’ for it? Am I simply incapable of recognizing something basic and fundamental about the images that would have told me the picture of Pumpkin would be the more popular?

For someone who sometimes entertains the notion of trying to sell one’s work it’s very disconcerting to find oneself incapable of recognizing what may be the better work (at least when based upon viewers preferences).

So… where does this leave me at this time? Am I going to continue with this blog? I’d like to think so. I confess to having an idea for another blog, one which I believe is much closer to my heart, but I am concerned that if I cannot remain dedicated to this one why would I be dedicated to another even if it is something more important to me (the subject, not blogging itself)? It’s a dilemma and is, in part, the reason I have yet to commit to starting it.

As if life isn’t messy enough without me trying to make it more so. What a putz.

I Don’t Like Printing…

I really don’t. I’ve had nothing but trouble printing most anything larger than a 6×4-inch print. And 6×4-inch prints are made much easier for me because I have a dedicated 6×4 printer in the guise of the Epson PictureMate Snap 240. Which, I must say, is one wonderful little printer. Consumables aren’t too much and the image quality is very, very close to that of my local camera shop’s printing.

But when it comes to printing 5×7’s or 8×10’s please dear Jesus fucking shoot me.

Of course, part of the problem has been my own. For the longest time I wasn’t making the connection between the aspect ratio of my images as they come off the camera and the aspect ratios of the prints I wished to make. Our modern dSLRs aspect ratio is very similar to that of a 6×4-inch printed picture, but not that of 5×7 or 8×10.

I would frequently be trying to print one of my images as… say…. an 8×10 only to find it would be cropped in weird ways. I know this sounds really basic, but my brain only made this connection very recently. It’s likely just as much a part of how I almost never printed anything but 6×4’s in the past so my brain wasn’t trained to think in other aspect ratios. But this isn’t the complete problem for me.

Look at this for a second…

Pretty nice, eh? I thought so.

This is an image which had remained stuck in my head since I took it in February 2010. I think I’ve had this low-level thought the image could use some sort of processing and so it was the other day I elected to go back to it and fiddle around for awhile. And this is what I came up with. I’m actually very pleased with it. So pleased I decided I wanted to print an 8×10 version and frame it.

And so it was I remembered I would need to recrop the original image to the 8×10 aspect ratio. And so it was done. Easy enough, right? Certainly! And so it was I used Lightroom to export the image as a JPEG and then from within Apple’s Preview programme I printed the image. Now you may ask why I didn’t print directly from Lightroom, but that’s a discussion for another day.

And so Preview was opened, the image loaded and the process of printing commenced. I selected all the various printing attributes necessary to work with my HP Photosmart printer, loaded the 8.5×11 photo stock and printed. I then grabbed my wheeled cutting board (very handy) and trimmed away the excess white stuff. Easy. And today I went out and purchased a frame which I believed would look really nice with the image.

Upon returning home I cleaned the new frame’s glass and inserted the picture into said frame. Or I should say ‘tried’ to insert the picture. My printed and trimmed picture was too large for the frame’s insert area. A quick check with the ruler showed the frame opening to be correctly sized, which left only my so-called 8×10-inch print. A quick check of its dimensions left me with something closer to 8.35×10.6.


Why? What part of the process failed to produce the required 8×10 image upon an 8.5×11 sheet of photography paper? I selected an 8×10 aspect ratio for cropping. I selected 8×10 (without any scaling) in the Page Setup and Printer Setup sections. There wasn’t a single fucking thing to indicate to me I hadn’t done absolutely everything correctly. Nothing. Nada.

And while this personal disappointment and setback is bad enough, what’s worse is that I just finished printing a series of 8×10’s for family and friends of other images and mailed them the other day. This means when they get their prints they will quickly find they are not 8×10 and will need to be trimmed to fit. What a cluster fuck. And I’m so embarrassed. Every time I think I have it figured out I’m only proven wrong.

And while I’ve been discussing the option of picking up a dedicated picture printer (Canon’s PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II or the 9500 version), thanks to the largess of my mother and father, I’m concerned I won’t get better results there either. Either I am doing something fundamentally wrong or there is some sort of weird disconnect between my software and the HP printer. I’d love to say it’s the printer, but I’m afraid it’s me and that’s rather worrisome.

Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed…

Let me just start by quoting a Tweet I posted a few hours ago:

Why o why is the universe fucking me so hard today? And not even some lube…

Yes; it’s been that sort of day.

Let me set the stage for this afternoon’s photography-related, head up my ass, where’s my fucking brain, could I get any dumber, does my life insurance policy exclude payout because of suicide moment. This morning the service technician came round to perform the annual preventive maintenance upon our heat pump (for those of you not in the know, a heat pump is the device by which we cool and heat our home). Only he couldn’t get the damn thing to turn on, which was odd because I knew it had been running.

