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.

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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!]

Really….I’m trying my best. No. Really.

Having been on something akin to a sabbatical for many, many weeks, I have been, of late, attempting to get back into the full swing of life that is related to photography.

This means not only taking pictures, which I have done a bit of, but catching up on sites such as WordPress and Flickr. It also entails the knowledge that I have loads of pictures sitting upon my hard drive, anxiously awaiting my deft touch at processing.

Ahem.

Besides feeling the simple urge to get away from photography a bit, I have also delved into other matters, which have been keeping me both busy and occupied. Part of the current problem of catching up with photography-stuff is that I’m not letting go of the new things to which I have been engaged. Thus time becomes even more fleeting and is a rather large impediment to any sense of accomplishing tasks both necessary and desired each day.

But I promise, like a holy oath, that I’m working on catching up with everyone’s WordPress and Flickr site as well as moving forward to working on my own photographs and photography blogs. Thus far I’ve found it easier to play catch up with everyone else’s work than on my own. I’m still feeling something of a sensation to push away from the computer whenever I contemplate opening up my folders and going through my own work.

I cannot tell if this is just me reacting to a perceived lack of accomplishment in my photography or if it is something more sinister. No. That isn’t right. There isn’t anything more sinister afoot. You know…..upon reflection (and I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on my photography while not actually doing any photography) I might be willing to concede that there is something of a crisis in faith going on here, which is really quite pathetic.

A number of folks I follow around WordPress and Flickr create fantastic images. Images I very much enjoy and hope that perhaps one day I’ll be able to create on my own. But the impediment to this creativity is myself. As I’ve lamented previously, I’m not a particularly creative person. So, if I know this fact about myself in advance, why should I feel anxious that I’m not creating pictures that are as interesting, etc. as those done by others, who are clearly gifted with creativity?

It would be like me envying Michael Jordan his basketball skills or Thierry Henry his football skills when I’m completely rubbish at sport because I’m hopelessly uncoordinated. And I don’t envy them their skills. But maybe that is because I haven’t ever had an interest in being a sports star, where I have thought it would be nice to be a player in the world of photography. Not a big player, but a player.

But you know something (yes, I imagine you must know something)…..now that I type this thought here, into WordPress, I realize how completely stupid it sounds. Not that my assessment is stupid, as it’s likely correctly. No, what’s stupid is that I feel this way at all.

Maybe I have to look at creativity from the context of who I am. Am I being creative for my own purposes instead of judging such against those whose work I admire and think of as being creative. I guess it is, in part, that we all aspire to believe or feel that we are really good/great at something and photography is one of those things for me. But I can live without being good or great at it. As long as I can derive pleasure from the act of photography then I should be happy enough and this is where I should be focusing my energies.

There….all better.

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.

Shit.

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?

“Not to shabby,” he mused to himself

Odd.

No. Really.

I used to love to be in front of the camera. Never one to shy away I actually volunteered to be a model for photography classes at my local junior college when I was about 21 or 22 years old. I also volunteered to be a model for a local hair salon about the same time period.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not claiming that I was a model or anything close to it, but I liked to be photographed and I was rather unusual looking in that Peter Murphy of the 1980’s manner. But today I have little to no desire to be in front of the camera, which is bit of a pisser considering the potential for self-portraiture. However, I had been tagged on Flickr for one of those “16-things about you” and the tag indicated that I needed to include a photo of myself.

Well shit.

No one around here actually takes photos of me, which is odd considering the number of cameras in this house is seven. If anyone ever pulled out a “family” photo album they would swear that I never existed at all. But this is beside the point……

So I needed a photo. To be frank I really didn’t feel like turning this into some sort of major project and I wanted to get this little project done ASAP. Sitting here at the kitchen table I pondered to myself “Now what?” And then it struck me: take a picture of yourself right here, at the table, in front of the laptop upon which you have been for the past hour or so. And so I did.

