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…

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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.

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It Felt So Good It Actually Stung A Bit…

Was it really Friday? Just two days ago? That’s so strange because it feels like it was no later than Wednesday last when I made my way to downtown Dayton and then on to Cox Arboretum further south.

My original intent was to grab a few pictures for a photography class project from both locations and return home to go through them. But what is often said of the best laid plans?

Still, I’ve no complaints.

The trip downtown provided me the chance to grab my handful of shots, however none of them ‘worked’ and I pretty much knew this from the moment I saw them on my camera’s LCD screen. I’m usually one to not discount a picture until I’ve seen it upon the much larger computer monitor, but these were so far off-base it was tempting to simply delete them in camera. And yet I didn’t follow this thought to its conclusion and actually wound up keeping one of the images for my own amusement.

But the trip to Cox Arboretum was far more productive and much more exciting.

What started as a search for a few pictures where I could fiddle with a very shallow depth of field (DoF) turned into a three-hour adventure in photography with overly warm, spring-time sun and the enjoyment that can come from being surrounded by fellow humans who were out enjoying the weather and park. The arboretum was jam packed with visitors, all there with what appeared to be a specific purpose. Some had come round to enjoy a midday lunch in the grass or at many of the tables setup around one of the ponds. Others had opted to take advantage of the reasonably strong winds to send kites soaring into the cloudless blue. Others, not unlike me, had arrived to snap photos of flora or children. There were a number of moms and grandmothers ushering about no small numbers of children and/or grandchildren, hoping to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather for photographic purposes. All in all, it was a glorious day.

Normally I don’t bother to photograph folks, but I came across the two young ladies above as they sat next to a field of particularly handsome daffodils. I was polite and kind enough to ask if they would mind being in any of my shots to which they were quite agreeable. Perhaps I lingered just a bit too long as one of the girls, perhaps sensing my question, explained they were looking for four-leaved clover. To each their own, eh?

The only down-side to the day, if I may call it such, was that I managed to get a bit too much sun and upon returning home found myself rather red across the face, back of the neck and arms. It seems I forget this sort of thing every Spring upon my first long-term exposure to the bright orb of the sky. At least this time I only managed a bit of a sting for the next 24-hours after liberally applying lotion to those over-exposed locations. But I think it was well worth it in the end.

Clubbing it….

I’ve done something unusual……I’ve joined a club. And not just any club, but a photography club.

I sent in my membership dues about two weeks ago and attended my very first meeting last night. The club is named Focus Photo Club and meets at the Five Rivers MetroParks Cox Arboretum, where I have been known to snap a few pictures on occasion.

I actually discovered the group via a picture on Flickr, which had been taken by a fellow Flickrite whose photostream I regularly check on. As a matter-of-fact, she was in attendance at last night’s meeting and I introduced myself. I don’t think my Flickr name (Photons_Fail_Me) really rang a bell for her, but it should when I comment next upon her photos, which are always lovely by the way.

As I wasn’t certain what the club does I can’t say that I had any preconceived notions of what I was hoping to get out of this new relationship. About the only thing of which I was certain was that I wanted to socialize within the photography community. Many of my Flickr contacts belong to photography-oriented groups or shoot with friends and/or family members and this sharing seems like a great idea. I’m not saying I want to always be out and about with other folks, but I would like the opportunity to do such on occasion. I think it will a nice way to both learn and teach about this great adventure.

Everyone I met was super nice and very eager to answer questions and the like. There are a number of upcoming events (including a meet-n-greet, a trip to a traditional Gothic cathedral in Kentucky, a wildflower shoot at a public park, a week-long trip to the Appalachian Mountains, etc.) and I sincerely intend to take part in at least one of these events, which are coming up over the next two months.

Exciting stuff, eh?

“Liar, liar. Pants on fire” or “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Part II”

Opps. My bad. I lied. It was really quite unintentional. I posted about not being available for about two-weeks, etc., etc., and then I find some pictures I had taken, but hadn’t yet gone through. So I thought about it for a few days.

Do I go through them, convert them to JPEGs and post them or do I wait until I return? Well, if I waited I ran the risk of having more pictures from Wisconsin and then I’d be at it (processing, etc.) for days on end, which didn’t sound particularly tantalizing. As such, I opted to go through them this afternoon even though I’m feeling rather poorly. I guess there are worse things to do when one is feeling low and as editing and such really doesn’t take too much effort it seemed prudent to take care of business now.

I’m actually quite glad I did it now because I get to see things like this:

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And this:

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All which give me the warm and fuzzies. Not to be too self-congratulatory, but I’m rather pleased with all of the pics I uploaded to Flickr. And I found that this time, as compared to so many others, I had far fewer throw-aways when I got home. I hope this means that I’m getting both better at knowing when and how to take the shot as well as becoming more discriminating about what I shoot. But who really knows. I could be back to crap photography in no time…..assuming I’m not still taking crap pictures to begin with!

