A mental hump…

For some time my parents, my mother in particular, have been encouraging… perhaps pushing… me to look into selling some of my pictures as prints. Personally I think this is rather deranged even though I do think I get some good shots on occasion…

An occasional good shot

While I do love the encouraging words and thoughts it’s the sort of thing I imagine many children take with a grain of salt. You know… of course mom and dad are going to be supportive and such. It’s all part of the job, right?

Please don’t misunderstand. I do not mean to impugne their encouragement in any way. It’s mostly a matter of it being easier to dismiss such support than it is to embrace it. It’s part of the way I work, for better or worse. (worse I’m certain)

But also of late I have been receiving no small amount of prodding, encouragement and definite pushing from my neighbors and friends, the Edwards. They are a couple who live across the street and whose lawn I mow. We have long had this lawn-mowing relationship, but over the past five or so months it has bloomed into a friendship as well.

Part of this friendship has included a lot of pushing me to seriously consider selling my images as prints. Lynda, herself an artist and lover of art, has been particularly encouraging, helping me to think about various ways I might get my feet wet in the world of selling one’s own works.

And truth be told I wouldn’t mind giving it a whirl…

Albino squirrel

Our albino squirrel: Abbie

We have discussed obtaining a booth in a local art festival, but that one was already closed to new entries. But there remains other opportunities coming up as we move from the dog days of summer into the more pleasant months of Autumn.

But there remains one single hurdle… hump, if you will… which I need to overcome and that is the one of self-deprecation.

Simply put: I like, even love, some of my work, but it’s one thing to think well of your own work and another to think highly enough such that others would be willing to part with their hard-earned cash for it.

It is an obstacle with which I have been fighting for pretty much all my life. Not about photography specifically, but about most anything at which I showed any genuine talent. It’s part of who I am to doubt myself. To be insecure. To see no worth in whatever it is I can do, whether I do it well or not.

However, I do not image this isn’t an uncommon problem amongst artists. Not that I wish to place myself into the same category as real artists (see? there! I’m doing it already), but aren’t we usually our own worst critics?

I know plenty of folks on Flickr whose work I think is vastly superior to my own, yet there is nothing wrong with my work. More to the point, there is nothing saying that others, the public, wouldn’t enjoy my prints as much as I enjoy the pictures of others on Flickr.

Fortunately a very strange thing occurred on Friday while I was in attendance at a First Friday event in a small town south of where I live. I have attended a handful of the First Friday events at this place and learned the other day the event is doing well enough that they are in the process of converting the basement space into studios. And while I don’t need studio space it is a space from which to sell my wares.

Oddly enough, when I heard about this instead of thinking the usual thoughts (“No one would buy my pictures,” etc.) and putting up obstacles to success I was almost giddy with the idea that I might give it a try. That I could make it work.

Unheard of.

Woodland flower

Woodland flower

Now that the weekend has passed I wonder if I might be better served by trying to work some fairs and festivals for a year or two if for no other reason than to gauge the market potential for selling my work. After all, the rental of a booth at a weekend art festival is far less than that of rent for a space in a building.

Please don’t construe this to mean I’m back-tracking upon myself. No. Instead I prefer to think it is being more realistic and reasonable about the appropriate way to commence such a bold adventure. So let’s see if we can get this whole thing rolling…

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It’s about the batteries you know…

Modern dSLR photography has a great number of advantages to it, but one I doubt many folks consider is the battery. I think it is quite possible the rise of digital SLR photography was made significantly better by the rapid improvements to rechargeable Lithium batteries.

If you previously owned a straight-up 35mm SLR film camera built more than 8 or 9 years ago then you probably remember having to deal with specialty batteries which powered those cameras. Simple AA batteries were not used, but more expensive types. The same was true for many flash units as well.

But dSLRs were, are and will remain far more power-hungry than their film counterparts. Besides many of the electrical needs shared between modern dSLRs and the last few years of SLRs were metering systems, in-the-viewfinder graphics and turning the in-lens focusing system. But dSLRS threw more needs into the power pot in the manner of charging the sensor, transferring data from the sensor to the CPU, transferring data to the media card, lighting the LCD screen, and, later, jiggling the anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor in an attempt to remove dust.

I truly believe that without superior battery technology the world of dSLR photography would never have gotten off the ground. And yet we still find ourselves using plenty of AA batteries in all sorts of ancillary photography equipment. I myself use them for my flash, my wireless firing electronics for the flash as well as my point-n-shoot digital camera which still gets something of a workout.

