Pimpin’s hard work…

I see I have, yet again, been a completely lazy sod of a blogger.

Sigh.

But hey! You get what you pay for, am I right?!

However, let us not equate a lack of blogging entries to mean humble narrator hasn’t been taking pictures. Nothing could be further from the truth my dear readers. To be both frank and honest I’ve been taking more pictures over the past month than has been the norm throughout much of the summer. Unfortunately, one of my more recent photographic projects did not go quite according to plan, but instead followed my usual tried-and-true route of revealing large gaps in both my skills and talents.

And so it was humble narrator become a bit dejected. After a few days of sulking it suddenly occurred to me that my so-called ‘failure’ wasn’t actually a failure at all. Nope. Perish the thought. A ‘learning experience’ it was rebranded and suddenly all was right in the world. Lesson learned: models may be late, especially if they aren’t really models and don’t understand the value of available daylight.

Like I said… lesson learned.

Reinvigorated with my learning experience I opted to take a more casual approach to photographing of late and came back with some pleasant results.

Falls @ West Milton, Ohio

I was actually turned onto this small waterfall by some fellow Flickr friends in my area, but took great advantage of a then recent thunderstorm, which I had anticipated would swell the creek and turn this otherwise quiet fall into something more interesting. I think I was right, I might add with a just a hint of self-satisfaction. I even got a little crazy with the processing in that I dropped the Vibrance pretty heavily in Lightroom so that the green foliage would be more muted, thus making certain the viewer’s attention remained more focused upon the actual water.

Another evening I found myself suddenly struck by the urge to go out and snap some night time pictures, which is something I have rarely done. I had actually wished to grab a particular shot of a sign in the downtown Dayton area of which I had a nice daytime picture. I had hoped the neon lighting would be all lit up and that it would be… well… awesome.

It wasn’t.

The sign wasn’t lit at all. But instead of being dejected and resigned to this fate I elected to drive around the area and look for another opportunity. And could you believe one presented itself?

Firefly Building

This is actually a triptych (duh!) of some of the pictures I took that evening. It was a complete fluke that I came across this building’s entrance way as it’s not quite visible from the main drag. Regardless, I thought it so unusual it merited at least an attempt by me to get something out of it. Long exposures… tripod… not so bad results. Actually, my fav from this particular building is this image…

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Please do not ask me to explain why I like this one so much, but I do and that’s enough for me.

Now… keeping in mind my aforementioned issue with my lack of talent and skill, I elected to take part in a free class on flower/garden photography offered at one of my local parks. The price was right. The weather reasonable. And I have no problem sitting through a lecture which helps reaffirm what I’m doing right and makes me question what I’m doing wrong.

After the lecture I, along with many in attendance, ventured into the garden and snapped away merrily. I hadn’t really intended for this to become a major deal, but before I knew it almost four hours had passed (including the 1.5 hours of lecture). As I hadn’t gone to the garden with the intention of photographing flowers, insects, etc. I had become very relaxed about the entire event. It wasn’t one of my projects, where there is a built-in need to feel as if I’ve successfully accomplished something, but a simple afternoon of photography. A simple afternoon of trying to incorporate the things the instructor had discussed.

I must say I think I had some pretty nice pictures come from it as well…

I need more days like that one.

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.

Welcome Surprises…

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

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

(sigh)

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

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

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

Isn’t it cute?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

It was bound to happen one day…

Lately I’m behind in all matters regarding photography. I haven’t quite gotten hold of the manner in which Lightroom likes to organize my files and this is frustrating me to no end. I guess I could read the manual a bit, but I wasn’t looking to have to read about file management damn it! This is, in part, why I avoided purchasing such software. I was quite happy with my own system and it served me well. Now I have a robust piece of software that thinks it is helping me, but thus far it, in conjunction with some bone-headed moves of my own, has just made life unexpectedly more complicated.

And then there was the trip to Aullwood Gardens I undertook early last week. I had been charging my camera’s battery expressly for the photo shoot, yet walked right out the door without having grabbed the now fully charged battery. Of course I didn’t realize I had left behind the battery until after I had arrived at the gardens, grabbed all my gear, surveyed the gardens (for maybe 20-minutes) and selected the shots I wanted to take. Setting up the tripod I was humming a little tune to myself and thinking about how lovely was the day and how nice it would be to capture some nice close-ups of the blooming flowers. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the camera, but nothing happened.