Notice the emphasis on the word “knew”? No? Well please go back and notice it because it’s important.

So instead of performing the usual PM stuff he goes into diagnostic mode (which means I’m suddenly paying him for the service because the PM is covered by our protection plan) and after some hours comes to the conclusion that the compressor is dead. Like Elvis. Or Michael Jackson. Take your pick.


It was installed almost precisely 10-years, 6-months and 2-days ago. It’s warranty expired at 10-years. Can I get a “Bloody fucking hell,” from the audience? Ah yes…. thank you. To just replace the compressor is almost USD1,900 (that’s GBP1,242 for those of you across the pond). And that would mean placing a brand new compressor into a unit that is already 10+ years old. So all the wiring, electronics, tubing, etc. will still be 10+ years old. And there is silly ol’ me thinking the damn thing had been running just fine, when I stopped to think about it for a few seconds….. No. I guess I haven’t really seen the damn fan thingy spinning round in a few days, but who would have noticed? We haven’t had need to turn on either the air conditioning or heat because the weather has been so glorious.


But this is the cheapest route as to replace the entire outside unit (the box in which the compressor sits with all the other electronics, tubing, etc). would be around USD3,500 (GBP2,289) and to replace the entire system, which means the outside unit as well as the unit indoors (called the air handler) would run from around USD10,000 to USD14,000 (GBP6,540 to GBP9,155) depending upon which system we selected (good, better, best).

Keep in mind I continue to be unemployed.

So that was my morning. Nice one, eh? Loads of expenses with nary two dollars to rub together in the ol’ bank account. But life goes on, right? As part of my new way…. my new plan… I’m not going to let this get me down. I have a roof over my head. Access to the series of tubes we call the Internet. Plenty of food. Friends (ahem). And as such I elect to try and bolster my mood by grabbing my camera and driving back to downtown Dayton, Ohio, so that I can re-shoot a shot I did the other day that did not come out as I needed it to do. It is a shot for my photography class and the result with which I returned Monday morning was simply awful.

Mind you, it is about an hour drive round trip just to re-do this shot, which I really didn’t have to do seeing how I had plenty of other pictures for this particular project. It was just that I really liked this particular idea and thought it would be the best of my choices were I to get it right and I could use the mental diversion, and so I took off….

I arrive downtown. I obtain a spot to park just feet away from where I will take my shot and begin the process of getting my camera out of the bag, putting on the correct lens and turning the camera on. And that is when I noticed this unusual icon appearing in the status/settings screen of my Canon 40D. “What’s this then?” I ask myself and suddenly I’m struck dumb. As if an anvil had dropped upon my head and heart. There was no compact flash card in my camera.

Ohhhhh……. fuck me.

I had taken it out of the camera last night to download the latest batch of pictures to my computer and had not placed the card back into the camera. But wait! I keep a spare 2GB card in the camera bag!! I’m saved… I’m saved!!

Oh fuck me again.

I had ‘borrowed’ said card for my other camera the other day and as such it was still in that camera and not in my camera bag.

For a few moments I had this incredibly overwhelming urge to walk into the oncoming traffic. The authorities would probably rule it an accident (not knowing about my morning’s issues or the missing compact flash card) and my wife would come into all sorts of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of life insurance.

A win-win if you ask me.

But you know what’s really funny about all this? And I mean “funny” in that awkward, deja vu sort of way? Wednesday morning I went out to a local park in hopes of getting shots of some local juvenile bald eagles, who feed along the Stillwater River valley at this time of the year. While the eagles were not out I ran into a nice guy taking pictures of some blue heron and we got to talking about photography equipment and such. During this conversation he mentioned the irritation of occasionally forgetting to have a media card in his camera and I suggested…. I suggested to him that he should buy an inexpensive and small card and keep it in his car’s glove box.

You know….just in case.

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!]

Some Days It Simply Doesn’t Pay To Get Out Of Bed

I have the most lovely neighbors directly across the street. Here’s Goldye:

Isn’t she just adorable?

Her husband Jerry is a nice guy as well and the two of them took off for a two week cruise and just returned a few days ago. Jerry, who recently purchased a Pentax dSLR to replace his dead film camera, didn’t know how he was supposed to get the images off the SD memory card and onto his computer.

Jerry, being Jerry, didn’t ask if I could show him, but instead went straight for the gold, “Mark…..would you mind moving the pictures off my memory card onto…say…four CDs for me?”

“Sure Jerry. No problem.”