Moi 16-things

Having taken and processed the picture into a JPEG I was about to upload it to Flickr and complete my 16-things thing when I was struck by how much I liked it. Wait. That’s not completely accurate. I took a fistful of pictures, if you will, and settled upon this one as my fav. It was then that I processed and converted, etc. The more I looked at the image the more I liked it. However, the more I looked at and enjoyed it, the more I realized that I wanted to do something to it.

“Do something with it? Like with software? Me?” Perish the thought.

But I did. I didn’t feel compelled to fool around with Photoshop Elements, but instead turned to my fav shareware app, Paint.Net. I duplicated the background layer and started messing around with some of the settings until I settled upon the general look you see here. But there was one thing that I did not like about the image after I processed it with Paint.Net: my eyes.

In my original photo my eyes stood out; just a bit. I do have some nicely coloured eyes. Sort of an icy blue. But in my processed version the colour was washed out. To bring back that particular component of the picture I used the erasure tool and ‘erased’ the duplicate layer over my eyes and suddenly all was right with the world.

I don’t really know how important it was for me to jump on this 16-things about me challenge, but I’m so very glad I opted to reply (for more than this reason though). It forced me to do something I really didn’t want to do, but found that it can have results that are far better than I expected. I may have to try this sort of thing more often.

“On my way to somwhere civilised”

Earlier this year I became involved in a group project of sorts with an assortment of folks I had met through Flickr and/or WordPress. The idea was for members to take in turns the creation of a monthly subject/topic for all of us to shoot. We would post the image or images (no more than five) to our Flickr accounts and then write about them on WordPress and include the photo(s). So far it has been an interesting endeavor and turned out far better than I had originally hoped.

This month’s topic was a bit of a challenge for me (for reasons that will become obvious shortly), but I managed to put together an idea and it yielded results that pleased me to no end for a handful of reasons. As such, I’ve decided to copy the WordPress entry for my December 2008 submission here, on my main WordPress site.

Please to enjoy…..

Title: All Roads Lead to Rome

Let me tell you……this month’s topic, Street Antiquity, has been very, very difficult. Certainly the whole purpose of this endeavor was, and remains, to stretch ourselves a bit. To try the unfamiliar. To stretch the meaning of the topic. To render it in our own particular vision. But this time I was having no small problem determining how I could stretch my lens, so to speak, around this particular topic.

Certainly the obvious sprung to mind. The notion of shooting old buildings or structures found on, or as our British counterparts prefer, in the street was the most obvious route and not one to be scoffed at either. Of course, our British counterparts have things a bit easier in this regard as their fine island nation is rife with very old and antiquated structures. One need only exit their door, turn left, walk fifteen minutes and voila! There will no doubt be some home or pub built in the mid-sixteen-hundreds just begging to be photographed.

But what was I to do? Certainly I could find some older structures upon some road….there’s a farm house not far from here, which was built in the mid eighteen hundreds, but that hardly feels like antiquity. So I have been giving this particular subject great thought over these weeks of December and had come away with the idea of shooting some older buildings in the downtown Dayton area. As such I took to my vehicle this afternoon and headed down towards the city, but made a minor detour to a certain older neighborhood where I had hoped to grab a few photographs of holiday decorations.

While out of my car and moving around the road looking for the best angles, etc. I happened to notice something rather shiny upon the rain-moistened roadway..

IMG_4298

“What’s this?” thought I as I bent down to obtain a closer look. To be frank my first impression was that it was a dime (a 10-penny piece, if you will), but closer examination revealed that it was indeed a coin, but no coin of recent minting. Curious and anxious I snapped a few shots of the coin laying there on the wet bricks before picking it up and returning to my car. Further examination revealed nothing to me…..it was crudely struck, clearly old and tasted of silver. “This could be something valuable!” raced through my mind so I elected to cancel the rest of my journey as planned and instead drove to a local stamp and coin shop.