And never let it be said that Mother Nature doesn’t have it in for me as well. A few days later (late last week) I returned to Aullwood Gardens so that I might finally snap some pictures, and while walking from the parking lot at Englewood MetroPark I came across a very large blue heron standing quite serenely in the Stillwater River. It was close enough that with my 100-400mm I should have been able to grab a supreme picture. Supreme I say. So I quietly and quickly broke out the tripod and got it set up. I broke out the camera and swapped into place the 100-400mm lens and mounted same to the tripod. And JUST as I framed my shot and considered which aperture I wished to use the damn thing took off. It’s a good thing there were no small children within ear shot.

However, not all is completely lost for I did not yet know that I had some nice heron shots, but from a completely different outing and camera:

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Two weeks ago I had ventured to the east banks of the Stillwater River where it runs through the Englewood MetroPark (part of the Five Rivers MetroParks district here in the Dayton, Ohio area). I had with me my Canon Rebel XTi and was hoping to capture some shots of mallards feeding near or along the banks and shoreline. Instead I was treated to a sole heron who was slowly making its way in the river not some 50-yards or so from shore. One thing I have learned about herons is that they are fairly skittish birds and if one sees a heron one should start snapping as soon as possible. With this mantra in mind I trained my camera upon it and fired away. I wound up with a series of photos like the above and below:

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I confess that I didn’t think much of the pictures as I looked over them on the tiny LCD screen attached to the back of the camera, but once I was home and had the images opened in Lightroom (and on a nicely sized 24-inch iMac screen) I was much more impressed. Quite impressed to be frank. The low sun was creating great reflections off the water and left the heron in silhouette. My only criticism of the series that look like the first above picture was that too often the heron’s head disappeared into the black area of water just above it. In the end, of the eight or so I took this was the only one where the head was clearly separate from the water. I guess I should clarify though…there was another issue with the picture, but it didn’t rise to the level of problem and that was the strong glare of sunlight off the water.

Fortunately for me I’m finally getting a handle on the use of the Graduated Filter effect in Lightroom and was able to use such to decrease the exposure in a limited area of the image. I was able to keep the colour and strength of the reflected sunlight without the completely over-exposed nature of it. I used this to good effect in both of the above pictures, working the left-side of the above image.

It was also during this scouring of the banks in hopes of photographic opportunity that I came across this reflection in the water:

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I snapped the picture less because I thought it was photo-worthy (in terms of its impact), but more because of what it said to me in that moment in time. The long thin cloud is actually a contrail from a passing jet and I was having these thoughts about how strange it was that I was watching the plane and its passengers flying off to who-knows-where to do who-knows-what, but that I was sharing this moment with them from afar. In the end I like the photograph, but I’m more intrigued by the moment itself.

Finally, there was this:

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I don’t know about anyone else, but I really enjoy this photo. I had taken position behind a tree in hopes that a couple of nearby mallard ducks would make their way towards me. While standing there waiting for the ducks I noticed this single strand of spider web gently rocking in the soft breeze. I soon became semi-mesmerized by this solitary strand and eventually realized that it was, at least for me, photo-worthy. I switched the lens to manual focus and made the shot. I’m quite pleased with it to be honest. It speaks to me. Unfortunately though I’ve learned from experience that those pictures which speak to me do not usually speak to others. I wonder why that is?

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?

When a plan comes together

It is quite rare indeed when a plan I make comes together and yields results. And yet it actually happened two weekends ago when I made a trip to a local park in hopes of catching sledders enjoying the bountiful snow we had recently received.

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I had heard that this particular park, Hills and Dales MetroPark, had some good sledding hills and this was true. I had dropped by on a different day during the week, but there was no one sledding at that time. As such I made a mental note to return on a weekend, whereby there might be at least a few folks braving the cold to enjoy some high speed excitement. It worked out quite well as my wife and I had need to visit a shop located very near the Hills and Dales MetroPark and my wife was kind enough to give me some latitude on spending time on the hills while she remained safe and warm in the car.

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There were plenty of folks enjoying themselves and no one seemed bothered in the least by my presence. I snapped a lot of pictures, but not all came out. The highly reflective snow played tricks with metering and focusing on sledders as they whizzed by was difficult for both me (manually) as well as the camera (automatically), but I had enough good shots to consider the trip a complete success.

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Heck, this little adventure fit in quite well with my group’s selection of the month so I was able to satisfy both my general desire for this photo shoot as well as my needs for the group project, which is a real win-win if you ask me.