And so it was I found myself upstairs and in front of my monster 24-inch iMac with Jerry’s 4GB SD memory card. Fortunately for me I have a SD card reader even though my Canon dSLRs use Compact Flash. My baby Canon A630 and Panasonic SD video camera both make use of SD cards so I need to have one….see? But where was my SD card reader? Hum….

Check around the keyboard for the iMac, which is where I keep the Compact Flash card reader (I know…I don’t have one of those all in one’s).


Hummm….check the box in the closet where I still have located a bunch of computer related stuff from the move up from the basement computer cabinet.



Okay….so maybe I left it down in the basement computer cabinet? Yeah, that must be it. I haven’t yet had a need for it so why would I have brought it upstairs. Silly me.



Return to the upstairs computer room and stand with hands on hips while I scan the room trying to imagine where the little bastard device is hiding. And while standing there I notice a lonely little card reader sitting all by its lonesome on one of the upper shelves of the new computer cabinet.

Mother fuc….

Case solved I sit back down at my computer and swap the Compact Flash reader for the SD reader (the cable works for both), insert the SD card and nothing. No blinking lights. No icon on the desktop. Nothing.


I remove the SD card and unplug the cable from the keyboard USB input, wait a couple of seconds, re-insert the USB plug into the keyboard and re-insert the SD card. Nothing. No blinking lights. Nada.

Oh Jesus fucking bullshit hell.

I yet again unplug the cable from the keyboard when it suddenly hits me like a cricket bat aiming for a 6: I just unplugged my trackball.

The card reader plugs in on the OTHER FUCKING SIDE YOU FUCKING BRAINLESS SOD!!


Oh…but wait…for it continues to get better my dearest readers.

SD card reader problem solved I drag out my handy stash of blank DVDs recognizing that Jerry has more images (in file size) than will fit onto a blank 0.7GB CD. I insert a blank DVD into the computer’s drive, clicking and whirling commence, and a small window opens asking what I want to do and then it hits me: I’ve never done this before with my iMac.

Hard to believe, but in the 10-months I’ve owned this machine I haven’t yet burned a CD or DVD. Haven’t needed to. But still….that just seems odd. Not knowing what to do I elected to Quit or Cancel out of the windows altogether, but afterwards found no icon upon the desktop representing the blank DVD. “No problem,” I think to myself, “as it must be in the Finder or something like that.”

Wrong. Asshole.

I could not find the blank DVD anywhere on this computer. Damn, damn, damn. So I start to think that maybe the window I closed was more important than the dismissive wave of the hand I gave it might suggest. As such, I elect to eject the disc and re-insert it. This time I more cleverly check the various options from the drop-down box and opt to use the default setting “Open Finder”. Fortunately this seemed to be the correct thing to do as an icon for the blank DVD magically appeared upon the iMac’s desktop.

Saints be praised!!

Now all I had to do was copy the image file folders from the SD card to the blank DVD. You know…..I sat there for a full minute thinking to myself “I bet it’s some sort of convoluted process that I won’t recognize and I’ll wind up formatting my hard drive or some such stupid shit. All for trying to help my neighbor.”


Fortunately the experience wasn’t has horrible as I had anticipated other than that I didn’t see the tiny little “Burn” icon on the window that opened after I copied the files to the blank DVD for writing. I actually had to sit and stare at the screen for a couple of seconds until I realized I could probably select the Actions tab and that Burn would probably be there. Which it was.

It was only then I noticed the actual Burn button in the window itself.

I’m still burning and verifying discs…..I’m on number three, but I haven’t had the courage to actually check on them and make certain the files I think I’m copying and burning are actually there. Because they may not be, you know? I mean, nothing else has gone particularly well thus far, right?


So let’s take a peak at this third disc which just finished verifying…… OH THANK THE MAKER! The files are there. And they’re JPEG files. And everything!!

forkboy1965 out…..

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.


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.

Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it…


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.

I hate trains…..

One of my Flickr contacts, trainmanchuff, (as well as fellow group project member) has a passion for the British rail system. He often posts pictures of trains, rail workers and other interesting rail-related items.

Yesterday, after attending the Professional Photographers Association of Ohio event in Dayton, I strolled about downtown Dayton snapping some pictures here and there. This isn’t one of my more favourite things to do photography-wise, but I figured since I was already there…….you know…..when in Rome. I was on my way back to my car, which was parked at the base of an elevated section of rail track, when I heard and then saw a train rumbling along the tracks.

I thought how nice it might be for me to try and grab a few shots in honour of the Chuff Man, but when I raised my camera to my eye I quickly noticed that it was rather difficult to see much of anything of the train. The problems were twofold: (1) being elevated (about 25-feet) the angle cut down on the visibility of the lower section of the train cars, and (2) the train tracks were clearly a number of feet back and away from the edge of the elevated section, thus making even less of the train visible.

