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.

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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.

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!]

Does JPEG Make More Sense?

Over the past month or so I have been considering my general absence from dSLR photography. And during the course of pondering, considering and talking to myself…outloud…which can be rather disconcerting to those around me….I have further honed a thought that I have had and shared on numerous other occasions:

I really like being behind the camera, but not in front of the computer.

I mean, I don’t particularly care for the process of going through my photos, picking keepers from dumpers, and then editing them to turn them into something better or even tweaking them for upload to Flickr.

I had, for a while, dismissed my lack of interest in such matters as being a reaction to the complexities of Photoshop and Lightroom. To address this particular issue I have undergone a metamorphosis, if you will, by reading, watching and listening to any number of websites, podcasts and online videos related to the proper and creative use of Photoshop and Lightroom.

And while this information collecting has left me feeling more comfortable and confident about the use of these fine pieces of software it has done nothing to dissuade me from the general sense of apathy I have about using them.

So what does one do?

I mean, there’s little reason to continue to hang on to my cameras, lenses, flash and other assorted photography-related items if I have no intention of putting them to use, right?

But that’s absurd as well because I desperately want to put them to work. Because I really enjoy being behind the camera. So you can see the problem.

And then just today, while watching some lovely red cardinals soar from tree to tree in our back garden, I thought to myself “How could I mitigate the amount of time I spend in front of the computer?” in regards to the whole process and what-not as related to this photography caper?

Shoot in JPEG.

Okay….shooting in JPEG doesn’t mean I don’t have to sift through my shoots and sort keepers from flushers, but as the amount of processing that can be reasonably done to a JPEG is monumentally smaller than that which can be done to a RAW file….well….you get the picture. (pun completely and utterly intended)

And by processing I don’t mean the creative sort of stuff one typically does in Photoshop, but the more basic sort of processing at which software like Lightroom excels. The sort of processing I have been doing, but do not particularly enjoy.

As an added bonus I wonder if the switch to shooting in JPEG would force me to become a better photographer? I mean, without the ability to make monumental and wholesale changes to my image file I would have to learn to shoot better pictures to begin with, wouldn’t I?

And certainly there is no correlation between excellent photography and file type, right? A quick look around Flickr convinces me that the skills, knowledge and creativity needed to make exceptional images has little if nothing to do with whether or not one shoots in JPEG or RAW.

But I don’t know….it’s a major paradigm shift, isn’t it? And what about the ability to save a picture shot in RAW that might otherwise be for the trash bin if shoot in JPEG? The way I shoot I need every saving grace I can get both hands upon.

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…

Creative juices flowing…but it makes for a messy keyboard

Neither Flickr nor WordPress (at least this particular WordPress blog of mine) have seen much action since May. I spoke to such about a month ago here, on this WP blog, but haven’t returned as I still continued to feel uninspired. Uninspired to photograph or go through the hundreds of pics I already had loaded onto the iMac, but hadn’t yet viewed, etc.

But today, while putting together my contribution for the month of July’s group project, I suddenly felt…well…inspired. Okay. Maybe inspired is too strong a word, but I felt something akin to pleasure and/or happiness as I puttered around with my pictures; first in Lightroom and then in Elements. Yep. I used BOTH Lightroom and Elements. Unheard of for me, which you would already know if you have followed my blog for any period of time.

So I’m hoping this means I’m ready to return. Maybe not to jump in with both feet, but maybe to drop a toe or two into the waters that are photography and see what comes of it all.

Here’s to getting my toes wet!