Some years ago I made the jump to rechargeable AA batteries via the folks at Energizer. I don’t really know if Energizer is better than Duracell is better than Rayovac is better than…., but I had experienced good life with their non-rechargeable AA’s and figured I’d stick with the devil I knew. To be fair I was impressed with them as well. They lasted longer than regular alkaline batteries and the like. They were rechargeable, which meant they should be better for the environment and as I purchased plenty of them I was never without some on hand, charged, and ready to go.

But I soon realized not all was well in Energizer-land. I quickly discovered the batteries didn’t hold a charge very well if they weren’t used. Place them into my flash and not use it for a month or two and when I need it to work the batteries would fire for what I thought was too short a time and then die. I wasn’t impressed. And for all the advertising about how many times they could be recharged I didn’t find the picture as rosy.

But then one day I read about these…

Sanyo Eneloop Batteries & Charger

I no longer recall where I read about them (some photography blog), but the author claimed they were THE battery to own, especially if you were a photographer in need of AA’s. I had neither heard of them before nor seen them to my recollection, but I filed this bit of information away. And not a few weeks later I found myself in the hallowed halls of Costco and stumbled across a package of Sanyo Eneloop batteries.

Said package included the charger, 8-AA’s and 4-AAA’s all for something like $26. A quick check on the phone at Amazon showed $35 or so. Well… what’s a guy to do? I felt a bit silly spending $26 on batteries and chargers when at home I knew I must have had 16 or so Energizer AA’s and two recharging devices. But the words of the author and my experience thus far with the Energizers said “Buy it. Do it. You’ll regret it if you don’t.” And so I did.

And let me tell you I’ll never go back.

I don’t pretend to understand what it is Sanyo does to make these batteries so awesome, but awesome they are. And mind you, my associations with Sanyo go back to childhood in the way of cheap and crappy car stereos, bedside clock/radios and the like. Sanyo was not a company who’s name I held in high esteem. But these batteries rule.

Perfect example… right now, sitting in my flash, are four Eneloop AA batteries I fully charged about a month ago. I’ve used the flash maybe twice and one time included an outing lasting about an hour and included over 150-images being taken. “Staggering” is the word which comes to my mind based upon my experience with other rechargeables.

Those others would barely have lasted the month sitting there doing nothing, much less worked through two outings. No way. No how. Thoroughly and completely impressed I am.

It’s funny… I, like many I imagine, have come to expect nothing less than thousands of shots from their rechargeable Lithium camera batteries, but probably don’t think much about the poor AA’s they stuff into flashs, point-n-shoots and accessories. But if more knew about the Eneloops I’m pretty certain they would see those pretenders out there in a very different light.

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

YES!

It is a tree.

Good job.

But do you know what makes this particular tree special?

No?

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.

Shit.

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.

And so it sweats…

My last post discusses the beginning salvo of my SoBoFoMo project revolving around the feral and homeless cats I watch over and feed. Since then I have encountered two bits of ‘fun’ I thought I’d share.

Here’s fun number one:

The weather...

Yeah. It says “90” right now (and ‘right now’ is almost 9:30p.m.), but it was 96 at the peak today with a heat index of around 110. You know… I left Florida to escape this sort of thing.

(sigh)

It has been like this all week and will remain like this through tomorrow, as you can see in the above picture. While things will cool-off over the weekend and into the week it’s still scheduled to be warmer than average. Just not stupid-hot. Needless to say working with a dSLR in this heat, with this humidity, in a small wood which only serves to trap the humidity under the leafy canopy (and between the two humidity is far worse than direct sunlight) I’ve been reluctant to shoot pictures.

The cats look and act distressed (lethargic) and I don’t blame them. It’s nasty. I myself looked as if I had just stepped out of the shower as I returned to my car to come back home. And into a real shower.

(heavenly sigh)

So this first week of photography has yielded precisely three-days of photographs when I had planned at least six. Kid you not… the camera actually slipped out of my hand the other day as both it and my hand were so covered in sweat.

Gross… I know!

But I did learn something yesterday while out with the camera and I apologize for not having the pictures to prove it as I’m entering this blog post from a different computer. What I “discovered” is when trying to photograph cats in a small wood with a flash attached to the camera there is a very good chance the flash will highlight… even over-expose… the leaves and branches that lay between the cat and me; the humble photographer.