Striking While the Iron Is Hot!

My last post discussed the problem with laying out plans for some photography fun and then finding that things don’t go necessarily according to plan. This does tend to be my modus operandi though, doesn’t it? But every so often things do work as they are supposed, if not with a bit of effort.

This weekend past was glorious weather-wise. Mid-80’s with lower humidity and no clouds. Good photography weather. So where did I spend my Saturday? In the basement. I needed to perform a major file backup and it required my being around the house for the day so I didn’t get any shooting done on what should have been a great day for photography. While my project continued into Sunday I wasn’t about to allow this situation to persist so I made some very generalized plans and headed out into the wilds that are Dayton, Ohio in the latter part of the afternoon.

While I won’t share with you to where I went first (that will be part of an upcoming blog) I can tell you that I again returned to the Cox Arboretum hoping to get some nice pics of lily pads for a special effect I wanted to try on them. “Them” being the pics, not the lily pads. Unfortunately the ponds at the park were rather devoid of lily pads as evidenced below.

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Alas I returned to a more familiar theme when it comes to the Cox Arboretum: dragonflies! While I very much enjoyed shooting their pictures, upon returning home and viewing the images I realized how rather similar they looked to pics I had shot a few weeks back. Rats. I don’t really mind too much, but it can’t make things particularly interesting for those visiting my Flickr site. But what do I really expect? One dragonfly looks an awful lot like another and the backgrounds are ponds and lily pads and other aquatic grasses. So why wouldn’t the pics all look rather alike? I really need to lighten up on myself, eh? All this said, I did come back with one that looked different and I’m quite pleased by this little revelation. Please to enjoy.

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You may also recall from one of my more recent postings how I was attempting to photograph a particular frog that lives in a stream behind my neighbor’s house and how poorly that attempt went. I haven’t yet returned to try again (and it is my intention to do), but while at the arboretum, busy shooting dragonflies, I happened to look down and into the water near where I was laying on the grass by the pond and what did I find?

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Result! Success! Excellent! I was so pleased. And this little fellow was so cooperative, hardly moving at all while I inched ever closer. I only wish I had a tasty fly to pass on to him for being so cooperative.

Why Bee Normal?

I know!  Two posts in one day!  Heck.  Two posts within hours of each other!  I confess that the reading I had done that led to my post of earlier this evening left me with the urge to try something with photo editing software.  Up to now I have only used editing software to tweak (as a certain party is so fond of saying) pictures to my satisfaction based upon what I recall of the live scene.  This time I wanted do so something real, if you will, which led to this.

Colour Bee

Sure.  Loads of folks do this.  Loads of folks do this and then post them to their WP blogs and/or Flickr sites.  I know.  It isn’t particularly original, but what the hell do I care?  I wanted to do this.  Almost every time I’ve seen someone do this sort of treatment I have liked it, so why shouldn’t I try this as my first experiment with photo editing software?

Pretty cool, eh?

Apparently failure IS an option (and other assorted tales)

It’s been a bit since I last posted and in that time I’ve uploaded three separate batches of photos to my Flickr account. I still haven’t really devised a scheme with which I’m particularly happy regarding my work flow, but oddly enough it isn’t the work flow of actually working with the photos of which I’m displeased. Instead it is simply the transference of images from the three different media cards to the computer. Thus far I have been keeping each cards image files in their own separate folders on my hard drive. Why? I don’t know. Maybe just so that I can quickly check any given card to make certain I have actually transferred images to the computer BEFORE I do something goofy like format the card. Anyway. Let’s dive into the various interesting things that have been occurring photography wise, shall we?

Apparently failure is an option. About 10 or so days ago we were enjoying some incredibly nice weather. Cooler than average temperatures and low humidity were ruling both our days and nights. And this particular night I was lounging in the television room of the west wing of the mansion, while a mostly naked Kate Isitt fed me peeled grapes and pressed the buttons on the t.v. remote for me, when I noticed the stark white light of the waxing moon upon the lawn. “Hum,” thought I. “Perhaps a chance to snap a few pics of the moon this evening?” but the pull of the television, the peeled grapes and the mostly naked Ms. Isitt kept me from making my way out of doors.

Another hour or so passed and I again noted the lovely light upon the lawn and could now see the moon hanging in the night sky, high enough that it was above the tall trees to the south of my view. Extending my apologies to Ms. Isitt I made for my camera kit and tripod and headed out into the wilds that are the 1,276 acres upon which my mansion sits. I stumbled about in the dark for a bit before turning my eyes heavenwards to find not only the moon, in all Her glory, but clouds.

Clouds. Fast moving clouds. And plenty of them. “Damn.” thought I. “It was perfectly clear earlier,” but I had elected to stay put and now I was about to pay the price for my laziness. I set up my kit and played with my manual settings until I had found one that I thought would provide a decent result and offer a starting place for making adjustments. Regardless the clouds would have none of it and left me with this sort of mess.

