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.

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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.

“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!

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?

Timing is everything……wish I had it

Photography related web sites can offer a butt-load of useful information for the novice such as myself.  Composition.  Colour management.  Software tips and tricks.  You know what I mean.  But holy f-stop Batman, what about timing?

No.  I don’t mean shutter speed.

No.  I don’t mean shooting at dawn or sunset because the colours are so much more this and so much more that.

I mean having the right timing to take some pictures of the god-damn tulips while they were open and gorgeous instead of waiting till I get back from shopping, when they have closed up for the day because the clouds came out and the temperature dropped.

Ungrateful fucking flowers!

Joy & rapture, oh my!

My camera kit has been dutifully sitting in the garage for the past few days.  Out in the garage it is already at outdoor temperatures and therefore ready to go at a moment’s notice.  Yesterday I took the camera out into the back garden and shot some pictures of the cardinals (yes; more cardinals), robins and trees.  While I haven’t yet viewed these pictures I think I may have a couple that are pretty smart.

This morning I woke up with the intent of heading to our local park (also the site of a small dam meant for flood control) to capture some of the flooding….and maybe some more cardinals!  Upon waking I found the weather to be less-than-ideal for photography.  Well…that’s not completely true.  It was overcast and rather cool; maybe even cold.  And these sorts of conditions aren’t bad for photography, but I said to myself “I have ENOUGH pictures taken in this sunless stuff.  I’m not going.”  Hardly an inspired person first thing this morning, eh?

Ran some errands and then retired to the basement to pay bills and such.  It was during this time that I happened to look up and out one of the basement windows.  I was expecting rain as that is what we had been led to believe we would have this afternoon.  Instead I see blue skies and trees gently swaying in the wind.  Shit.

So I’m off in my car and head to the exit side of the dam.  Wow.  Unbelievable.  Amazing.  We’ve seen flooding on the flood plain side of the dam, but NOTHING like this.  I snap picture after picture all with the purpose of capturing the moment. In this particular instance I’m less interested in photography as “art” as I am in photography as capturing a moment in time.

However, when I finish with the rushing torrent of water being ejected from the dam, I take a short stroll along the swiftly moving river.  Along the way I encounter some lovely low-growing yellow flowers and stop to take a few photos of them.  Using my 17-85mm I get down low and as close as its ‘macro’ focus setting will allow and prepare to press the shutter release when a bee buzzes into the frame.  SCORE!  Snap, snap, snap goes the shutter and I’m hopeful that at least one picture came out well.  Further down the path I come across two geese; one sleeping and one keeping an eye on things, especially me.  I switch to my 70-200mm and move into a position that I feel is close, but not too close as to disturb the geese.  Again I shoot a handful of shots and hope that at least one will be good.

I drove around to the back side of the dam and again shot more pictures to capture the massive flooding.  It was during my walk back to the car that I started thinking about my attitude earlier this morning where I was thinking about how I had enough of gray-day pictures.  “What an idiot,” I continued to think.  “When do you hear someone say, ‘I think I have enough sunny-day pictures.  I’m going to wait for some gray days.'”  The important thing is that I shoot and shoot often.  Every day if I can.  No.  Every day regardless of whether I can or cannot.  It’s not just a question of becoming more familiar and comfortable with the camera and lenses, but the notion that there are typically only a few ‘gems’ of photographs within any given hundred or hundreds of pictures taken.  The only way to be certain I move that ratio in an upward direction is to shoot, shoot, shoot.  Oh, and pay attention and learn from my mistakes.  I guess those things are important too.

(a hearty thanks to those of you who have often said to shoot and to shoot often….you know who you are)