This does not lead to the sort of results one had hoped for. It also begs the question: does forkboy have the slightest clue what he’s doing?

It’s probably best we don’t answer that…

And so it begins…

Solo Photo Book Month.

31-consecutive days to create a PDF book for upload to the SoFoBoMo site. Said book containing at least 35-newly taken pictures.

Text? If you’d like.

Fancy or plain? Doesn’t matter.

It’s something to do. Something to try. A new way to express myself centered around photography, but creating something more than a finished JPEG for upload to Flickr.

And so it was I began photographing on Thursday.

As these books typically revolve around a theme of some sort I opted to go with one close to my heart: the feral and homeless cats. It’s a shame I cannot use the plethora of pictures I already have, but that isn’t the purpose of the project. Not that I have any objection regarding taking more photographs of the cats, but there is a difference between just snapping pics because I want to versus needing to.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get some nice shots anyway.

I have already noticed a difference in my temperament regarding shooting as a need: I’m not real patient.

I suppose part of the issue is that I feel I will need to spend more time on the book creation part than the principal photography so there is an impetus to get the photography out of the way, so to speak. However, like most any creative process (and undoubtedly photography is a creative process) there will be great days and not-so-great days. These first two days have provided some good pictures, but not as many as I had hoped for.

Granted, part of the problem is lighting. Specifically: the lack thereof.

As the homeless and feral cats live in a small wood and as this time of the year the wood is in full-leaf there is not a whole lot in the way of light on the forest floor, where the cats reside. Certainly shooting at higher ISO’s is possible, but it’s not exactly what I had in mind for quality photos for this project. Still.. not all has been lost.

It occurred to me I should submit the idea to SoFoBoMo for having these projects sprinkled through at least three portions of the year. This way those who elect to participate are not trapped into one season and one season only, such as we are currently. For my purposes mid- to late-Autumn would be a far more ideal time as sunlight reaches the forest floor quite readily with the disappearance of the leaves. There is also the problem of it being particularly warm to hot at this time of the year meaning we photographers who elect to work outside find ourselves sweating for our work.

Blech. (oh… and not to mention the issue with mosquitos, which are a major issue at this time of the year)

So I snapped almost 200-pictures in two days and of that I felt maybe 5 were real keepers for the project. Granted…I kept more than that: 63. But I kept those additional 58 only because I may find myself in need of them to make this project work as principal photography time winds down and book creation gears up.

However, while I was becoming rather frustrated with the natural light situation in the wood, it occurred to me that I could try to rectify the situation by introducing some of my own lighting. While this may require fiddling about and experimenting a bit, and thus costing me valuable shooting time, it may be a solution to my lighting problem.

Bringing my own lighting could help immensely in getting the shots I both want and need for the project. Sure… things aren’t so bad without the addition of lighting…

But instead of shooting a bunch of pictures and having to dump 95% of them simply because there is blur (thanks to camera shake and/or moving subject), I could salvage a lot of those shots and then find myself in the enviable position of having to select the best composed and framed instead. Not such a bad deal after all.

Of course it does mean making some decisions about what is both useful and practical in regard to bringing in some lighting. I could go with the most basic and simple solution: on-camera flash. Let the camera make all the decisions and hope for the best. Or I could shoot as I typically do (aperture-priority) and shoot the flash manually, just adding fill. Or so I hope.

Or I could take it a step further and bring my portable light kit with me and drag around a light stand, umbrella and electronics in hopes of getting the most effective use of my flash. While this route sounds very appetizing for what it could bring to the picture quality it also has the horrible down-side of meaning dragging a bunch of equipment through a wood rife with shrubs, trees, thorny-things, etc.

I confess it sounds like more work than it may be worth.

I suppose the solution is to try the on-camera options and see what results I can obtain. Ultimately I want great photos, but I must temper this desire with expediency as well.

Such is the life of a photographer, eh?

Not according to plan…

It was supposed to be a perfect day. The weather, while warmer than I like, was very nice. A good breeze. Reasonable humidity. Plenty of sunshine and enough puffy, white clouds to make it an attractive sky.

You know… a good day.

And when nature hands you a good day you should take advantage of it with your camera and so it was I made some plans. A quick trip south of Dayton to collect a ring I was having re-sized and then a short journey to Cox Arboretum to take full advantage of the very recently opened Butterfly House!

