I don’t know what I’m doing…

Is it really the end of March 2013?  Have I really not posted anything since whenever it was?

I’m only posting now because I was doing something this evening that I have been putting off for ages:  deleting old photos.  When I first started with my first dSLR I was using CaptureOne software for editing.  At the time I had no clue what I was doing and missed what was probably the really helpful part of such software: file management.

I took advantage of CaptureOne as I was able to procure a free copy thanks to the nice SanDisk media card I had purchased for my then-new Canon 40D.  However, when I made the change to Apple computers in 2009 I also made the jump to Adobe’s Lightroom. With Lightroom I decided to take full advantage of all the file management opportunities, but it was too late for all those old files edited in CaptureOne.

But I think this turned out to be a good thing in the end.  In the beginning I pretty much kept EVERY photo I took.  And MOST of what I took was crap.  And so I have carefully avoided looking at those old pictures in Lightroom because I knew the day would come that I would want to cull the heard, so to speak.

Besides, I didn’t want to go through them and bring them into the fold (adding keywords and renaming the files) unless I really, really wanted to keep the picture.  At this point I have already deleted over 500-images, but I don’t know how many I looked at so I can’t say what percentage went to the garbage can, but I’m confident it was pretty high.

I’ve also been considering getting back into the habit of writing here.  I don’t know that I will.. I have much in the way of major changes occurring in my life at this time.  Huge changes.  And starting writing again at this moment may not be right.  Then again, perhaps the time spent writing will help ease me through this transitional time with a bit more grace and ease than I might otherwise exhibit.

But no promises.

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It’s not laziness if you’re not inspired…

Geez… for a while there I really felt like I was on top of this blogging thing. Posting again. Trying to post regularly. Trying to post something good (trying….). But then I hit this wall. This wall named October.

No details, but my private life is a bit of a mess. Well… more than a mess. A complete cock-up is more like it. And while I had thought I might find solace in blogging I’ve actually found it really difficult of late to feel motivated. To feel communicative. I just want to keep everything inside. I’ve noticed how I’ve backed away from most everything I do on the web: CNET, Facebook, Gizmodo, Twitter, etc.

So I’ve decided that for right now I’m not going to continue to feel badly about not posting and instead simply accept I’m not ready at this juncture to post. I mean, why fight it? It only becomes a horrible cycle of not feeling compelled to communicate. Then feeling bad that I’m not keeping up my blog (even though I do have some photography related things to talk about), which makes me want to write even less instead of inspiring me.

I know… what a dork.

Fortunately I’m going to be out of town for a few days, visiting my parents, who will be vacationing in a small mountain town in North Carolina. Perhaps a few days away from here… from home… might help lift me from this funk.

But I make no promises.

No. That’s not true. I will make one: I’ll be back.

In the mean time…

The Thinker

The Thinker

Mike Sells

Mike Sells

Tiny Tex

Tiny Tex - a kitten we rescued, fostered and found a home for

"Anyone there?"

"Anyone there?"

Get yer race on

Get yer race on

Picnic

Picnic

When life gives you lemons…

Yeah… so… I have this thing about photography wherein I tend to have something in mind which I wish to accomplish. I call it project photography.

Instead of simply picking up my camera and photographing stuff I get an idea into my head, plan it out and then go and do it. I meet with varying degrees of success as is painfully obvious when one views either this blog or my Flickr account. There are those who strongly support the shoot every day mentality, but I can’t get behind that for myself. It’s like those 365-projects you see so often on Flickr. The pictures often seem forced, if that makes any sense and I’m not into forcing myself to snap pictures if I’m not inclined. But I sure do love setting up for a photography outing and so it was I did such last month.

I had been searching for a new model when at a local art festival I ran into a young lady my daughter knows. I had thought about asking her before, but never got around to it, but here she was. And I was. And there you go. Numbers exchanged I began making plans for a project with her. And I had it all planned out… the location, time of day, what I wanted to actually shoot, etc. And so it was the day came and I arrived early to scout the location, which I had been to before, for our photographic get-together.

But there was a problem. Actually… two problems.

First, the incredible graffiti, which covered a lot of the walls around this set of buildings in downtown Dayton, was gone. Painted over. And fairly recently. So much for my cool-as-shit backdrops. Second, my model was late. By over an hour. Not really being a model she wasn’t aware of the great importance of the waning daylight I had intended to make use of. We were off to a poor start. But instead of being dejected (too dejected I mean) I opted to make do with what I had of the remaining daylight and the fact I had brought my single-light kit.

And so it was we tackled my first selected location with the now fading ambient daylight…

Sarah in Doorway I

Sarah in Doorway I

I had noticed this tiny green door surrounded by the red-painted bricks and thought it might make for a nice background. And I think I was right, but I had no small amount of difficulty figuring out how to arrange her within the space. So many of the poses looked tense or even awkward… as if she was just a bit too big for the small doorway, but we continued in hopes of finding some sort of magic.

Sarah in Doorway II

Sarah in Doorway II

While I’m not certain I was actually aware of the thought-process, I eventually came to settle upon two styles which seemed to work better. The pose in the above picture seemed to work well. I mean, if the space is vertically challenged then go horizontal, right? Seems pretty self-evident in hindsight, but at that moment in time I was having issues with seeing this. And the other style which appeared to work better was to get in close and let just a part of the doorway be the backdrop.

Sarah in Doorway III

Sarah in Doorway III

Alas… the sun was setting quickly and at this location we were already shooting in strong shade brought about from the shadow of the building. I was loath to let my model go after such a short period of time… hell… I had been there longer in advance of her than we had been shooting thus far. And so I suggested, if she didn’t mind, we try and make something of the evening with the flash, stand and umbrella I had dragged along.

Sarah being game she helped me get the equipment out of the car and we moved on to another spot I had selected. And here was where things became more complicated as I hadn’t planned to shoot with just the flash and I’m really not adept at it in any way. I mostly use the flash and umbrella for fill-light and the like and not as the sole source of illumination. Add this to the general complications which come from photographing a model when you don’t really do that sort of thing anyway and it’s more-or-less a recipe for disappointment.

Still….

Sarah on Escape Ladder

Sarah on Escape Ladder

I think the above is my fav of the entire evening. It may not be my most favorite pose, or lighting, or framing/composition, but I think it possesses the best overall qualities. Kudos to Sarah for having been so cooperative too as we spent most of the rest of the evening working on the escape ladder, which couldn’t have been particularly comfortable.

The ladder had presented a unique problem in so much that she was up fairly higher than I and my light, while on a 9-foot stand, just wasn’t tall enough to throw light on her in a more or less 90-degree angle to the plane of her face. In other words: I was often throwing light up to her at an angle, which led to some really weird and undesirable results. In the above image she had come down onto the steps and I was able to get the light thrown more directly upon her.

Eventually we wondered off to one last spot in front of a solid brick wall. Just her and I standing there with me trying to find a way to get light on her in a way which might be pleasing. I didn’t want her to be lit face-on as she was in the last image, but nor did I want anything which cast large portions of her face into too much shadow. After a great number of attempts I finally found a pose and positioning on my part which seemed to work.

Sarah at Wall

Sarah at Wall

There are still some things I could do to this image in editing which I think will make it even better (like adding some light to the dark side of her hair), but in general I’m rather pleased. Of course this sort of thing gives me just the excuse I need to dump the file into my recently purchased Adobe Photoshop CS5 and try and make the image more the way I really want it to be.

But boy… CS5 sure is a complicated bit of programming.

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…

"NG"

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.

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…

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.