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Or this instead.

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“Clouds be damned!” I mused. “I”m going to stay out here and keep snapping pics until I get something that is remotely useful.” And maybe I did?

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However, before this particular evening (and around the July 4th holiday) we experienced some rather rainy weather. But this rain was prefaced with something we don’t get too often: lightning and thunder. I have enjoyed pictures taken by others of lightning, but have yet to find myself in a position to return the favour. Until now, so to speak. As I could see the flashes of lightning and hear the occasional distant grumble of thunder I thought I should get out and try to capture some of nature’s light show, especially since there wasn’t yet any rain. Unfortunately the 2,413 acres of land upon which my mansion sits is very wooded and not conducive to photographing lightning on the horizon. Clearly I needed to get into the helicopter and have Pilot fly me to a field whereupon I might have a chance to capture some lightning.

I eventually settled upon a field not too far from my mansion and got myself set up. This wasn’t going to be easy though. The lightning wasn’t the sort whereby there is a sudden flash of light zipping across the sky, branching out in all sorts of directions, but what is often referred to as heat lightning. It would come and go so quickly I couldn’t get off a shot that actually captured anything so I turned to pointing the camera into the sky, setting a longish exposure and hoping I caught something. Anything. What I caught was crap as evidenced below.

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And this image is the best of them all. Pitiful. I might have gotten some better shots as time went by, but the arrival of rain sent me and Pilot scurrying to the protection of the helicopter and thus ended my chance to bring to others the same joy they have brought to me.

However, not everything photography-related has been a dismal failure of late. I have managed to pull a few rabbits out of my hat, if you will, and these instances have made my failures feel less-so in retrospect. I have had some great luck with the pets of late. Both the cats and dogs have been more cooperative than usual, but with the dogs it could be simply that they were either asleep or too tired to give me any shit. The one really great situation has been my ability to get a few really super shots of one of the cats, Pumpkin. Pumpkin is, for all intents and purposes, feral. While having lived with us for almost three years he, and his sister Little One, have never properly socialized with we mere mortals. However, Pumpkin was very, very cooperative a few days back and I was able to get a couple of really nice pics of him like this one.

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Over the July 4th holiday we had guests from Florida visiting us in the way of our best friends, George and Caroline, and their daughter, Rowan. We haven’t seen them in about two years (for a variety of reasons, but money being the biggest impediment. well it’s not that money is the impediment, but that the lack thereof is the impediment) and it was truly super to have them about for a week. We enjoyed spending time chatting and otherwise farting around and it gave me a chance to take some pics like this one.

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You, my most cherished readers, may recall how poorly went a recent visit to the Butterfly House at the Cox Arboretum of Dayton, Ohio. Well, while there that first time I noticed how nice the arboretum was and thought to myself that I should return on another day and try to take some pictures of whatever I could find. There were lakes and ponds, so ducks, frogs and dragonflies may have been in order. There were flowers, so bees may have been in order. And who knows what else may have been there that I simply missed on our other adventure to the butterfly house. As such I elected to head back earlier this week (Monday I think) with camera kit in tow (but no tripod).

I arrived in what might be best described as very late afternoon/very early evening such that the shadows were obvious, but not yet pronounced. I had my entire kit (camera body and all four lenses including the very heavy 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM monster) with me as I didn’t know which lens or lenses I might make best use of, but I elected to start with the 100-400mm just in case I came across dragonflies. Funny how it takes a huge and heavy lens to snap a decent pic (at distance) of a very tiny and very light insect. I must say I was not disappointed.

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I will concede the dragonflies were less-than-cooperative as they typically wouldn’t sit still for more than a few seconds, which resulted in a lot of nicely composed, but poorly focused images. Alas, I’m not complaining as this was nirvana! Onwards and upwards though as there were bees to be found all over the park!

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I had more luck with the bees, but they too kept moving quite a bit as bees are wont to do….or so I assume. While taking pics of the bees (and flowers) I was struck by the beauty that can be found in the death-throws of a flower. I have noticed this before (and noted such as well), but was again struck by this bit of information.

Beyond the bees and dragonflies I was lucky enough to grab a very nice shot of a bird and some landscape type shots of the grounds and its lakes/ponds.

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Finally, there has been much in the way of photographs of clouds taken and posted by certain Flickr cohorts of mine. Puffy white clouds. Stormy clouds. Sunrise and sunset clouds. As for me though, not so much. Mostly it has been a matter of not seeing any clouds or cloud formations that seemed photo-worthy. Until recently that is. On my drive back home from the Cox Arboretum Mother Nature saw fit to add a little frosting to the delicious cake that was the arboretum.

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As disappointing were my attempts at lightning pics and the moon stuff, I will confess that this recent trip to the arboretum, our friends visit, and the cooperative tame fauna more than made up for those minor setbacks. For a switch everything felt right and good.

I guess I should start looking over my shoulder now, eh?