As they say… the best laid plans…

Jeweler was closed for the week. On vacation. I didn’t know about it and I had been saving my trip to the store for post-butterfly house opening seeing how both the store and Cox Arboretum are not exactly around the corner from my house.

“Oh well,” I thought. “The butterflies will more than make up for this,” was the thinking which cheered me up. Except the butterflies were not in attendance at the butterfly house.

Nope.

Maybe four or five small monarchs.

(sigh)

I think this happened to me two years ago. Early July, regardless of the fact the butterfly house is open, is too early for the butterflies. I need to give it until the end of the month before things really start to pick up. (make mental note about such so we don’t have to write about this problem again next year)

Well… adopting the make lemonade mantra when life hands you lemons, I moved on to the various ponds at Cox Arboretum thinking I may grab some shots of the dragonflies. I do love dragonflies. But again it is just a bit too early in the season for them.

Oh… they were out and about. Buzzing to and fro as dragonflies are wont to do. But they were not out in the numbers I have seen deeper into summer. Nor were they very big; most being rather tiny.

Drat. No. Double drat!

But so what. I spent a nice afternoon outside for a few hours and I may have snagged a few decent dragonfly pictures (I haven’t yet checked). It’s still nice to be out and about with the gear doing what I enjoy most about photography: being behind the camera.

And not unlike my last post, seeing how this is a blog dedicated to photography, how about a snap real quick? I’m glad you agree…

Tulip

I didn’t snap many flower pictures this Spring, but when I saw my neighbor’s tulips just past their peak, relaxing in a smattering of dappled sunlight I just couldn’t help myself. Tripod and 70-200mm lens in hand I ventured across the street and threw myself into it. There are two things I really like about this picture: (1) the symmetry of the flower, and (2) the brilliant yellow in the base of the petals.

Like sunshine made flower.

Theme update…

Damn.

I’ve been using the same theme since the day I began this blog so long ago. Hold it… how long ago was it?

I opened up on 19 February, 2008.

Wow.

I knew I had started this thing not too long after purchasing my first dSLR (in December 2007), but it doesn’t really feel as if it has been almost 3.5 years. That’s longer than most every job I’ve held!

Anyway… Don’t think this change is change for the sake of change. Nope. Nothing that banal. I’m comfortable with… well… comfortable. I don’t usually feel the need to mix things up if only because I have that urge. Instead, this change has been brought about for a couple of reasons.

First, I had grown weary of the font size on my original theme (which was, if you weren’t around previously): a white-on-black theme. It was a smaller-sized font and this made it tiring to read at length in my opinion. Seeing how the blog is mine my opinion does have some weight and merit.

Second, and perhaps related to font size, was the problem with colour-shift of the font. It was common to notice a slight greying of the white letters at the periphery of my vision and while my eyes may now be 46-plus years old I remain 20/20. I can only imagine how irritating it may have been for others venturing to this online tome.

Third, and again related to font size, I have recently purchased a new laptop, which is actually a 13.5-inch variant as opposed to my previous laptops all being 15.6-inches. This had the unfortunate affect of making the already smallish font appear even smaller on this smaller screen. And as I do most of my postings for WP on the laptop… well…

Fourth and finally, besides wanting to address the font issues I wanted a theme which appeared simpler. Neater. Cleaner. Lighter. The dark white-on-black looked and felt heavy. While I have liked it up until very recently my opinion had changed of late and I believe I would have made this change even without the font issues.

However, while fiddling with the various options available to this WP theme I noted a handful of upgrades which could be had for a price. For instance, there is an option to alter both the font and font sizes for the header, titles and text. Cool. But it’s $30/year. Personally that seems a bit steep to me, but I am curious.

I have no intention of becoming a coder so that I can make my own blog, etc., preferring to leave such matters to the experts at WordPress. But I’m not certain I can justify $30/year for font creativity just so that I can more personalize my blog. Yet… I am intrigued and wonder if the $30/year price is per blog or per account. This is important because I have more than one WP blog, but they are all under one account. It would seem to me a more reasonable expense if I were able to utilize such across multiple blogs.

I think I’ll check into that.

So there you go. New theme. New style. Hell… I even changed my header picture to something different just to mix things up a bit. Just a bit. Oh! And since this is a blog dedicated to photography, how about a photo?

The Daughter