So what does one do under these circumstances? Simple: get in the car and haul ass after the train!

I quickly got into my car, buckled the seat belt, gunned the motor and spun around in the direction of the train and tracks. The downtown area of Dayton is rife with one-way streets, which made my mission more difficult as I would often have to travel an extra block out of my way just to be able to head in the correct direction. Add this to the fact I had no idea where the hell I was going (I’m not real familiar with the area) and things got a bit harried.

Eventually I found a road that ran parallel to the tracks, but the tracks remained elevated so that I didn’t have a perspective that was any better. I quickly ran into a new problem that also turned into a blessing. The Great Miami River (which it isn’t…”great” that is) cuts through downtown Dayton and I was quickly coming upon the river and the road upon which I was driving would be turning away from the tracks and then paralleling the river instead.

However, as I came to the point in the road where it turned away from the tracks I noticed that I could stop, park at some company’s now empty parking lot, and possibly climb the berm (built to hold back any potential flood waters) and snap some pics of the train as it rumbled across a train bridge.

Wow! Train bridge AND train! Won’t Chuff be thrilled?!

Well maybe not. You’ll notice that there is no picture embedded into this post and that is for a very good reason: I didn’t get a picture of the train. See, as I finally made it to the top of the berm (a steep and somewhat slippery climb of 15 or so feet) the last car of the train came into view and quickly disappeared across the train bridge.


Imagine the picture…..a mid-40’s man standing atop a berm in the late afternoon sun, camera in hand and yelling “Come back here you piece of shit! I gotta take your picture! Fucking crap!”

Not exactly a Norman Rockwell moment, eh?

ISO 1600 was my friend

Two Saturdays ago my wife and I had the opportunity to attend a voice recital that had been put together by our friend and neighbor Jerome Kopmar. He has been the Cantor Emeritus at a local synagogue and has performed around the globe. He is also a voice instructor and one of his better/best students also performed this particular evening. Last year’s recital (which I saw without my wife due to her being out of town) was just as nice, but a little smaller in scope and held at a different location. I did not bring my camera to that performance, but did ask if I could bring my 40D with me to this one and Jerry agreed.

The one caveat I was given was that I could not use a flash. This seemed quite reasonable considering how the flash popping on would no doubt have blinded him, if only momentarily, making it rather difficult to read his sheet music.


Once my wife and I arrived at the synagogue (this was his former synagogue, if I understood matters correctly, and they had asked if he would put on this year’s performance at the synagogue) I took some preliminary shots within the room the performance would be done. Poor results. The lighting was chaotic in that there were both compact florescent lights as well as incandescent sprinkled about the recesses of the ceiling. But to add real insult to injury was the fact the room was fairly dark. Well, dark as far as cameras are concerned.

It’s amazing how much more light is needed for a camera to capture an image at a lower ISO. Lighting conditions that seem quite fine and reasonable to our eyes can be total shit for the camera and it’s sensor. I knew this fact, but really hadn’t been exposed to it until this particular evening. I had brought along my trusty Canon 70-200mm f/4 zoom (constant f/4) and even it had one helluva time gathering enough light to make the sensor happy. During my pre-performance practice shots I kept bumping up the ISO in an attempt to obtain at least a 1/60 shutter speed, which I felt was necessary considering tonight’s performers would not be static forms upon the stage. About the best I could ever achieve was 1/30 when using my highest standard ISO setting: 1600.


First: thank the heavens for Image Stabilization. A tripod was unreasonable for this endeavor and I do not own a monopod. Image stabilization saved my ass (and photos) on more than one occasion and I am so glad I spent the extra dough to get this feature in my lenses.

Second: ISO 1600 on the Canon 40D is usable, but just. Noise was a common problem throughout the range of pictures, but it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. Yet it was bad enough.

I also became acutely aware of how loud is my camera. I’m not saying it’s louder than any other dSLR, but when all eyes and ears are focused upon a performer onstage, the sudden sound of a dSLR mirror flipping up, shutter curtain opening then closing, and the mirror flipping back down sounds like…..well…..like a cannon going off. I don’t think it disturbed anyone and I did check with Jerry during the intermission, asking if either my movement about the room or the sound of my camera irritated him. He quickly dismissed such notions and thanked me for not only attending, but for taking pictures (which I have, of course, shared with him and his wife).

Without having yet done any research on the issue of shooting under such circumstances, I have a hard time imagining what sort of thing I could do to obtain better results that wouldn’t involve adding lighting, which is out of the question. Shooting wide open with a pretty decent f/4 lens…..other than bumping up the ISO what is one to do?

I mean, other than purchase a Canon 5D Mark II which can shoot at even higher ISOs with less noise!