The proprietor examined my find for a few minutes, referenced a page in some book, placed the coin upon the counter and said to me “Congratulations! You have found a Roman silver denarius.”

“What? Really? Get out of here.” was my knee-jerk retort, but he continued “Yeah, the head is the likeness of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and was no doubt minted some time during his reign, which was…..” he glances back at the page in the book, “….161 to 180 A.D. Where did you find it, if you don’t mind my asking?”

I managed to stammer something about one of our oldest local roads just south of downtown Dayton and mentioned that it was just laying there..upon the remnants of this long-ago-built road. “Amazing,” he replied.

So there you go folks…..clearly this coin of a long forgotten realm was dropped by maybe a Roman Centurion making his way down this road south of Dayton heading to parts unknown. Or maybe it was a merchant on his way back to Rome with fine goods he had purchased and traded for while visiting Dayton. I don’t know…but I do know that you can read more about the denarius (and see a picture that looks remarkably like my coin) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denarius.

“In a river the colour of lead”

I’m having doubts. I feel tense. It doesn’t seem right, yet the response has been overwhelmingly positive, or so I think. Was it the right thing to do or have I, as usual, fucked it all up?

I’m writing about my recent series of uploads to Flickr of pictures taken with my no-longer-in-my-possession Canon A95 digital point-n-shoot. You know…things like this:

Neutron & Proton in the sun (3)

As I’ve previously mentioned, my intent was simply to fill the gap that had been created by my not shooting new pictures with either my Canon 40D or the recently acquired Canon Rebel XTi. Thanks to a variety of causes, my time spent with the 40D has been zero and time with the Rebel sporadic and infrequent at best over the past three to four weeks. So up went some personally reviewed and selected images from my old and trusty Canon A95. But does this sort of behaviour fit into the mind-set that was the impetus for the creation of my Flickr account and what do the pictures mean in a greater context?

The intent of my Flickr account was at least two-fold: (1) a place to share publicly my photos, and (2) a place to share my journey as an amateur dSLR photographer. As such it seemed reasonable that my Flickr account would be filled with images taken by me using the Canon 40D (and more recently the Rebel as well) and that said images would weave a tapestry of my sojourn through learning more about this hobby. Notice I didn’t state that my photographs would get better, just that I would “learn” and with knowledge hopefully would come better pictures. Hopefully. (Ahem)

It was never my intent for my Flickr account to contain and display the sort of every-day imagery previously captured with my Canon A95. Those images were, after all, just records of a moment in time. The 40D/Rebel combination are supposed to be more about growth, thoughtfulness…..dare I say it….art? Or, at the very least, a more serious attempt at the hobby of photography if art is too-strong a term to use here (and I know at least one person who would say such!). But does this original intent dictate that I cannot upload images from other cameras of pictures taken with far less lofty intent? And who is to say some of them aren’t perfectly lovely pictures in their own right?

Tired Mercedes in the sun Dec 2004

A review of my various contacts on Flickr provides no insight into this quandary in which I find myself. They really are all over the place in terms of what they post. Some only upload a single image a day or every other day. I imagine this is a best of the best approach and likely works really well if you have such great photos in the first place, which clearly isn’t my situation (perish the thought!). Others post a small collection of images every few days, while others will upload thirty, forty, fifty or more in a single sitting. Many post only images that are directly attributable to their professional standing as a photographer, while most are like me; posting images created from the hobby of photography. Very few offer the more candid every-day type shots. So where does this leave me?

And adding to this dilemma is an issue even darker and more disturbing: I think the recently uploaded, every-day ‘record’ images are garnering more comments than anything I have put up in the past. What does it say about my current photographic endeavors when my just-point-n-shoot images warrant more commentary and praise than my I’m-working-hard-on-this-photograph imagery? How daft (and depressing) is that?

I confess….it is awfully difficult to feel positive about one’s more serious endeavors when it would appear that every-day candidness is more effective and creates stronger responses.